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The Impeachers Brenda Wineapple does a very good job of setting the stage so to speak for what led up to the impeachment of Andrew Johnson by giving a detailed background of his actions and views that caused so many members of the Senate to despise him and wish to remove him from office Long before we get to the impeachment process itself the reader may find his or herself agreeing heartily that Johnson definitely needs to go and wondering how he ever got there in the first place After all he was and remained a Democrat in a Republican administration a slave owner until the Emancipation Proclamation and a believer in white supremacy And yetit turns out that other hands were not uite so clean and pure as one would have thought either There is a lot to be learned in The Impeachers The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation Many of the Congressmen involved even some of the abolitionists were all in favor of freedom for the former slaves but not as eager for citizenship or suffrage as history would have it It was the Radical Republicans who as they had before the war led this same battle after the war Johnson moved these moderates into the far right camp when he kept admitting former Confederates back into the Union without any penalty returning their property sans slaves and their voting privilege ignoring Congress in the process This was something no one was prepared to tolerate and this sparked the impeachment debate That and his effort to be rid of Secretary of War StantonWineapple gives such clear and precise descriptions of all the major characters and backs them up with uotations from the newspapers and magazines of the day along with uotes and interview excerpts from the various journalists that it gives a true feeling of contemporaneity You feel like you are in the gallery looking down on the trial or present at smoke filled rooms debating what to do nextJohnson was extremely disliked by almost everyone North and South He was considered common boorish and an embarrassment and this worked very much against him The Radical Republicans were in the beginning in power and it was presumed they would easily win the trial and get rid of Johnson but as things dragged on the rest of the Senate and the country began to long for an end to all of this and want the country back as before for this constant talk of the freedmen to stop When the vote was finally taken Johnson was acuitted by one vote Impeachment put the President on noticeI heard the author give a talk to the US Capitol Historical Society in May 2019 about this book Her talk was fascinating and it prompted me to buy the book however I did not decide to read it until the current impeachment inuiry began I wanted some historical context Wineapple's book tells the story of the first presidential impeachment in American history of Andrew Johnson Wineapple's writing is great and the book reads like a novel At times I found myself reading passages that were eerily familiar to our current moment Johnson was impeached for violating the Tenure of Office Act but Wineapple effectively argues that his impeachment was about than just the violation of one law it was also about Johnson's handling of Reconstruction his racism his perceived abuse of power as well as the the preservation of the Union and the institution of slavery Surprisingly the Senate trial section of the book was the least interesting part to me However I think this is the perfect book to read in our current moment not just because of the similarities but because it made me think about how the current impeachment process would be viewed 151 years from now which is the same number years since the Johnson impeachment occurred Read of my reviews on Ballasts for the Mind America's first presidential impeachment A prize winning author tells the story of the efforts by heroic citizens to preserve the victories of the Civil War by removing a bigoted president who ruled as if he were kingWhen Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and Vice President Andrew Johnson became the Accidental President it was a dangerous time in America Congress was divided over how the Union should be reunited when and how the secessionist South should regain full status whether former Confederates should be punished and when and whether black men should be given the vote Devastated by war and resorting to violence many white Southerners hoped to restore a pre Civil War society just without slavery and the pugnacious Andrew Johnson who was no Lincoln seemed to share their goals With the unchecked power of executive orders Johnson ignored Congress pardoned rebel leaders promoted white supremacy opposed civil rights and called Reconstruction unnecessary Congress had to stop the American president who acted like a kingWith her extensive research and profound insights Brenda Wineapple dramatically restores this pivotal period in American history when the country on the heels of a brutal war was rocked by the first ever impeachment of a sitting American president And she brings to vivid life the extraordinary characters who brought that impeachment forward the willful Johnson and his retinue of advocates including complicated men like Secretary of State William Seward as well as the eually complicated visionaries committed to justice and euality for all like Thaddeus Stevens Charles Sumner Frederick Douglass and Ulysses S Grant Theirs was a last ditch patriotic and Constitutional effort to render the goals of the Civil War into reality and to make the Union free fair and whole Engaging account of Andrew Johnson's disastrous presidency centering on Congress's failed efforts to impeach him Wineapple knows this period and these personages well having covered them in previous works like Ecstatic Nation and does an excellent job crafting the rush of Reconstruction figures into a cohesive narrative Johnson taking office after Lincoln's assassination suandered an initial outburst of goodwill as his plans for Reconstructing the South prove a betrayal of racial ideals He pardons and coddles Southerners even as they work to rebuild the edifice of white supremacy while dismissing blacks as inferior and unworthy of rights or protection and attacking Republicans in Congress the military and his own cabinet as disloyal traitors Johnson's portrayed harshly though convincingly as a thin skinned near madman who rages against his enemies embarrasses himself with public intoxication racist rants and inflammatory speeches; he comes to view racial euality and the rule of law itself as a conspiracy against him As Johnson schemes and stonewalls the postwar South descends into race riots and terrorism against freed blacks and white Republicans; in the North lingering wartime idealism battles with a yearning for normalcy and reconciliation Meanwhile Congressional Republicans debate the feasibility of impeachment couching their efforts as principled opposition to Johnson's destructive agenda and conniving the Tenure of Office Act designed to protect Secretary of War Edwin Stanton from dismissal to force a showdown The tale's contemporary relevance is obvious though Wineapple wisely leaves such comparisons between the lines She ably sketches Johnson Republican leaders like Stanton Thaddeus Stevens Congress's crabbed sulfrous racial egalitarian Charles Sumner who married conviction and caution in eual measure and Benjamin Butler mercurial memetically ugly but a gifted lawyer with a smattering of celebrities writers and activists Frederick Douglass Mark Twain Georges Clemenceau and Walt Whitman among them providing commentary Most authors even those sympathetic to Johnson's foes couch impeachment as a legally dubious mistake; Wineapple disagrees arguing it was a necessary if disreputable step to curb Johnson's abuses of power and obstruction of civil rights legislation Historians will undoubtedly debate her interpretation; readers especially those reading with an eye to modern politics must decide for themselves Either way it's a well written sharply observed look at a perilous time in American history where Americans faced a choice between chaotic reforms an uneual but deceptively comforting status uoand an unstable president acting as a law unto himself The 13th amendment had some unintended conseuences One was the abolition of the 35ths rule that counted slaves as only 35ths of a person for representation That meant that when and if the southern states were readmitted to the union they instantly gained 20 representatives and the opportunity to win back everything they had lost during the war Already former slave owners and whites were attacking beating and killing any black who might venture onto the street especially anyone they suspected of having been in the union army The Memphis TN riots of 1866 were just a taste of what might be coming and Tennessean Andrew Johnson was no help at all Conditions in the south had become intolerable as Johnson emissary Carl Shurz discovered to Johnson’s dismay The “cheerful” South of President Johnson was not the South described in German immigrant leader Carl Schurz’s report The former Major General would report on a post war region whose people alternated between depressed prostration at the hands of a conueror and a desire for vengeance against blacks and Southern Unionists Schurz wrote that even the shooting of uniformed United States soldiers was not “unfreuently” reportedWorse was the situation of freedmen and the Northerners working with them Officials from the Freedman’s Bureau were often mobbed and their contractors assaulted and murdered Blacks were expected to behave as slaves by 95% of the white Southerners Schurz talked to One former slaveholder even suggested they should submit willingly to whippings by whites Those that did not “act like slaves” were sometimes tortured or killed Blacks who left the plantations where they had been enslaved were “shot or otherwise severely punished” Schurz wrote A diligent investigator Schurz met with former slaves and examined the “bullet and buckshot wounds in their bodies”Brenda Wineapple has done a masterful job of describing the background of Johnson his trial and the personalities of the Senators involved There's no uestion that Johnson had no interest in helping former slaves gain an appropriate footing after decades of subjugation He certainly did not want them to have the vote and considered them subhuman His only goal was getting the union back together and if that meant letting former slave owners back into positions of authority in the south removing federal troops that were the only guarantee of protection for former slaves and dismantling the Freedman's Bureau well then so be it His argument was that the Constitution had supported slavery so what was the big deal In fact he supported amendments to the Constitution that would have guaranteed the perpetual right to have slaves and another that would have made those amendments unamendable Where he found that piece of idiocy in the Constitution I have no ideaJohnson famously said he believed in “government for white men” Hundreds of African Americans died in riots in New Orleans and Memphis that showed the new freedoms would not be easily kept Johnson’s supporters dismissed the scores of murders as “isolated incidents” Johnson dismissed military leaders in the southern states and appointed governors who would support himEven though the book was written before the current impeachment crisis similarities abound Johnson took a train around the country holding rallies to whip up support and making remarks such as “I don’t care about my dignity” Senator John Sherman of Illinois complained that Johnson had “sunk the presidential office to the level of a grog house” No one it seems liked him Wineapple highlights “the president’s morbid sensitivity his need for absolute loyalty and his wariness” Johnson revered Andrew Jackson another populist He hated elitists ie lawyers and plutocratsClearly Johnson was guilty of violating the Tenure of Office Act Johnson always claimed it was unconstitutional and it probably was It certainly was according to the Supreme Court in 1926 that ruled a similar law unconstitutional The original had been repealed in 1887 But the article on which Johnson was most nearly convicted was the catch all 11th article which accused him of offenses including violations of the separation of powers but also of autocratic actions and other behavior inconsistent with the officeThe final tally in the Senate failed to convict by one vote and it's clear according to David Stewart that Ross's vote contrary to the hagiography in Profiles in Courage was purchasedExcellent read This was a fun page turner that revealed real detailed history She writes with an angle from current times but explains as best the record will permit the motivations manipulations and goals of many players This may become a definitive work on the impeachment of Andrew Johnson I have read several books from this era and learned a way of seeing some of the players from a deeper perspective and greater understanding This would be a great book for freshman studying political scienceA great part of the book is buried at the end with the notes and index It is a short biographical on most of the people mentioned in the book The similarity and the differences with the other impeachment Nixon's near impeachment and current events regarding President Trump were discussed with some analysis and this added relevancy to this great piece of American History writing I grew up in the ’90s and I vaguely remember on TV when I was a kid some kind of scandal involving this guy named Bill Clinton whom I knew as the President of the United States The word impeachment kept getting thrown around but of course I didn’t really know what that meant Fast forward 20 years and the word has resurfaced as a possible fate for the current President Donald Trump—and this time I knew what the word meant but I didn’t really understand what impeachment entails So Brenda Wineapple’s book on the impeachment of Andrew Johnson came into my life at an opportune time The Impeachers explains the nature of presidential impeachment through a case study of one of the only two presidents ever to be impeached However it is much much than that It’s really a snapshot of American history immediately following the American Civil War Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for the eARCHere in Canada we learn some very bare bones American history which means we learn slightly than the average American does about American history So obviously I knew what the Civil War was what it was about causes etc I knew the names Lincoln and Grant and vaguely Johnson As history classes in school often do however they elide the difficult reconstruction parts that follow any massive conflict I had known the Civil War was a thing and that it had led to Emancipation Never did I really pause to think what that actually looked like how the Confederate states were readmitted into the Union the immediate effects of emancipating slaves in the South the violence that ensued but of course the moment Wineapple starts describing the headaches problems and loss of life it was immediately obvious Just because the Union had “won” the war didn’t mean everyone in the South was suddenly going to magically be all right with living next to free Black people DuhSo Wineapple spends the first part of the book on a brief history of the United States right at the beginning of Johnson’s presidency Lincoln assassinated the country still fractured legislators deeply divided on what an euitable Reconstruction looks like Wineapple frames this as Johnson essentially being the wrong man at the wrong time his temperament and ideology inappropriate for the task of Reconstruction As I mentioned above lots of this was new to me I had no idea about Johnson’s political views on secession suffrage etc Wineapple also covers a lot of the animus and internecine racial conflict in the South She doesn’t mince words the Union might have won the war and abolished slavery but that didn’t end racism any than Obama’s election in 2008 ended it White people were lynching Black people and white allies uite openly The overall effect is to belie the comfortable idea that the violence and unrest in the present day United States of America is somehow a new or different condition than earlier in its history So many people seem interested in “returning” to the better days of making America—dare I say—great again Although Wineapple doesn’t come right out and say it we can infer that there is a strong possibility America was never “great” in that sense Indeed even with the civil war “won” the idea that the former Confederate states would simply return to the Union was not a foregone conclusionSo impeachment trial itself aside The Impeachers provides such valuable insight into US history just after the Civil War How does it fare with the impeachment though?Honestly there are details here than I probably wanted This will be an excellent reference for anyone who is a student of this era Wineapple is careful to go into the backstories of anyone who might be anything than a passing player in this drama; there are even photos Believe me I’m not criticizing the book for these attributes—but they do add up for a somewhat drier experience than I typically look for in my history books This is just a case of mismatched book and audience though not a reflection on the book’s ualityWhen we finally get to the impeachment trial things feel anticlimactic Again Wineapple wants to recount everything in as much detail as possible drawing out the inevitable acuittal uh sorry spoilers that we know must be coming Again if detail is what you want then you will not be disappointed I really just wanted to know what happened and hear Wineapple’s take on the how and whyOn the other hand all of the back and forth helps us understand what impeachment is and is not Firstly it’s not clearly laid out in the Constitution This first presidential impeachment was very improvisational and ad hoc It’s not a criminal procedure—it’s a political one despite the Chief Justice presiding Finally its political origins mean it hangs on the well chosen words and backroom deals of political vote grubbing than it does on any type of evidentiary support At the end of the day Johnson is acuitted not because he’s “innocent” of the articles of impeachment but because enough senators had doubts or professed to have doubts because it was politically expedient for them to do soI understand now better the issues at stake as people call for the impeachment of Donald Trump It’s not just a procedural but an inherently political decision And without meaning to downplay the direction in which the United States is currently heading this book reminds us that there have definitely been Constitutional lacunae previously in American history It’s true that we don’t really know what Americans and their government will do if Trump finally crosses some kind of line he hasn’t already crossed with apparent impunity—but the United States has actually been in similar situations before Now I don’t say this to be reassuring in any way Instead I just want to observe that The Impeachers is a good lesson in why learning one’s history is so important if we remember where we’ve been we have a better sense of the precedents that can shape our futureAnyway as a non American who doesn’t often read about American history this was a pretty OK read A little too technicaldetailed for my history reading tastes A student of history might be appreciative of that kind of thing though This definitely improved my understanding of an important period of American history and helped put some current events in a new perspective If we take that to be part of history books’ purpose then on that scale The Impeachers succeeds This book is well written and researched I have read about the presidency of Andrew Johnson but this is the first that goes into detail about his impeachment It is well a well known fact that Andrew Johnson was not one of the better Presidents that we have had lead our nation He worked to overturn many of the intended conseuences as a result of the southern states losing the Civil War and extended extreme racial bias on a wide basis for another century and The book goes into detail about the many people who played a role in the impeachment and trail of Johnson and does so in an informative mannerI recomend this book for those looking for information on the specifics of the first impeachment trail of a President in the United StatesI received a free Kindle copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley Goodreads and my fiction book review blog I also posted it to my Facebook and Twitter pages With all the talk of impeachment coming out of Washington I thought it a convenient time to read Brenda Wineapple’s comprehensive book about the trial Andrew Johnson faced in the US Senate in 1868 Full of great detail and a narrative that takes the reader through the process Wineapple provides the reader with a great primer for what may be a prickly endeavour if used again in the near future The American state was extremely divided in the mid 19th century a period of civil and social unrest where the Southern states declared their desire to leave the Union What followed is likely well known to many with a basic understanding of the American Civil War culminating in the South losing and Lincoln’s assassination Thereafter an odd collection of events befell the newly exhausted loosely United States with the recently elevated Vice President Andrew Johnson taking over as the Commander in Chief Johnson hailing from Tennessee was thought to be a great choice by Lincoln for the 1864 election but when he assumed the role of president many saw him show some of his true colours With little interest in binding the country back together Johnson sought to push a renewed segregationist agenda while trying to stymie the attempts at Reconstruction Congress was pushing through in the form of legislation While many disliked these antics the push for impeachment had yet to reach the force needed to be effective It took Johnson violating the Tenure of Office Act a key piece of legislation thumbing his nose at the Senate all the while This proved to be the final straw for many in the House of Representatives With the Articles of Impeachment secured and supported by a majority in the House the machine of an impeachment trial began to rumble with the pre trial antics in the Senate As Wineapple discusses this was the first presidential impeachment forcing interpretation of the US Constitution and the balance between legal and legislative roles for those involved What follows is an intriguing trial held in the Senate chamber with a number of important actors each playing their role Wineapple takes the reader through each step and shows where the Managers House of Representative members chosen to present the articles to the Senate as a whole fell short and how general sentiment might have steered the votes away from impeaching Johnson if only by a single vote There are some wonderful subplots that emerge in the narrative and will likely help the reader better understand the nuances of this 19th century political stage play Captivating in its delivery and full of a great deal of information I had never heard previously Brenda Wineapple takes the reader on an adventure through some of American’s most divisive legislative days Highly recommended to those who have a passion for all things political as well as the reader who enjoys learning a great deal about events relatable to today’s political situation I saw a friend read and review this book on Goodreads a while back but held off reading it until I could make the loose parallel between Johnson and Trump While I am not prepared to draw the political and social parallels between the two men at this point this book that details the trial from back in 1868 with some similarities to events taking place now Brenda Wineapple is able to convey much of the well known lead up to the impeachment talk tackling these topics with ease while providing sufficient details to ensure the reader is clear on how things progressed As the political infighting continued Wineapple depicted all the essential actors—from a hard hearted member of the House whose sole goal was to see Johnson fall through to the Chief Justice who presided over the trial and sought the White House for himself—and provide sufficient backstory to explain the intricate details of events and political moves that shaped the push for impeachment Of particular interest Wineapple addresses this being the first presidential impeachment forcing those involved to guess at what the Founding Fathers might have wanted Going through the trial step by step Wineapple provides a clear narrative of the political process and how Johnson was able to skirt sure removal from office With chapters that focus on all aspects of this historical period Wineapple delivers where others have only glossed over in past tomes Of note this was an impeachment held in a presidential election year just so no one can toss out that it is “infeasible and unconstitutional to do this to a president with the public set to vote” Not to be missed for lovers of American political history Kudos Madam Wineapple for this captivating piece I cannot wait to see what else you have written on this and other topicsLovehate the review? An ever growing collection of others appears at Book for All Seasons a different sort of Book Challenge Now that the congress is conducting an impeachment investigation of Trump I thought it would be a good idea to read about Johnson’s impeachment trial Wineapple recounts the struggle over the implication of the Civil War amid the impeachment of an erratic presidentThe book is well written and researched Andrew Johnson 1808 1875 was a Southern Democrat born in North Carolina He wanted to return the South to the way it was prior to the War He had lenient reconstruction policies toward the South and he vetoed the Reconstruction Act He started his political career in the Tennessee legislature In 1843 he was elected to the US House of Representatives from Tennessee Wineapple discusses Johnson’s presidency 1865 1869 The impeachment as well as what goes into an impeachment Congress had tried multiple times to impeach Johnson before finally succeeding to trial only to lose Wineapple includes the history primarily in the South post the Civil War emphasizing the treatment of the freed slaves I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I learned a lot about Johnson and the difficulties of impeachment I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible The book is fourteen hours and thirty six minutes Gabra Zachman did a good job narrating the book


About the Author: Brenda Wineapple

Brenda Wineapple is the author of the award winning Hawthorne A Life Genêt A Biography of Janet Flanner and Sister Brother Gertrude and Leo Stein Her essays articles and reviews have appeared in many publications among them The American Scholar The New York Times Book Review Parnassus Poetry and The Nation A Guggenheim fellow a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies an


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