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The Impeachment and Trial of Andrew Johnson (Norton Essays in American History) Paperback – September 17, 1999

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

The definitive account of Andrew Johnson's impeachment and of the dramatic events that first put a president on trial before the Senate. -- Eric Foner

About the Author

Michael Les Benedict is professor of history at Ohio State University.
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Product Details

  • Series: Norton Essays in American History
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393319822
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393319828
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,884,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Now Andrew Johnson may not have been hiding with an intern in the oval office, but this book has a lot more to offer. Drama in the House, drama in the Senate, verbal fights, threats, it sure beats the heck out of blue dresses and cigars. I don't think people have any idea how close Johnson was to being kicked out of office, let alone for what reason. Benedict does a remarkable job chronicling the times surrounding the day. Going in I found the battle to purely partisan, but after reading I agree with Benedict, the impeachment was justified.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Professor Les Benedict lays out the case for President Johnson's impeachment in this 1972 monograph. The narrative is highly sympathetic to the radical-Republican impeachers, and unsympathetic to Johnson: Les Benedict embraces an emerging theme among historians who "now speak in terms of well-meaning efforts of conscientious Republicans to establish national security on the basis of equality before the law" in the highly volatile post-Civil War era, and he complains that "[o]nly one event has resisted this historical reversal--the impeachment and trial of President Andrew Johnson." The book paints the congressional Republicans as conscientious and rational politicians interested in restoring the Southern economic base (and securing their own political ascendancy) after the War, and Johnson as a power-hungry executive who thwarts the congressional policy using his military authority and other constitutional powers--all to the point where the restrained and long-suffering congressional majority is left with no choice but impeachment (the chapter leading up to the impeachment is titled "Johnson Forces the Issue"). The book paints the politics with a very broad brush, and unfortunately gives short shrift to Johnson's motives, even though Johnson himself is portrayed as a capable and determined politician and not as the out-of-touch bumbler that some histories have made him out to be. But the book tells an engaging story from the congressional viewpoint, and offers a detailed and balanced view of the legal issues on which the trial ultimately hinged.
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Format: Hardcover
Professor Benedict makes a pretty strong case for impeaching Andrew Johnson in 1868. Benedict shows that Johnson was an obstructionist President who failed to execute reconstruction policies, and that the radical Republicans in Congress were determined but non-fanatical opponents desiring to help newly-freed slaves. Clearly Johnson, a Southern loyalist, cared little for ex-slaves; his military governors in Dixie favored "black codes" curtailing their rights. How different history might have been had Johnson shared the civil rights objectives of radical Republicans. Still, the author doesn't entirely erase the sense that this impeachment was more about politics than crimes and misdemeanors. The Tenure in Office Act seemed like a pretext - ala Monica Lewinsky in 1998 - and one Senator voting to convict (Ohio's Benjamin Wade) stood next in line for the Presidency. Either way, this is an informative look by an excellent Professor - I took his Constitutional History class years ago at Ohio State University, and he was a truly inspiring lecturer.

One wonders how the author would view Bill Clinton's impeachment - would he buy dubious Republican claims of perjury in a sexual matter, or see it as inspired by GOP hatred for a guy that beat them twice at the polls and shattered their illusions of a lock on the White House? Benedict should also write about Clinton's impeachment.
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Format: Paperback
Benedict studies contemporary newspaper accounts and private correspondence from the participants to put together a nicely detailed account of the 1868 impeachment effort against Andrew Johnson. He seeks to correct what he perceives as history's overly unkind treatment of the radical Republicans who sought to remove Johnson from office. He states that the modern view is that the Republican efforts were well-meaning, and if anything did not go far enough. While Benedict's account is well researched, his conclusions are not supported by the facts or by the law, or by good political sense. There was an honest disagreement over whether the Tenure in Office Act even applied to Johnson; further, there was doubt as to whether it was even constitutional, and Johnson's view that it was not was vindicated years later when the Supreme Court declared a similar law unconstitutional in 1926. The real core issue here is how broadly one is supposed to read the impeachment clause in the Constitution. The broad interpretation urged by Benedict amounts to the President serving at the pleasure of the Senate, a view that was specifically considered and rejected by the Constitutional Convention. In light of that, Benedict's conclusions make little sense, though his scholarship is laudable.
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