Wineapple started to research her history of the country’s first impeachment trial six years ago; she briefly mentions Presidents Nixon and Clinton but not the current occupant of the White House. She doesn’t have to. The relevance of this riveting and absorbing book is clear enough, even if Wineapple’s approach is too literary and incisive to offer anything so obvious as a lesson ... Wineapple’s depiction of Johnson is so vivid and perceptive that his standoff with Congress arrives with a doomed inevitability ... Wineapple dips into the intrigue and the whiffs of corruption that surrounded the vote, including a cloak-and-dagger narrative that features incriminating telegrams. She brings the same feel for drama to the trial itself...
In The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation, the historian Brenda Wineapple does not once mention current political debates about impeaching the president. But the timing of the book’s publication seems to offer a lesson: Before taking sides on whether Congress should impeach Donald Trump, consider what that process meant at another significant moment in our history ... This book’s strongest feature, Ms. Wineapple’s gift for portraiture, is on display as she sets out her cast of characters ... There is much to recommend Ms. Wineapple’s argument. 'The impeachers,' she writes, 'had reduced the seventeenth President to a shadow—a shadow President; that is, a President who did not cast a long shadow.' Scholars of Reconstruction might feel differently about the length of Johnson’s shadow, but his case does suggest that it is possible to constrain a president through impeachment without removing him.
Brenda Wineapple’s wonderful The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation is not a biography of Andrew Johnson, nor of his presidency. Rather, it is a book about the political turbulence of the fractious post-war reconstruction era as America tried to find better footing for a more just nation going forward. Wineapple’s clear, precise prose turns what could have been dry reading into a nearly edge-of-your seat narrative ... to fully understand and appreciate such fraught times, one must treat with a veritable horde of ancillary characters, and here The Impeachers shines ... Brenda Wineapple’s The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation is not only an important book that reminds us of a historical moment we might have been in danger of forgetting, it also serves as a reminder that what was is never all that far from what is.
Wineapple writes the kind of popular nonfiction that deserves a wide audience, blending graceful prose with a deeply researched but accessible history ... Notable and fascinating historical personages abound in these pages ... offers insights and a distillation of events that have undeniable parallels with this moment in our history.
Wineapple is superb in her storytelling and, more importantly, she is able to glean the big-picture takeaways from Johnson’s impeachment from a historical perspective. You will leave The Impeachers not just knowing the blow-by-blow details of how and why the impeachment happened. You’ll have a greater understanding of how this episode fits into the larger narrative and lessons of the Civil War and Reconstruction ... This 'dream of a just nation' is what should make politicians tick. Brenda Wineapple’s The Impeachers is clear in this regard, and it was nice to see these American ideals at work in history. It is surprising how fun a book about impeachment can be.
... a stunningly well-timed book on a question ripped from the headlines ... Wineapple’s timely story suggests, almost despite itself, that impeaching presidents and dreaming of justice are no substitutes for the work of doing justice and winning elections.
As the title suggests, Wineapple is more interested in the impeachers and the trial than in the larger political stakes of the fight; for her, the whole matter is often quite literally a drama of personalities ... it continues in this vein, presenting Johnson’s impeachment as a national tragedy, albeit one with elements of farce. In a series of very short chapters—some only seven pages long—she lays out the historical background, the impeachment process, the trial, and the verdict, weaving essential information in and around brief character sketches and colorful quotations from the key players. Wineapple’s mode of narration offers an engrossing play-by-play account of the action, but at points it is not entirely suited to the task of providing the context and nuance needed to understand Johnson’s trial. His virtually Trumpian mode of braying and baiting political speech comes through loud and clear, as do all manner of personality conflicts that Wineapple sees as bearing on the outcome. But readers might have a more difficult time grasping the scope and scale of the historical problem between Congress and the president that brought them to the point of impeachment in the first place.
In The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation, historian Brenda Wineapple...provides a terrific—and timely—account of the first attempt in American history to impeach and remove a sitting president ... She also analyzes debates about whether impeachment requires a criminal offense, an abuse of power or (as some Radical Republicans claimed) deplorable, bigoted, reckless acts, especially if they undermined
other branches of government.
... a fine book ... an important contribution to the flourishing field of Reconstruction history ... True to her title, Wineapple gives us richly etched portraits of the impeachers who mounted the attack ... In the end, Wineapple offers a mixed review of the Johnson imbroglio.
Approachable, dramatic, even riveting, Wineapple’s volume is both guidebook and cautionary tale for our times ... the portrait of [President Andrew] Johnson that emerges from Wineapple’s pages isn’t pleasant ... And yet Wineapple tells us that Johnson was more complicated than the villainous cardboard character that has been passed down in history for generations ... Above all he was a portrait of contradictions, a slaveholder dedicated to the preservation of the Union.
Fans of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals (2006) will appreciate how Wineapple’s narrative carries forward the saga of the men Lincoln so relied on during the Civil War, as, newly leaderless, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and Secretary of State William Seward drifted back into conflict and competition. Appomattox scarcely resolved the Civil War’s intractable issues, and Stanton and Seward’s contradictions continued unresolved. And the impetus to restore the Union ran counter to the fight for rights of freed slaves.
[A] lucid, timely study of the sole impeachment trial convened until 1998 ... Johnson was hauled before a court of impeachment but was acquitted after a series of legal arguments that the author renders with verve and skill, no easy feat given the technical nature of some of them ... A superb contribution to presidential history.
[A] detailed and lucidly written history ... Wineapple argues convincingly ... Her arguments are novel and her prose lively ... This book has much to offer enthusiasts of both historical and contemporary American politics.