Today marks the launch of a new biography of Congressman John Bingham of Cadiz, Ohio, American Founding Son, by Gerard Magliocca of University of Indiana School of Law. It’s great to have this fresh and excellent examination of Bingham, a key force in helping to shape the America that emerged from the Civil War:
- Bingham is the source of the largest single expansion in the rights of citizens since the Constitution was ratified: the commitment to “equal protection of the laws” and “due process of law” embodied in Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment. Without those provisions, the federal government might never have had the power to support the civil rights movement over the last sixty years.
- Bingham was a critical leader in the effort to impeach and remove from office President Andrew Johnson, as detailed in my book, Impeached. Without Bingham’s support, the impeachers never would have gotten their resolution out of the House of Representatives. On the noteworthy but perhaps less admirable side of the ledger, he gave a 12-hour closing statement that was difficult to wade through in print and must have been agony to sit through — though contemporary accounts claimed that he appealed so powerfully to the emotions of the Civil War that he reduced those in the House galleries to a flood of tears.
- Bingham also was the lead prosecutor in the 1865 trial of eight of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators in the Lincoln assassination, which led to an incendiary disclosure he made on his deathbed which is the trigger for my recent historical mystery, just published last week, The Lincoln Deception.
This fall, it’s all Bingham, all the time!