Published by: Simon & Schuster
Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, Politics and Prose, Apple
Impeached traces the explosive impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson to its roots in the social and political revolutions that rocked the South with the end of slavery and of the Civil War. As president after Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson, a Tennessee Democrat, not only failed to heal the nation’s wounds but rather rubbed them raw, ignoring widespread violence against the freed slaves and encouraging former rebels to resume political control of the Southern states. His high-handed actions were opposed by the equally angry and aggressive Congress, led by Rep. Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, an ardent foe of slavery who aimed to rebuild American society on principles of equality and fairness.
The titanic collision between Congress and the president was diverted, through the constitutional impeachment process, into a legalistic dispute over whether Johnson could fire his own Secretary of War. Inept lawyering by Johnson’s prosecutors, combined with political deals, saved Johnson by a single vote.
Impeached challenges the traditional version of this pivotal moment in American history, which portrays Johnson as pursuing Lincoln’s legacy by showing leniency to the former rebels. Impeached shows the compelling reasons to remove this unfortunate president from office, reveals the corrupt bargains that saved Johnson’s job by a single senator’s vote, and credits Johnson’s prosecutors with seeking to remake the nation to accord with the ideals that Lincoln championed and that the Civil War was fought for.
"Impeached is a fascinating account of the attempt to remove Andrew Johnson from the Presidency. Vigorously written, it is by all means the best account of this troubled episode in our history. It demolishes the myth that Johnson's impeachment was unjustified and that those who defended him were heroes. Stewart proves that impeachment may be an unwieldy tool for recapturing control of the national government but at critical times it can be an essential one. This is a book I highly recommend."
-David Herbert Donald, author of Lincoln, Charles Warren Professor, Harvard
From the Christian Science Monitor, June 2, 2009
"A lucid and long-overdue reexamination . . . [Stewart] documents this remarkable tale of political bloodletting with skillful aplomb and insight. His grasp of legal complexities . . . is matched by a good eye for the human dimensions of this continuation of war by other means."
From The Washington Times, May 17, 2009
"David O. Stewart's proven dexterity in handling detail, suspense and melodrama in matters of state are again present here. He brings impressive research to a bizarre episode in American history, the impeachment and trial of President Andrew Johnson, woven into such a vivid story that the reader is in the visitors' gallery. The story has high drama, low farce, unlikely comedy, a stellar cast, hubris, vanity and bad judgment. There is ambition, hostility, personal devotion, patriotism, betrayal and bribery."
From The Washington Post, May 17, 2009
"David O. Stewart's "Impeached" is the fullest recounting we have of the high politics of that immediate post-Civil War period. As the author astutely tells us, the Constitution's impeachment clauses provide a complex legal remedy for enmity between Congress and the president. . . .Stewart's graceful style and storytelling ability make for a good read. The author maintains interest by emphasizing the heavy drinking and hyperbolic oratory in an age of excess."
From Kirkus Review, March 4, 2009 (STARRED)
"A riveting look at one of American history's most dismal episodes. The [Johnson] impeachment spectacle qualifies as the last battle of the Civil War and the first act of the tawdry Gilded Age. A practicing attorney who has defended a federal judge against impeachment, Stewart demonstrates his legal acumen, explaining the constitutional bases for impeachment and teasing out "the tenacious opacity of the phrase 'high crimes and misdemeanors' . . ." Also an adept historian, Stewart stresses the political nature of impeachment, where developments and outcome depend as much on events and the character and convictions of the protagonists. The author also profiles Benjamin Butler, the prosecution's headstrong manager, the surprisingly slippery president-in-waiting, Ulysses S. Grant, and Edmund G. Ross, whose deciding vote against impeachment was likely purchased. Ross falls shockingly short of the profile in courage John F. Kennedy sketched, but the senator was only a small part of the gambling, bargaining, payoffs and bribes surrounding the trial. Stewart vibrantly renders these atmospherics, the poisonous politics, the personal animosities and the unbridled corruption that will leave readers rooting for both sides to lose. Likely to become the standard version of this historic clash between a president and Congress."
From BookPage, May 2009
"In his magnificent Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy, David O. Stewart, author of the highly acclaimed Summer of 1787, provides an extraordinary narrative that brings the many key players vividly to life while at the same time exhibiting an admirable clarity in discussing issues and events. . . . Stewart's book splendidly illuminates an important chapter in American history"
From Reviews in American History, June 2010 (R. Owen Williams)
"David O. Stewart has elegantly and engagingly recounted the saga of Johnson's impeachment trial. . . Stewart's version of the impeachment surpasses all the rest; intended for an intelligent lay audience, it is a superb synthesis of existing scholarship and an insightful depiction of the Reconstruction's frailties. . . In all respects, this is a great story and Stewart is a masterful storyteller."
From Washington Lawyer, June 2009 (Joseph C. Goulden)
"[A] sprightly, exhaustively researched, and highly readable account of a dark era in American history. . . . Stewart tells the story of the Senate trial with high drama, as gripping as any legal fiction . . . but all the more riveting because it is factual. . . . Put this one in your beach bag for summer."
From America's Civil War, January 2010 (Peter Cozzens)
"Impeached . . . brilliantly examines the heated passions and sordid politics surrounding the impeachment crisis . . . . Stewart's meticulous research in untapped primary sources suggests new and compelling conclusions about the proceedings in the case. Among these is the strong possibility that the vote of Senator Edmund Ross, which saved Johnson, had been bought."
From Publishers Weekly, March 9, 2009
"Fresh from his masterful The Summer of 1787, Stewart takes on one of the seamiest events in American history: the vengeful impeachment of Lincoln's successor as president; the Senate failed to convict Andrew Johnson by a single vote. . . . Stewart takes readers through a tangled web of motives and maneuverings in lively, unadorned prose. He's skilled at characterizing his large cast of characters and, as a lawyer, has a practiced nose for skullduggery, of which there was much. . . . As he sums it up, in 1868 "none of the country's leaders was great, a few were good, all were angry, and far too many were despicable." Stewart . . . tells the story as well as it's ever been told."
From Lincoln (NE) Tribune, July 14, 2009
"The impeachment of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 was one of the most turbulent events in American history. . . With the expertise of a lawyer and the insight of a historian, Stewart brings this period of history into sharp focus [and] challenges many of hte traditional versions of the event."
From The Oklahoman, July 5, 2009
"Stewart's 445-page book is an excellent primer in a constitutional process, and his analysis of the political and legal maneuvering both entertains and informs. A bonus are the extensive end notes. History buffs will be thrilled."
From Raleigh News and Observer, June 21, 2009
"David O. Stewart's fast-paced Impeached frames President Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial within . . . Presidential Reconstruction . . . Stewart's greatest contribution is his uncovering of corruption and bribery -- "boodle and payoffs" -- that surrounded both sides of Johnson's Senate trial. His careful sleuthing uncovers "rogues and blackguards" -- tax collectors, Indian agents, financial manipulators, political bosses -- who "brandished fat wads of greenbacks and portfolios bulging with government appointments in order to keep Andrew Johnson in office, or to drive him out."
From Booklist, April 15, 2009
"[T]he climax of a life-and-death struggle between Johnson and the "Radical Republicans" in Congress. At stake were competing visions of the path of Reconstruction. . . .Stewart, an attorney, eloquently frames the issues and provides a stirring narrative of this dramatic conflict. . . .The process of impeachment was characterized by hypocrisy and outright bribery."
"David Stewart's Impeached is as riveting and rollicking as the best Washington novel. There is all kinds of intrigue -- from allegations of bribery by a 'whiskey ring,' to a cabinet secretary barricading himself in his office, to an incoming Vice President giving a drunken tirade on Inauguration Day -- all played out at a deadly serious time, with the Union hanging in the balance. Only it's not a novel; it's Stewart's meticulously researched re-rendering of a time in our history that, he argues persuasively, has been distorted to turn a racist and incompetent Andrew Johnson and his anti-impeachment supporters into courageous defenders of Abe Lincoln's legacy."
-Steven Brill, author of The Teamsters and After; founder of The American Lawyer and Court TV
"Anyone who thinks American politics has lately been at a high level of viciousness should read this gripping story of Andrew Johnson's impeachment trial. There are fewer angels than we have thought, and more political hatred and knife work-all with fundamental underlying issues of justice and race."
-Anthony Lewis, former New York Times columnist and author of Gideon's Trumpet
Videos and Podcasts
An October 2019 interview on Bloomberg News about impeachment procedures for President Trump. Click here.
My July 2018 interview with the excellent Brian Lamb on C-SPAN's Q&A show. Click here.
Listen to a podcast on impeachment history from the National Constitution Center (Feb. 1, 2018). Click Here.
See Impeached as a clue on the Jeopardy TV show! (May 2017). Click Here.
View the C-SPAN interview about Impeached The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy, May 11, 2009: Click Here
Listen to the NPR interview about Impeached, May 26, 2009: Click Here
View the video of my speech on Impeached at the Atlanta History Center, June 25, 2009: Click Here
View the C-SPAN interview about Impeached, March 19, 2010: Click Here
After finishing The Summer of 1787 about the writing of the Constitution, I wanted to pick up the Constitution’s story at its next critical moment. To form a union from thirteen quarreling states, the Philadelphia Convention patched together a number of rough compromises, prominent among them agreements about slavery and the allocation of power between the federal and state governments. Those political bargains held up for seventy years. During those decades, a web of accommodation and mutual forbearance bound the nation together. Three times, painful compromises over slavery kept the states united. Arguments over the powers of the sovereign states flared and subsided and flared anew. By 1861, contention over slavery and state powers overwhelmed the constitutional structure. Eleven Southern states seceded and fought a savage four-year war to be no part of the United States.