Jennie: Andrew Johnson

Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy, by David Stewart

Coming off the high that is Lincoln and the low that is his assassination, the US desperately needs someone to step up and be a true, honest, and caring leader. Well, what the citizens got was Andrew Johnson instead. I’d like to say he was just not able to fill Lincoln’s shoes (or more appropriately, his hat) but Johnson wasn’t interested in filling anything of Lincoln’s. Instead, he was desperate to make his own mark.

I don’t tend to tab or sticky note most of the books I read, but these biographies for the Presidential Challenge are the exception. Surprisingly I only added two tabs to this book, but these two passages hit me heavily as I read them.

1. (Page 39) I was introduced to Ben Wade of Ohio who was an advocate for human rights – supporting both the eight-hour work day and the ability for women to own property. He’s quoted as saying, “If I had not thought my wife to be as intelligent as I, or as capable of voting understandingly, I would not have married her.”

This struck me as powerful just in the YAY EQUAL RIGHTS FOR WOMEN aspect, but also that these types of conversations were occurring in the 1860s. Obviously, this subject is of high importance to me so I’m very antsy to get to this time frame in this challenge and this passage gave me a taste of what is to come.

2. (Page 144) I’m obsessed with the French Revolution and the relationship between it and the US Revolution so when one party starts throwing around insults such as, “…the bloody rule of the Jacobins was mild compared to that which is sought.” I pretty much danced in my chair.

Now, neither of these passages I marked have much to do directly with Johnson, but a lot of this book was about more than just the man. Politics was still heavily divided on how to handle the now free black population – the South was still pursuing violence (that continued to escalate) and the North was still pursuing anyone that had stood with the South. So much anger, so much rage, so much emotion.

And then Johnson just pops up into all of it with his unbreakable desire to have it his way, even when the constitution was in the way, and even when the majority of the Capital was in his way. I found the procedural aspects of the impeachment process fascinating – the unclear process has been trial and error. I almost wish to skip ahead to Nixon to see how things are handled within the process so soon after finishing this book so the information is still fresh in my mind.

I’m hoping to read more from Grant’s perspective of the Grant/Johnson relationship in my next biography because from this book they were not happy, and mostly openly hostile towards each other. Some of my favorite aspects of this challenge is seeing the same situations through the opposing individuals – fascinating.

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