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Grant number: FZ-250348-16

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FZ-250348-16

Brenda Wineapple
Unaffiliated Independent Scholar

The Impeachers and America

The political circumstances of President Andrew Johnson's impeachment in 1868 are in the history books, but what was the reaction to it beyond the halls of Congress? This book explores American thought at the time about impeachment and the future of the republic, drawing on a wide range of sources including the cartoons of Thomas Nast and the writings of  Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and reformer Lydia Maria Child.

In 1868, the House of Representatives voted to impeach the sitting president, Andrew Johnson. Never before had such an event occurred in America, and it remains an extraordinary moment about which we know far too little. My project studies the impeachment proceeding and its major participants, both for and against, in Congress and on the street, especially in the South, to determine what happened and why. To many, the outcome, acquittal by one vote, squandered the result of the recent war insofar as the war aimed to secure equal rights for all; to others it protected the executive from political chicanery. In a sense, both are true. But the country stood at a crossroads, which included a path to justice, one insufficiently argued, or that was not yet seen for what it was: fair and decent. And so impeachment's ramifications helped shape our definition of Reconstruction (itself not adequately understood) and the racial politics of the next century, and our own.

Project fields:
American Studies; U.S. History

Program:
Public Scholar Program

Division:
Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$43,050 (awarded)

Grant period:
9/1/2016 – 8/31/2017