A Biography of the Reconstruction Era President

From the publisher:

How do you remove an unpopular president from office?

On February 24, 1868, members of the United States House of Representatives voted to impeach President Andrew Johnson on thirteen separate charges of having committed high crimes and misdemeanors against the government and the people.

In this impressive biography, Noel B. Gerson examines how these extraordinary events came about, the circumstances leading up to it, and the aftermath of a trial that was unique in the history of the country.

Born into poverty and with no formal education, Johnson rose to prominence through perseverance and hard work. Entering politics, he became an adept stump speaker, championing the common man and vilifying the plantation aristocracy. Nominally a Democrat, who advocated free homesteads and education for all, he was soon to discover that not all agreed with his desire to see the nation reunited under the Constitution, as it had been before the Civil War.

Sworn in as seventeenth President of the United States following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865, Johnson faced the enormous task of presiding over the tumultuous first years of Reconstruction, a task made harder by his enemies, notably radical Republicans Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner and Edwin Stanton, who turned the tide of support against him and were instrumental in the campaign to disgrace Johnson and drive him from office.

By utilizing a wealth of primary sources, including quoted speeches, letters and press articles, Gerson masterfully portrays a sympathetic national figure devoted to his country and the Constitution, who escaped conviction by a single vote and went on to achieve a level of popularity he had never before known.

The Trial of Andrew Johnson is an ideal read for those who wish to find out more about the impeachment trial of Andrew Johnson and his fight for vindication against the radical Republicans in the United States Congress.

Noel B. Gerson was a prodigious author of many books, the majority of which were historical. He was an unabashed patriot with a great deal of his books concerned with U.S. history.  Among his better known works are “55 Days at Peking,” the “Naked Maja,” and the “Swamp Fox.”

The “Trial of Andrew Johnson” was first published in 1977 and brings to light a figure previously not greatly touched upon in American history. Andrew Johnson was the 17th president of the U.S. and as the vice president during Abraham Lincoln’s term ascended to the office when Mr. Lincoln was assassinated.      

Like Lincoln before him, Johnson came from a very poor family and lifted himself up by his own bootstraps, teaching himself how to read and write. He got into politics and made a stump speaker out of himself. Rising through a progression of offices for his home state of Tennessee he was selected by Lincoln to run as his vice president and held that office during the tumultuous years of the Civil war and until elevated to the presidency by Lincoln’s assassination.      

After the cessation of hostilities Johnson championed the reentrance of those states that had seceded as part of the Confederacy with no penalty providing that affidavits of loyalty be signed by residents and elected officials as conditions of acceptance back into the union. He faced a large group of members of Congress that wanted to lay blame for the war and charge reparations to the seceding states. When Johnson could not be moved from his position the never before use of impeachment with an ensuing trial and forced removal from office was started by those that demanded blame be placed on the recalcitrant states.     

Gerson’s forte was the writing of historical fact in a manner that made reading his books almost a work of enjoying a good novel while learning about the area the author was touching upon. It would be interesting to read again or for the first time those books that are reissued.  His writing is not dated and would appeal to all that enjoy a good historical book.

4/2021 Paul Lane

THE TRIAL OF ANDREW JOHNSON by Noel B. Gerson. Sapere Books (March 8, 2021). ISBN: 978-1800551015. 138 pages.






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