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May 1, 2009

David Stewart to Discuss Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment Showdown at Library of Congress on June 3

After Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, the United States continued to tumble through tumultuous times. President Andrew Johnson was failing to heal the nation’s wounds, and the bitter political environment culminated in an impeachment trial.

Author David O. Stewart will discuss Johnson’s 1868 trial, when once again the nation’s fate hung in the balance, at noon on Wednesday, June 3, in Dining Room A on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The lecture is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed.

Stewart’s lecture is based on his new book "Impeached: the Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln’s Legacy," which will be released May 12 by Simon & Schuster. A book-signing will follow the talk.

In his book, Stewart discusses how Johnson squandered Abraham Lincoln’s precious political legacy of equality and fairness, failing to become Lincoln’s political heir. In addition, he explores the considerable and long-ignored evidence that senators were bribed to vote in favor of Johnson. Stewart arrived at these conclusions after careful examination of the papers of Johnson, U.S. Rep. Ben Butler, R-Mass., and other key figures that are in the collections of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

On his website, Stewart says, "America’s challenges after the Civil War were immense. How to bind up the nation’s wounds after four years of murderous war, yet still protect four million freed slaves from the unbridled prejudices of the day? Andrew Johnson--racist, stubborn and deaf to the views of others--was not equal to those excruciating challenges.

"The radical Republicans, led by the fiercely brilliant Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania, fought for two years to force the president to defend the rights of the freedmen. Stevens’ iron will and sheer cussedness produced the final confrontation in the impeachment trial, from which no one emerged a winner. The book explores long-ignored evidence of bribery and corrupt influences in the final Senate vote."

Some of the most brilliant lawyers of the day, along with some of the most unscrupulous, were players in the Senate trial. Behind the scenes, political power-brokers maneuvered to save Johnson’s presidency with political deals, promises of patronage jobs and even cash bribes. In the final tally, Johnson escaped conviction in the Senate by a single vote.

Stewart is the author of the bestselling and highly acclaimed book, "The Summer of 1787," an account of the writing of the U.S. Constitution. He has practiced law in Washington, D.C., for more than 25 years, and has argued appeals all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Stewart was a law clerk to Justice Lewis Powell, and developed a fascination with impeachment when he served as principal defense counsel during the Senate impeachment trial of Judge Walter L. Nixon, Jr., of Mississippi in 1989.

This event is sponsored by the Humanities & Social Sciences and Manuscript divisions. The Humanities and Social Sciences Division provides reference service and collection development in the Main, Local History and Genealogy, and Microform and Machine Readable Collections reading rooms at the Library of Congress. It regularly sponsors programs in the arts, humanities and social sciences. The holdings of the Manuscript Division, nearly 60 million items contained in 11,000 separate collections, include some of the greatest manuscript treasures of American history and culture.

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PR 09-094
ISSN 0731-3527

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