||The Impeachment of
|by John Adler,
Harper's Weekly and Andrew Johnson
During the Reconstruction period, Harpers
Weekly was the most important national periodical in the country. It both shaped and
reflected public opinion. In a time when print media was the only way to reach a
nationwide audience, its circulation exceeded 100,000 and its estimated readership was
over half a million. Its news and editorial columns, cartoons and illustrations were
comparable to a combined version of Time, Life, Newsweek and CNN
today. George William Curtis, the editor of Harpers Weekly from 1863 until
his death in 1892, was one of the most influential and well respected editorial writers of
his time. Thomas Nast, whose 16 cartoons skewered "King Andy" Johnson, was the
leading political cartoonist of all time.
President Andrew Johnson became the seventeenth President of the United States on April
15, 1865, after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He served until March 4, 1869, when
Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated. Johnson was a Democrat from Tennessee, who once owned
slaves. He, alone among Southern pre-war Senators, supported the Union during the Civil
War. He was appointed as military Governor of Tennessee by Lincoln in 1862.
During Johnsons term as President, both Houses of Congress
were controlled by Republicans. Their ideas of how to reconstruct the eleven Southern
states which had seceded to form the Confederacy differed from Democrat Johnsons.
Moreover, within the Republican Party, there were three distinct groupings radical,
moderate and conservative.
Harpers Weekly portrayed in everyday detail to its
readers of 1865-1869 the current events, issues and personalities that were central to
Reconstruction and the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Several good books and articles have
been written about Johnsons life in general and his impeachment in particular.
However, none of them can provide todays politicians, students, faculty, press and
general public with the week-to-week progression of events and controversies that the
readers of that time received.
About This Presentation
This free Web presentation has been derived
from information found in HarpWeeks primary commercial database products. These
consist of a chronological series of complete, detailed, manually compiled, interactive
electronic indexes to the content of Harpers Weekly, along with scanned
images of the pages, for the years 1857-1865 and 1866-1871. Current plans call for the
cumulative database to be extended through 1900.
As part of the overall project, HarpWeeks scholar-indexers
read every word and looked at every illustration, cartoon and advertisement in the
200-plus issues of Harpers Weekly that covered the 1865-69 period. All index
entries relevant to Andrew Johnson were reviewed, and the pertinent (re-typed) news
articles and editorials, illustrations and cartoons included on this Website. They can be
found in Whats Here from Harpers Weekly, and searched by keyword or
Among the Harpers Weekly materials on this Website are 27 political cartoons,
as well as 47 news
articles, briefs, and explanations of some of the 34 illustrations.
The latter include two realistic depictions of the House and Senate chambers, drawn to
scale from the architects plans by Harpers Weekly artist Theodore R.
HarpWeek has added several features that make this presentation
especially timely for todays Congress and public. First, is the inclusion of 90 editorials,
many of which bear directly on the issues of impeachment. Along with the arguments made by
both the prosecution and the defense in Johnsons actual Senate trial, these
editorials provide insight into the legal, political and Constitutional issues which
related to the definition of what constitutes an impeachable offense by a president.
Although 1998s impeachment topics obviously differ, the thinking and arguments of
1868 have substantial relevance today as people grope with the issue of defining
impeachable "high crimes and misdemeanors." Accordingly, HarpWeek has prepared a
index of the specific legal, political and Constitutional arguments for and
Finally, HarpWeek has commissioned Eric Rothschild,
a retired high school history teacher, to prepare an Impeachment
Simulation game based on the Senate
trial of 1868. We anticipate that students and teachers will find it useful in bringing to
life the circumstances and arguments under which Andrew Johnson was impeached, tried and
Notes About Harper's Weekly
Harpers Weekly came out
two Saturdays before the date of the current issue, similar to todays magazines
which bear a future date. For example, the acquittal decision which occurred on May 16,
1868 was reported in the issue dated May 30, 1868. It probably went to press on the night
of Saturday, May 16.
Weekly spellings and punctuation varied somewhat from todays; for example,
Johnsons home town of Greeneville, Tennessee was spelled Greenville. HarpWeek has
retained the original spellings and punctuation except where Harpers Weekly
made an obvious mistake.
HarpWeek LLC is making the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson available as a public service.
The editor is John Adler, publisher of HarpWeek. This Website was designed by Greg Weber.
Major creative and technical contributions have been made by Marge Nee and Richard
Roy. Dr. Robert C. Kennedy compiled the special index on the editorial topics and wrote
most of the biographies; Dr. Daniel Worthington and Allen Brahin compiled most of the
basic index. Draper Hill, editorial cartoonist of the Detroit News, made
significant contributions to the interpretation of the Thomas Nast cartoons.
For commentary, please contact John Adler, Publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Website design © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
All Content © 1998-2005 HarpWeek, LLC
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