The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
Impeachment Simulation Game:  Comments To Teachers

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Proceedings of
the Senate Sitting

"Setting The
Scene" Paper

Characters and
Reading Assignments

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Game top page

 
Developed by Eric Rothschild, HarpWeek consultant, specifically for this Website.
 
The Purpose of Simulation
The purpose of any simulation is to encourage students to understand the issues involved in a specific historical moment and not simply to replicate it. This simulation has the additional goal of having students experience the challenge of using primary source materials to understand history. In this case, using Harper’s Weekly provides a double challenge. First, it is written for a highly intelligent readership and thus its vocabulary and levels of explication will not be easy for many students. Second, it has a clear bias which the instructor will have to address before his or her students begin the simulation.

 

Specific Notes Relating to the Johnson Impeachment Simulation
Because the objective of the simulation is to encourage students to grasp the complexity of the issues surrounding the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, I have taken the liberty of reducing the charges from eleven to two. With the exception of Article X, accusing Johnson of " [attempting] to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt, and reproach the Congress of the United States . . .[by uttering] loud threats and bitter menaces" the other charges were all related to Johnson’s dismissal of Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in alleged violation of the Tenure of Office Act.

In addition, the instructions given students in the simulation make clear that at the end of the trial they are free to vote for or against conviction even as the Senators did who voted in May, 1868. But unlike their predecessors a hundred and thirty years ago, they may vote to convict.

The third liberty with the facts I have taken involves including people as witnesses in the trial who did not participate in the impeachment hearings in 1868. The reasons for doing so primarily involve an effort to create a simulation in which all students do research and reading in Harper’s Weekly.

Finally, you will note in the simulation itself that with the exception of the students playing the parts of President Johnson and the three attorneys for each side, all students are instructed to "give up" the character they played as witnesses in the trial and to become a member of the Senate, voting on the impeachment charges. The reason for doing so is educational. By forcing almost every student to take a stand on Johnson’s innocence or guilt, the teacher will ensure that the students know all the issues surrounding impeachment. If the students were limited to a role as a witness, they would only learn one part of a complex event and would have no reason to listen closely to the trial after they completed their moment on the witness stand.

 

Short Paper as an Introduction
You will note that in the simulation, there is a short paper based on material in Harper’s Weekly due before the trial begins. I recommend that you assign this paper at least ten days before the trial is due to begin. That ensures that all students start out with an understanding of the events that preceded the trial.

 

Harper's Weekly and Other Resources
I have included a very rich selection of material from Harper’s Weekly, especially for the attorneys, Andrew Johnson, Edwin M. Stanton and Ulysses S. Grant. You may decide to cut back on their readings. For particularly weak students, you may have to rewrite a section or two.

 

Suggestions
In assigning textbook readings, stop just prior to the impeachment of Johnson. Otherwise the students will use their text as a short cut to understanding the issue. Pick your strongest students to play Johnson or the six attorneys. (The three defense attorneys will have to be particularly bright because they will have to tease out the defense position from articles in Harper’s Weekly that often are designed to explode their argument.) Use the two newspaper editors as additional characters only if you have more students than parts in the game. If you need more parts, have four student editors. If you need fewer, reduce the number of attorneys to four.

Finally, as with most activities, teachers do better with simulations when they adapt them to their particular classroom circumstance. So don’t hesitate to change what’s here.


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