The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln
Stephen L. Carter
Knopf, Jul 10 2012, $26.95
In 1865, John Wilkes Booth, supported by several co-conspirators, enters the Ford Theater to kill President Lincoln. The assassin fails to murder Lincoln; though Vice President Andrew Johnson dies and Secretary of States William Seward is so severely injured he is unable to carry out his duty. Booth and his team are executed before they can be properly interrogated to determine who else was involved in their nefarious assassination plot.
Over the next couple of years, Lincoln pushes a Reconstruction agenda that faces strong opposition in Congress who prefers punishing the losers rather than bringing them back into the Union. In 1867, the House of Representatives led by Radical Republicans pass a bill of impeachment against Lincoln. The US Senate will try the President. He hires Dennard & McShane law firm to defend him. They, in turn, employ Abigail Canner, a young “dark nation” graduate of Oberlin College allegedly as a clerk but actually as image confection. She refuses to be an idle symbol so she begins her own inquiry in Washington City to uncover the identity of the rest of the Booth team.
This is an entertaining alternate history based on Lincoln not Johnson surviving and being impeached. The storyline captures the essence of Post-Civil War society through a strong cast especially the middle class heroine, and the politics of the era as his own party fails to heed his words of “A house divided against itself cannot stand” when the Republicans prefer punishment over Lincoln’s reconciliation; they use his war powers as the rationale to impeach. The thriller starts fast with the assassination attempt, but slows down for a while before reengaging the reader with the trial and with Canner’s investigation.