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Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

I Expected So Much...

Published by Alfred A. Knopf in July of 2012

I love Stephen L. Carter the essayist. He writes brilliant essays. He makes me think and I learn a lot. I have now determined that I just don't care much for Stephen L. Carter the novelist and I will stick to the essays.

When I saw the topic of this book I was thrilled. Carter is a law professor so he knows all of the legal angles. I am an enthusiastic student of the Civil War so I was already very familiar with all of the politics, legal issues and personalities that would have been involved with an impeachment of Lincoln.

The premise of the story is that Lincoln was not killed by John Wilkes Booth, although he was gravely injured. Vice President Andrew Johnson was killed and Secretary of State William Seward was injured so badly that he has not been seen publicly since the attempt on his life.

Secretary of War Edwin Stanton (1814-1869)
plays a key role in this alternate history novel.
In real life, Vice President Andrew Johnson was the first president to be impeached because he was unable to successfully navigate the rough political waters of post-Civil War America. Lincoln is caught in these same currents and is impeached on a host of different charges. Lincoln's lawyers include a young black woman who has recently graduated from Oberlin College named Abigail Canner. She is learning how to be a lawyer, like an intern. The book is mostly told from her point of view.

As the case against Lincoln moves from the House to the Senate the situation is clouded by multiple murders,  mysterious messages that come and go and witnesses disappearing. Canner and another young "intern" named Jonathan Hilliman team up to follow leads that no one else seems interested in. All the while the impeachment case moves forward.

The book is filled with great characters, the topic is interesting and his portrayal of Lincoln and other historical personages is dead on when compared to everything else I have read. But, this book is slow. The plot is byzantine in nature - so intricate, so many plotters out to get Lincoln and so many anti-plotters out to protect him that I just lost interest and the book just dragged. I found that I was forcing myself to finish a book that I should have been enjoying.

I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln

Reviewed on November 11, 2012.

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