Study Questions

Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, and Peter Baker
Impeachment: An American History

According to Engel's introduction, why has impeachment been so rare in American history? The book was published in 2018, before the House of Representatives took up impeachment; by that point, what had the President, his advisors, and his opponents learned from the history of impeachment? What is the book's purpose?

Describe the dissatisfaction in the 1780s with the Articles of Confederation. What were the reasons for and against a king, and for and against a stronger central government? How had American attitudes toward King George III evolved? What was George Washington's opinions of the call for a national convention, and of his potential role in it? Why did he agree to participate? Why did everyone at the convention assume that Washington was the best (and only) choice to be the first president? Why did the issue of removal of a president come up? What were the arguments for and against giving Congress the power to impeach? How did Benjamin Franklin's advice guide deliberations? Once the convention agreed on the impeachment issue, how did they narrow the causes for impeachment? What does the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors" mean, and what meanings did the convention reject? How does the character of Washington reveal all we need to know about what makes an impeachable president?

Why should we be interested in Andrew Johnson's presidency today? Although Republicans initially supported Johnson, why did they quickly change their minds? What fundamental truth about the American system did his impeachment illustrate? Why did Abraham Lincoln select Johnson as his running mate in 1864? What was Johnson's background and character? Describe Johnson's behavior on Inauguration Day. Why and how did he try to block Congress during Reconstruction? How did he behave when challenged? How did Congress respond? Why did early attempts at impeachment fail? What did Johnson do to finally give Congress a pretext to impeach him? What do the impeachment articles reveal about the motives for impeachment? What were the arguments in the Senate for and against conviction? Why did seven Republicans vote to acquit? What conclusions about impeachment can be drawn from the Johnson case? What does the author, famous historian Jon Meacham, think about the case and its significance?