Design a site like this with
Get started

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

Impeachment remains the most serious constitutional weapon against the President of the United States. It is rarely seriously considered, and only three presidents have been placed in serious jeopardy of removal from office. In each case, they were spared, though usually politically wounded. Andrew Johnson’s Articles of Impeachment passed the House of Representatives only to flounder in the Senate. Richard Nixon resigned rather than facing his impending removal. And Bill Clinton faced a trial in the Senate that lacked the votes to convict.


These three stories have many similarities. Each president, mostly fueled by their own hubris, at some point felt sure they could survive politically. Similarly, all three times Congress was forced to consider whether a president’s conduct placed himself dangerously above the country. However, each has severe differences, and therein lies the special craft of this book. Three separate scholars tackle each of the presidents in extended essays, examining impeachment proceedings and their immediate impacts.

Biographer Jon Meacham has perhaps the most difficult job tackling Andrew Johnson. His presidency is furthest removed from the present, and there is some specific background necessary for readers to fully appreciate the charges against John—Mostly, he wasn’t Lincoln. However, Meacham is more than up to the task and this essay ultimately sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Historian Timothy Naftali picks up the pace with his analysis of Richard Nixon. The only case of presidential resignation, Naftali carefully sifts and compresses the overwhelming wealth of Nixon information into a digestible format.

Finishing, journalist Peter Baker examines Bill Clinton. Here, not only is there a compelling narrative about impeachment, but also about the personal lives of politicians.

All of this is bookended by Jeffrey Engel, who covers some basic impeachment information and relates it to today. Altogether, the result is a constructed patchwork of history, with parallels appearing to interweave with each successive case and on into the present.

And that’s really the elephant in the room with this book. Discussion of impeachment have cropped up repeatedly throughout the current presidential administration, starting even before Inauguration Day. With the backdrop of most any other administration, it’s hard to imagine a book like this having such relevance. Engel even suggests as much, asking readers of the opening chapter to put aside thoughts of the current president until the last chapter. It’s effective. This is not a case for or against impeachment but, rather, a wonderfully researched examination of how the country has handled the issue during its most tumultuous times.

Title: Impeachment: An American History
Author: Jeffrey A. Engel, Jon Meacham, Timothy Naftali, & Peter Baker
Publisher: Modern Library
Publication Date: November 16, 2018
Classification: Nonfiction, Politics

Engel’s Website | Meacham’s Website | Naftali’s Twitter
Baker’s Website | Publisher’s Page | Goodreads

Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: