I have another book review up today on the Washington Independent Review of Books: this time of Stephen Carter’s novel about the impeachment of Abraham Lincoln. Wait, you say, Abraham Lincoln was never impeached, was he? No, he was not, but Carter imagines that Lincoln survived the assassin’s bullet, that Andrew Johnson was felled instead, and thus Lincoln had to deal with Reconstruction. As Johnson sometimes said, if Lincoln had survived, he would have made enemies: if he had treated the South softly, the Radicals would have criticized him, the way they did Johnson; if he had treated the South harshly, the southerners and Democrats would have attacked him, the way they (to a lesser extent) did Johnson.
Carter is right, I think, to imagine that Lincoln would not have been a very popular president two or three years after the end of the war. Whether he would have been impeached is a more difficult question, but certainly some of his wartime policies (closing newspapers, arresting editors, spending funds not yet appropriated) could have been the basis of impeachment charges. They were not because people realized that what mattered was winning the war, which he did, thank God.