This book gave me all the information I wanted on a subject that I knew little about but that I suspected had more importance than normally is accorded it. Suffice it to say it changed the way I think about Reconstruction; it changed the way I think about America. President Grant, for instance, is commonly thought of as a very lackluster President who allowed all sorts of corruption in his Administration. Think about it: what Presidential Administration after Jackson was not corrupt? The Spoils System was well in place by 1860, and the payoffs, nepotism, and outright bribery were de rigeur for the age. Grant was notable because he was the first President to appear under oath in a court, because the newly powerful Southerners made common cause with disaffected Northerners to short-circuit civil rights legislation by shining the spotlight on one of America’s greatest generals — and in my opinion, greatest Presidents. Just look at the dimwit who followed Grant: Rutherford B. Hayes, who couldn’t string more than four words together without mismatching subject and verb.
Anyway, the details about the impeachment trial are boring as hell, which is, I discovered, most likely why nobody is interested in reading about it. But the trial takes up only a fifth or so of the book, so much of what you’ll encounter is pretty brisk political warfare. For all those interested in American history, this is an indispensable book. It will change the way you see this country.