Finding Precedent: The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Web site by HarpWeek, L.L.C., 1998.

In response to the interest generated by the impeachment of President Clinton, HarpWeek created this Web site, posting materials from Harper's Weekly relating to the impeachment and trial of President Andrew Johnson in 1868.

Andrew Johnson, from
Finding Precedent.
Harper's Weekly was the widely circulated illustrated weekly newspaper published from 1857 to 1916. HarpWeek, created by publisher John Adler, has put the weekly into electronic form and marketed it to libraries. (At present the years 1857-1871 are available.) The Web site includes news stories, editorials, illustrations, and cartoons published between 1864 and 1869, and is the first of a planned series of similar sites. 

The Web site offers a variety of routes into the materials. The home page describes the site, with links to the various materials embedded in the text. At the bottom of the homepage is a summary of the sorts of material one may find on the site. One may find a list of all the editorials, in chronological order, simply by clicking on the word "editorial" in this summary. One can access any particular editorial by clicking on its title in the list. A similar procedure leads to all the other materials. 

The homepage also offers well-constructed alternative access routes to the materials. An introductory paragraph includes links to fuller discussions of a few key issues, authored by Adler. The following paragraph invites the visitor to click on the legal, political, and constitutional arguments surrounding the Johnson impeachment. If one does so, 0ne will find a list of issues, such as the status and authority of the Reconstruction-era Congress,
"Andy Makes a Call on Uncle Sam,"
from Finding Precedent.
allegations that Johnson was guilty of a conspiracy to obstruct the law, and discussions of the role of the Constitution and the Supreme Court in impeachment. Clicking on these brings up editorials, cartoons, news stories, and illustrations related to the question. The cartoons and illustrations are linked to short explanatory essays. Each item is linked to other related items.

Other sections of the home page invite the visitor to click on biographies and portraits of the protagonists, including Harper's Weekly illustrations, or to a chronological development of Johnson's background and dispute with Congress. The site also reproduces the Articles and the rules for proceeding in the Senate. Every page has illustrations. Click on them and you get not only an enlargement, but a link to related materials. There is also a link to "additional information," which provides a basic bibliography on Johnson and his impeachment (prepared by this reviewer, who had no part in constructing the site and no relationship to HarpWeek). 

The material on the site must be accessed in the ways noted above. It is not indexed. If one wishes to find all the allusions to Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, for instance, one must gain access to the HarpWeek site, which is well indexed. 

There are some minor shortcomings. The variety of ways to access the material leads to some repetition. Some of the explanatory material has been perhaps oversimplified for students.
"Kicking the
Freedmen's Bureau,"
from Finding Precedent.
The most significant limitation of HarpWeek's Johnson impeachment site is that it offers the perspective of a journal whose positions generally reflected those of centrist Republicans who leaned a bit towards radicalism. If one wants to get a broader picture, one must consult other materials that are not available on the Internet, such as Democratic newspapers and Republican newspapers and journals that represented other views within the party. Thus one could not ask students to compare different perspectives on the Johnson impeachment based solely on this Web site or on materials that can be found on the Internet alone.

Altogether, this is a very well-constructed site, filled with interesting items from which students and anyone interested in the Johnson impeachment can learn a great deal. It provides an excellent model for those constructing similar sites.

Michael Les Benedict
The Ohio State University

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Web Site Review of Finding Precedent: The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
Copyright © 1999 by The Journal for MultiMedia History

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