This site provides material from Harpers Weekly relating to the 1868 impeachment of Andrew Johnson. The site includes both primary materials -- editorials, articles, and political cartoons -- and secondary materials, such biographical essays on major figures in the impeachment conflict. Topics covered include the political issues affecting the impeachment and the arguments involved in the hearings. The site also provides an Impeachment Simulation Game for use in the classroom.
To acquaint students with the process of impeachment and the resulting trial. To teach students to distinguish between primary and secondary sources. To familiarize students with the process of writing a research paper. To acquaint students with the major personalities involved in the Impeachment and Trial of President Andrew Johnson. To encourage students to evaluate the impact on the United States of the trial's verdict.
Target Student Population:
High School, College, both survey and upper level.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Some basic familiarity with the political events of Reconstruction.
Type of Material:
United State History course; American Government course; Constitutional Law course.
Evaluation and Observation
This site provides an in-depth examination of the impeachment controversy in the 1860s. The site authors cover a wide range of issues and effectively shows the complexity of the conflict. The primary document collection has a lot of potential as a teaching tool. It is large enough to cover the range of issues, but small enough that students might actually make use of much of it. The collection also provides students with the opportunity to work with a variety of types of materials editorials, articles, cartoons, and illustrations. And because students are working with documents that all come from the same source, they might also develop more sophisticated understandings of the ways in which bias is reflected in publications and how historians can work around such bias. There is alink to the Andrew Johnson Papers at the University of Tennessee. Additional lilnks outside of Harper's Weekly are offered.
Some of the brief essays that accompany the primary source materials are a little too brief. Occasionally the authors refer to events without explaining them. For example, they mention President Johnson's intransigence in implementing Congressional Reconstruction in the South without explaining what that means. Student users should be informed of alternative resources on this topic for research consideration.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The real learning object at this web site is the simulation or mock trial,and it is a well-conceived exercise. In recreating the impeachment trial,students have to work with the primary document collection and wrestle with the complexity of the historical situation. The simulation also has students using different skill sets. Not only do they read and interpret documents, but they engage in some sort of public performance and produce written essays. The author recommends a pretrial essay that helps students prepare for the simulation and a post-trial essay that has students reflect on the process and their votes.
The author should provide some suggestions about how the trial itself might unfold. For example, what sort of time limits would be reasonable?
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The simulation is easy to use. The author provides clear instructions for the instructor and students. He also identifies the various student roles (characters) and readings that each student should go over in order to prepare for the trial. The document collection itself is well-organized. One accesses it by browsing topics, which for a collection of this size is fine. At the top of each document are navigation buttons that take one back to the homepage and to other relevant pages within the site. No plugins or downloads are necessary.
The home page could use a make-over. The overall appearance looks amateurish and cluttered. Furthermore, the page is not very well organized. The categories by which the documents are organized are at the bottom of the page. If one enters into the documents by another route provided above that on the home page -- say the legal, political and constitutional arguments -- one will find stuff such as a link to the intro to this section -- that doesnt make sense. The pictures on the home page should have labels or show identify the subject matter when users pass their cursors over them.