Bloomberg Anywhere Login

Bloomberg

Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world.

Company

Financial Products

Enterprise Products

Media

Customer Support

  • Americas

    +1 212 318 2000

  • Europe, Middle East, & Africa

    +44 20 7330 7500

  • Asia Pacific

    +65 6212 1000

Communications

Industry Products

Media Services

Follow Us

Lincoln Survives, Is Impeached in Yale Prof’s Novel

"The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln: A Novel" is written by Stephen Carter. Source: Random House, Inc.

July 11 (Bloomberg) -- In Stephen L. Carter’s latest novel, a spy thriller/murder mystery/courtroom drama/political potboiler set in 1860s Washington, the 16th U.S. president survives the shooting in Ford’s Theatre only to face removal from office by a cabal of Radical Republicans.

Vice President Andrew Johnson dies and Mary Todd Lincoln drowns shortly thereafter.

In “The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln,” the Yale University law professor casts an eye on the nation at the ragged end of the Civil War.

The political debate cloaks a conspiracy of industrialists and corrupt officeholders seeking to protect their own interests.

But this isn’t “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” Carter, even in rewriting history, hews close to the realities of the time, in all their complexity.

The hero of the tale is Abigail Canner, a middle-class Washingtonian of immense intelligence (just ask her) whose family is three generations removed from slavery. After graduating from Oberlin College, she takes a job as a clerk for the law firm hired to defend the president.

Carter revels in the ambiguities of post-bellum America, where abolitionists smugly presume that every black person they meet is a former slave, where Lincoln is hated as much by his own party as by disgruntled white Southerners and where a wealthy black family hires former Confederate soldiers as bodyguards “because we won, dear.”

Mansions, Brothels

Carter sometimes bogs down in details -- he can’t resist explaining rules of evidence -- but the streets come alive in his vision of Washington: a muddy conglomeration of mansions and brothels and staid brick homes. The weather is relentlessly terrible, the people eloquently rude.

Lincoln, no saint, turns people into set dressing for his political ends. He speaks in tedious, homespun parables.

“Mr. Lincoln’s countrymen saw him, according to their several prejudices, as a monster or a giant, the tyrant who had crushed the Southern way of life or the demigod who had saved the union,” Carter writes.

Carter’s tale comes to a conclusion as thrilling and untidy as the actual events that unfolded during the turbulent postwar years. The professor deploys alternative history to instruct the reader on how much and how little impact individuals, political movements and random accidents have on the course of momentous events.

“The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln” is published by Knopf (516 pages, $26.95). To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Andrew Dunn is an editor at Bloomberg news. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include an interview by Zinta Lundborg and a dining review.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Dunn in New York at adunn8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net

Please upgrade your Browser

Your browser is out-of-date. Please download one of these excellent browsers:

Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer.