Popular Culture

Impeach Lincoln!


The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln (Knopf) by Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter could have offered an interesting account of the political troubles that might have faced Abraham Lincoln had he survived assassination. Instead, he has produced a novel burdened by unbelievable characters and a definitively Dan Brown feel.

The protagonist, a young African-American law clerk working on Lincoln's defense team, Abigail Canner, is liked and respected for virtues not readily apparent in the novel's own text. Lincoln himself appears sporadically, and isn't very interesting when he does. The impeachment trial itself is frustratingly dull, with fictional intrigue cluttering what could have been a fascinating constitutional discussion.

Despite its flaws, Carter's novel does a good job of exploring Reconstruction-era tensions and addressing some historical misconceptions. States' rights fans and Constitution buffs will be more willing than most to endure Carter's dull conspiratorial plot for a few historical and legal gems. —Matthew Feeney