The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
Eliza Johnson: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: High School/College
Time Required: One or two class periods


In 1868, Congress voted to impeach President  Andrew Johnson.  Harper’s Weekly was the leading weekly newspaper at that time, and focused a great deal on the impeachment trial, including editorials, news stories, and political cartoons.  Harper’s Weekly (under the title HarpWeek) has taken much of the information that originated in its newspaper from that time period and put it together as a website.  Included in this website are many of the original editorials, news stories, and Thomas Nast cartoons.  It provides excellent resources to better understand why Johnson was impeached, including a focus on the Constitutional issues related to his impeachment, the arguments used on both sides, and an understanding of public opinion during the time period.  In addition, one of the Famous Trials websites also gives a wide variety of information on the trial, its reasons, and the people involved in the impeachment.


Using these websites, students will gain an understanding of why Andrew Johnson was impeached and the negative press that surrounded him during his presidency and impeachment trial.  Students will also evaluate the editorials and political cartoons that concern Johnson’s presidency and impeachment and create their own political cartoon that displays their opinion of Johnson and his public treatment during his presidency.

Materials Required:

Individual access to the HarpWeek and Famous Trials websites; materials for creating political cartoons.


1.  Begin by asking the class what is meant by “impeachment”.  Ask students the role of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the impeachment process, and if they know of any U.S. presidents that have been impeached.  Introduce the HarpWeek website and its purpose.

2.  Students will individually go through the HarpWeek website to review the following:
                a.  An introduction to the importance of Harper’s Weekly
                b.  Key Political Issues Affecting the Impeachment
                c.  What were the Impeachment Arguments of 1867-1868?
                d.  What Happened in Andrew Johnson’s Presidency? Review some editorials, news stories, and political cartoons

3.  Students will then create their own political cartoon that shows their evaluation of the impeachment of Andrew Johnson and the negative public treatment he received during this time period.  They should use the many examples of political cartoons by Thomas Nast, Frank Bellew, and others.

Extending the Lesson:

Students could write an editorial for Harper’s Weekly as someone living through the events of 1867-1868, evaluating Andrew Johnson’s presidency and the impeachment trial. Or, students could use their own cartoons to create a PowerPoint presentation describing the issues and events of the trial.

Sources & Resources:


Harper’s Weekly Coverage of Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment Trial

Famous Trials: The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson

Impeachment and the Constitution of the United States

This lesson was developed by Melissa McClelland, Avon Lake High School, Avon Lake, OH