IN PERHAPS NO FIELD of American history has scholarly opinion shifted so completely as in the assessment during the past decade and a half of Reconstruction after the Civil War. Instead of describing vindictive radicals seething with vengeance or cynical capitalists using emotions fostered by the war to fasten their economic control upon the nation, historians now speak in terms of well-meaning efforts of conscientious Republicans to establish national security on the basis of racial equality before the law. If anything, the criticism is that the so-called radicals did not go far enough. 1. Only one event has resisted this historical reversal—the impeachment and trial of President Andrew Johnson. Even to those who sympathize with Republican purposes and programs during Reconstruction, "the impeachment was a great act of ill-directed passion, and was supported by little else." 2. The two full-length works that center upon the impeachment, both apathetic if not hostile to Republican concerns, offer even less friendly judgments. 3.
To some extent, these conclusions are based upon the mature reconsiderations of some of the most respected participants. As James G. Blaine wrote nearly twenty years after he voted in favor____________________