The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

Johnson, Grant, and the Politics of Reconstruction. By Martin E. Mantell.
(New York: Columbia University Press, 1973. Pp. 20o9. Notes, bib-
liography, index. $9.)
Despite the many attempts of historians and biographers to formulate an
acceptable interpretation of Andrew Johnson's administration, only very re-
cently have monographic studies begun to reveal the period in its true sig-
nificance, untainted with the melodrama of earlier accounts. The pioneering
works of John and LaWanda Cox and Eric McKitrick were recently com-
plemented with an excellent study by Michael Perman, which focused on
southern reaction to national moves toward a peace settlement. Professor
Mantell seeks in this work to clarify further the national picture by con-
centrating on the political struggles in the closing phases of the Johnson
administration.
The author's contention is that the Republican victory in the midterm
elections of 1866 was only the beginning of the contest over the ultimate
political results of the war and subsequent congressional peace plans. Still
in doubt in I867 were interpretations of congressional legislation and the
means of its implementation, and President Johnson continued to exercise
presidential powers of sufficient significance to cause concern in Republican
ranks. Mantell concludes that basic to a final victory for congressional re-
construction were the effective efforts of Grant and the use of impeachment
as a successful political maneuver. Thus, though Johnson was not convicted,
the trial was nevertheless a Republican victory in that it removed imminent
threats to implementation of the congressional program. At the same time,
Grant maintained his balance in a growing struggle with the President, re-
tained control of the army in the South, and eventually emerged as the
only plausible Republican presidential candidate in 1868. Final congres-
sional ascendency came with Grant's election in 1868 and the subsequent
general acquiescence to the fact that the southern states had no alternative
but to accept congressional terms of reconstruction.
Professor Mantell's monograph is a significant contribution to reconstruc-
tion historiography, although hardly a major one. While stressing some new
and worthy ideas, he plows much old ground already familiar to scholars,
although he does this with a prodigious amount of primary research. His
writing lacks polish, but his points are clearly stated. The minuscule chap-
ter on financial issues has the appearance of being added as an afterthought
to affect a transition which could be handled more effectively with other
techniques. More critical, however, is the author's failure to take notice of
the peculiar position of Georgia and that state's problems of readmission to

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 77, July 1973 - April, 1974. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117148/. Accessed July 12, 2014.