Mixing idealism with violence, abolitionist John Brown cut a wide swath across the United States before winding up in Virginia, where he led an attack on the U.S. armory and arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Supported by a "provisional army" of 21 men, Brown hoped to rouse the slaves in Virginia to rebellion. But he was quickly captured and, after a short but stormy trial, hanged on December 2, 1859. Brian McGinty provides the first comprehensive account of the trial, which raised important questions about jurisdiction, judicial fairness, and the nature of treason under the American constitutional system.
To some, John Brown was a hero and a martyr to the abolitionist cause. To others, he was a treasonous murderer operating outside the law. Unlike most mainstream abolitionists, Brown believed that slavery would never end without the use of violence, and he was more than willing to take up arms against anyone who stood in his way. His ill-fated raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in 1859, which resulted in his execution, was merely the final chapter in his history of using violent means to fight slavery. The question of whether violence is ever acceptable as a form of protest is one that Brown's contemporaries asked themselves and one we are still asking today. Through this book, students can contemplate that same question as they examine the facts of John Brown's life, the historical context in which he lived, and the legacy he left behind.
In a bravura performance that ranges from Aaron Burr to O. J. Simpson, Robert A. Ferguson traces the legal meaning and cultural implications of prominent American trials across the history of the nation. His interdisciplinary investigation carries him from courtroom transcripts to newspaper accounts, and on to the work of such imaginative writers as Emerson, Thoreau, William Dean Howells, and E. L. Doctorow. Ferguson shows how courtrooms are forced to cope with unresolved communal anxieties and how they sometimes make legal decisions that change the way Americans think about themselves. Burning questions control the narrative. How do such trials mushroom into major public dramas with fundamental ideas at stake? Why did outcomes that we now see as unjust enjoy such strong communal support at the time? At what point does overexposure undermine a trial’s role as a legal proceeding? Ultimately, such questions lead Ferguson to the issue of modern press coverage of courtrooms. While acknowledging that media accounts can skew perceptions, Ferguson argues forcefully in favor of full television coverage of them—and he takes the Supreme Court to task for its failure to grasp the importance of this issue. Trials must be seen to be understood, but Ferguson reminds us that we have a duty, currently ignored, to ensure that cameras serve the court rather than the media. The Trial in American Life weaves Ferguson’s deep knowledge of American history, law, and culture into a fascinating book of tremendous contemporary relevance. “A distinguished law professor, accomplished historian, and fine writer, Robert Ferguson is uniquely qualified to narrate and analyze high-profile trials in American history. This is a superb book and a tremendous achievement. The chapter on John Brown alone is worth the price of admission.”—Judge Richard Posner “A noted scholar of law and literature, [Ferguson] offers a work that is broad in scope yet focuses our attention on certain themes, notably the possibility of injustice, as illustrated by the Haymarket and Rosenberg prosecutions; the media’s obsession with pandering to baser instincts; and the future of televised trials. . . . One of the best books written on this subject in quite some time.”—Library Journal, starred review
Caleb Smith explores the confessions, trial reports, maledictions, and martyr narratives that juxtaposed law and conscience in antebellum America’s court of public opinion and shows how writers portrayed struggles for justice as clashes between human law and higher authority, giving voice to a moral protest that transformed American literature.
First published in 1909, W.E.B. Du Bois's biography of abolitionist John Brown is a literary and historical classic. With a rare combination of scholarship and passion, Du Bois defends Brown against all detractors who saw him as a fanatic, fiend, or traitor. Brown emerges as a rich personality, fully understandable as an unusual leader with a deeply religious outlook and a devotion to the cause of freedom for the slave. This new edition is enriched with an introduction by John David Smith and with supporting documents relating to Du Bois's correspondence with his publisher.
United States. National Park Service. Division of Publications
The Encyclopedia of West Virginia contains detailed information on States: Symbols and Designations, Geography, Archaeology, State History, Local History on individual cities, towns and counties, Chronology of Historic Events in the State, Profiles of Governors, Political Directory, State Constitution, Bibliography of books about the state and an Index.
Winner of the Bancroft Prize: Through a gripping narrative based on massive new research, a leading historian reshapes our understanding of the Civil War. Our standard Civil War histories tell a reassuring story of the triumph, in an inevitable conflict, of the dynamic, free-labor North over the traditional, slave-based South, vindicating the freedom principles built into the nation's foundations. But at the time, on the borderlands of Pennsylvania and Virginia, no one expected war, and no one knew how it would turn out. The one certainty was that any war between the states would be fought in their fields and streets. Edward L. Ayers gives us a different Civil War, built on an intimate scale. He charts the descent into war in the Great Valley spanning Pennsylvania and Virginia. Connected by strong ties of every kind, including the tendrils of slavery, the people of this borderland sought alternatives to secession and war. When none remained, they took up war with startling intensity. As this book relays with a vivid immediacy, it came to their doorsteps in hunger, disease, and measureless death. Ayers's Civil War emerges from the lives of everyday people as well as those who helped shape history—John Brown and Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, Jackson, and Lee. His story ends with the valley ravaged, Lincoln's support fragmenting, and Confederate forces massing for a battle at Gettysburg.