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Heretics in the Temple

Heretics in the Temple: Americans Who Reject the Nation's Legal Faith

David Ray Papke
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 214
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  • Book Info
    Heretics in the Temple
    Book Description:

    Americans seem increasingly disenchanted with their legal system. In the wake of several high-profile trials, America's faith in legal authority appears profoundly shaken. And yet, as David Ray Papke shows in this dramatic and erudite tour of American history, many Americans have challenged and often rejected the rule of law since the earliest days of the country's founding. Papke traces the lineage of such legal heretics from nineteenth-century activists William Lloyd Garrison and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, through Eugene Debs, and up to more recent radicals, such as the Black Panther Party, anti-abortionists, and militia members. A tradition of American legal heresy clearly emerges--linked together by a body of shared references, idols, and commitments--that problematizes the American belief in legal neutrality and highlights the historical conflicts between law and justice. Questioning the legal faith both peculiar and essential to American mythology, this alternative tradition is in itself an overlooked feature of American history and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6790-0
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. 1 A Legal Faith for the New Republic
    (pp. 1-23)

    Thomas Paine’s life prior to arriving in the American colonies in 1774 hardly augured for success. His uncirculated vita included a bankruptcy, two unsuccessful marriages, and false career starts as a tobacconist, grocer, and corset maker. But Paine’s thought and writing had a sharp political edge, and his publication in 1776 ofCommon Senseproduced thunderous approval. The pamphlet sold a remarkable one hundred thousand copies in only three months and became the most influential tract of the independence movement. In the midst of his fiery call for revolution, Paine paused to admit that many of the Englishmen in the...

  5. All illustrations
    (pp. None)
  6. 2 William Lloyd Garrison: From Abolition to Anarchism
    (pp. 24-50)

    As the citizens of the United States began to worship in the legal faith, they also developed the sacred personages, sites, and dates of Americanism as it is more generally understood. Hence, the nation in the early 1800s came to recognize its “Founding Fathers”—a whole passel of them in fact. The nation cast Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, and Independence Hall in Philadelphia as places where the United States had been “born.” And the nation adopted the Fourth of July, the day in 1776 on which the delegates to the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, as...

  7. 3 Elizabeth Cady Stanton: Women’s Natural Rights and the Revolt against Gendered Legalism
    (pp. 51-75)

    During the nineteenth century, recitation of the Declaration of Independence was a virtually obligatory part of the Fourth of July celebrations. Distinguished orators as well as aspiring amateurs vied with one another to capture the document’s tones and thunder.¹ But just as the holiday as a whole could be turned on its head, so, too, could the document. Throughout the antebellum period and later, malcontents, rebels, and legal heretics invoked and manipulated the Declaration of Independence to vent their discontent.

    Elizabeth Cady Stanton engineered perhapsthemost striking reconstruction of the Declaration of Independence in all of American history. A...

  8. 4 Eugene Debs: Law-Related Socialist Conversion, Catechism, and Evangelism
    (pp. 76-105)

    The Fourth of July was ideological terrain suitable for both attack and counterattack. While William Lloyd Garrison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others used the nation’s birthday as an occasion to promote their legal heresies, self-styled spokesmen for the nation could use the holiday to champion the American legal faith and condemn nonbelievers. An extended illustration of such counterattack appeared in the conservativeChicago Tribune’sfront-page cartoons of July 3–5, 1894. The strike against Chicago’s Pullman Palace Car Company provoked the cartoons, and along with various articles and editorials the cartoons made clear theTribunehad little taste for the...

  9. 5 The Black Panther Party: A Study in Legal Cynicism
    (pp. 106-133)

    West Oakland is a depressing place. Wine bottles and trash fill the empty lots. Ramshackle houses and run-down projects constitute the housing stock. There are few trees to shield the residents from either the sun or their poverty. But at 1454 9th Street, near the huge Acorn Public Housing Project, there is a surprising shrine to a fallen hero. Constructed by neither the government nor a well-meaning foundation, the shrine comes from the people and adds a spark to at least one neighborhood block.

    The shrine honors Huey P. Newton, the one-time leader of the Black Panther Party, and it...

  10. 6 Legal Heresy Today: Militia, Anti-Abortion Activists, and Beyond
    (pp. 134-154)

    After years of contemplating individual legal heretics, I cannot resist imagining them assembled as a group—perhaps even on the Twentieth of September, the day William Lloyd Garrison proposed as an alternative to the Fourth of July. At such a get-together, Garrison and Elizabeth Cady Stanton might rekindle the affection they had known for one another before conflicting perspectives on African American and women’s liberation pulled them apart in the post–Civil War years. Cady Stanton might enjoy hearing from Eugene Debs how he himself stepped forward after the Terre Haute literary society refused to host Susan B. Anthony. Both...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 155-188)
  12. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 189-194)
  13. Index
    (pp. 195-200)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 201-202)