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The Tree Of Liberty: A Documentary History Of Rebellion And Political Crime In America

June 2024
1min read

by Nicholas N. Kittrie and Eldon D. Wedlock, Jr.; The Johns Hopkins University Press; 714 pages; $39.50.

The subject of this big, engrossing volume is nothing less than freedom and authority in America, and how they have been challenged and changed through the years. The story is told through documents, more than four hundred of them, each with a brief explanatory introduction—beginning with King Edward Ill’s treason law (which is still with us as a source of principles and even of wording in the United States Constitution) and ending with anti-terrorism measures of the mid-1980s. In between are such diverse pickings as the court record of a Boston woman’s death sentence in 1660 for Quakerism; America’s first antislavery proclamation, issued by Pennsylvania Mennonites in 1688; Washington’s correspondence concerning Benedict Arnold’s treason; Thomas Jefferson’s message on the Aaron Burr conspiracy; John Brown’s last speech; Lincoln’s correspondence and proclamations suspending habeas corpus; writings of John Wilkes Booth; organizing documents of the Ku Klux Klan; Susan B. Anthony’s indictment for voting; papers from the Haymarket Conspiracy and Debs’s rebellion; statements by World War I conscientious objectors; Oliver Wendell Holmes’s “shouting fire” decision; Roosevelt’s order authorizing the internment of Japanese-Americans; the appeals court decision against the Rosenbergs; Malcolm X’s “Declaration of Independence”; writings of Spiro T. Agnew and the Weathermen; 1980s documents concerning abortion, antiapartheid demonstrations, and Haitian refugees; and much, much more. It is all fascinating. The book is a scholarly work designed for classroom use, but there is nothing dry about it.

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