In 1863 a cooper in Chillicothe, Ohio, named Schyler Courier angrily responded to a group of boys throwing snowballs at him by firing his shotgun, killing one of the boys. In 1866 in Petersburg, New York, Hiram Coon warned his employer's wife, Mary Laker, to quit taunting him for his criminal past; when she would not stop, he split her head open with an ax.
Our hottest, most divisive cultural arguments are often conducted without any awareness of historical context, as the debates over abortion and capital punishment attest. But it does not have to be this way. Historians Linda Gordon and, most recently, Leslie Reagan have written excellent works on the history of abortion in the United States.
It was not the sort of place where one would expect to find the folks who produced the More-with-Less cookbook, but the massive and hermetically sealed Opryland complex in Nashville was where 9,330 Mennonites gathered in early July for a momentous meeting.
I finish this review in the shadow of Timothy McVeigh’s execution. But while America’s most notorious mass murderer is dead, and while the pundits continue to argue the merits and meaning of his execution, news about capital punishment just keeps coming.
Just after midnight on Wednesday September 24, 1997, I watched as the state of Missouri put Samuel McDonald to death by lethal injection. I had never wanted to witness an execution, and I was devastated by what I saw. How did I come to be at the Potosi Correctional Institute on that night?
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