Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast

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9780809034796: Clarence Darrow: American Iconoclast
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Clarence Darrow is best remembered as the defense attorney in some of the most famous (and infamous) cases in American legal history. With his brilliant closing argument that saved the thrill killers Leopold and Loeb from the gallows and his impassioned defense of John T. Scopes's right to teach evolution in the classroom, Darrow became a legend even in his own time. But such a towering reputation often obscures the man behind it, and attempts to shoehorn him into a single political party due to his long association with the labor movement have only further muddled his legacy. As the historian Andrew E. Kersten shows in this insightful biography of America's most celebrated lawyer, neither Darrow's courtroom performances nor his politics define his career or enduring importance. Going well beyond the familiar story of the socially conscious lawyer and drawing upon new archival records, Kersten reveals that Darrow was an iconoclast driven by the rising interference of corporations and government in ordinary working Americans' lives. In the face of the country's inexorable march toward modernity, Darrow dedicated himself to smashing systems of social control, fighting for liberty and individualism everywhere he went.

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About the Author:

Andrew E. Kersten is a professor of history in the Department of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay. He is the author of Race, Jobs, and the War; A. Philip Randolph; Labor's Home Front; and The Battle for Wisconsin (e-book).

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1
 
A Midwestern Childhood
 
Clarence Darrow read autobiographies and biographies with suspicion. He disliked their self-serving nature, particularly those beginning with a list of famous ancestors. “The purpose of linking themselves by blood and birth to some well-known family or personage,” he wrote, stimulated only the ego and little else.1 Like most people’s, Clarence Darrow’s distant relatives had no direct connection to him other than to set in motion a series of events that eventually resulted in his birth. That said, Darrow’s immediate family and his childhood, especially the relationships with his mother and father, mattered to some degree. But those youthful experiences did not create the Clarence Darrow, that transformative and towering historical figure, that we know. Darrow’s story is not a slow march to greatness and influence. Rather, his initial notions about right and wrong, about fairness and equality, and about citizenship and liberty sprang from his childhood experiences and his environment, the rural Midwest.
Despite writing about his childhood himself, Darrow had misgivings about exploring the “sacred ground” of his youth. We ought to heed his warning, especially since most of the information about his childhood comes from his own writings. Like others who have written about their pasts, Darrow sometimes blurred the lines between reporting his life and artfully creating it. It is best to see his two autobiographies—especially the second, which was published in 1932 and titled The Story of My Life—as the iconoclastic lawyer’s closing statements in the defense of his reputation and legacy. Both works have truths in them, but both are also part of Darrow’s project to build his own public image as a hedonistic pessimist, a skeptic, and an unerring, unstinting, and unflappable champion of freedom and liberty. But as we shall see, Darrow made mistakes, distilled his views, winnowed his causes, and changed his alliances. All this is largely absent in his own writings about his life. As he explained in The Story of My Life, “autobiography is never entirely true.” This much we know: Darrow’s family was an old one and one that belonged to the working class and had at various times fought privilege. Tongue in cheek, he once wrote that some Darrow genealogists claimed a relationship with Adam and Eve, but that he “should not like to guarantee the title.” In fact, his pedigree went back to England, likely among the lower sorts who came to the New World seeking the fortunes that they were unable to make in the Old. “But this does not matter,” Darrow wrote dismissively. “I am sure that my forbears [sic] run a long, long way back of that, even—but what of it anyhow?” Darrow saw himself as a product of chance, not relatives. He stood at the end of a long line of historical accidents, odd twists, and freak happenings. “When I think of the chances that I was up against,” he remarked, “it scares me to realize how easily I might have missed out. Of all the infinite accidents of fate farther back of that, I do not care or dare to think.” And ever the pessimist, at the end of his life, he mockingly wrote that “had I known about life in advance and been given any choice in the matter, I most likely would have declined the adventure.” Darrow was correct: he did not have that choice. But he was not a completely self-made man. For Darrow, that familial atmosphere of which Henry Adams spoke was as much about place as about a family whose members were revolutionaries and skeptics and farmers who struggled to eke out a living.
In 1630, the first Darrow arrived in the New World. He was among a party of sixteen that held a royal land grant for the town of New London, Connecticut, along the Thames River, where they scratched out a meager existence. These Connecticut Darrows were also revolutionaries, forgetting, as Clarence put it, “the lavish gift of the King” in order to fight at Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, and Brandywine. Thus Darrow once joked that he was eligible for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution, “although I would not exactly fit their organization, for, amongst other handicaps, I am proud of my rebel ancestry.”
The Connecticut Darrows prospered moderately for more than a century and a half before branching out. In 1795, the Ammiras Darrow family left Connecticut for Boonville, a small town in upstate New York. Financial success remained just beyond the family’s reach, so in 1824, after Ammiras’s passing, his son (and Clarence’s grandfather) Jedediah led his spouse and seven children on another trek west along the Lake Trail, which ran parallel to the bluffs along Lake Erie. This arduous and long five-hundred-mile trip led them to Trumbull County, Ohio. Their reward was inexpensive but excellent farmland in Kinsman.
Clarence Darrow’s maternal ancestors, the Eddys, shared a similar migration story following the same path to the Western Reserve. Darrow rightly estimated that both families were “poor and obscure, else they would have stayed where they were.” John and Samuel Eddy arrived in Plymouth in 1630. Later, like so many of his contemporaries, Great-grandfather Eddy drove west with purpose, moving to Connecticut, then to upstate New York, and finally to Windsor, Ohio, in the Western Reserve.
The families homesteaded two dozen miles apart. Given that distance in the mid-nineteenth century, it was highly unlikely for a Darrow and an Eddy to meet, let alone marry and raise a family. But Amirus Darrow and Emily Eddy—Clarence’s parents—did meet and fall in love while attending Ellsworth Academy in Amboy, Ohio, thirty-five miles from Windsor and sixty from Kinsman. The Eddys, who were quite well off, had no trouble sending Emily, but the Darrows had to scrape together the money to send Amirus. Emily Eddy and Amirus Darrow became schoolyard sweethearts with a shared passion for reading. Amirus’s thirst for knowledge and his zeal for books were legendary in Clarence’s hometown. Amirus had a personal library unlike any other. In his 1893 reminiscence, Kinsman native Colonel Ralph Plumb recalled that “nearly every house had a Bible and an almanac, but beyond that books were very scarce.” A neighbor might have another book, like “Riley’s Narrative [but that] was lent from house to house and did good work in cultivating a taste for reading." Outside the family, Amirus’s book collection must have seemed an outlandish, immoral indulgence. Even Clarence Darrow thought it odd that his parents were such bibliophiles. No one else in either extended family was. Aside from one of his mother’s brothers who “seemed fairly well-informed,” Darrow could not remember another relative who “cared at all for books.” Furthermore, Emily’s parents “were inclined to believe that a love of books was a distinct weakness, and likely to develop into a very bad habit.” Darrow said the same of his father’s family. However, this was no mere bad habit. Amirus never had much money, yet he bought books like an aristocrat. His house was littered with them. “They were in bookcases, on tables, on chairs, and even on the floor. The house was small, the family large, the furnishings meager, but there were books whichever way one turned.”
Like their parents, Amirus and Emily Darrow emphasized education in their children’s upbringing, even to the point of straining the family’s finances. Amirus was a learned man. In 1845, after they graduated from Ellsworth Academy, Emily and Amirus married and moved to Meadville, Pennsylvania, so Amirus could attend Allegheny College, a Methodist institution. He did not finish. Likely his faith in Methodism ended after the schism in the American Methodist Church over slavery. Instead, Amirus and Emily, who had become abolitionists, joined the Unitarian congregation in Meadville. In 1849, Amirus completed his theology degree but decided not to become a minister. By that time, he and his wife both were freethinkers, who sought the answers to life’s questions through investigation, reason, and rigorous debate. They were also political activists, seeking justice for the oppressed.
Perhaps the most meaningful and influential part of Clarence’s childhood relates to his parents’ freethinking beliefs. Amirus and Emily belonged to one of the most important intellectual, political, and cultural movements of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Freethinkers influenced all aspects of American life from politics and politicians such as Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) to social movements like abolitionism and women’s rights. Both Amirus and Emily adopted free thought well before its golden age between Reconstruction and the First World War. Historian Susan Jacoby has defined American free thought as an encompassing philosophy “running the gamut from the truly antireligious—those who regarded all religion as a form of superstition and wished to reduce its influence in every aspect of society—to those who adhered to a private, unconventional faith revering some form of God or Providence but at odds with orthodox religious authority.” What united freethinkers was a “rationalist approach to fundamental questions of earthly existence—a conviction that the affairs of human beings should be governed not by faith in the supernatural but by a reliance on reason and evidence adduced from the natural world.”15 Both Amirus and Emily were avid readers of the great American and French skeptics, they participated in free thought–inspired movements to em...

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Book Description Hill Wang, 2012. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . This book usually ship within 10-15 business days and we will endeavor to dispatch orders quicker than this where possible. Brand New Book. Clarence Darrow is best remembered as the defense attorney in some of the most famous (and infamous) cases in American legal history. With his brilliant closing argument that saved the thrill killers Leopold and Loeb from the gallows and his impassioned defense of John T. Scopes s right to teach evolution in the classroom, Darrow became a legend even in his own time. But such a towering reputation often obscures the man behind it, and attempts to shoehorn him into a single political party due to his long association with the labor movement have only further muddled his legacy. As the historian Andrew E. Kersten shows in this insightful biography of America s most celebrated lawyer, neither Darrow s courtroom performances nor his politics define his career or enduring importance. Going well beyond the familiar story of the socially conscious lawyer and drawing upon new archival records, Kersten reveals that Darrow was an iconoclast driven by the rising interference of corporations and government in ordinary working Americans lives. In the face of the country s inexorable march toward modernity, Darrow dedicated himself to smashing systems of social control, fighting for liberty and individualism everywhere he went. Seller Inventory # BZE9780809034796

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Book Description Hill Wang, 2012. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Clarence Darrow is best remembered as the defense attorney in some of the most famous (and infamous) cases in American legal history. With his brilliant closing argument that saved the thrill killers Leopold and Loeb from the gallows and his impassioned defense of John T. Scopes s right to teach evolution in the classroom, Darrow became a legend even in his own time. But such a towering reputation often obscures the man behind it, and attempts to shoehorn him into a single political party due to his long association with the labor movement have only further muddled his legacy. As the historian Andrew E. Kersten shows in this insightful biography of America s most celebrated lawyer, neither Darrow s courtroom performances nor his politics define his career or enduring importance. Going well beyond the familiar story of the socially conscious lawyer and drawing upon new archival records, Kersten reveals that Darrow was an iconoclast driven by the rising interference of corporations and government in ordinary working Americans lives. In the face of the country s inexorable march toward modernity, Darrow dedicated himself to smashing systems of social control, fighting for liberty and individualism everywhere he went. Seller Inventory # APC9780809034796

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Book Description Hill Wang, 2012. Paperback. Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Clarence Darrow is best remembered as the defense attorney in some of the most famous (and infamous) cases in American legal history. With his brilliant closing argument that saved the thrill killers Leopold and Loeb from the gallows and his impassioned defense of John T. Scopes s right to teach evolution in the classroom, Darrow became a legend even in his own time. But such a towering reputation often obscures the man behind it, and attempts to shoehorn him into a single political party due to his long association with the labor movement have only further muddled his legacy. As the historian Andrew E. Kersten shows in this insightful biography of America s most celebrated lawyer, neither Darrow s courtroom performances nor his politics define his career or enduring importance. Going well beyond the familiar story of the socially conscious lawyer and drawing upon new archival records, Kersten reveals that Darrow was an iconoclast driven by the rising interference of corporations and government in ordinary working Americans lives. In the face of the country s inexorable march toward modernity, Darrow dedicated himself to smashing systems of social control, fighting for liberty and individualism everywhere he went. Seller Inventory # APC9780809034796

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