Volume Two: Capital Punishment and the Making of America, 1835-1843
Rhetoric & Public Affairs
Published by: Michigan State University Press
Imprint: Michigan State University Press
This eye-opening and well-researched companion to the first volume of Executing Democracy enters the death-penalty discussion during the debates of 1835 and 1843, when pro-death penalty Calvinist minister George Barrell Cheever faced off against abolitionist magazine editor John O’Sullivan. In contrast to the macro-historical overview presented in volume 1, volume 2 provides micro-historical case studies, using these debates as springboards into the discussion of the death penalty in America at large. Incorporating a wide range of sources, including political poems, newspaper editorials, and warring manifestos, this second volume highlights a variety of perspectives, thus demonstrating the centrality of public debates about crime, violence, and punishment to the history of American democracy. Hartnett’s insightful assessment bears witness to a complex national discussion about the political, metaphysical, and cultural significance of the death penalty.
The historical relationship between democracy and the death penalty in America is vexed and bloody. Stephen John Hartnett faces it without blinking. In Executing Democracy, past meets present in a profound combination of learning, experience, eloquence, and passion.—Marcus Rediker, Distinguished Professor, University of Pittsburgh
Having missed his calling as a writer for the Police Gazette, Stephen Hartnett has settled for documenting American democracy’s perplexing relationship with capital punishment. This second volume provides rigorous scholarship and nuanced readings of diverse texts, but it’s also a page-turner. Hartnett understands how public culture can be both sensationalistic and deliberative, and how in public discussion of capital cases democracy itself is on trial.—Robert Hariman, Professor and Chair, Department of Communication Studies, Northwestern University
- 2013 Kohrs-Campbell Prize in Rhetorical Criticism