Closing Arguments: Clarence Darrow on Religion, Law, and Society

Overview

Closing Arguments: Clarence Darrow on Religion, Law, and Society collects, for the first time, Darrow's thoughts on his three main preoccupations. The effect reveals a carefully conceived philosophy, expressed with delightful pungency and clarity. The provocative content of these writings still challenges us. His thoughts on social issues, especially on the dangers of religious fundamentalism, are uncannily prescient. A dry and even misanthropic humor lightens his essays, and his reflections on himself and his ...

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Overview

Closing Arguments: Clarence Darrow on Religion, Law, and Society collects, for the first time, Darrow's thoughts on his three main preoccupations. The effect reveals a carefully conceived philosophy, expressed with delightful pungency and clarity. The provocative content of these writings still challenges us. His thoughts on social issues, especially on the dangers of religious fundamentalism, are uncannily prescient. A dry and even misanthropic humor lightens his essays, and his reflections on himself and his philosophy reveal a quiet dignity at the core of a man better known for provoking Americans during an era of unprecedented tumult. From the wry "Is the Human Race Getting Anywhere," to the scornful "Patriotism," and his elegaic summing up, "At Seventy-Two," Darrow's writing still stimulates and pleases. Darrow, son of a village undertaker and coffinmaker, rose to become one of America's greatest attorneys—and surely its most famous. The Ohio native gained fame for being at the center of momentous trials, including his 1924 defense of Leopold and Loeb and his defense of Darwinian principles in the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial." Some have traced Darrow's lifelong campaign against capital punishment to his boyhood terror at seeing a Civil War soldier buried—and no client of Darrow's was ever executed, not even black men who were charged with murder for defending themselves against a white mob. A rebel who always sided intellectually and emotionally with the minority, Darrow remains a figure to contend with sixty-seven years after his death. "Inside every lawyer is the wreck of a poet," Darrow once said. Closing Arguments demonstrates that, in his case, that statement is true.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Darrow’s Closing Arguments are, even today, clear, forceful and prescient. What a treasure. Entertaining and educational. A timely reminder that the more things change, the more they remain the same.”
— Morris Dees

“A thought-provoking glimpse of one of the most original minds in American history.”
The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

Library Journal
With these previously uncollected essays and speechs by Darrow, editor Joshi (H. L. Mencken on American Literature) shows us that "America's greatest defense attorney" was a thinker in many realms. Although Darrow put his stamp on history with his defense of Leopold and Loeb and then of Darwinian evolution in the Scopes trial, Joshi maintains that he longed for literary success akin to that of his former law partner Edgar Lee Masters (Spoon River Anthology). The introduction summarizes Darrow's life, views, and literary style, pointing out the early flowery style based on public speaking and the plainer style that followed. Darrow's pieces are divided into four thematic groupings-"On Philosophy and Religion," "On Law and Crime," "On Politics and Society," and "On Clarence Darrow"-with dates ranging from an 1893 piece in favor of women's suffrage to a 1936 piece that asks "Does Man Live Again?" The selection stresses the important contributions Darrow made to the social and legal thought of his era. Often countering the status quo, his opinions still resonate for us today. On the death penalty, for example, his opposition was based on the belief that society is responsible if a person is driven to commit heinous acts and should not seek vengeance on the perpetrator, that such violence only begets more violence. Freedom, Joshi notes, is the predominant theme of Darrow's social views. For academic libraries or public libraries with collections in this area. (Bibliographical references and index not seen.)-Grant A. Fredericksen, Illinois Prairie Dist. P.L., Metamora Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780821416327
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 8/1/2005
  • Pages: 292
  • Sales rank: 922,960
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Clarence Darrow (1857 - 1938) was born in northeast Ohio and served as a small-town lawyer there for nine years. He left for Chicago and made history as America's greatest defense attorney. He said of himself, "I have lived a life in front trenches, looking for trouble." Darrow, son of a village undertaker and coffinmaker, rose to become one of America's greatest attorneys—and surely its most famous. Darrow gained fame for being at the center of momentous trials, including his 1924 defense of Leopold and Loeb and his defense of Darwinian principles in the 1925 Scopes "Monkey Trial." Some have traced Darrow's lifelong campaign against capital punishment to his boyhood terror at seeing a Civil War soldier buried—and no client of Darrow's was ever executed, not even black men who were charged with murder for defending themselves against a white mob.

Editor S. T. Joshi is the author and editor of many books, including H.L. Mencken on American Literature (Ohio, 2002) and Mencken's America (Ohio, 2004).

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Table of Contents

1 On philosophy and religion 1
Is life worth living? 3
Is the human race getting anywhere? 13
"The war on modern science" 22
Can the individual control his conduct? 27
The Lord's day alliance 39
Why I have found life worth living 60
Is there a purpose in the universe? 65
Does man live again? 74
2 On law and crime 83
The right treatment of violence 85
Crime : its cause and treatment 92
The ordeal of prohibition 100
Crime and the alarmists 117
What to do about crime 135
Capital punishment 154
3 On politics and society 161
Woman suffrage 163
Patriotism 175
Salesmanship 179
The Eugenics cult 197
4 On Clarence Darrow 213
Farmington 215
George Bissett 228
At seventy-two 237
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