Americans seem increasingly disenchanted with their legal system. In the wake of several high-profile trials, America's faith in legal authority appears profoundly shaken.
And yet, as David Ray Papke shows in this dramatic and erudite tour of American history, many Americans have challenged and often rejected the rule of law since the earliest days of the country's founding. Papke traces the lineage of such legal heretics from nineteenth-century activists William Lloyd Garrison and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, through Eugene Debs, and up to more recent radicals, such as the Black Panther Party, anti-abortionists, and militia members. A tradition of American legal heresy clearly emerges–linked together by a body of shared references, idols, and commitments–that problematizes the American belief in legal neutrality and highlights the historical conflicts between law and justice. Questioning the legal faith both peculiar and essential to American mythology, this alternative tradition is in itself an overlooked feature of American history and culture.