The Robbins controversy featured arguments about alien rights, asylum, national identity, and the meaning and scope of...

AMERICAN SANCTUARY

MUTINY, MARTYRDOM, AND NATIONAL IDENTITY IN THE AGE OF REVOLUTION

A historian revisits a little-remembered incident, the murderous 1797 mutiny aboard HMS Hermione, and traces its startling ramifications.

Against the backdrop of revolutions worldwide, the Royal Navy vowed to hunt down the perpetrators of an “unprecedented barbarity.” Apprehended in Charleston, South Carolina, Jonathan Robbins, a ringleader in Hermione’s bloody business, was surrendered to the Royal Navy at the urging of Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, with the agreement of President John Adams and the grudging acquiescence of a federal judge. Subsequently hanged, Robbins became among the more unlikely martyrs in American history. A wedge issue avant la lettre, the extradition and execution of Robbins heightened the differences between the Republicans and Federalists in the 1800 presidential election, helped expose divisions within the Federalist Party itself, and perhaps accounted for Thomas Jefferson’s razor-thin margin of victory. Was Robbins, as supporters claimed, a Connecticut native, conscripted aboard a marauding British frigate captained by a despot? Robbins struck a blow for liberty, Republicans insisted, and then was denied due process and a jury trial. Or was he, as Federalists argued, really Irish, a British subject whose monstrous crimes required his surrender under the terms of the pertinent, if highly controversial, Jay Treaty of 1795? Ekirch (History/Virginia Tech; Birthright: The True Story that Inspired Kidnapped, 2010, etc.) covers the mutiny in all its drunken, gory excess, tracks the worldwide hunt and capture of some of the perpetrators, and then offers a masterful dissection of the political consequences of the Robbins affair. The author is especially good on how the debate played out in the pages of the era’s highly partisan press. Careful to remind us that other issues figured prominently and contributed mightily to the vitriolic 1800 campaign, Ekirch nevertheless persuasively argues that “the ghost of Robbins” likely tipped the balance in Pennsylvania and New York.

The Robbins controversy featured arguments about alien rights, asylum, national identity, and the meaning and scope of American citizenship, all of which persist and all of which Ekirch handles with remarkable dexterity.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-307-37990-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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