THE NANTUCKET WAY by Robert F. & AndrÉ R. Sigourney Mooney


Email this review


Two Nantucket lawyers have written a book about how the law was made, administered, enforced, and flouted in Nantucket history. Whether or not this is the ideal way to illustrate the ""Nantucket way of life,"" as the authors solemnly maintain, it's not altogether ridiculous--after all, virtually every public event anywhere has some connection to the law. Thus, we find Anglicized Indian John Gibbs saved from King Philip--and a charge of breaking Indian law--by the verbal dexterity of schoolteacher-lay preacher Peter Folger (who just happens to be Ben Franklin's grandpa); consequently, the Indians, instead of joining King Philip's disastrous rebellion, pledge allegiance to the settlers' king. We are privy to the long-running Gardner-Coffin feud for control of the Island, which pits resident ""half-sharesmen"" against off-Island Proprietors (and lands Peter Folger triumphantly in jail). We hear the tale of the Island's last hanging (the last of several--Indian justice demanded retribution); follow the long, tangled history of land-title disputes (punctuated by an embezzlement that brought ""the dream of sharing common lands and common endeavors"" to an end); and pick up stray episodes from Frederick Douglass' speaking debut, to the profitable dodges of Prohibition, to the doings of vacationing legal lights (more honored, the authors note with asperity, than the local talent). At the close comes a small tempest: with Nantucket and neighboring Martha's Vineyard about to lose their State Representative to reapportionment, there is talk of Secession; but this ""lawyer's dream,"" alas, comes to nought. A little more irreverence throughout would have been a blessing; but this will serve where wanted as a fresh, mildly entertaining slant on a stale subject.

Pub Date: March 14th, 1980
Publisher: Doubleday