Boston: George A. Chapman, 1838.
First Edition. Hardcover. Good. 12mo, 132 pp, in original plain brown cloth. Some chips in cloth at spine, front board just holding on, moderate foxing throughout. Small label "Coll. Immac. Conc. S.J." on front pastedown. A scarce account by the last man jailed in the United States for blashemy. Abner Kneeland (1774-1844) was a former Universalist minister who became a popular freethinker and reformer in the 1830s. He lectured widely and founded and edited the Boston Investigator, a weekly social-reform journal that advocated public schools, equality regardless of race or sex, a better life for working people, and the abolition of slavery and imprisonment for debt. After stating in print that he did not believe in God, Kneeland was indicted for blasphemy in 1833, under a Massachusetts law enacted in 1782. He nedured multiple trials resulting in hung juries, but was finally convicted in 1838 and--despite vocal support from Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Ellery Channing, William Lloyd Garrison, Bronson Alcott, and other leading reformers--jailed for two months. Here he offers an account of his prosecution as well as a vigorous defense of free thought. Sabin 38091.
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