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DeRobigne Mortimer Bennett (1818-1882) was 19th-century America's most controversial publisher and free-speech martyr. Bennett founded the 'blasphemous' New York periodical "The Truth Seeker" in 1873, and his publications were censored and prohibited from news-stands long before the expression 'banned in Boston' was heard. In less than a decade, the former Shaker and self-described Thomas Paine infidel became the most successful publisher of free-thought literature in America - perhaps the world. Mark Twain, Clarence Darrow, and Robert G Ingersoll, (The Great Agnostic), were only a few of the illustrious freethinkers who subscribed to the periodical devoted to: science, morals, free thought and human happiness. But Bennett's opposition to dogmatic religion and puritanical obscenity laws so infuriated Anthony Comstock, the US Post Office's 'special agent' and self-proclaimed 'weeder in God's garden', that the freethinking publisher was eventually prosecuted, subjected to a controversial and widely publicised trial, and finally imprisoned. Based on original sources and extensively researched, this in-depth yet accessible biography of D M Bennett offers a fascinating glimpse into the turbulent period of late 19th-century America - the Gilded Age, a time when our nation was controlled by pious politicians, powerful manufacturers, and censorious clergymen. Roderick Bradford follows Bennett's evolution from a devout Shaker to an unremitting sceptic and America's most iconoclastic publisher. He details the circumstances that led to Bennett's historically significant New York obscenity trial and the monumental, though ultimately unsuccessful, petition campaign for a pardon. This was the largest protest of its kind in the 19th century and one that went all the way to the White House. Bradford also investigates Bennett's prominent role in the National Liberal League, his interactions with leading suffragists and the National Defense Association (a forerunner of the ACLU), and his flirtation with spiritualism and theosophy. Roderick Bradford has written a valuable historical contribution, a long-overdue tribute to a free-speech champion, and a colourful depiction of memorable characters and events during a period of great change in American history.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9781591024309
ISBN-10: 1591024307
Format: Hardback
(230mm x 155mm x 29mm)
Pages: 412
Imprint: Prometheus Books
Publisher: Prometheus Books
Publish Date: 1-Sep-2006
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Roderick Bradford

Roderick Bradford is a freelance writer and independent video producer, who has written articles for Free Inquiry, American History, The Quest, Truth Seeker, and American Atheist. He is also a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Unbelief.