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Keep the Wretches in Order
America’s Biggest Mass Trial, the Rise of the Justice Department, and the Fall of the IWW
Foreword by Nancy Gertner

“Dean Strang tells a great story of America’s struggle with fear and injustice a century ago while asking us to consider, ‘What is the story of ourselves that we write today?’ American workers still fight what the Wobblies fought in 1918, as the Justice Department during WWI overreached in ways similar to our current ‘war on terror.’ Dean is a great attorney and a gifted writer, borrowing lessons from the past to help guide our future.”
—Alec Baldwin

Before World War I, the government reaction to labor dissent had been local, ad hoc, and quasi-military. Sheriffs, mayors, or governors would deputize strikebreakers or call out the state militia, usually at the bidding of employers. When the United States entered the conflict in 1917, government and industry feared that strikes would endanger war production; a more coordinated, national strategy would be necessary. To prevent stoppages, the Department of Justice embarked on a sweeping new effort—replacing gunmen with lawyers. The department systematically targeted the nation’s most radical and innovative union, the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies, resulting in the largest mass trial in U.S. history.

In the first legal history of this federal trial, Dean Strang shows how the case laid the groundwork for a fundamentally different strategy to stifle radical threats, and had a major role in shaping the modern Justice Department. As the trial unfolded, it became an exercise of raw force, raising serious questions about its legitimacy and revealing the fragility of a criminal justice system under great external pressure.

 

Portrait of author Dean A. Strang is a criminal defense lawyer in Madison, Wisconsin, and an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia School of Law. He is the author of Worse than the Devil: Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror.

 

 

Praise

“Strang humanizes this shameful chapter in our nation’s history. With empathy and verve, he tells the story of abuse of executive power, a partial and wacky federal judge (and autocratic first baseball commissioner), and many ruined lives of working men and women.”
—Brad Snyder, author of The House of Truth: A Washington Political Salon and the Foundations of American Liberalism

 

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Of Related Interest


Cover showing portraits of assorted people, including Clarence Darrow

Worse than the Devil
Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror
Dean A. Strang

Cover showing person sitting and reading a document

Defending the Masses
A Progressive Lawyer's Battles for Free Speech
Eric B. Easton

Book cover showing crowd

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June 2019
LC: 2018045778 KF
336 pp. 6 x 9
20 b/w illus.

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Cloth $36.95 a
ISBN 9780299323301
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