Capital Punishment in the United States: A Documentary History

By Bryan Vila ; Cynthia Morris | Go to book overview

Part III
War and Economic Depression Overshadow Capital Punishment, 1918-1959

TUMULTUOUS CHANGE

Comparatively little public attention was paid to capital punishment during the tumultuous four decades from 1918 to 1959. Following World War I, the United States struggled to adapt to fundamental demographic change as it surged from economic boom to prolonged depression to global war to another depression, another war, andfinally -- economic recovery and prosperity.

The reform movement in the United States declined during the second decade of the twentieth century as Americans were more occupied with external than domestic affairs. Although many had envisioned World War I as extending the ideals of progressivism to the world at large, the war itself actually deepened ethnic divisions, threatened civil liberties, and sapped the idealism of a generation ( Wade 1993). While abolition of capital punishment remained on many reformers' agendas, it tended to rank well below priorities such as relief programs for the poor and unemployed, civil rights, and political reform. Oftentimes, as we discuss later, it appeared that only the occasional celebrity case kept capital punishment from receding entirely from public view.

An important consequence of the urban growth that had begun a decade earlier was felt in 1920 as, for the first time, more than 50 percent of Americans lived in urban areas. The consequences of this

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Capital Punishment in the United States: A Documentary History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents xi
  • Series Foreword xix
  • Preface xxi
  • Introduction xxv
  • Note xxxv
  • Significant Dates in the History of Capital Punishment xxxvii
  • Part I - Early Views on Capital Punishment: Colonial Era to Independence 1
  • Note 12
  • Part II - The Abolition Movement Gains Ground, 1800-1917 31
  • Note 37
  • Note 52
  • Note 66
  • Part III - War and Economic Depression Overshadow Capital Punishment, 1918-1959 75
  • Note 90
  • Note 102
  • Part IV - Capital Punishment in the Courts, 1960-1976 109
  • Note 128
  • Note 141
  • Note 152
  • Note 157
  • Note 162
  • Part V - The Debate Begins Anew, 1977-1989 169
  • Note 178
  • Note 181
  • Note 186
  • Note 190
  • Note 192
  • Note 208
  • Note 231
  • Part VI - The Death Penalty in the 1990s: Contemporary Issues 247
  • Note 287
  • Note 289
  • Glossary 301
  • Appendix A - Federal and State Capital Offenses in the United States 303
  • Appendix B - U.S. Executions: Colonial Times to 1995 309
  • Appendix C - Selected U.S. Supreme Court Cases 311
  • Appendix D - Capital Punishment Interest Groups and Related Organizations 313
  • Select Bibliography 315
  • Index 327
  • About the Editors *
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