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"Liberty to the Downtrodden": Thomas L. Kane, Romantic Reformer (The Lamar Series in Western History) Hardcover – February 3, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Grow's book is an enjoyable and enlightening read. . . in Grow's account, Kane's life comes alive, as does the wider context of Kane's America, particularly the mid-Atlantic region." - Susanna Morrill, Reviews in American History

"Though Grow is a careful and exacting scholar, he is also a gifted writer, drawing us into Kane's life such that we feel Kane's motivations and passion. Grow makes Kane come alive." - Joseph A. Cannon, Deseret News

"Not only does Grow enrich our understanding of social reform, romanticism, and antebellum religion, he also writes eloquently and has constructed a lively narrative fitting of Kane's own unusual path through life." - John G. Turner, Religion and American History 

"With graceful prose and mastery of the primary sources, Matthew J. Grow illuminates the story of Thomas L. Kane, one of the most complex and intense social reformers to hurdle into the wilderness of the American West. Grow's superb account of Kane's messianic mission to mediate the Utah War of 1857-58 alone warrants acquiring 'Liberty to the Downtrodden.'"—Howard R. Lamar, editor of The New Encyclopedia of the American West
(Howard R. Lamar)

"Using the vast new trove of Kane materials, Matthew Grow offers a compelling full-length portrait of this entrancing figure."—Richard Lyman Bushman, Columbia University

(Richard Lyman Bushman)

"This is an important book not simply from the perspective of Mormon history but also because it opens to view the extraordinary length and breadth of reform in 19th-century America."—Jan Shipps, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis

(Jan Shipps)

"This is an engrossing tale of an independent nineteenth-century reformer. It places our understanding of the relationship among party politics, reform, and evangelical impulses in a refreshing new light."—Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

(Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp)

"[A] detailed and solidly documented book..."Liberty to the Downtrodden" accomplishes something Thomas Kane failed to do. It rescues him from obscurity and irellevance."--Tandy McConnell, Church History
(Tandy McConnell Church History)

About the Author

Matthew J. Grow is assistant professor of history and director of the Center for Communal Studies, University of Southern Indiana.

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Product Details

  • Series: The Lamar Series in Western History
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition edition (February 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300136102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300136104
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,410,806 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig Matteson HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on September 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Throughout the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) the story has been one of persecution and misunderstanding with much of the public only knowing vague ideas about the Church and its members. Since World War II the story has been somewhat different as the Church has spread throughout the world and people have come to know Mormons as neighbors, co-workers, friends, and relatives. But during the time immediately following the murder of Joseph Smith and the Saints were driven from their city of Nauvoo in Illinois, they were in need of friends and, if not friends, people who would at least take pity on their plight as they journeyed to the West. Since many were very poor and driven into the wilderness before they could adequately prepare, they faced hunger, malnutrition, exposure, and death. After much tribulation, the Mormons set up a temporary city in what later became Nebraska. They called this settlement Winter Quarters. Of the 12,000 Mormons driven from Nauvoo, more than 1,000 died that first year. They were not all at Winter Quarters, but several thousand were there and nearby on the other side of the Missouri River.

Into their lives rode one Thomas L. Kane. He was a bold man from a politically connected and wealthy Pennsylvania family. Thomas Kane was by nature a reformer. Throughout his life, he was involved in issues such fighting the Fugitive Slave Law (defying his father's support of the law since he was a federal judge), Temperance, Community Reform, the Rights of Women and Reforming the institution of marriage. The cause for which he is most remembered today, is his aid to the Latter-day Saints.
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Format: Hardcover
Matt Grow's impressive biography, "Liberty to the Downtrodden": Thomas L. Kane, Romantic Reformer, captures the life of a little-known nineteenth-century reformer and, in the process, illuminates understudied and misunderstood aspects of nineteenth-century American culture. Grow organized his work, now the definitive text on Kane, chronologically and thematically, emphasizing Kane's reform efforts while sufficiently outlining other aspects of Kane's life to offer a complete narrative. Grow's descriptions of Kane's reform activities, from pursuing women's rights to defending the Utah Mormons' practice of polygamy, reveal the antebellum anti-evangelical reform culture that developed within the Democratic Party during the first half of the nineteenth century. Grow, following Kane himself, placed Kane within the contemporary cultural types of romantic hero and gentleman of honor. Grow's study depicts Kane as both a type and an original in nineteenth-century American reform.

Grow's cultural biography engages Kane in the context of nineteenth-century reform, and, conversely, his reform activities shed light on nineteenth-century America. Grow correctly noted that Kane's life "makes him an ideal window onto this culture of reformers" (xvi). Also, in outlining the period from the late 1840s to the 1850s, an understudied epoch in Mormon history, Grow's work nuances the understanding of the pre-Civil War Mormon image and illuminates the importance of the Mormon Question in antebellum America. This brief review incapably suggests the capability of Grow's achievement. Liberty to the Downtrodden successfully provides an interesting, illuminating, and comprehensive study of Thomas Kane, romantic reformer and gentleman of honor.
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Format: Hardcover
Grow writes a well-researched and serviceable account of Kane's life, illuminating a lot of dark corners and giving a great look into the mindset of 19th century reformers. I came away with a greater understanding of Kane, his family, and the environment they came from. My only issue is not with the information, but with Grow's style, which is a little pedestrian and straight-forward. From what I knew about Kane's life, I was expecting something a little bit more excited, because Kane truly lived an epic life. Even the descriptions of the Utah War and Kane's Civil Way skirmishes are usually dealt with in a few lines, with no attempt to heighten drama or build tension. So while the book is perfectly acceptable, I just didn't feel like it was a proper rendering of such an amazing life. That said, I'm sure it's the best thing on Kane out there right now, but I hope someone will really give him the treatment he deserves someday.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been a Civil War fan of the Bucktails which Kane started, and wondered about him life overall. This book helped to put it all together. I would have liked a little more detail of hislife withthe Bucktails- if avaiable.
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Format: Hardcover
Matthew Grow is a careful writer whose book presents an excellent portrayal of a remarkable man whose mission benefitted a nation and a misunderstood people.
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