The Trials of Intimacy: Love and Loss in the Beecher-Tilton Scandal
with a special introduction by Alan Dershowitz
The sordid tale—and scandalous case—that is the subject of this book involved Reverend Henry Ward Beecher (the brother of Harriett Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and two of his congregants—a young accolade named Theodore Tilton and Tilton’s wife. The scandal became a case because in the United States, as Tocqueville observed near the beginning of our nation’s birth, every issue seems to end up in a court of law. This one culminated in a trial that lasted half a year and produced many half-truths, little certainty and no justice—ending as it did with “the whimper of a hung jury.”
Trials, in those days before radio, television and film, were theater. Courtrooms were elaborately decked out stages seating hundreds of spectators. This trial was the best show in town and the hottest ticket, attracting upper-class men and women who stood in line for hours waiting admission. The crowd, in excess of 500, was treated to an X-rated performance, certainly by the standards of the day. Where else could one hear and see the most famous and respected citizens of Brooklyn reveal their innermost secrets, if not of sordid deeds, then certainly of adultery in their hearts.