The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 55, July 1951 - April, 1952 Page: 141
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had little attention from historians" (page vi). My own reading
leads me to almost the opposite conclusion. My impression is
that historians and biographers, as well as the more carefree
writers, have been fascinated by the spectacle of extralegal retal-
iation for wrongdoing. Indeed, the copious bibliography at the
end of Frontier Justice corroborates this view. Yet neither Ban-
croft nor Dimsdale nor Williams, Rister, Birney, Coblentz, Jack-
son, nor any of the others has cast quite so broad a net as Mr.
Gard. This is the virtue of his book. His roll call does not pre-
tend to be complete, but it is a marshaling of almost innumerable
examples and varieties of retaliation upon suspects and offenders
in lieu of legal justice.
This breadth of scope entails a weakness. Because there is so
much to catalog the treatment has to be sketchy on almost every
point. In the chapter on feuds, for example, although six pages
are allocated to the Horrells and the Higginses of Lampasas, half
a dozen shooting frays, a jail break, an assassination, an ambush,
a breaking into the courthouse to steal the files on all criminal
cases pending, more gunplay, a patching up of the feud, arrest
of the Horrells as suspects in another crime, invasion of the jail
by a masked mob, and dispatch of the prisoners in a hail of lead
-all this has to be covered. Perhaps a rapid-fire narrative is all
that these feudists deserve; it is all that they get.
On the California vigilantes, to whom Bancroft and Mary
Floyd Williams devoted three bulky volumes and on whom others
have written at length, Gard has only a cursory chapter, beset,
furthermore, by a number of inaccuracies. Hasty passages of this
sort may be inevitable. They are compensated by others in which
a relatively more adequate treatment is achieved. Such, for ex-
ample, are the chapters on the fence cutters and on the Johnson
Throughout the volume the theme seems to be that the fron-
tier pattern of direct action, spur of the moment, extralegal pun-
ishment was natural, logical, unavoidable, and a contribution
toward civilizing the West. This glorification of the vigilante is
at least open to question. Others have detected a high degree of
sadism in the impromptu trials and executions. Many of the
episodes were indistinguishable from lynchings and mob action,
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 55, July 1951 - April, 1952, periodical, 1952; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101139/m1/165/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.