The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959 Page: 293
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sensitive as the trigger of a duelling pistol on questions of "honor."
He was quick to take offense, quicker to give satisfaction, and he
operated unfailingly on the assumption that the code of "personal
responsibility" was always and everywhere in force. Violence was
the one persistent theme in his life; in youth and in manhood, a
series of fistfights, knifings, brawls, and duels conditioned his
existence. It was violence that ruined his career as it was violence
that eventually put him in his grave.
If Terry's career was tempestuous it was also colorful, and a
good part of it was tied in with Texas and Texans. Though born
in Kentucky, he settled in Texas in the 183o's where he studied
law, fought in the Mexican War with the Texas Rangers, made
an unsuccessful foray into politics, and developed a facility with
the bowie knife that was to plague his subsequent career. He
married a Texas girl, and it was his brother Frank who organized
Terry's Texas Rangers of Civil War fame. His friends and rela-
tives in the state acted as a magnet which drew him back fre-
quently during his lifetime.
In the gold rush of forty-nine, Terry left Texas for California.
He settled in Stockton, began building his law practice, dabbled
in politics and was soon elected to the Supreme Court of Cali-
fornia. Except for a brief flirtation with the Know-Nothing
movement during the fifties, Terry remained a states' rights
Democrat, a position clearly reflected in many of his judicial
briefs. In 1856 he ran afoul of the San Francisco Vigilantes after
having carved up one of their leaders with his bowie knife; he
was arrested and put on trial for his life but was subsequently
released. In 1859 an "affair of honor" all but destroyed his repu-
tation in California. In the heat of a political campaign, Senator
David C. Broderick referred to Terry as a "wretch," a statement
that led Terry to challenge the senator as soon as the election
was over. Terry killed Broderick in the ensuing duel and the
cry immediately arose that the senator's death was the result of
an insidious Southern plot to remove him. Terry was publicly
denounced as a murderer and was again arrested and put on
trial. Even though acquitted of the charge, the unfortunate affair
ruined him politically; he resigned from the court and moved
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 62, July 1958 - April, 1959, periodical, 1959; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101173/m1/338/: accessed August 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.