The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001 Page: 118
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Anglo-American culture, and it has a textbook format written in an authoritarian
style. In putting together this historical study, the author became aware that
both the individuality of Texans and the workings of county government had an
impact on the operation of constables in the Lone Star State. In reflecting on
the duties of such law officers, Hatley wrote, "Some constables just serve papers,
some are involved in providing their constituents with a good measure of safety
and protection and enforce the law, while some just 'smoke and joke' or drive
down the highway in a fine-looking vehicle and serve little or no real law
enforcement purpose" (p. x).
The first peace officers in Anglo Texas were constables. Although the author
puts more emphasis on the political and legal structure than on the day-by-day
operations of constables in early Texas, he does cover the elections or appoint-
ments of Constables Thomas Allay, John Austin, and James Strange in the colony
of Stephen F. Austin; Constable Elliott McNeil Millican during the Republic of
Texas; and Constable John Birdwell in the Reconstruction era. These constables
and their counterparts served subpoenas and writs, seized property, made
arrests, and got involved in shoot-outs.
In the middle chapters of the book Hatley concentrates on the role of consta-
bles in El Paso, West Texas, and the Panhandle region. Here outlaw-lawman buffs
in today's world will be interested in the gun battles of Constable John Selman
and the gunfight between Sheriff James Gober and Constable M. M. Givins. Yet
one feature still dominated the daily lives of constables in West Texas in the late
18oos: the mundane existence of serving papers and making nonviolent arrests.
In a loosely connected series of vignettes of constables county by county, Hat-
ley stresses the importance of the office of constable in twentieth-century Texas.
At this point the author especially covers the stories of those constables killed in
the line of duty. Hatley believes that this approach allows him to "grasp the
range of activities, responsibilities, and the risks typical of the office, as well as
the dedication and service of many Texas constables" (p. 145). The honor roll
of dead constables would include the following: Earl Andrews, Bragg Dunbar,
Lewis Ford, Manuel Gonzalez, James Mitchell, Pedro Sendejo, George Reaves,
and James Wicker.
This provocative work raises questions for consideration by future researchers
in the field of western law enforcement. How interwined were the actions of con-
stables with the duties and operations of the offices of the justice of the peace
and the night watch in early England and America? On the intergovernmental
spectrum, did cooperation and/or conflict occur between the office of the con-
stable and the institution of the sheriff in Anglo-American culture? Were there
any regional differences in thought patterns of Texans about the proper course
of action for constables in running their offices? And did the Texas Rangers call
upon constables for assistance in the investigation of criminal cases?
Jamestown Community College HaroldJ. WeissJr.
Lorenzo de Zavala: The Pragmatic Idealist. By Margaret Swett Henson. (Fort Worth:
Texas Christian University Press, 1996. Pp. xiii+146. Illustrations, preface,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 104, July 2000 - April, 2001, periodical, 2001; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101221/m1/146/: accessed September 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.