Desert Lawmen: The High Sheriffs of New Mexico and Arizona, 1846-1912

Desert Lawmen: The High Sheriffs of New Mexico and Arizona, 1846-1912

Desert Lawmen: The High Sheriffs of New Mexico and Arizona, 1846-1912

Desert Lawmen: The High Sheriffs of New Mexico and Arizona, 1846-1912

Synopsis

"The popular image of the frontier lawman fearlessly facing down outlaws in dusty, windswept streets is a lot of myth and a little reality. Ball shows that few southwestern sheriffs were genuine gunmen but that wielding firearms with nerve and determination in the line of duty was expected of them by their constituents. Elected for two-year terms, frontier sheriffs were the principal peace-keepers in counties that were often larger than New England states. Officers of the court, they defended settlers and protected their property from the violence ever-present on the frontier. Their duties ranged from tracking down stagecoach robbers and serving court warrants to locking up drunks and quelling domestic disputes. Sheriffs were also jail keepers, tax collectors, quarantine inspectors, court-appointed executioners, and dogcatchers. The breadth and detail of Ball's study, which includes informative lists of sheriffs, legal hangings, and lynchings, make this volume the definitive work on frontier law enforcement." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

The office of sheriff originated in ninth-century Anglo-Saxon England as a representative of the Crown in local government. The sheriff (shirereeve) exercised many duties, including peacekeeping, holding court, collecting taxes, and commanding the militia. For some time under the Norman kings of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the sheriff exercised extraordinary powers as a viceroy of the king. In subsequent centuries, the Crown and Parliament removed the power to preside over courts, but the sheriff continued to exercise law enforcement functions and generally represented the gentry class. When the English began to colonize the east coast of North America in the seventeenth century, the office of sheriff became a standard feature of the colonial judiciary. These colonial sheriffs--also from the wealthier class--served the process of county court and district courts, maintained the peace, kept the jail, and collected taxes. This latter task was not strictly a chore of the sheriff, but an ex officio duty. When the founders of the American Revolutionary era set the judiciary of the American Republic in motion in the late eighteenth century, the sheriff remained an essential component. As the frontiersmen took up lands in the West, this county lawman became a permanent fixture. Each new territory, beginning with the Northwest Territory in 1787, legislated this law enforcement post into existence and provided basic rules of operation.

Just as the military victory of the American Revolutionaries over the British Empire paved the way for the installation of the shrievalty in the Mississippi Valley, the march of the victorious Army of the West made possible the planting of this ancient county office in the Mexican Cession in 1846. When General Stephen Watts Kearny . . .

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