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Guide to Life and Literature
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN wanted to exclude lawyers, along with roving frontiersmen, from his colonies in Texas, and hoped thus to promote a utopian society. The lawyers got in, however. Their wit, the anecdotes of which they were both subject and author, and the political stories they made traditional from the stump, have not been adequately set down. As criminal lawyers they stood as high in society as corporation lawyers stand now and were a good deal more popular, though less wealthy. The code of independence that fostered personal violence and justified killings -- in contradistinction to murders -- and that ran to excess in outlaws naturally fostered the criminal lawyer. His type is now virtually obsolete.
Keen observers, richly stored in experience and delightful in talk, as many lawyers of the Southwest have been and are, very few of them have written on other than legal subjects. James D. Lynch's The Bench and the Bar of Texas (1885) is confined to the eminence of "eminent jurists" and to the mastery of "masters of jurisprudence." What we want is the flavor of life as represented by such characters as witty Three-Legged Willie (Judge R. M. Williamson) and mysterious Jonas Harrison. It takes a self-lover to write good autobiography. Lawyers are certainly as good at self-loving as preachers, but we have far better autobiographic records of circuit riders than of early-day lawyers.
Like them, the pioneer justice of peace resides more in folk anecdotes than in chroniclings. Horace Bell's expansive On the Old West Coast so represents him. A continent away, David Crockett, in his Autobiography, confessed, "I was afraid some one would ask me what the judiciary was. If I knowed I wish I may be shot." Before this, however, Crockett had been a J. P. "I gave my decisions on the principles of common justice and honesty between man and man, and relied on natural born sense, and not on law learning to guide me; for I had never read a page in a law book in all my life."
COOMBES, CHARLES E.
KITTRELL, NORMAN G.
ROBINSON, DUNCAN W.
SONNICHSEN, C. L.
SLOAN, RICHARD E.
SMITH, E. F.
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