The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 1, C.500-c.700
Annotation In 1865, Wild Bill Hickok killed Dave Tutt in a Missouri public square in the West's first notable "walkdown." One hundred and twenty-nine years later, Bernhard Goetz shot four threatening young men in a New York subway car. Apart from gunfire, what could the two events possibly have incommon? Goetz, writes Richard Maxwell Brown, was acquitted of wrongdoing in the spirit of a uniquely American view of self-defense, a view forged in frontier gunfights like Hickok's. When faced with a deadly threat, we have the right to stand our ground and fight. We have no duty to retreat. No Duty to Retreat offers an engrossing account of how this idea of self-defense emerged, focusing in particular on the gunfights of the frontier and their impact on our legal traditions. The right to stand one's ground, Brown tells us, appeared relatively recently. Under English common law, the threatened party had a legal duty to retreat "to the wall" before fighting back. But from the nineteenth century on, such authorities as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes rejected this doctrine as unsuited to both the American mind and the age of firearms. Brown sketches the influence of frontierviolence, demonstrating the tremendous impact of the famous gunmen and the prevalence of what he calls "grassroots gunfighters"--unsung men who resorted to their guns at a moment's notice.
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