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Friday, October 8, 2010

An Armed Society is a Polite Society

Stephen Johnson Field (1816 – 1899) was an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1863 to 1897, and prior to that, the 5th Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. In his autobiography, Personal Reminiscences of Early Days in California,  Judge Field described his habit of carrying arms in California in the early 1850s:
I have said that in those days everyone went armed; it would be more correct to say that this was true in the mining regions of the State and when travelling. I, myself, carried a Derringer pistol and a Bowie-knife until the Summer of 1854, though of course out of sight. I did so by the advice of Judge Mott, of the District Court, who remarked that, though I never abused a witness or a juror, or was discourteous to any one in court, there were desperate men in the country, and no one could know to what extremity they might go, as I would not be deterred by any considerations from the discharge of my whole duty to my clients. So, until the Summer of 1854, I carried weapons. And yet they were not such provocatives of difficulty as some of our Eastern friends are accustomed to think. On the contrary, I found that a knowledge that they were worn generally created a wholesome courtesy of manner and language.

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