The Lawmen: US Marshalls

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The Lawmen: United States Marshals and Their Deputies, 1789-1989 Frederick S. Calhoun Smithsonian Institution Press 1989 309 pgs Frederick S. Calhoun became the first official historian for the U.S. Marshal Service in the early eighties. He attended the University of Chicago where he received his PH.D.. in American History and has previously published Power and Principle: Armed Intervention in Wilsonian Foreign Policy (1986). His purpose in writing this book was the simplest reason possible, it had not been done yet. Up until 1989 when Frederick Calhoun published The Lawmen there was no book containing a comprehensive history of the U.S. Marshal service. Now his book is acknowledged by the Marshal Service as the book to read when considering their history it is even listed in the history section of the U.S. Marshal homepage on the Internet.

The book is separated into three sections, Constitution and Courts, 1789-1861, Federal Constitutionalism, 1861-1900, and Constitutional Challenges and Changes, 1894-1983, respectively.

An epilogue is included which covers the years from 1983 to 1989. Calhoun wrote the book after much research including the National Archives, the Library of Congress, numerous Universities, and interviews with Marshals pertaining to the recent past. I believe this is adequate information to base the book on considering there is no other way to possibly write a book about history. The only part of the book I would question is the epilogue which Calhoun does himself within the epilogue. "It is an awkward attempt, partly because I was an eyewitness to most of it and partly because I am writing about a man whom I admire and like. I claim no historical objectivity for that (the epilogue) section." All the information included is amazing when one considers the fact that 95% of the book is based on historical records.

The book is organized in chronological order beginning with The Battle of Monmouth June 28, 1778 and The Judiciary act of 1789, which was the start of the U.S. Marshal Service, then concluding with what it takes to be a U.S. Marshal today. In between every chapter is organized in the same manner, they show the development of the Marshal Service and include stories of the times. There is too much information included to even attempt to summarize what is contained in this books pages. The stories are not included only to add color but to give the reader a better understanding of how the Marshal Service was developing politically as well as within society. Every chapter is constructed this way, and the only portion of the book which deters from this form is the epilogue. The epilogue gives a more personal feeling like you are one of the Marshals present during the events Calhoun writes about.

This book does an excellent job in informing the reader about the history of the U.S. Marshal Service. Frederick Calhoun does a great job in covering what everyone knows is a dry subject, history, specific history. I believe that he has included the appropriate amount of information in the book. He could have left out some things, but understanding would have been lost; likewise, he could have included a lot more information, but more than likely it would have been irrelevant to an over all history of the Marshal Service. This book is an excellent historical reference for anyone who interested in the development of our nation but I think everyone who intends on becoming, works with, knows, or is a United States Marshal should be required to read the book. The facts included will amaze anyone who thought they knew what a U.S. Marshal was and will give them insight on how they have become what they are today.

Personally, this book opened up my eyes to the U.S. Marshal service. I had no idea how they began or even how they got their present day stature. I would have to say that the book confirms everything we have learned so far in Criminal Justice pertaining to historical aspects of law in our country. Many of the occurrences in the book would have had different results if they took place today. Realistically, that is a question which cannot be raised since the book in question is of historical value. As for my understanding of the criminal justice system it has been greatly improved. The U.S. Marshals were the first group of men to enforce laws in this country. Not only were they the first men to uphold justice, but they were the first corrections officers, bailiffs, court employees, and the list goes on. Due to their role in our countries past it can be said that the United States Marshal Service was the first criminal justice system implemented in this nation.

The Lawmen: United States Marshals and Their Deputies, 1789-1989, by Frederick S. Calhoun was one of the best books I ever taken the time to read. As it stands in content, I believe, it is the most comprehensive and interesting history book anyone could read. I'm not stating this because I am a criminal justice major or because I am aspiring to become a Marshal but because the book was entertaining to say the least.