In the decades immediately following the Civil War, the United States expanded rapidly. As the nation grew, so too did federal law, moving into areas of citizens’ lives previously regulated by local custom and state and territorial statutes.
Drawing on contemporary accounts and the letters that flowed between the Washington office of the Justice Department and its attorneys and marshals throughout the states and territories, Cresswell uses a case-study approach to explore the enforcement of federal law in four regions. In northern Mississippi, the rights of freedmen to vote clashed with established rules of relations between blacks and whites. In Utah Territory, Mormon polygamy and economic dominance challenged the aspirations of non-Mormon settlers. In eastern Tennessee, desperate poverty lent enchantment to the easy money of moonshining. In Arizona Territory, frontier greed and violence threatened the lives of people and the chances of early admission to the Union of states.
Mormons and Cowboys, Moonshiners and Klansmen moves beyond these local case studies to illuminate larger questions, including the evolution of the American criminal justice system, the relationship of the South and the West to the rest of the nation, the workings of the 19th-century American bureaucracy, and conflict of the local, state, and federal governments.
Out of the efforts of these early federal marshals came the modern federal justice system, with its firm policy guidelines, its Federal Bureau of Investigation, and its broader powers over the country as a whole.