The Montana Vigilantes
Mark C. Dillon
6.125 x 9.25, 416 pages

Published: 2013

ISBN 978-0-87421-919-7
cloth $34.95

ISBN 978-0-87421-920-3
e-book $28.00

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Mark C. Dillon is an associate justice in the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court and has a special interest in the history of law-making, law enforcement, and "unauthorized justice" in the Montana Territory of the 1860s.

The Montana Vigilantes

Gold, Guns, and Gallows

Mark C. Dillon

The best work on the Montana vigilantes . . . Its careful, informative, judicial approach radiates a strong authority that will be recognized by academics and popular readers alike.
—Paul R. Wylie, historian and author of
The Irish General

Historians and novelists alike have described the vigilantism that took root in the gold-mining communities of Montana in the mid-1860s, but Mark C. Dillon is the first to examine the subject through the prism of American legal history, considering the state of criminal justice and law enforcement in the western territories and also trial procedures, gubernatorial politics, legislative enactments, and constitutional rights.

Using newspaper articles, diaries, letters, biographies, invoices, and books that speak to the compelling history of Montana's vigilantism in the 1860s, Dillon examines the conduct of the vigilantes in the context of the due process norms of the time. He implicates the influence of lawyers and judges who, like their non-lawyer counterparts, shaped history during the rush to earn fortunes in gold.

Dillon's perspective as a state Supreme Court justice and legal historian uniquely illuminates the intersection of territorial politics, constitutional issues, corrupt law enforcement, and the basic need of citizenry for social order. This readable and well-directed analysis of the social and legal context that contributed to the rise of Montana vigilante groups will be of interest to scholars and general readers interested in Western history, law, and criminal justice for years to come.

Book Review Brooklyn Barrister (pdf) February 2014 / By Gregory Zenon, Esq.

Book Review The Billings Gazette February 2014 / By Darrell Ehrlick