Thursday, April 3, 2008

Southern Honor and Chivalry

Murder, Honor and Law by Richard Hamm is the definitive work on Southern honor and its influences on the legal and cultural sociologies of the Old South in general and Virginia specifically. Hamm's four case studies of Virginia murder trials show "Southern honor" as a critical factor in courtrooms until it gradually became a non issue.

In the Old South, personal honor demanded the satisfaction of a duel. Hamm shows it was also a time when honor justified premeditated murder as a Virginia jury acquitted a man who killed in defense of a lady's reputation. Things changed by the early twentieth century when juries no longer weighted honor as a factor in decisions.

Hamm reaches as late as 1935 to substantiate his point. However, the unjust conviction and imprisonment of Elizabeth Hall had already date stamped 1914 on the death certificates of both honor and chivalry in Virginia.

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