Abraham Lincoln and the Birth of Stand Your Ground : The New Yorker

This practice was fuelled by a principle of common law, traced brilliantly by the historian Richard Brown, in his book “No Duty to Retreat.” In English common law, there was an old concept that, if you were engaged in conflict and killed someone, to prove self-defense you had to demonstrate that your back was—in most cases, literally—against the wall. You had a “duty to retreat.” In America, the new concept was that you had no duty to retreat—indeed, you had an obligation not to retreat. You were more or less required to blast away at anyone who approached you with, as you saw it, ill will. You didn’t have to show that you had tried to escape the confrontation. In 1856, Texas law, Brown writes, gave private citizens “wide discretionary powers to kill their fellow citizens legally and with impunity.”

via Abraham Lincoln and the Birth of Stand Your Ground : The New Yorker.