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"Vigilante Justice, 1851" Topic


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300 hits since 25 Aug 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2017 2:11 p.m. PST

"In many areas of the burgeoning West, the absence of established institutions of law and order led the local community to literally take the law into its own hands and dispense justice through Vigilante Committees.
San Francisco vigilantes
hang a murderer,
December 1852

In San Francisco, for example, the news of the discovery of gold to its north depleted its police force while simultaneously triggering an explosion in its population. (see The California Gold Rush, 1849) The resulting increase in crime and violence prompted the establishment of a Vigilante Committee to maintain law and order. The Committee was made up of 600 local volunteers, most of whom were prominent members of the business community. During its first year (1851), the Committee hanged four law breakers, whipped one, deported 20 and released 41 after trial. As a result, violent crime was reduced in the city. The Committee was disbanded within a year after its creation. It was revived five years later and disbanded the same year.

The remoteness of mining camps, often in politically unorganized territories, put them beyond the reach of the law. In this unruly environment, volunteers formed Committees of Vigilance that established basic rules of conduct and assured at least a minimum level of order. The community thus entrusted the Vigilante Committee with the combined responsibilities of judge, jury and executioner…"
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