I would like to know some information of the early San Francisco Vigilance Committee's. Especially why it was unjust.

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I'm a college student who is having a debate on the S.F. vigilance committe. I'm against the committe. I was wondering if you could provide me some information of the background and any other information that would help my arguement

-- Michael Robinson (meriverson@yahoo.com), March 20, 2001


They weren't opposed to burning out the Chinese!

-- ziggy (maugo99@hotmail.com), March 26, 2001.

Why were they unjust? Well first of all, They were vigilanties. They had no legal authority. They took the law into their own hands and hung people, burned their property and generaly terrorized everyone.

-- Timothy J. Zuniga (mexilad@hotmail.com), August 17, 2001.

There were two committees, the first in 1851 which dealt mostly with violent crimes relating to the Sidney Ducks or Coves, and the second one in 1856 dealt with crimes and political corruption. The Sidney Ducks were released prisoners from the Australian penal colony who returned to SF instead of England. They were responsible for a crime wave. Few were ever convicted of their crimes. In 1851 it was customary for lawyers to pack juries and obtain hung verdicts. This was true in virtually every case. So the 1851 committee dealt with that problem, and resolved it. SF's first jail was the brig Euphemia. In 1856 the issues were more complicated. Two killings took place. They were controversial. In the first case a gambler named Cora killed U.S. Marshall Richardson. There is a real question of whether it was murder or self-defense. In the second case Casey killed James King of Williams, a muckraking, vitriolic publisher who was doomed by his own writings. Again, some questions arise whether Casey killed him in cold blood. These killings brought the Vigilance Committee of 1856 into being. But the real root of the problem was political corruption in San Francisco. It was rife with every conceivable form of corruption from ballot stuffing, to voter intimidation by shoulder strikers. Were these committees just or unjust? Aye, there's the rub. They were both. Lawless? Yes. They even committed piracy! Arrogant? Yes. They refused to acknowledge the state's legal system or state representatives. Responding emotionally? Yes. Someone stealing a safe from a store was hung. Was this right? No. But they did solve some real problems that the system could or would not resolve. So there... a lawyer-like response which means that you have been given the right information and you're no better off now than you were before.

-- Daniel Alef (dan1dan@aol.com), September 06, 2001.

For a contemporary version of what happened in 1851, read The Annals Of San Francisco by Soule, Gihon and Nisbet, first published in 1855.

-- Don Martinich (dutchm@dcn.davis.ca.us), September 07, 2001.

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