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Charles W. Dilke p2

More from Greater Britain, A record of travel in English-speaking Countries during 1866 and 1867, by Sir Charles W. Dilke, published 1870. He talks about a lawless time in San Francisco with gangs of ex-convicts from Australia causing havoc. Due to the lack of law and order, some citizens formed Vigilance Committees, with disturbing results…

Mr Dilke writes: For a week or two things went well, but a fresh in-pour of rogues and villains soon swamped the volunteer police by sheer force of numbers; and in February, 1851, occurred an instance of united action among the citizens, which is noticeable as the forerunner of the Vigilance Committees. A Mr Jansen had been stunned by a blow from a slung shot, and his person and premises rifled by Australian thieves.  During the examination of two prisoners arrested on suspicion, five thousand citizens gathered round the City Hall, and handbills were circulated, in which is it was proposed that the prisoners should be lynched.

They were ultimately found innocent.

Then five fires swept San Francisco, destroying many houses. It was “known to have been helped on, if not originally kindled, by incendiaries in the hope of plunder”.

After the June, 1851, fire, a Vigilance Committee was formed, on either June 7 or 9. It consisted of 200 citizens and was supported by the city’s press. A series of hangings started.

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