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Charles W. Dilke p3

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 the Vigilance Committee that started in San Francisco, due to a lack of adequate policing and scant law and order in general. This resulted in a horrific situation…

Mr Dilke writes: The very night of their organization…the work of the Committee began.

He said some boatmen at Central Wharf saw something which led them to follow a man out into Yerba Buena Cove. They captured him “after a sharp row”. A Sydney convict, Jenkins, had on board a safe stolen from a bank. He threw it overboard but the safe was recovered from the water. He was carried off to the committee-room of the Vigilants. The chief of police arrived around one a.m. but he and his men were rebuffed with a show of revolvers. After a trial of sorts, the man was hanged.

Mr Dilke writes: In July, 1851, the Committee hanged another man on the Market-street wharf, and appointed a sub-committee of thirty to board every ship that crossed the bar, seize all persons suspected of being “Sydney Coves”, and re-ship them to New South Wales.

He continues: In August came the great struggle between the Vigilants and constituted authority. It was sharp and decisive. Whittaker and McKenzie, two Sydney Coves, were arrested by the Committee for various crimes, and sentenced to death. The next day, Sheriff Hayes seized them on a writ of habeas corpus, in the rooms of the Committee. The bell was tolled; the citizens assembled, the Vigilants told their story, the men were seized once more, and by noon they were hanging from the loft of the committee-house, by the ordinary lifting tackle for heavy goods. Fifteen thousand people were present and approved.

Apparently “by September, the Vigilants had transported all the “Coves” on whom they could lay their hands”. The vigilantes wound down their interest in the Australian ex-convicts.

-see Greater Britain: A record of travel in English-speaking Countries during 1866 and 1867, by Sir Charles Wentworth Dilke, Macmillan, 1870.