Vigilantism During the California Gold Rush Essay

Vigilantism During the California Gold Rush Essay

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Vigilantism is the black eye on the history of the American frontier. During the 19th century due to a lack of trust, competence, or unreliable law enforcement, the settlers on the frontiers took it upon themselves to provide security and safety for their newly progressing cities. Life in the developing American west was difficult and created many problems for everyone involved. Texas’ history is riddled with skirmishes, wars, and feuds that called upon the local civilians to turn to vigilantism. So to, Arizona and New Mexico, while struggling to gain their statehood, saw instances of civilian uprisings to quell local violence. Of course, however, neither Texas nor the American Southwest saw the hotbed of violence and destruction that was seen in San Francisco following the introduction of the Gold Rush. The descriptions that were used to describe the excitement that the discovery of gold created could also be just as easily applied to the ways it affected the peoples mentality. “In 1848 and 1849 it was usually known as the ‘Gold Fever,’ the ‘California Fever,’ the ‘Yellow Fever,’ the ‘California Mania,’ and the ‘Gold Mania.” People from all over the globe were abandoning their responsibilities and duties for the chance of striking it rich and making a big splash. This dramatic influx of people, cultures, and beliefs into one location created the right mix of hope, frustration, anger, and pride that would lead to chaos and even though “San Francisco had the most efficient, most professional police department in the United States [during the 19th century]” it could not quell the need for vigilantes to rise up and provide order amongst lawlessness.
Types of Prospectors
John Marshall ushered in the Gold Rush when he discovere...


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...Vigilantes and the police: The creation of a professional police bureaucracy in San Francisco, 1847-1900." Journal of Social History 21.2 (1987): 197-227.

Hamilton, Gary G. 1978. "The Structural Sources of Adventurism: The Case of the California Gold Rush." American Journal Of Sociology 83, no. 6: 1466-1490.

Joan, Levy. 2006. "Meet Billy Mulligan from our 1856 election." San Mateo Daily Journal, The (CA), May 15.

Johnson, David A. 1981. "Vigilance and the Law: The Moral Authority of Popular Justice in the Far West." American Quarterly no. 5: 558.

Lapp, Rudolph M. 1964. "The Negro in Gold Rush California." The Journal Of Negro History no. 2: 81.

Putnam, John. 2010. "Vigilantes in Gold Rush San Francisco." Life Examiner, August 4.

Paula, Friedman. 2000. "Snort a little gold dust and ya just go crazy." San Diego Union- Tribune, The (CA), December 03.

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