This collection contains letters and documents related to the
San Francisco Committee of Vigilance of 1856, a vigilante group that formed in San Francisco, California, and functioned
for five months.
The letters and documents are related to individuals making charges or giving information about suspects or prisoners
to the group.
The San Francisco Committees of Vigilance of 1851 and 1856 were formed when crime
became widespread in the city of San Francisco in the wake of the Gold Rush. In
1856, the murder of James King of William sparked the reactivation of vigilante
activities. King, a San Francisco newspaper editor, was shot by James. P. Casey, a
corrupt official, after King attacked Casey in the columns of his paper. Immediately
10,000 men hastened to join the vigilantes, and William T. Coleman was again chosen
as leader. Opposition to the vigilance committee was led by California Supreme Court
Justice David S. Terry, but the efforts of his group were largely ineffective. The
"Great Committee" of the vigilantes functioned for five months, then surrendered its
powers to a regularly constituted civil authority.
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