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Vol. II. 



Entered according to Act of Congress in the Year 1887, by 

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington, 

All Bights Reserved 



Chief of the Greatest Popular Tribunal the World has ever 

i dedicate this volume. 


CHAPTER I. *age. 

























































































When bad men combine the good must associate ; else they will fall, one 
by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle. 

Edmund Burke. 

This volume has been reserved for the presentation 
of the acts of the Grand Tribunal organized by the 
citizens of San Francisco in 1856. 

Since the organization of 1851 a change has come 
over our youthful city. In the business streets are 
found evidences of a permanent progressive common- 
wealth; in the suburbs substantial houses to some 
extent have taken the place of white tents and board 
shanties. Throughout the state the change is little 
less marked. The entire population do not now as 
formerly wander from place to place in their hunt for 
gold like the red man in search of food; but civilized 
industry, agriculture, manufactures, and the gentler 
arts cl domesticity have taken their place beside com- 
merce and mining, and men plant as if intending to 
await the harvest. Meanwhile hope assumes a rosy 
hue. That first receding wave of fortune which leaves 
heart-sinking disappointment — ah, who that has felt 
it can ever forget it! — incident to failure to secure 
wealth within the first three months of venture is 
returning, freighted with nobler than gold-digging re- 
solves. The skies of California, how inspiring they 

Pop. Teib., Vol. II. 1 


are: the haughty sun, how kind it has become; and 
how radiant the vernal hills, the sparkling streams! 
The bellowing billows of ancient ocean, so lately 
sounding despair, now break upon the expectant shore 
in happier harmony, singing to the pregnant valleys a 
grandsire's lullaby. The stars are all gathering over 
California; the air is fragrant with fresh longfin^s. 
Gentle woman comes, and with her soothing presence 
turns to contentment the restless romance of sorrow. 
The voices of children are heard. Ambition becomes 
fixed and reasonable as the shifting sands of San 
Francisco assume a value approaching that of gold- 
dust. Gambling-saloons and dens of infamy disappear 
from the more public places, and school-houses and 
churches mark the elevation of mind. A paradise 
of home and home-land opens to the so lately gold- 
blinded adventurer. Here is a habitation for free 
men and chaste women; here virtue shall rest and 
renew herself, and men shall defend her. 

Thus to the eyes of those who now began to call 
themselves Californians began to appear California 
in the years 1852 and 1853. After that the city- 
builders grew a little captious, which mood is born of 
money, ever potential, and none the less imperative 
by reason of its scarcity. The great wave of prosper- 
ity, swelling since the influx of 1849, has begun it 5 
subsidence. Gold is no longer as plentiful as cobble- 
stones; residents wear wry faces, and eastern shippers 
curse the country. The winter of 1854-5 was dry. 
Early in 1855 banks begin to fail, and during the 
months which follow, a financial storm sweeps over the 
state. Investigations incident to monetary disrup- 
tions exhibit a rottenness in the financial institutions 
of the country little calculated to inspire confidence. 
Rascally receivers are appointed to settle the affairs 
of rascally bankers, and the suits and embezzlements 
which follow leave little for creditors. 

The evil-doers of former days, baptized into a vir- 
tuous life by the fires of 1851, now appear upon the 


streets in dazzling hues, like serpents flaming from 
their cast-off winter gear in the glittering spring sun- 

Likewise politics and villainy are different from 
what they were. State finances are in a deplorable 
condition. With constitutional power to create a debt 
not exceeding three hundred thousand dollars, the state 
owes twelve millions. The liberal gifts of the general 
government in swamp and tide lands for school pur- 
poses have been frittered away. While yet in her 
nonage California's vast inheritance has been swal- 
lowed by hungry sharks, and now debt and talk of 
repudiation are the burden of her meditations. The 
state legislature is a scoff and a by- word, a reproach 
to common intelligence, common honesty, and com- 
mon decency. Its members for the most part are the 
tools of unscrupulous knaves, who buy and sell them 
like sheep in the shambles, even as we see done to-day. 

"At this time the state and city governments had 
become little less than organized systems for public 
plunder," writes H. P. Coon, an attentive observer of 
public affairs, in a manuscript narrative contributed 
to the history of this epoch. 

At this juncture, antagonistic to the so long dominant 
democracy, arose the know-nothing party, promising 
radical reform. Good citizens believed their promises, 
and many who did not care to join their wigwams 
sympathized and voted with them. At the autumn 
elections of 1854 the new party was irresistible. The 
manipulators of elections had thought to outcount the 
reform candidates at the polls, but their opponents 
were too strong and too watchful for them. The new 
party came into power and the people breathed more 
freely. Great things were expected of them. But 
alas! within their ranks had crept the ancient spoil- 
men. Disappointment was the fruit of victory. 
Taxes increased to four dollars on the hundred, and 
the money collected was dissipated by officials inn 
diately it touched the treasury box. Those who held 


claims for labor or material were obliged to receive in 
payment scrip whose market value was from twenty 
to thirty cents on the dollar, thus obliging the city to 
pay often five prices for everything. Into the capa- 
cious maw of the political banking-house of Palmer, 
Cook, and Company, on Kearny street, went the 
people's money, of which there was an abundance col- 
lected for all necessary purposes, and thence it was 
distributed to those who sustained the organized sys- 
tem of plunder. 

" No perjury was too black, no murder too foul," 
says Mr Coon, "if they were necessary to support 
that system or to extinguish opposition to it. Crim- 
inals of every shade had influence with the govern- 
ment and the administration of the laws, and petty 
thieves and vagrants were almost the only ones whose 
crimes were punished. The entire public press had 
become subsidized, or overawed, and whosoever raised 
his pen or his voice against the evils of the times be- 
came a marked man." 

The impudent vagabonds of low extraction who had 
seized the reins of government, ruled the staid ad- 
herents to eastern morals as though they possessed 
some inherited right to such domination. With this 
doctrine they seem to have been impregnated, like 
Thracian mares, by the wind. But the very impu- 
dence of their pretensions drew them on to swifter 
destruction. There are never lacking men as fond of 
power as the bear is of honey, who often get stung 
by thrusting their nose into a hornet's nest. It was 
the governing element in the community which most 
of all required governing. 

These politicians whom the attractions of public 
plunder had welded into powerful rings, exercised in 
San Francisco a tyranny far more despotic and galling 
than that which preceded the separation of the 
American colonies from the kingdom of George III. 
The political power which they had usurped gave them 
control of the ignorant and subservient masses, while 


the prestige of legitimacy drew to their support many 
well meaning citizens, just as in past ages the fanati- 
cism of divine kingship arrayed multitudes of good 
men against struggling patriots. 

Slowly fell upon them the conviction of the best 
men, as they strove to rescue municipal affairs from 
the increasing misrule of the officials and their as- 
sociates, that they had been sleeping; that the moral 
force of the community, which signifies the majority, 
while deeming themselves but transient sojourners in 
California, and while absorbed in their eager pursuit 
of wealth, had paid little attention to public affairs, 
and before they were awakened to the importance of 
these duties the unprincipled men who had acquired 
the offices had consolidated their strength and had 
skilfully combined so as to hold the balance of power 
between the political parties and retain control of the 
government. Thus again, unhappily, to the law came 
evil days. Following its first rescue, it performed its 
functions for a time with fair success, until it grew so 
strong that its enemies despaired of ever again beat- 
ing it to the wall. So they set themselves about to 
subvert it to their own purposes. It was now strong, 
but its strength was turned against itself. Behind the 
shield raised against crime, crime itself was stationed 
with the sword of justice in its hand. Sitting in 
judgment, villains sold justice for money, or sent 
triumphant vice abroad in the livery of virtue. And 
now once more from an outraged community there 
went up a protest, low-whispered at the first, but 
gathering strength and volume as thought took on 
the form of words, and words merged into works, 
now a protest against wickedness in high places as 
hitherto it had been against vulgar vice. Again the 
time had come for an appeal to whatever may be the 
ultimate of a free people. Solus populi suprema lex. 

It was a cunning contrivance, that by which the 
rascals voted themselves into office. Not that they 


had but one method of circumventing honest men. 
There were more than can be told ; more than will be 
ever known. One must indeed be wise to thread the 
intricate paths of primaries, to know the full power of 
money, of whiskey, of harlotry, and other hellish en- 
vironment. Nevertheless it was a piece of creditable 
cunning, the stuffer's ballot-box, as they called it. In 
crime, as elsewhere, art follows closely the heels of 

Like the freshly shaved and newly white -shirted 
bully, rejoicing in a full stomach, a fine cigar, and fat 
prospects, seasoned with the hope of illicit gains, all 
was fair upon the outside, all was smiling and serene. 
Further than this, further, unhappily, than the bully, 
comparison can be carried, all was fair upon the inside. 
It was a ballot-box, this new and reliable instrument 
for officer-making, a common vote-holder, to all ap- 
pearances, of honest and homely plainness without 
and within. The evil of the machine lurked in the 
thin compass of sides and bottom. 

One of them was found by the Vigilance Com- 
mittee of 1856 and placed on exhibition at their 
rooms. It was the little voter-engine employed by 
the prize-fighter Yankee Sullivan while acting in- 
spector of the first precinct election, and which made 
supervisor James P. Casey, of whom 'we shall know 
more presently. The box was about two feet long, 
fourteen inches wide, and a foot deep, and the outside 
was painted dark-blue. Round the bottom ran a neatly 
fitted moulding, connected with two inner slides, and 
constituting a false bottom and a false side. The lock, 
apparently an ordinary one, and worked in the usual 
way with a key, might also be sprung by a peculiar 
pressure on one side of the lid. About the middle of 
the cover was bored an auger-hole, which received the 
votes. The second or false bottom and side were neatly 
fitted to run in grooves inside the real side and bottom, 
so that when closed both the inside and outside pos- 
sessed the appearance of a simple plain box. The 


general construction of the engine was somewhat 
rough, which if anything assisted in deceiving the ob- 
server, who would never suspect dishonesty in mech- 
anism so simple. 

Let us now set the thing going and see how it 
works: Sullivan wants Casey elected, and Casey 
desires to place upon the bench a judge after his own 
heart, so that when he or any other gentleman wishes 
to kill some unreasonable citizen, or any worker silly 
enough to complain of reasonable bleeding at the 

hands of the non- workers, no one shall be hurt for it. 
It is all in the family ; the fraternity are to elect their 
ticket. Sheriffs, constables, and judges are all useful 
in their way ; it is so much easier to do things accord- 
ing to law and order, to be respectable in one's villainy, 
and sleep well o' nights. Sullivan therefore takes a 
bundle of the tickets bearing the honored names of 
Casey, McGowan, Duane, and that class, and neatly 
folding them draws out the slide and fills with them 
the space between the true bottom and the false one. 
The side space is likewise stuffed ; the slides are shoved 


back to place, and nothing is seen of the mighty power- 
papers concealed by bottom and side, nothing but a 
plain honest ballot-box, inside and outside. 

Now lock it. Give the key to the proper officer. 
As in their mighty sovereignty the citizens of this 
all-knowing republic draw near and deposit their votes, 
drop the tickets in at the auger-hole bored for that 
purpose, drop them in thankfully on behalf of those 
who every night on bended knees send up thanksgiving 
that their lot has been cast in a land where all men 
are free and equal, where the sacred right of suffrage 
is the inheritance of all, sedately sits Sullivan, keep- 
ing careful tally in his mind how the election goes. 
At the closing of the polls let the inspector fill the 
aperture in the top with wax, and let all the people 
witness it, for there must be perfect fairness in this 
election. Seal up the box and swear as to the contents. 
Surely everything is correct now; surely all has 
been conducted in strict accordance with law. Jealous 
political opponents have watched that box all day, 
and half a score of them can swear that it was 
not opened or disturbed throughout the day, and 
that not a single ticket was put into it which was not 
fairly voted. The opposition to the imposition are 
sure their ticket is elected; Yankee Sullivan is sure 
it is not, or if it be now it will not be presently. 
Yankee coughs ; the other inspectors turn their heads 
aside, when, unobserved, Yankee takes the box, 
fumbles it somewhat, draws out the magic bottom, 
turns the box over, and shoves back the slide. If 
he thinks this not sufficient, he does likewise to the 
magic side. The officer may now unlock the box; 
the judges may count the votes. It is very strange, 
the result of that election, to the single-hearted citizen 
watching for his country's good; to the initiated it is 
strange only that so simple a contrivance should have 
escaped the notice of liberty -lovers so long. 

It was a trick exceedingly difficult to expose, even 
after it was known to be in common practice; and 


had not the stuffers finally hurled themselves to de- 
struction upon the points of their own passions the 
evil would have continued much longer. If from any 
cause the manoeuvres of the stuffers failed them at 
the polls; if inspectors, judges, and clerks of elections 
were not of their appointing, and the voting' in conse- 
quence was likely to be against them, as a last resort 
some desperado among them would seize the box, 
break it open, and destroy the ballots. The bully 
might be arrested, but there was nothing fearful in 
that; and at the new election, which of necessity must 
be ordered, the unholy brotherhood would awaken tc 
a sharper sense of their duty. 

The Committee finally took the ground that ballot- 
box stuffing was worse than murder; because on the 
purity of the ballot-box depended the purity of all law 
and government, of governors, legislators, judges, and 
jail-keepers. Pollute the spring, and the entire stream 
is polluted. Not that political criminals were ever 
punished by them as murderers, because they never 
would transcend with their power the punishment 
prescribed by law for offences. 

A system of ballot-box stuffing then in vogue was 
exposed by the Times and Transcript in 1854. Be- 
sides the false bottom and sides of the box of 1856, 
there was contrived a machine by means of which the 
inspector, or person depositing the vote, by touching 
a spring which controlled the opening, could either 
admit the ticket into the box proper, or, if he did not 
like the looks of it, send it where it would never be 
counted. Another method was to install as receiver 
a sleight-of-hand artist, who, while closely watched by 
the voter, could without detection substitute a ticket 
of his own for the one voted. 

At a charter election held on the 11th of April 
1853 the polls in the first ward were held at the Bay 
Hotel, on Cunningham's wharf. Harry Meiggs was 
running for alderman, and carrying everything before 
him. One William Lewis, a waterman on Pacific 


Wharf, thinking honest Harry was winning his elec- 
tion too easily, and without payment of the usual fees 
to laborers of his quality, trumped up a crowd of 
illegal voters for the opposing candidate, and delayed 
the polling as much as possible by challenging every 
man whom he supposed likely to vote for Meiggs. 
Finding that all these efforts were made in vain, and 
that Meiggs still had a large majority, Lewis stationed 
himself near the window, and when the inspector's 
back was turned thrust in his hand, seized the ballot- 
box, and threw it into the street, smashing it in pieces, 
and scattering the votes irrecoverably to the winds. 
Lewis was arrested and made to suffer the full penalty 
of the law for the display of his new method of de- 
feating a candidate; but this was only after measures 
for reform had been inaugurated. 

And at the same polls the year following, says the 
editor of the Herald, not as yet the open friend and 
supporters of the stuffers, the 8th of September 1854, 
just after the general election: 

"The men who have control of the ballot-box in the first ward have 
defied law and precedent in refusing to allow any witnesses of their midnight 
count. They have carried things with a high hand, even if the affiants who 
swear on the holy evangelists that they saw them destroying the ballots and 
putting others in their stead are guilty of perjury. If they are not so guilty, 
if they have told the truth, the swift vengeance of an outraged people will 
be and should be visited upon the creatures who would thus dare to trample 
upon the sacred rights of freedom and pollute with sacrilegious hands the 
very fountains of American liberty. We say to the ruffians who have en- 
deavored to take this election out of the hands of the people, who have been 
striving with bludgeon, dagger, and pistol to ride rough-shod over the people, 
that there is a feeling abroad that bodes danger to them. They are standing 
upon a volcano that may burst at any moment. The purity of the ballot-box 
will be preserved at any and all hazards, and if its assailants are exterminated 
in the struggle no tears will be shed by the honest and upright citizens of 
San Francisco." 

Ballot-box stuffing began in San Francisco at an 
early day. On the 25th of September 1851 Fran- 
cisco Sanchez and Arscnio Miramontes, native Cali- 
fornian citizens, and election inspectors of the eleventh 
precinct, profoundly shocked at the depravity of their 


Anglo-Saxon associates in their profanation of what 
they deemed next to their religion a thing most sacred, 
filed in the county court an affidavit exposing a fraud 
perpetrated on that occasion. 

In the primary elections of June 1854 ruffianism 
was again dominant. Throughout the whole of elec- 
tion day fighting was kept up, with scarcely any inter- 
mission. In all the different wards rowdyism was 
rampant. Whiskey flowed like water, voters were 
hustled about by the villainous crowds that surrounded 
the polls, shots were fired, and in some places serious 
riots occurred. Human faces divine appeared before 
the recorder next day mashed into the shape of a 
squeezed orange. Says a journal of the day : "A law- 
less horde of brawling scamps are let loose to brow- 
beat, to bully, to put in fraudulent votes, and to take 
the ballot-box if necessary, in order to suppress any- 
thing like legitimate popular sentiment; and in this 
way are chosen delegates to a convention that pretends 
to give us congressmen and state officers." 

The sixth ward, its henchmen and strikers, was the 
most renowned precircct of vigilance times. That the 
importance of the positions of sixth-ward inspector 
and judge of election may be understood, the reader 
should know that as returns were then made, there 
was no time fixed within which to declare them. 
Hence certain wards were kept open, the last usually 
being the sixth, until the votes of all the others were 
known, when whatever tickets were lacking to secure 
the election of the stuffer s candidate would be thrown 
into this ballot-box and counted out from it. In this 
way they might carry San Francisco as the Persians 
carried Athens, by dead-weight alone ; but they could 
not so carry the San Franciscans. 

At the elections which followed the vigilance reform 
numerous ballot-boxes made or patented by ingenious 
contrivers were presented. Some were of glass and 
some of wire. One of the latter was claimed to be 
bullet, brick-bat, and burglar proof. It was six inches 



wide, six inches deep, and twelve inches long, and the 
wires were so woven that great strength was united 
with openness, it being impossible for a ballot to find 
its way into the box without detection. 

A ballot-box of glass was patented by a San Fran- 
cisco optician. It was of heavy French-plate, about 
fourteen inches square, the edges and seams closed 
with brass mouldings. Through a small hole in the 
circular brass plate fitted into the top the ticket was 
thrust, and as it passed in it touched a spring which 
struck a small bell and turned the hands of a dial. 

The bell and dial were both within the box, so that 
they could not be tampered with. The dial could be 
arranged so as to count five thousand. This famous 
box was finally sold for five hundred dollars and sent 
to the interior for exhibition. 

There was a mass meeting held before the Oriental 
Hotel the 15th of June 1856, Balie Peyton presiding, 
at which a bully's ballot-box, captured at Woolly 
Kearney's house, was exhibited as orator of the occa- 
sion. It was there stated that at a late election in 


San Mateo County fifteen hundred votes had been 
returned from three precincts where there were but 
three hundred voters in all; five hundred votes were 
returned from Crystal Springs, where were then not 
more than thirty voters. 

At a meeting of the Executive Committee the 28 th 
of August, Mr William Arrington was authorized to 
dispose of a patent ballot-box which had come into 
their possession to Captain Gough on such terms as 
he might deem proper. Failing in his first attempted 
negotiation, at a subsequent meeting Mr Arrington 
was authorized to accept for the box five hundred 
dollars in cash, Captain Cough's note for five hun- 
dred dollars, payable in fifteen days, and three 
thousand dollars contingent on the successful exhibi- 
tion of the box. The sale was consummated on these 

From time to time the ballot-box in San Francisco 
was improved, until in 1878 it reached a state of sup- 
posed perfection. All the four faces were made of 
glass, the whole upper surface comprising the lid, 
with hinges and lock. Another style had a circular 
lid three inches in diameter, in the centre of the 
cover, the key working perpendicularly. 

With such a state of things it was clear that ref- 
ormation in the regular and legitimate way was wholly 
out of the question. Attempts to purify society through 
the citizens' right of suffrage was applying to politics 
the Rosicrucian method of greasing the weapon while 
binding the wound. Corruption propagated. Ras- 
cality bred rascality, and the reign of crime seemed 
self- perpetuating. The uniform defeat resulting from 
continued effort discouraged many, who argued that 
without stepping beyond the forms of law the laws 
could not be enforced, and finding the most earnest 
leaders not ready to sanction such a course, became 
indifferent, or with little regret saw matters drifting 
from bad to worse, feeling that the result which they 


had predicted as inevitable would all the sooner be- 
come apparent. 

Public feeling became vitiated, and the standard of 
public opinion sank low. In the newspaper press 
throughout the state there appeared an appetite for 
scandal and personalities. Abusive articles found the 
readiest readers, and a thirst for bloodshed, the fruit 
of long indulgence, seemed fastened upon certain por- 
tions of the community. Club-law had become an in- 
stitution of the country; criminal courts were a sham. 
Street-fights were enjoyed with the keenest relish in 
the cities, and throughout the country mob trials and 
executions were glorious excitement. Pugilistic en- 
counters were announced in the journals of the clay. 
Likewise notice, either verbal or in the newspapers, 
would be given of a fist-fight to come off at a certain 
time, and crowds would collect on Montgomery street 
to see the fun. Ancient enemies with concealed 
bowie-knife and revolver prowled the streets, and on 
coming together an undeclared battle of pure self- 
defence on both sides would immediately begin. A 
ruffian detected in the commission of a crime would 
run for a policeman for protection against the people. 
In those days there was joy in tribulation to every 
murderer fortunate enough to find sanctuary in a 
prison, where angel keepers were his guard and offi- 
cial ravens fed him. 

Amidst such a state of things it is easy to under- 
stand how summary punishment for crime should 
grow in favor in the cities as well as throughout the 
country. It would be unfair, however, to cast the 
blame of this gross laxity entirely upon the courts. 
Here again the people themselves were at fault. 
Even if the judges did their best, which was often the 
case, the juries would not convict. The sentiment 
against killing in fair fight, or in what might by legal 
twists be called self-defence, was not yet so strong 
but that the defendant's counsel could easily find some 
on every jury who would absolutely refuse to join in 


a verdict against a murderer. Further than this, these 
very jurymen, many of them, whom it was so easy 
for a skilful lawyer to persuade against duty and 
conscience in a court of law, joined committees of 
vigilance and became active supporters of extreme 
punishment. Thus the very system which we so 
sacredly regard as the bulwark of all our rights, then 
as now, acted against justice and as the friend of 
thieves and murderers. 

When transplanted to the distant and virgin soil 
of California, the evils of our political system, like 
rank weeds, shot upward into the sunlight more con- 
spicuously perhaps than in the older states. At all 
events, nowhere has been the curse of overmuch 
voting more manifest than here. There is no greater 
despotism than that which springs from excess of lib- 
erty ; no greater weakness than the strength of strong 
minds bound with the sand-ropes of universal suffrage. 
Nowhere do we find the moral tone of the nation 
lower than among those who, without having at heart 
or at hand a single object of a public or of a person- 
ally disinterested character, shout loudest at elections 
and vaunt their patriotism for pap. 

Among others, there was this difference in the ele- 
ments which caused the social disruption of 1851 and 
that of 1856. With the emigrants who flocked in 
multitudes to the state immediately after the adoption 
in 1850 of the state constitution, and who were mostly 
well meaning, industrious men and virtuous women, 
were certain vile persons, who soon became active in 
gathering gold by dishonest means and in the general 
derangement of society. Growing bold, they organ- 
ized and overran the city and country, waging open 
war and increasing in villainy until the people to save 
themselves were obliged to put their venomous com- 
panions down. More intelligent; and hence more 
crafty, were those who stirred the storm of 1856. 
Loaded dice, waxed cards, burglary, and arson were 
now held in light esteem as puerile and vulgar. There 


was a field open on these shores for skilled labor, for 
men of parts, men full-grown in iniquity, and this field 
was politics. Neglected by the virtuous, public affairs 
fell into the hands of the vicious. This impudent 
assumption of political power by foreign cutthroats is. 
the irony of our boasted institutions, the keenest they 
have ever experienced. Now, said the happy harpies, 
once in office, if law is what the people of California 
want we will give it them. Fixing their attention, 
first upon primaries, then upon double -slide ballot- 
boxes, after a series of successful tricks in political 
legerdemain the reptiles were enabled to revel in pub- 
lic plunder. The second cataplasm was applied to a 
superior order of villainy, consummated by a superior 
order of villains. 

Often in the history of governments have popular 
movements against existing authority resulted in a 
despotism far more crushing than that which was 
overthrown. Therefore it was necessary to be cau- 
tious. Defeat would bring the worst results. The 
politicians of the day were essentially fighting men. 
A revolver and a bowie-knife were as necessary to 
them as a rule and handsaw to a carpenter. Deadly 
weapons were their strongest arguments, with which 
they were enabled to enforce their principles more 
effectually than with either tongue or pen. Their 
bullying propensities frequently obtained them office 
when all other means failed. Rectitude of character 
they had none, and 'their reputation was of such a 
flimsy texture that they did not even attempt to 
patch it. So long as their weapons were kept keen 
and bright, little to them mattered the tarnishment 
of honor. Yet never men so boasted a quality of 
which they were deficient. Like steamboat runners 
employed to bellow the merits of opposition boats, 
they talked loudly and made many converts, particu- 
larly of that class which like themselves hung about 
saloons, and were a standing conundrum to working- 
men as to their method of obtaining food and shelter. 


Base-minded and cowardly, as all bullies are, they 
dare not mingle and hold converse with their fellow- 
men, except with one hand on a loaded revolver. 

On the evening of September 16th the Vigilance 
Committee of 1851 in full session adopted a resolution 
suspending their meetings indefinitely. They did not 
disband or disorganize ; they merely rested in order to 
give the law an opportunity to vindicate its supremacy 
should it be able to do so. Before passing this final 
resolution, an executive committee of forty-five mem- 
bers was appointed, not for the purpose of arresting or 
punishing criminals, or of encouraging antagonism to 
lawfully constituted authorities, but to keep up the 
organization and be ready in case of necessity. They 
were to remain in force for six months, with power 
to call together the committee of the whole at any 
moment; they were to hold correspondence with other 
associations throughout the coast, and to assist the 
police in ferreting crime and bringing criminals to 
justice. Thus was the purity of their past actions 
proved, and the nobleness of their character through- 
out all time established. 

Besides the time taken from their business, the 
members of the Committee had been called upon for 
considerable sums of money, which they cheerfully con- 
tributed. About thirty persons had been sent back to 
Sydney at a heavy expense, and one to Panama. 
Agents of the Committee who were actively em- 
ployed in hunting crime throughout various parts of 
the country required money. Many criminals be- 
came frightened and fled. Some, said to have in 
their possession a large amount of stolen jewelry, 
were secreted in the southern part of the state. They 
succeeded in escaping in an outward-bound vessel, 
and a party of vigilants were sent in pursuit, but 
did not succeed in overtaking the ship. Some went 
east, others to Europe, and no small number joined 
the filibustering expedition of William Walker, and 

Pop. Tkib., Vol. II. 2 


so saved the public executioners of California much 

With the beginning of 1852 crime grew a little 
bolder, six or eight daring robberies being committed 
in as many weeks by apparently the same persons. 
Evidently new gangs were being formed, but the 
authorities, grown more efficient under the teachings 
of the popular tribunal, were thought now to be a 
match for the rascals. At all events, the citizens 
were willing to grant them an opportunity to do their 
duty. But as crime crawled forth again, the Com- 
mittee found it necessary to hold a general meeting 
on the evening of March 17th, at which there were 
present about three hundred and fifty members. A new 
executive committee was chosen, and arrangements 
were made to hold regular meetings. Again there 
was a visible and sudden falling -off in the number 
of burglaries and murders committed. By June the 
decrease of crime in San Francisco was a subject of 
general remark. San Francisco was then as quiet 
and orderly as any eastern city of equal size. 

Society in the interior continued in an unquiet 
state, and it was thought it might become necessary 
to organize a state committee upon a principle similar 
to that of the San Francisco Committee, which should 
effectually clear the country of footpads, highway- 
men, and like desperate vermin. Two immediate 
causes contributed to these present troubles in the 
interior; one, the fact that all the larger towns and 
cities of the state had lately been cleansed of their 
criminals by their respective committees of vigilance, 
to the disadvantage of the smaller towns and of 
miners and farmers, and the other that as popular 
tribunals subsided desperadoes took courage and put 
on boldness. 

The Committee of 1851 still showed signs of life 
by advertising, through the winter months of 1852-3, 
a reward of two thousand dollars for the arrest, with 
sufficient testimony for conviction, of any person set- 


ting fire to any building in San Francisco, at the 
same time calling on the people to furnish them such 
information as would lead to the arrest of any person 
guilty of arson, burglary, or highway robbery. These 
notices were signed by Selim E. Woodworth, presi- 
dent, and Isaac Bluxome, junior, secretary. 

Like a dismal shadow the doings of the first Com- 
mittee haunted for a time the memory of evil-doers, 
until, amidst the activities of new opportunities, 
which in this rapidly revolving society met them at 
every turn, the unhappy strangulations of by -gone 
days gradually assumed less substantial form, and 
finally faded, in effect at least, to the texture of a half 
remembered dream. 

Not so appeared the solemn teachings of the 
opaque past to those who sought to do well. The 
terrible enginery of former necessities, which was 
likewise a cloud in their memory, spoke to them only 
of the sure and permanent destruction of crime ; and 
political leaders who sought power and profit by 
infamous means, might have read their own doom in 
the signs of the times. 

There were those in the first Committee who re- 
fused to join the second, on the ground that the 
former was a necessity which five years later did not 
exist. Likewise there were those who had opposed 
the first Committee from conscientious scruples, who 
joined the second; those whom temperament and 
education had so wedded to the sacred statutes of 
justice that they found it impossible all at once to 
cast themselves adrift and join the profane throng, 
but who had been steadily driven toward the convic- 
tion that there was no help for it, that the banded 
bad men had so securely intrenched themselves be- 
hind the forms of law that nothing but force could 
dislodge them, that nothing would cure the evil but 
hanging. For like the giant Antseos, as long as 
their feet touched earth no Flercules could crush 


In all these pictures of early days, which I mean 
shall be truthful and not overdrawn, I wish it clearly 
understood that if comparison be made, I do not 
regard men, society, the times, and political affairs as 
worse then than now. They were different : worse in 
some respects, better in others. In regard to morals, 
vice was less shamefaced in 1852, but from laxity 
in religion and a more general freedom of thought, 
immorality was easy in 1882. Criminal court trials 
are every whit as much a farce now as when the 
right honorable Ned McGowan sat upon the bench 
dispensing justice with a cigar in his mouth, his hat 
cocked on one side, and his feet elevated to a level 
with his head. There was more political corruption 
thirty years after the organization of the government 
than three years afterward. What can there be more 
dishonest and disgraceful than the wholesale bribery 
of legislators by the railroad monopolists, than the 
bribery of the county assessor by the bankers, than 
the bribery of boards of supervisors and boards of 
education, so common throughout the country? 
While dwelling upon the iniquity of others do not let 
us forget our own. 

A bribery case arose in the legislature of 1854 
which to the more experienced politicians of a quarter- 
century later appears unnecessarily noisy. Mr Peck, 
senator from Butte, accused Mr Palmer of the politico- 
banking firm of Palmer, Cook, and Company, of 
offering him five thousand dollars for his vote on the 
senatorial question. Mr Palmer denied the charge, 
and affirmed that Mr Peck offered to sell him his vote 
for five thousand dollars. The senate took the matter 
up, and after much flaunting of soiled virtue concluded 
that no one was to blame; no one swore falsely, or 
offered to give or take a bribe. We do these things 
better now. And yet, like the clothes that cover 
shame, our immoralities may be rendered all the more 
conspicuous by the paraphernalia which we employ to 
hide them. Where, among all our honorable politicians 


and wealth-hoarding magnates, do we find one who in 
the manner of his elevation deals with those at whose 
expense he achieves ignoble fame as did the Alcmse- 
onidaB in building the temple of Apollo, substituting 
Parian marble for the cheap common stone contracted 



Law supports those crimes they checked before, 
And executions now affright no more. 


The pressure of sin upon society, the dead weight 
of tyranny, whether that of a feudal baron or of a 
nineteenth -century monopolist, if long continued is 
sure to result in the destruction of the destroyer. 
Brittle as well as viscous substances flow under suffi- 
cient pressure ; lead and ice in large masses flow under 
pressure of their own weight; so melt the grinding 
glaciers of society under the dead weight of their own 

In the midst of these ill-tempered times, when offi- 
cial and financial corruption seemed rankest in young 
San Francisco, James King of William, a ruined 
banker, but a man of unimpeachable integrity, began 
the publication of a daily newspaper, which he called 
the Evening Bulletin. 

Mr King was born at Georgetown, in the District 
of Columbia, in January 1822, and was therefore at 
this time about thirty-four years of age. Rather below 
medium height, with a dark complexion, large dark 
eyes, aquiline nose, black bushy whiskers, a well 
shaped head set on slightly stooping shoulders, he 
was a man of keen intellectual perceptions, though 
not very robust. His father was an Irishman named 
William, and following a custom once somewhat 
common among his people, in order to distinguish 
himself from other James Kings, he wrote his name 



James King of William. His younger days were as- 
sociated with the post-office department and the 
banking-house of Corcoran and Riggs in Washington. 
In 1848 he started for Oregon by water, partly for 
health and partly for trading adventures ; but arrested 
in his voyage by the attractions of California, he took 
up his residence at Sacramento. There he assisted in 
the organization of a government, and also engaged 
in mining. In 1849 he opened a banking-house in 
San Francisco, but losing heavily in Tuolumne County 
investments in 1853-4, he closed his office. In legiti- 
mate banking he had acquired a moderate fortune, 
but when he failed he kept nothing from his creditors, 
and even refused to avail himself of the insolvent act. 
Many stood ready to assist him, but he (had a consti- 
tutional shrinking from obligation to or dependence 
on others; and as I. C. Woods, the managing partner 
of Adams and Company, proposed to take his business 
and assets, and assume his banking liabilities, provided 
he would agree to take charge of one of the depart- 
ments of Adams and Company and manage it for two 
years at a salary of one thousand dollars a month, he 
concluded to accept the position, and filled it until the 
failure of that firm, in February 1855. 

His quickness of comprehension and habits of sys- 
tematic detail soon convinced him that the mammoth 
express and banking firm was insolvent, and so he 
informed the manager, but was only ridiculed for his 
pains. The failure of the banks, beginning with Page, 
Bacon, and Company, threw Mr King out of employ- 
ment; hence, partly, he conceived the newspaper proj- 
ect. In his days of prosperity he had assisted in 
establishing and sustaining, among other newspapers, 
the Herald, which under the trenchant editorial pen 
of Mr John Nugent, formerly a lawyer of some 
repute, had at one time rendered valuable service in 
protecting the community from the dishonesty of 
officials, and preserving vigorous and watchful public 
opinion. But at the time of the establishing of the 


Bulletin many influences had combined to enfeeble 
the power of the press, to lessen the interests of its 
managers in good government, and to weaken the 
general confidence in their desire for the restoration 
of purity and integrity in the management of public 
affairs. Believing that he could provide a modest 
support for his family, and at the same time render 
good public service, he borrowed a small sum and 
began the publication of his paper, notwithstanding 
there were then in San Francisco not less than a 
dozen journals struggling for life. 

It was a small sheet, with small resources, and its 
publication office was a small building standing in the 
street instead of beside it, a significant fact when 
joined to its other anomalies. This grain of mustard- 
seed, however, soon spread out and filled the whole 
coast. Ignoring for two reasons the tricks and hypoc- 
risies of journalism, because first he would not prac- 
tise them, and because secondly he did not know how, 
his chief concern in his stipulation with his publisher, 
CO. Gerberding, seemed to be for his own absolute 
control of the journal's columns, so that those he was 
about to punish might not buy a controlling interest 
in the sheet, and so silence its calls for reform. 

The first number was issued the 8th of October 
1855. It was clear enough from the beginning that 
the purpose of the editor, aside from pecuniary con- 
siderations in entering the arena of journalism, was, 
lirst, the righting of personal wrongs growing out of 
the late financial troubles, and, secondly, war on 
wrongs in general. 

Mr King began his brief career as a journalist with 
a modest, frank simplicity, freely expressing his inex- 
perience, and somewhat astonishing his practised com- 
petitors by making haste to acknowledge mistakes, and 
to offer self-respecting but ample apologies to those 
about whom he had unwittingly made misstatements. 
He did not know the difference between editorial and 
personal lying. He was ignorant of saying one thing 


while meaning another. He was too simple even to 
study the policy most profitable to his paper, and 
call it public weal. He never thought at every step 
to look behind to ascertain if the dear people were 
following; and strangest of all, he forgot to fill his 
columns with journalistic quarrels, which, however 
interesting to the editor, are of very small moment to 
the public. He would be a reformer, an honest and 
ardent one, and he believed he could establish a 
journal with which, by constant exposures of the 
schemes of bad men, and continual attempts to con- 
centrate the efforts of good men, the conspirators 
would be defeated. 

He evidently entertained few practical ideas re- 
garding his new undertaking, and seems never to 
have troubled himself over the question of his capa- 
bility as a writer. He had something to say, and he 
was quite sure he could say it. He could speak to 
more people, and more to the point, by means of the 
printing-press than by any other means: so he pub- 
lished a newspaper. United with honest faith in the 
good intentions of the masses, Mr King was endowed 
with a shrewd capacity to awaken interest and secure 
confidence. His editorials carried with them the con- 
viction that the writer was a man of character, and 
that of a high standard; that a love of justice per- 
vaded every fibre of his nature, and that it was wel- 
come duty to administer merited rebuke to every one 
who accepted public trust and betrayed it. 

His style was unstudied, almost homely and collo- 
quial, but pierced to the pith of his subject with sur- 
prising directness and vigor. Indeed he cared little for 
style or diction. He indulged neither in the bombast 
of ^Eschylus nor the sophistry of Euripides, and 
Aristophanes would hardly have praised him for his 
skill in satire, though some of his contemporaries 
were quite ready to do so. All this, however; or any 
species of criticism that might truthfully be brought 
against him, went for nothing. The simple truth was 


strong enough for him, as indeed it is always the 
mightiest power of the strongest. Laying it on vig- 
orously, constantly, he proved himself a scourging 
writer. Most persistently and most effectually did he 
battle against personal and public enemies from the 
beginning of his career as a journalist to the day 
when he fell, a victim sacrificed upon the altar of 
an outraged commonwealth. Naturally this course 
aroused the enmity of the office-holders, who were 
amazed at his temerity, and to whom his motives 
were in a measure incomprehensible. 

Frequently was he threatened by personal enemies 
and political cutthroats, and again and again was he 
warned by his friends that sooner or later his life 
would pay the penalty of his temerity. Yet steadily 
and fearlessly he continued his course; and that at a 
time when, among the class most severely castigated, 
a bullet was the usual answer to an insult. 

While clerk with Adams and Company he had 
become familiar with the finer phases of financial and 
political rascality which his nature abhorred, and 
which he now exposed with merciless severity. The 
notorious politico-banking firm of Palmer, Cook, and 
Company was then at the height of its power and of 
its apparent prosperity. This institution the Bulletin 
at once attacked, charging it with corruption, bribery, 
and financial unsoundness, exposing its secrets with 
such clearness and intimate knowledge of its affairs as 
made men wonder how the editor obtained them. The 
battle was continued with unflinching persistency day 
after day for many months, until the firm was ruined, 
and consequently harmless. Broderick, Billy Mulli- 
gan, Woolly Kearny, Casey, Cora, Yankee Sullivan, 
Martin Gallagher, Tom Cunningham, Ned McGowan, 
Charles Duane, and all that class of shoulder-striking, 
ballot-box stuffing politicians, together with gamblers, 
prostitutes, and pimps of every shade, rich and vulgar 
alike, but more particularly those who had made 
themselves conspicuous in public affairs, he tore in 


pieces with almost savage ferocity. Likewise lie scat- 
tered thorns upon the bench of criminal judges, and 
made derelict officials drink gall. To lawyers who 
lived by defeating justice, and to all who polluted the 
springs of virtue and preyed upon industry and pub- 
lic morals, he was a thorn in the flesh. Opposition 
and danger only roused him to bolder efforts. Each 
day his shafts were launched at some new infamy ; each 
day his pen, like the white plume of Navarre, flew 
along the topmost billows of the fight. 

Juvenal, in his denunciations of venal Rome, with 
her refined and hypocritical people, high in culture 
but low in morals, was not more earnest, honest, or suc- 
cessful. Parasites of the government flaunting in the 
fruits of extortion, insolent Crispinus or ostentatious 
Matho in the hands of the scathing satirist, were not 
more severely rebuked. His courage was of a quality 
touching desperation. He acted like a man having 
nothing to lose. Fortune was gone, and disgust had 
taken the place of business ambition. It was under- 
stood from the outset of his journalistic career that 
neither he nor his organ was for sale. It was under- 
stood that he would not fight a duel, that he feared 
no libel suits, though on this account he was none 
the less careful of his facts. Bold, resolute, desperate, 
his editorials often bordered on the scurrilous, but 
they were ever on the side of virtue and honesty. 

Unfortunately we are none of us wholly free from 
the bias of temperament, education, and environment. 
Like most reformers, Mr King approached the morbid 
where his cause was concerned. He seemed to regard 
all lawyers, judges, and officials alike as evil-minded 
enemies of the public. This has never been true in 
any epoch of California's history. On the contrary, 
whatever may be said of laxity in public morals and 
corruption in high places, there never has been a time 
when a majority, not only of the masses, but of those 
who lived by the law, were not in favor of right and 


morality. This fact, in our analysis of an abnormal 
or distempered epoch, should never be lost sight of. 
The Vigilance Committee sought the right; the law 
and order party sought the right; the difference was, 
the former were practical and clear-sighted, while the 
latter were blinded by overmuch learning, by bigotry, 
and by their private interests. Some were inherently 
and irrecoverably bad; but these were always in the 
minority. One animal of evil odor can make fetid 
the atmosphere surrounding a thousand flowers; so 
one bad man can bring offence upon many good men. 

" Bets are now offered, we have been told," writes 
Mr King November 22, 1855, "that the editor of the 
Bulletin will not be in existence twenty days longer,- 
and the case of Dr Hogan, of the Vicksburg paper, 
who was murdered by the gamblers of that place, is 
cited as a warning. Pah! We passed unscathed 
through worse scenes than the present at Sutter 
Fort in '48. War, then, is the cry, is it? War be- 
tween the prostitutes and gamblers on one side, and 
the virtuous and respectable on the other! War to 
the knife, and the knife to the hilt ! Be it so, then ! 
Gamblers of San Francisco, you have made your elec- 
tion, and we are ready on our side for the issue!" 

One Selover, of the fraternity, denied the privilege 
of the duel which he professed to desire, threatened 
darker measures. On the 6th of December Mr King 
says: "Mr Selover, it is said, carries a knife. We 
carry a pistol. We hope neither will be required, but 
if this rencontre cannot be avoided, why will Mr Selo- 
ver persist in perilling the lives of others? We pass 
every afternoon, about half-past four to five o'clock, 
along Market street from Fourth to Fifth street. 
The road is wide and not so much frequented as those 
streets farther in town. If we are to be shot or cut 
to pieces, for heavens sake let it be done there. 
Others will not be injured, and in case we fall our 
house is but a few hundred yards beyond, and the 
cemetery not much farther." And again, the 5th of 


January: "If these fellows are really determined to 
attack the editor of the Bulletin, why don't they do 
it at once and be done with it? Why keep everybody 
in suspense? Here we have been carrying a pistol 
for nearly three months because of the braggadocio 
bullying of this crowd, until we are heartily tired of 
it. We don't want to carry weapons. If the fuss 
must come off, let it come at once and be over." Of 
a truth this pistol of Mr King's, like the famous gray 
steel sword of Kol, was more fatal to the owner than 
to any one else. 

About this time, namely, on the 17th of November 
1855, there had been murdered a prominent citizen in 
open day upon a public thoroughfare in San Francisco, 
and yet the murderer remained unpunished. Indeed 
he did not expect punishment. Between William H. 
Richardson, United States marshal, and Charles 
Cora, an Italian gambler, there had been some diffi- 
culty. Friends interfered to reconcile them, and all 
differences, as it was thought, were amicably adjusted. 
About half-past six o'clock on the evening of the day 
above named Richardson and Cora were seen in front 
of McAllister's building on Clay street, below Mont- 
gomery. They had just come from the Blue Wing 
saloon on Montgomery street, near Clay. One stand- 
ing near them heard Richardson remark, "Well, is it 
all right?" "Yes," Cora replied. Continuing their 
conversation in a low tone for a short time, suddenly 
Cora with his left hand seized Richardson by the 
collar of his coat, and with the right drew from 
his pocket a derringer. " What are you going to 
do?" cried Richardson; "don't shoot, I am unarmed!" 
Scarcely were the words uttered before the ball from 
Cora's pistol had penetrated the officer's breast. The 
Italian held his victim up for perhaps a minute, until 
convinced that the wound was fatal, when he let the 
body drop. 

So suddenly fell the blow that the witnesses for a 
moment were paralyzed. Cora turned from his victim, 


but before he had proceeded far he was arrested and 
hurried away to the station-house. Richardson was 
taken to Keith's drug store, corner of Montgomery 
and Clay streets, where he almost immediately ex- 
pired. Meanwhile an immense and fearfully excited 
crowd had gathered in the vicinity, completely block- 
ing the streets for two squares. Cries of "Hang him! 
hang him!" were heard on every side. Several ad- 
dressed the assemblage, urging the immediate execu- 
tion of the murderer, and on putting it to a vote a 
storm of 'ays' and 'noes' followed. Though burning 
with indignation at the dastardly deed, there were 
many in San Francisco to whom arbitrary punish- 
ment was unknown, and to others it was most dis- 
tasteful; besides, Cora had friends to swell the volume 
of 'noes.' All evil-doers were his friends. 

In perfect peace, as if encircled in the arms of his 
mistress, Charles Cora nestled in the bosom of the law. 
While there he was safe, and manifested the utmost 
coolness; but when for his greater safety from the mob 
he was transferred from the station-house to the jail, 
he grew anxious, and glanced nervously behind to see 
if avengers were at his heels. During the evening of 
the day of the murder the excitement continued, and 
the propriety of an immediate and summary execution 
was openly discussed. The bells of the several engine- 
houses were rung, which seemed to presage hanging; 
it was rumored that the Vigilance Committee were in 
session, that rope and beam were ready, and. that an 
attack on the jail would soon be made. The sheriff 
being absent at the time, his deputy, fearful of an at- 
tempt to seize the prisoner, secretly sent him to the 
suburbs of the city, heavily ironed. The sheriff return- 
ing shortly, ordered him brought back to the jail, over 
which he placed a strong guard. At the Oriental 
Hotel Samuel Brannan addressed the people, urging 
the immediate execution of Cora. It was said also 
that he had procured the ringing of the bells, but this 
he denied. He was arrested by the sheriff for dis- 


orderly conduct and inciting a riot. A large crowd 
followed him to the station-house, threatening once 
or twice to rescue him. Arrived at the police office 
he was immediately released on his own recognizance. 
Toward morning the excitement died away, and the 
people dispersed to their homes. Cora was examined 
by the authorities and held for trial. 

It was said that the cause, though not the imme- 
diate occasion, of the shooting of Richardson was 
natural indignation resulting from the offensive de- 
meanor while at the theatre toward Mrs Richardson 
of Belle Cora, a notorious prostitute by whom Cora 
was supported, and who honored him by assuming his 
name. To my mind the dispute speaks little better 
for the wife than for the mistress, as no lady, be the 
circumstances what they might, would quarrel with a 
prostitute at a theatre, and no prostitute would insult 
a lady who gave her no opportunity. 

The feeling awakened by this assassination, follow- 
ing as it did a long list of unpunished outrages, was not 
allayed by another brutal murder committed at the 
Mission a week after, plunder being the incentive. 
There were many calls for a vigilance committee at 
that time; but the very men who six months after- 
ward were driven to this ultimate resort, now made 
their influence felt against such a remedy. In the 
Richardson case they successfully argued that as the 
victim was a prominent federal officer, the murderer 
one of a class of vultures against whom public opinion 
was being aroused, and the crime one attended with 
atrocious coolness, the probabilities were strong that 
the courts would administer justice. 

At this time Mr King wrote vigorously in the 
Bulletin advocating dependence on the law, asserting 
with good cause the implicit confidence universally 
felt in the integrity of Judge Norton and Judge 
Hager, before one of whom the case would probably 
be tried, and expressing his personal hope and belief 
that the day had passed when resort to arbitrary 


measures should be necessary to secure justice in 
San Francisco. Neverthless his language was plain 
enough as to what should be done in case of further 
trifling with justice. 

"Hang Billy Mulligan!" he cries. "That's the 
word ! If Mr Sheriff Scannell does not remove Billy 
Mulligan from his present post as keeper of the 
county jail, and Mulligan lets Cora escape, hang 
Billy Mulligan, and if necessary to get rid of the 
sheriff, hang him — hang the sheriff! Strong measures 
are now required to have justice done in this case of 
Cora. Citizens of San Francisco! what means this 
feeling so prevalent in our city that this dastardly 
assassin will escape the vengeance of the law? Oh 
heavens! what a mortification to every lover of de- 
cency and order, in and out of San Francisco, t6 
think that the sheriff of this county is an ex-keeper 
of a gambling hell ; his deputy, who acts as keeper of 
the county jail, is the notorious Billy Mulligan, and 
a late deputy, Burns, the late capper at a string- 
game table ! Merchants of San Francisco, mechanics, 
bankers, honest men of every calling, hang your 
heads in very shame for the disgrace now resting on 
the city you have built!" 

While deprecating the necessity for it, people began 
to talk of the reorganization of the Vigilance Com- 
mittee; but Mr King was not in favor of it. The 
offices of judges and jailer were filled by the tools of 
cutthroats who unblushingly plied their traffic upon 
the most public thoroughfares in open day, and then 
bet two to one that they would escape punishment. 
Abroad emigration was checked by the prevailing 
idea of villainy and corruption in every avenue of 
society, and at home respectable men felt it a duty 
to their families to quit the country rather than ex- 
pose their children to the vice and iniquity that so 
unblushingly stalked the streets. 

When Richardson was shot by Cora, "Who will be 
the next victim?" people asked. The jailer was the 


special friend and crony of the murderer. What 
a farce! "If the jury that tries Cora is packed, 
hang the sheriff!" exclaims one. "Mark my words," 
says another, "Charles Cora, if left to be tried by 
the legal tribunals, will be let loose upon the com- 
munity to assassinate his third victim." All good 
citizens, and most assuredly all evil-minded ones, 
hoped the time had passed when the necessity of 
vigilance committees existed, yet the former were 
ready to resort to that or any other means which 
should assure them safety, peace, and good govern- 

Several months elapsed before the case of Cora was 
brought to trial; meanwhile a man named McDuffie 
was appointed to the vacant post of United States 
marshal. This person, in connection with a partner 
named Van Read, had accumulated a fortune by con- 
ducting gambling hells in Marysville, at the tables of 
which Cora had served; and when it was found that 
Van Read was actively engaged in efforts to clear Cora, 
the public thought there might be some foundation 
for the assertion that one gambler had murdered the 
marshal to enable another gambler to secure his place. 
Deep indignation, moreover, was felt at finding that 
the influence of the fraternity had extended even 
to Washington, and had seduced Senator Weller to^ 
abuse the confidence of the president of the United. 
States by inducing him to make an appointment 
which thus appeared to further such a conspiracy. 

When Cora was brought to trial it was found 
that the subscriptions of his fellow- gamblers and the 
lavish liberality of his paramour had not only se- 
cured a brilliant array of lawyers, but had hired and 
drilled a number of witnesses to testify that the 
marshal was about to kill the gambler when the 
gambler killed the marshal. James Casey, of whom 
more hereafter, spent money freely to clear Cora. 
And although the district attorney succeeded in 
demonstrating the perjury of some of the witnesses,. 

Pop. Tkib., Vol. II. 3 


and several of the by-standers who had been sum- 
moned testified in the clearest manner that they saw- 
both of Richardson's hands at the instant of the 
shooting hanging by his side empty, some of the jury, 
confused by the pleas of the lawyers, or influenced by 
the solid arguments poured from the prostitute's 
purse, refused to join in the verdict of murder in the 
first degree. Four months were then suffered to 
elapse without indication on the part of the authori- 
ties that another trial was about to be held; and the 
rumor that several of the witnesses for the prosecu- 
tion had been bribed to leave the state, and that the 
next trial would result in the criminal's escape for 
lack of evidence, might perhaps have been verified by 
the result had not succeeding events aroused the 
people to administer justice without the intervention 
of lawyers and without the formal assistance of 
officers under whose manipulations criminals who 
could command money or political influence rarely or 
never suffered the penalties the laws provided. 

James A. McDougall, afterward United States sen- 
ator, was counsel for Cora. To say that he did not 
know his client to be guilty impeaches his intelli- 
gence; to say that knowing it he attempted to clear 
and loosen the bloodhound impeaches the integrity 
of the judicial system under which he practised. 

A month after the occurrence the. excitement which 
had well nigh called into action the old Vigilance 
Committee had died away, and an apparent apathy 
upon the subject seemed to have befallen the public 
mind. But this in reality was not the case. There 
was yet in this community a healthy determined sen- 
timent regarding the public good. If the properly 
constituted authorities would punish crime, that was 
sufficient; if not, crime should not go unpunished. 
"The people of this city," writes Mr King the 12th 
of December, "are not in favor of taking the law 
into their own hands if justice can be done in the 
courts; and no class of men can be found in this com- 


munity more in favor of law and order than the mem- 
bers of the old Vigilance Committee. But if the 
courts were to relapse into the former farcical apol- 
ogies we had, it would require but a few hours to 
again call into action the same body of men, with the 
addition of, as before, the best business men of the 
city as members and co-workers." 

With remarkable vigor and persistency Mr King 
continued the war. Evil-doers were ruthlessly hunted 
down and their misdeeds exposed, until the Bulletin 
editor was more hated and feared than all the emis- 
saries of Satan. His strictures were not always just 
or judicious, but on the whole his influence was most 
beneficial. He dared to do and did w x hat others 
scarcely dared to think. It was no groundless fear, 
this of his friends that he would be shot; but like a 
hero-martyr as he was, James King threw up his life 
at the beginning of the battle. He saw the city 
steeped in corruption, reeking in vice, groaning under 
burdens imposed by gambling officials, a reproach at 
home and a byword abroad. Yet he believed there 
were not wanting the ten men that should save 
it. He determined to break up the iniquitous nest 
of political pimps and murderous demagogues which 
infected the place, and he did it. 

The storm which had been so long brewing at 
length burst with a fury little expected even by those 
who had invoked it. Among other infelicities of the 
day there was no little wrangling over the selection of 
custom-house servants, incident to the appointment 
of a new collector. In the Bulletin of the 9th of May 
1856 was printed an article by a correspondent who 
signed himself "A Purifier," in which the name of 
one Bagley was mentioned as a person unfit for a 
certain coveted position, he having been indicted at 
one time for attempting the life of James Casey, a 
prominent politician, and proprietor of the Sunday 

On the 11th of May a communication appeared in 


Mr Casey's paper, over the signature " Calaban." 
After accusing the Bulletin of inconsistency in con- 
demning certain appointments of the governor and of 
the president, and praising certain others made by the 
collector of the port, the writer says: "Now, Mr 
Editor, the question arises, whence this great and 
monstrous sympathy for Mr Latham? I will tell you. 
Mr King, James King of William, has a brother who 
holds a lucrative position in the custom-house, under 
Mr Latham, and this brother is one of the proprietors 
of that consistent, courageous, independent, and im- 
maculate sheet, the Bulletin; hinc illce lachrymce. 

"Another point to which I wish to call the at- 
tention of your readers is this: the brother I allude 
to was an applicant for the office of United * States 
marshal for California at the same time with Mr 
McDuffie. Is it not possible, ay, even probable, 
that the bitter, unrelenting, and malicious prosecu- 
tion of that gentleman by the editor of the Bulletin 
was instigated by motives of revenge for the defeat 
of his brother, who I say is a large share-holder in 
the Bulletin?" 

Thomas King, though heartily sympathizing with 
his brother and giving him his earnest support, was 
a very different kind of a man. Coarse, illiterate, and 
common in mind and manners, he carried about him 
that same vindictive energy which characterized his 
brother James, with this difference: James King's 
hatred of sinners sprang from a hatred of sin, and 
was sanctified by the noble purpose of cleansing 
society; and this because he loved purity and justice 
and abhorred vice. Thomas King hated on general 
principles. Had Casey been his brother he would 
have hated James King as heartily as he now hated 
Casey. That he was on the right side was owing to 
accident. Without being a very bad man or a very 
good one, he was full of explosive material which, like 
the paper cannon the Chinese make for our Fourth 
of July, was ready when ignited to burst out on its 


weakest side. The expansive force of his passions 
was as likely to drive him downward as upward. 

In the advertising columns of the Herald of Tues- 
day morning the 13th of May was the following card: 

"A communication appeared in the Sunday Times of the 11th instant 
stating that I was an applicant for the office of United States marshal. I 
have called several times to-day at the office of Mr Casey, the proprieter of 
the Times, to get from him the name of the author, which Mr Casey promised 
to make known after first having an interview with him. At the hour ap- 
pointed to-night by Mr Casey I called, but was unable to find him. Until I 
receive the name of the author, I wish simply to say that I never applied nor 
thought of applying for the office of United States marshal. 

" San Francisco, May 12, 1856. Thomas S. King." 

Thus it appears that Thomas King called on Casey 
for the authorship of the article, which Casey refused 
to give. " The writer is an old man," said Casey, "a 
man of peaceable habits, and rather than that he 
should suffer I will be responsible." Very kind of 
Casey. Tuesday morning King met Casey on Mont- 
gomery street, and again demanded the author s name. 

" I will not give it you," said Casey. 

"I will give you till ten o'clock to-morrow; if you 
do not reveal to me his name by that time you shall 
stand the consequences/' said King. 

"My .mind is made up. I do not want ten minutes; 
I will not give it you !" replied Casey. 

Next day, Wednesday, King sought Casey and 
found him, but made no demonstration of hostilities. 
He had promised his brother that he would not at- 
tack him; their weapon must be the pen, and in the 
hand of the reformer blows from it should fall heavier 
than those of a slung-shot. 

Several months previous some of Casey's political 
opponents, of the same quality as himself, who knew 
somewhat of his antecedents, had sent east and ob- 
tained a certified copy of his conviction in New York 
for robbery, and his subsequent imprisonment at Sing 
Sing. This was shrewdly passed over to the common 
enemy, as the opposition well knew that Mr King 


could use it better in their behalf than themselves, 
even if they had dared to publish such a statement 
regarding one of their own class. 

In the Bulletins editorial of May 14th James King 
of William says: "Among the names mentioned by 
'A Purifier' in his communication of Friday last as 
objectionable appointments to the custom-house was 
that of Mr Bagley, who has since called on us, and 
by whose request we have made more particular 
inquiries into the charges made against him. On Mon- 
day we told Mr Bagley that we could not feel justi- 
fied in withdrawing the general charge against him, 
for though in the particular cases mentioned we had 
not been satisfied that he was the party at fault, yet 
the general character we heard was against him. To 
this Mr Bagley urged that our informants were all 
enemies of his, which in one sense of the word is true, 
though they are not the persons he supposes. At 
our last interview with Mr Bagley we told him that 
if he could bring some respectable persons, known to 
us, who would vouch for him and explain away what 
had been told us, we would take pleasure in saying as 
much in our paper. Several such have called on us, 
but whilst they are unanimous in saying that Bagley 
behaves himself very well at present, yet when we 
ask them, for instance, about the fight with Casey, 
they cannot explain it satisfactorily. Our impression 
at the time was that in the Casey fight Bagley was 
the aggressor. It does not matter how bad a man 
Casey had been, or how much benefit it might be to 
the public to have him out of the way, we cannot 
accord to any one citizen the right to kill him, or even 
beat him, without justifiable provocation. The fact 
that Casey has been an inmate of Sing Sing prison in 
New York, is no offence against the laws of this state; 
nor is the fact of his having stuffed himself through 
the ballot-box, as elected to the board of supervisors 
from a district where it is said he was not even a can- 
didate, any justification for Mr Bagley to shoot Casey, 


however richly the latter may deserve to have his 
neck stretched for such fraud on the people." 

This was the last editorial James King ever wrote ; 
these were the words that cost him his life. The next 
day's editorial column of the Bulletin was a blank, 
speaking louder in its white empty silence than even 
when filled with the flaming words of its director. 

The present issue was upon the street about three 
o'clock. The whole fraternity were watching for it, 
as it was generally understood among them what 
would be the result in case of further attack on Casey 
in that journal. Casey read it, and all within him be- 
came incandescent. Stepping quickly over to the 
editorial rooms of the Bulletin, which were then in 
the second story of a building on Merchant street, 
near Montgomery, he found King seated at a table in 
an apartment alone. An open door communicated 
with an adjoining room, where were two persons who 
overheard all that passed. Casey was much excited 
and out of breath. 

"What do you mean by that article?" he de- 

"What article?" asked King. 

"That which says I was formerly an inmate of 
Sing Sing prison." 

"Is not that true?" 

"That is not the question. I don't wish my past 
acts raked up; on that point I am sensitive." 

"Are you done?" asked King. "There's the door: 
go ! never show your face here again !" 

Casey moved toward the door, which was open. 
There he paused a moment and burst forth again : 

"I'll say in my paper what I please!" 

"You have a perfect right to do so," returned King; 
"I shall never notice your paper." 

Striking his breast with his hand, Casey now cried, 
"If necessary I shall defend myself!" 

" Go !" exclaimed King, rising from his seat. 

Casey immediately went down the stairs. 


This was about four o'clock. A few minntes past 
five Mr King left his office as usual for dinner. 
Passing up Merchant street to Montgomery, he 
walked northward along the east side in front of 
Montgomery block to the corner of Montgomery and 
Washington streets, where was situated a famous and 
fashionable drinking-saloon called the Bank Exchange, 
where prize-fighters and politicians used to congre- 
gate. Thence, without either slacking or increasing 
his speed, he started to cross diagonally to the north- 
west corner of the same streets, where then stood a 
one-story building occupied by the Pacific Express 
Company. When nearly across, Casey, who had been 
watching the movements of his enemy from the west 
side of the street, stepped forward on the sidewalk 
which King was approaching, threw off a short cloak 
which concealed a cocked pistol in his hand, and 
crying "Come on!" instantly fired. 

"Oh God! I am shot!" cried King, and staggered 
into the express office. 



Wouldst thou to honor and preferment climb? 
Be bold in mischief, dare some mighty crime. 
On guilt's broad base thy towering fortunes raise, 
For virtue starves on universal praise. 


Casey was about fifteen paces from King when he 
fired. The weapon used was what was known as a 
navy revolver, being larger than the ordinary six- 
shooter. The ball struck the left breast, glanced up- 
ward under the clavicle, and passed out below the 
shoulder-blade. He was not a bungler at butchery. 
It was a good shot for fifteen paces ; and mark, it was 
the left breast that was struck. He was not a common 
dark-lane cutthroat, or a garroting pick-pocket. He 
was a politician and an office-holder, and when he 
wanted money he took it from the public like a gen- 

Assassination under his delicate touch was a moral 
lesson, or as De Quincey would say, a fine art, in 
which design, grouping, light and shade, poetry, and 
sentiment were duly considered. Immediately after 
firing he rested his revolver upon his knee and with 
both hands cocked it. He then took several steps 
toward King, eyed his victim narrowly, as if to satisfy 
himself that the work had been effectually done, then 
turned, let down the hammer of his pistol, picked up 
his cloak, and started for the station-house, to give 
himself up. All he asked now was a fair trial. 

We shall know more of this man, for California owes 
him much ; next to Mr King more than to any one else 



the bringing to a blazing heat the fires of purification. 
If to suffer death for one's country be sweet, to inflict 
fruitful death is surely something. Had Casey and all 
his crew suddenly sainted themselves, and set about 
scraping and whitewashing wickedness, their efforts 
never could have achieved such beneficial results as 
accrued from that single pistol-shot. 

True, if Casey had not fired it probably some one 
else would have done the killing; but that does not 
lessen Casey's merit. He was leader of a cause as 
well as King. He had his instruments, his organ, and 
hundreds waited on his words. Their doctrine was 
like the vulture's ; some creatures are made to eat and 
some to be eaten; the same benign influence originated 
both; let each fulfil its destiny. But to the record. 

On the 4th of September 1851 a convict named 
James Casey was discharged from the state-prison at 
Sing Sing, New York, having completed a term of 
two years of hard labor, to which he was sentenced 
for grand larceny. Coming to California, he dis- 
played so much cunning and skill in political manipu- 
lations that he was soon elevated to a high position in 
one of the corrupt cliques which largely controlled 
both city and state governments. Like his confrere 
Broderick, he was a leader among the roughs; like 
him he joined a fire company, and was elected fore- 
man. He established the Sunday Times newspaper, 
before mentioned, of which he was proprietor and 
nominal editor, though too illiterate to write for the 
press himself. As inspector of election of the sixth 
ward, he easily controlled the election of city and 
county officers, for as the sixth ward went so went 
the city and county. The sixth ward became famous 
under his management; and a desperate fight at a 
primary in the spring of 1855 made Casey himself 
famous. At the autumn election of the same year 
he was returned from the Presidio district to the 
lucrative office of supervisor; though at the time he 
was not a resident of the district, nor was his name 


mentioned on election day as a candidate. Yankee 
Sullivan, however, certified that Casey was duly 
elected, and it must have been true, for the Irish prize- 
fighter was judge of the election, and had a good 
double back-action ballot-box, which no one knew how 
to slide but himself. 

During these years Casey's industry and honesty 
had secured him a fortune of, some say, forty thousand 
dollars, while others deny that he saved anything 
from his spoils. At all events, as he was yet under 
forty he might have turned honest, retired on his 
laurels, and fattened himself, for he was as lean as 
Cassius. In this way he might have kept life within 
his body these many years had not honor pricked him 
on, or rather off, as Falstaff would say. Although 
he had adopted a middle name, represented by the 
letter P, to conceal his identity, he had been obliged to 
acknowledge his criminal career in court one day; but 
this did not in the least weaken his political influence, 
or lessen his eminent usefulness as one of the high 
officials intrusted with the management of the public 

Short of stature, slightly built, with delicate feat- 
ures, bright intelligent blue eyes, and very large brain, 
he possessed altogether an intellectual cast of coun- 
tenance, in marked contrast to that of his brother 
assassin Cora, his friend and elector Sullivan, and his 
astute counsellor McGowan. Cursed with greater 
ability than these, he was well fitted to be their 
leader. Above a high broad forehead the head was 
thinly covered with dark sandy hair, and the thin 
florid face was bordered by short side whiskers. His 
mind was active, his disposition quick and resentful, 
and his temperament nervous -sanguine. His dress 
was that of a gentleman. 

Thief, fireman, ballot-box stuffer, supervisor, editor, 
murderer. And this man had a host of friends. There 
was the right honorable Judge Edward McGowan, 
standing at the time of the shooting in front of the 


Bank Exchange. Now Ned was not the most reliable 
of friends, even when the man he loved was a villain. 
Mr William B. Watkins, who kindly furnished me a 
most interesting and valuable dictation of his experi- 
ences in those days, is of the opinion that it was no 
other than Ned himself who furnished King with the 
certificate of Casey's Sing Sing service. 

But if the archenemy of all the vagabonds was to 
be slain, then Ned was a friend of the slayer; for Ned 
was not conductor of a Sunday-school, nor did he pass 
the plate in church. It was rare fun for Ned to set 
King on Casey, and then Casey on King; and if each 
killed the other, or the hangman secured both, so 
much the better. Scarcely had Wednesday's Bulletin 
appeared upon the street before Ned had purchased a 
copy, and hurrying off to his much maligned Casey 
spread before him the infamous article with sympa- 
thetic eye but buoyant heart. He well knew the 
words to drop which would at that moment act upon 
the nervous, inflammable Casey as coals of fire upon 
gunpowder: the words to cause an explosion pro- 
ductive of happy horror to the ever-lucky ' Ubiqui- 
tous.' It is said that at this brief pregnant interview 
McGowan urged Casey to kill King, and either handed 
him his revolver with which to do the deed or offered 
to lend it to him. 

Pete Wightman, the butcher, was there talking with 
McGowan at the time, and casting significant glances 
along the sidewalk leading from Merchant street. 
James M. Estell, of state -prison contract notoriety, 
who for Mr King's death did not put on mourning, 
was there; likewise Vi Turner, and not far distant 
Webb and Hawes, and many others. 

The killing of King was not Casey's first offence, 
but the culmination of a catalogue of offences. Says 
Mr Farnham of his accomplishments: "He sold nom- 
inations to the highest bidder, taking money from all; 
he furnished judges, shoulder-strikers, and stuffers on 
election days; he procured, for a consideration, the 


passage of fraudulent bills through the board of which 
he was a member." He was pronounced the most ex- 
pert ballot-box stuffer and ticket-shifter in the world. 
Officer after officer he placed in power, and then shared 
with them the spoils. If Casey sat upon a ballot-box, 
it was sure to hatch him out a follower. 

Though a good Catholic, he displayed absolute 
atheism in morality and honesty. He was a most 
worthy member of the society for the suppression of 
political morals; he was a just striker, a wise stuffer, 
a religious whiskey- drinker, and in all his family and 
social relations a warm-hearted and humane villain. 

Thus we see that Casey was a first-class villain; 
indeed a prince. Tricky fingers had woven the thread 
of his destiny. He was not what Californians would 
call mean; he would not descend to petty stealings. 
Among his friends he had the reputation of being 
highly honorable, though revengeful toward his ene- 
mies. He was much more gentlemanly and chivalrous 
than many an honest man. He returned good for good, 
which is more than can be said of some. He had been 
taught from childhood to right his own wrongs. 

How, as one studies society, the laughing light of 
the grotesque appears to view ! How the irony of 
respectability and fashion displays itself in certain 
phases of the public morality and public sentiment 
which we so devoutly worship! There was one who 
was afterward among Casey's judges, a Judas, and a 
far worse man than Casey, a more dangerous man, 
because less manly and more hypocritically subtle, 
around whose neck Casey himself might consistently 
have placed the cord that should strangle him. 

This man was a lawyer by profession, a trickster by 
practice. He was a slippery eel, foremost in society, 
church, and state. The devil is the most devout of 
worshippers. Shortly before his death Mr King had 
berated him soundly for certain of his dark ways, but 
by some means he had managed to get himself placed 


upon the board which was to adjudge Casey, and now 
he was loudest in lamenting the death of the reformer, 
quickest in avenging it, and foremost in collecting 
money for the relief of his family and for erecting a 
monument over his remains, which last mentioned act 
was doubtless one of the pleasantest of his life; and 
for personal reasons he would have the dead man's 
covering heavy and substantial. 

A story is told of this lawyer, who with a San 
Francisco speculator was once in London attempting 
to place some bogus mines, et hoc genus omne, upon 
that market. They quarrelled and went to law. A 
broker, well knowing both persons, happened to be in 
London at the time, and to him the lawyer applied 
for testimony upon the character of his opponent. 

" You know this man?" queried the lawyer of the 
broker, referring to the speculator. 


"You have known him long and intimately?" 

" Yes." 

"Have had business transactions with him, and 
know of his business transactions with others, and of 
his general character?" 

" Yes." 

" Now, Mr Broker, could you not testify for me in 
court that you would not believe him under oath?" 

"O yes," replied the broker, "I could easily do 

"All right," responded the lawyer, in a tone of great 
satisfaction, "I will send a cab for you at eleven 
o'clock to-morrow. Good-day, and many thanks." 

"But, stop a minute!" cried the broker, evidently 
somewhat embarrassed; "once in court and on the 
stand, it is difficult to say what questions may arise. 
Now suppose he should ask me to testify the same of 
you. I should have to do it ! I should have to do it !" 

Clearly, then, there are villains that are hanged 
and villains that are not hanged. A little villainy, 


like a little learning, is a dangerous thing. Often a 
double display of villainy makes a hero of him whom 
half the quantity would hang. Casey in such a mur- 
der deems himself safe enough, safer than if he had 
committed half as heinous an offence, from the fact 
that the very magnitude and boldness of the deed 
raised him up defenders who would have let him go 
to prison, thinking nothing of it, for stealing a horse, 
but in common with others as cunning and far- 
sighted as himself, the uprising of the people in such 
vast vehement earnestness was an event not reckoned 
on. Did not Cora shoot Richardson, and was not his 
case progressing finely? That there were men in the 
ranks of vigilance committees who should have been 
in the committee's cells; that there were thieves who 
turned thief-hunters and loudly shouted, 'Stop thief!' 
that scoundrels fearful of arrest joined the vigilants 
and were apparently most earnest in procuring the 
arrest of scoundrels, there can be no doubt. Many 
were the knees an accusing conscience made to shake 
whenever bells tolled the assembling of the people. 
There were others at that time of California, very re- 
spectable gentleman, who, if not as bad as Casey, were 
none too good to be hanged. The speculator of 
whom I spoke, rich and respectable enough as stock- 
gamblers go, would sacrifice his best friend, his wife, 
his mother, his soul, though that were the least part 
of him, for money. Casey was true to his friends; 
for when asked by his judges if he had taken any 
into his counsel respecting the murder before he did it, 
if any knew the deed was to be done, he replied, "No 
one." Yet afterward, namely, on Wednesday the 
21st of May, Andrew Hepburn swore that Peter 
Wightman, butcher, a friend of Casey's, and Lafay- 
ette Byrne, deputy-sheriff, were on the spot at the 
shooting, and seizing Casey protected him from the 
fury of the people, and led him away to the jail for 
shelter. Lafayette Byrne testified that he was in con- 
versation with one McGrotty just before the murder. 


" There is some shooting to come off," remarked 

"Yes?" said Byrne; "between whom?" 
" King and Casey/' answered McGrotty. 
Robert Somerville testified: 

"I was on the corner of Mongtomery street on Wednesday last, on the 
sidewalk in front of the Bank Exchange. I saw James King of William 
crossing leisurely, with his head down, from the place where I stood toward 
the Metropolitan saloon. I saw Mr Casey step out from behind a wagon 
standing in front of Phil's saloon. He walked quickly, and a little carelessly, 
and in a manner not calculated to arrest the attention of Mr King until 
within fifteen paces of him, when he suddenly stopped, threw off his cloak, 
presented a pistol, and fired at Mr King, at the same time saying something 
which I could not hear. Mr King did not appear to be fully aware of the 
presence of Mr Casey until he received the ball. Mr King then turned his 
face toward me, uttered an exclamation, and walked toward the door of the 
Pacific express office, where he staggered in. Casey moved a few feet side wise 
or forward, turned and picked up his cloak, and walked to the corner of 
Washington street, where he was joined by two men, one of whom was Pete 
Wightman. They walked up Washington street toward the station-house, 
when I saw no more of them. About ten minutes previous to this occurrence 
I was standing in the Bank Exchange. Two men were drinking at the bar. 
One was Pete Wightman. They were suddenly interrupted by a boy named 
John Butts, who hastily entered and whispered to them, when they at once 
dropped their glasses and eagerly turned upon him. 

" ' Who told you so?' in one breath they both exclaimed. 

" ' Casey,' replied the boy. 

" They instantly left the room. I looked after them, and saw Casey stand- 
ing on the outside on Washington street, near the door where they passed out. 
I turned and made a remark to a gentleman that something was wrong. The 
gentleman replied that Casey had been in a moment before and handed Pete 
Wightman a pistol. This induced me to look after them, and upon going 
out I saw Wightman standing in front of the Bulletin office. I passed up 
Clay street, where I saw Casey standing on the corner of Clay and Mont- 
gomery streets. I then turned toward the Bank Exchange and passed Mr 
King, who was conversing with Mr Kingsbury on Duncan's corner. I looked 
back toward Mr King and saw that Pete Wightman had changed his posi- 
tion ; he had approached nearer Mr King, and was standing and apparently 
watching him. A moment after this Mr King left Mr Kingsbury and ap- 
proached me, when I saw Pete Wightman closely following Mr King. Mr 
Casey probably passed on the other side, as he had plenty of time to do so 
leisurely. I saw Wightman after this, and he had hold of Mr Casey. At the 
time these events were taking place the shooting occurred. All the circum- 
stances that I have related occupied only about ten minutes. " 

This concluded Mr Somerville's testimony. From 
the words and manoeuvring described by these wit- 


nesses there is no question but that the premeditated 
deed was known to others. So at all events thought 
the grand jury, who on this same day presented in- 
dictments against James P. Casey, Peter Wightman, 
and Edward McGowan for the murder of James Kinsf 
of William. 

McGowan himself says that on that afternoon he 
had been trying a case before Justice Pyan, which he 
had postponed until the following day. "After my 
client and I had stepped out of court," he writes in 
his narrative, "I saw the Evening Bulletin, containing 
the above remarks with reference to Casey. I had not 
up to this time even heard that Casey had had an 
interview with King. I went from the court -room 
down on to Montgomery street and stopped in the 
neighborhood of the Bulletin office. I saw many per- 
sons gathered in knots about the streets, and every- 
thing indicated to me that a fight was expected. It 
was now about twenty minutes to five o'clock. While 
I was standing on the street a friend informed me 
that Casey wanted to see me at a bar-room kept in 
the rear of the city hall by James Godfrey, Esq. I 
at once went there, and among a great many other 
persons I saw Casey. He and I immediately stepped 
into the alley on which the house is situated, and I 
there learned for the first time what had occurred 
between him and Mr King. He was very cool, but 
apparently very angry. He told me that his determi- 
nation was to attack Mr King, and that he had 
finished the adjustment of his affairs, so that in the 
event of his fall there would be no difficulty about 

The chivalry called the assassination a fight. The 
reporters of the journals and their witnesses on the 
stand all took pains to show that King was armed, and 
that Casey before shooting cried to him, "Draw and 
defend yourself! Are you armed? I am going to 
shoot you!" While awaiting death King assured his 
friends that no such words were spoken; and if they 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 4 


were, all agreed that King had not time to avail him- 
self of any benefit from them before Casey fired. 

Faint from the sudden and dreadful blow which 
struck the life -impelling cord and well nigh lot 
the hesitating spirit free, James King had scarcely 
strength to reach the room of the express company, 
where he sank into a seat. And, indeed, had not some 
gentlemen caught him he would have fallen upon the 
sidewalk. The wound bled profusely, and was very 
painful; but it was the murder of his high purposes 
that now most troubled him. There is something in 
the uncaging of an incarnated soul so painfully ap- 
palling that no man, unless thoroughly brutalized or 
diabolified, unless he were less or more than man, 
would dare to take upon himself the fearful responsi- 
bility of doing. The murderer knows not what he 
does. His crime is beyond the faculties of man to 
appreciate, as it is beyond the power of words to abhor. 
The more we anatomize this atrocity the more its 
hideousness is revealed to us. Who would not rather 
at this juncture be King than Casey? 

A bed was quickly provided for the wounded man, 
and a number of the most skilled surgeons of the city 
were soon in attendance. The wound was dressed, and 
by the aid of morphine the patient was put to sleep. 
About seven o'clock Mrs King arrived and nursed her 
husband through the night. The next day he was re- 
moved to. a room in Montgomery block, where he re- 
mained until he died, which was the sixth day after 
the shooting. Dr Toland testified at Napa, in the 
McGowan case, that there were not less than twenty 
physicians in waiting — surely enough to kill any man 
though he had not first been shot. 

It is needless to say that all was not harmony 
among them. A small-sized surgeon's sponge was in- 
troduced to stanch the hemorrhage, and this was 
retained, contrary to the advice of some, up to the 
morning of the day he died. Says Dr R. Beverly 


Cole, in a highly important narrative of the case which 
he has laid before me: "It was in consequence of the 
retention of the sponge for so long a time, which was 
in conflict with my better judgment, that I on the 
morning of the third day retired from and severed 
my connection with the case, not being sustained in 
my opinions and suggestions by the other physicians 
in attendance. Grave professional suspicion arose as 
to the agency of the additional shock to the nervous 
system produced by the removal of the sponge, and 
subsequent examination of the wound with the finger 
and instruments, in producing the sudden and unex- 
pected termination of the case." Dr Cole is no less 
esteemed as a citizen than respected as a surgeon. 
He was a personal and intimate friend of Mr King, 
and took an active part in the movement which fol- 

It was hard for Mr King to reconcile himself to 
die at this time and in this manner; no one knows 
how hard. He retained his consciousness to the last. 
He was young and strong, and nerved to a contest 
which all the world regarded w T ith interest. His 
whole soul was in the battle. His enemies must now 
triumph; and his well nigh heart-broken wife and 
children must be left to make their way through life 
alone, penniless, and unprotected. During the first 
night of his illness he several times turned to Dr Cole 
and asked if in his judgment there was any hope for 

Alas, no! Hope for him? Yes. Beloved of the 
gods, he was permitted in one short moment of time 
to cast upon the altar of his high and holy purpose 
the whole volume of his young ambition, and achieve 
by his death more than he could hope ever to obtain 
by a long and wearisome life. Blessed privilege ! To 
finish a worthy life-work just begun, by quick and 
glorious death! 

There w T as quite a strange coincidence attending 
the threats made upon Mr King and his death. In 


the course of some severe strictures on gamblers in 
general, and gamblers in office in particular, of whom 
Marshal McDuffie was one, in his editorial of the 
21st of April Mr King says: "The allusion made by 
our correspondent to the reckless character of the 
gambling fraternity in this city, so far from deterring, 
only excites us to renewed efforts to expose them in 
their true colors. The chevaliers d' Industrie, with their 
courage, desperate determination, and the amount of 
available wealth at their disposal, will find that they 
have met with an opponent who cannot be turned 
from his course by all the force that can be brought 
to bear in their behalf. We were this morning told 
that bets have been taken that in thirty days both 
this gambler McDuffie and ourself will have a resting- 
place at the Lone Mountain cemetery, and these bets 
are made by gamblers. We are opposed on principle 
to betting, or we would take the offer as to one of the 
parties mentioned. But this is all fol-de-rol. Do these 
gamblers suppose that brute force can decide such 
questions to the satisfaction of the public?" April has 
thirty days. On the 21st of May, James King of 
William was laid in Lone Mountain. 

Mr King was, in my opinion, unjustly severe upon 
gamblers. In politics and morals he was a pessimist. 
He would have no man in office if he ever had been 
a gambler, without the most convincing proofs of his 
repentance. He would rule every man out of society 
who had ever gambled, and publicly brand him with 
infamy. Now a man need not necessarily be a bad man, 
a dishonest man, a licentious man, a brawler, or even 
an irreligious man, because he is a gambler. Were it 
so, God help California ! for every other man in it is a 
gambler of some sort. Bootblacks and millionaires, 
clergymen, professional men, and women gamble in 
stocks; merchants engage in gambling speculations, 
miners bet their labor against the gold supposed to be 
in the claim. Agriculturists by putting in their crops 
wager that it will rain, otherwise they lose their labor. 


Of course I would not be understood as comparing 
the risks of agriculture, mining, and merchandising 
with the betting of money against money, wherein 
there is always injury on one side and unjust gain on 
the other, wherein there is no gain but a great loss to 
the community; but between dealing in stocks for an 
advance or decline and the quicker and usually fairer 
risks of the gaming-table I see no difference, so far as 
the moral aspect is concerned or the evil results flow- 
ing therefrom. On the one hand I find no fault with 
all this, on the other I have no disposition to defend 
gambling or any other vice. I complain only of the 
inconsistency of the thing. He who in another con- 
demns faro, when fairly dealt, while he himself deals in 
mining-stocks in the ordinary way, is either stupid or 
dishonest. I never placed a dollar on a gaming-table 
in my life. I never entered a club-room where gam- 
bling was practised, nor any private gambling-room. I 
never associated with gamblers, never had a friend who 
was a gambler, and have no sympathy whatever with 
the fraternity. I regard the gambling principle as one 
of unmixed evil. And yet I would be honest with the 
gamblers. I would vilify them not one whit quicker 
than I would vilify woman, the loveliest handiwork 
of the creator, or than I would vilify undefiled religion, 
the holiest and most exalted of sentiments. In an 
analysis of society, I would mingle the pearls and the 
swine together, and if I saw falsity in the former and 
truth in the latter, I would so regard them. This 
wilful blindness in observing ourselves, and slavish 
obedience to all the mandates of form and fashion, I 
regard as among the greatest evils of the day. Why 
not recognize intelligence in an oyster, or speed in a 
snail, or morality in a gambler, if such qualities be 
there ! 

In every occupation there are classes and grades. 
There is as much difference between an honorable 
gambler and a thimble-rigger as between an honest 
auctioneer and a Peter Funk. There are gamblers 


who would no more think of committing an unjust or 
cruel act than would a high-minded clergyman or a 
tender-hearted woman. There are gamblers who are 
magnanimous friends, kind husbands, good fathers, 
and would be useful members of society did not society 
indiscriminately set her heel upon them; nor would 
I blame society in this if she felt so disposed, if society 
would only set her heel on stock-gambling clergymen 
and immaculate matrons, or otherwise manifest some 
degree of consistency in her heel-crushings. 

And now let it be recorded and so handed to pos- 
terity. Honor to James King of William ! Let all 
the people praise him, who did that for California's 
purification and fair fame which no other did, which 
no other dared to do. Let generations upon gen- 
erations praise him who gave his blood to wash the 
stains from their inheritance. Let the hills and valleys 
of this fair Pacific slope, the sea, and the quiet towns 
and busy cities that stand beside it, praise him whose 
voice purified the air, whose pen cleansed the sewers 
of society, and whose example inspired his fellow- 
citizens with courage to do the best and noblest, 
stimulating them to that high endeavor whose fruit 
is peace, civility, and proud prosperity. The useful- 
ness of his life was only exceeded by the rich results 
of his death. His enemies, the enemies of justice, 
morality, and gentle citizenship, slew him; but from 
every drop of his spilled blood there shall spring a 
hundred avengers, which shall be as dragons' teeth in 
the vitals of evil-doers, bringing upon them swift de- 
struction ! 



1st Gent. An ancient land in ancient oracles 

Is called "law-thirsty;" all the struggle there 
Was after order and a perfect rule. 
Pray, where lie such lands now? 

2d Gent. Why, where they lay of old — 
In human souls. 

We have seen on one of the corners most thronged 
of the busiest street in San Francisco, before the 
close of business for the day, one of the most respected 
and useful members of the commonwealth shot, so 
that the sixth day thereafter he died. 

It was not a common murder; it was a sacrifice to 
Satan. The man was offered up for the principles he 
pronounced. He had been a reformer. He was not 
a Messiah; certain persons representative of a class 
had cheated him, and he hated the cheaters and the 
class. He was a good man as the world goes, and his 
championship was for the right. He had failed as a 
banker; and having suffered severely from the sins of 
certain of his fellow-citizens, he flung down the gaunt- 
let and declared a war of extermination. To this end 
he forged that most formidable weapon of an earnest 
and able freeman, a newspaper. As editor of a daily 
journal he cut right and left into the ranks of corrup- 
tion until the enemy, exasperated, rose and with pow- 
der and ball retaliated. 

The people were profoundly moved. Whose turn 
next? each asked himself as he walked to and from 
his business. Gradually had arisen among the indus- 
trious classes a feeling of insecurity concerning life 



and property, which now broke out in open alarm. To 
the government under which they lived the people of 
California were devotedly attached. Around it in the 
minds of some clustered sentiments warmed to enthu- 
siasm by ancestral tales, associations which glowed, 
with as pure a patriotism as ever inspired lovers of 
liberty. Others, strangers, out of all the world's pol- 
itics had chosen the social and political institutions 
then unfolding in these Pacific States of North Amer- 
ica as the fittest under which to live, and had cast in 
their lot accordingly. Both Americans and foreign- 
ers respected and loved the laws under which in Cali- 
fornia they found themselves, and of their time and 
substance contributed liberally and cheerfully for their 
support. In return they asked only to be protected 
from those social carnivora whose profession it was to 
prey upon industry. And this was their right. 

But such protection they nowmere found. Their 
situation w T as most anomalous. Lovers of quiet, law- 
abiders, conscientious in the discharge of duty, as 
free as under fashion and their nature human it was 
possible for man to be, and as strong and determined 
as they were free, they yet groaned under a despotism 
compared with which feudal serfdom was liberty itself. 
Their protectors were their natural enemy, from whom 
they must seek to be protected, and who had fastened 
upon the virtuous portion of the community the fetters 
forged by themselves. They were heavily taxed for 
the benefit and support of the very class for whose 
destruction they paid taxes. The tables of law were 
turned upon the law-makers by the lawless; vice had 
seized the reins of government, and w r as driving the 
people to destruction. Thereupon arose James King 
of William and denounced such doings; and for this 
boldness he was slain. 

The striking of Casey's ball against King's breast 
was like the dropping of a bowlder into a lagoon. A 
sudden splash followed. Then round the immediate 
spot were the surgings and foamings accompanying 


the loosing of human passions ; a little away were the 
weaves of swelling excitement, unbroken as yet by the 
central ebullitions, while still more distant the circling 
agitation spread until the farthest outskirts of the 
country were reached, and every drop of manly blood 
within its borders tingled from the blow. 

It was every honest man who was struck. Villains 
alone were on the striker's side. The good citizen 
knew this; knew it without being told; and rushing 
instinctively to his room for his revolver, he belted it 
on as he ran toward the scene of commotion. Shortly 
after the shooting sounded the Monumental bell, 
silent so long in the people's sacred cause — sounded 
amidst the storm like a resurrection note; and had it 
struck of its own volition its hearers would have 
scarcely manifested surprise. 

From the spot of the shooting to the station-house, 
or old police prison, was less than a block. No sooner 
had Casey fired than his friends closed round him, 
and hurrying him thence locked him up. But this 
sort of thing w^as becoming stale. A repetition in 
this instance of the old form of justice would make 
the very stones cry out. And as if, indeed, the stones 
had turned avengers, men rose as from the ground ; 
w^hole blocks emptied in an instant their contents 
upon the thoroughfares, and before the friendly bolt 
was turned on Casey, not more than three minutes 
after the fatal shot was fired, the streets in that 
vicinity were packed with people. Louder and louder 
pealed the Monumental bell, and from afar the angry 
tide set in, pale rage chasing wonderment from the 
face of each arrival as with muttered curse the tale 
was told him. 

"Where is he?" they cried, becoming tigerish. 
"Hang himl" "Run him up to a lamp-post!" Those 
round the city hall rushed for the police quarters 
with bloody yells of "Hang him!" "Bring him out!" 
"He will get away if left with the officers!" 

All the while the officers had been upon their guard 


lest in the event now happening they should be taken 
at a disadvantage. All doors were doubly bolted and 
the entrances to the police quarters strongly barri- 

Quick to discern in the low deep-toned imprecations 
the quality of the approaching storm, the officers and 
the friends of Casey saw removal to stronger quarters 
essential to the prisoners safety. He must be taken 
to the county jail, on Broadway; but the question 
was how to get him there. After several ineffectual 
attempts a carriage was stationed on Washington 
street at the entrance of Dunbar alley, which leads 
to the police prison, and Casey thrust into it, Marshal 
North sustaining him on one side and Charles P. 
Duane on the other. Officers with drawn weapons 
filled the vehicle; Billy Mulligan and other friends 
mounted the outside before and behind, covering in- 
stantly with their pistols any obstreperous mobite. 
The driver applied the whip; the horses in a few 
plunges cleared the crowd and were away up Kearny 
street and round the corner to the jail, an infuriated 
crowd following some fifty yards behind. 

Gathering round the place, the throng rapidly in- 
creased. A dense mass of enraged humanity came 
streaming thence through every thoroughfare leading 
in that direction. Upon a bluff that rose above the 
street on the opposite, side, and in the space before 
the jail, stood a large body of officers, in the midst of 
whom rose Marshal North, all of whom were active 
in warning the people not to approach. "Hang him!" 
was again the ejaculation. " Arrest the officers!" 
"Good! that's it!" "Let's take the jail!" and like 
exclamations burst from every quarter. 

At this moment some one seemed desirous of ad- 
dressing the people, but so great was the confusion 
that he could not be heard. He attempted to mount 
the bluff, but was beaten back by the officers. George 
W. Frink, then proprietor of the Tehama House — 
and from his own mouth I have it — was standing on 


the jail step at the time. He saw this man, much 
excited, turn from where the officers had stationed 
themselves, cross the street, and mount the balcony 
of a two-story building. There he began again to talk. 

"Who is that?" cried one. 

" That is Thomas King 1" shouted Frink. 

"Stop, or I will arrest you!" exclaimed an officer, 
seizing Frink by the coat-collar. 

" Brother of James King of William!" continued 

Frink, paying no attention to the officer. Mr Frink 
well knew that it would be far easier for him, with 
the angry city on his side, to take in custody the officer 
and all his associates, than for all of them combined 
to arrest him. 

King then continued his harangue, which was mostly 
a recitation of personal wrongs at the hands of the in- 
carcerated. Of the shooting he said: "My opinion is 
that it is a cool, premeditated, and cowardly murder, 
by the hand of a damned Sing Sing convict, and by 
a plan of the gamblers of San Francisco. About an 
hour ago I was in at old Natchez' pistol-gallery, and 
he told me that my brother was to be shot. If he 
knew it, did not the gamblers know it? and was it 
not a premeditated plan? Why did not the officers 
know it and interfere? Gentlemen, we have got to 
take that jail, and to do so we must kill those officers 
unless they give way to us, and we must hang that 
fellow up!" 

Cheers followed the sanguinary oration ; but it was 
not in this wise the insulted city would lend itself to 
revenue. An officer then made a movement to arrest 
Mr King, but Marshal North interfered, telling his 
men to mind nothing the people should say. Finally 
King was persuaded by his friends to enter a carriage 
and leave the ground. 

Next a row of bayonets was seen rounding the 
corner of Dupont street, and the people, supposing 
them borne by their allies, raised a shout, which was 
quickly turned to hisses when they ascertained the 


soldiery to be volunteers in citizens' dress come to 
assist the police in maintaining order. 

At half-past six Mayor Van Ness appeared before 
the jail with uncovered head, requesting to be heard. 
Quiet was given him, when he said: "You are here 
creating an excitement which may lead to occurrences 
this night which w T ill require years to wipe out. You 
are now laboring under great excitement, and I ?„dvise 
you to quietly disperse. I assure you the prisoner is 
safe. Let the law have its course and justice will 
be done." He was answered by shouts of derision. 
"How about Richardson?" "Where is the law in 
Cora's case?" "Down with such justice!" "Let us 
hang him!" 

Half an hour later another squad of citizen-soldiery 
appeared upon the scene, and as they were crowding 
their way to the centre some dirt was thrown at them, 
whereat the officers on the bluff levelled their weap- 
ons at the offenders, but were promptly checked, and 
were told not to fire upon the people without positive 
orders. Time and way were not yet; it was not by 
flinging dirt that San Francisco was to be regener- 
ated. Besides the volunteers, the San Francisco 
Blues and other military companies turned out, and 
recruits continued to arrive, until at ten o'clock three 
hundred men guarded the jail, armed against the 
citizens. Meanwhile groups collected at the spot of 
the assassination, at the Plaza, and in the streets in 
various parts of the city, until half the town by the 
friction of electrical words were stirring the atmos- 
phere in the invocation of cleansing storm. 

Between seven and eight o'clock ten thousand 
persons had collected on Montgomery street, between 
Clay and Washington. On the balconies of the 
houses lining those streets were vehement speakers, 
cheered by the people, making flaming appeals for 
vengeance on the murderer of their champion. At 
length the question was put whether they were ready 
to proceed to action at once. A unanimous "Ay!" 


rose from the vast assemblage. It was then proposed 
that all should disperse, arm themselves, and meet on 
the Plaza at nine o'clock. At the time appointed the 
Plaza and all the avenues approaching it were 
thronged. Officers of the law and military men were 
groaned at and hissed whenever they made their ap- 
pearance. The authorities seemed determined at all 
hazards to keep possession of the prisoner; his escape 
from their hands at this juncture would have been 
death to themselves as well as to him. No organi- 
zation was made that night on the Plaza. At half- 
past eleven a mounted battalion consisting of the 
California Guard, First Light Dragoons, and Na- 
tional Lancers were drawn up on Kearny street, and 
after taking arms and ammunition proceeded to the 
jail on Broadway, and there stood guard during the 

Let us mix with the people and individualize our 
observations a little more. Thomas J. L. Smiley, so 
efficient in the first Committee, and destined to yet 
more important trusts in the second, was closing his 
business for the day, when, hearing the old familiar 
signal, he dropped everything on the instant and 
joined his fellow- citizens on the Plaza. 

James N. Olney, subsequently prominent and most 
efficient in vigilance military matters, had not as yet 
attached himself to any company in this country, 
though he had always been a military man, and had 
raised a company at Oakland, New York. He had 
not yet moved to California when the first Committee 
nourished, and hence was unable to distinguish the 
color of the clouds from experience. Neither had 
he heard anj^thing spoken, in so many words, about 
extra-judicial justice, or the organization of a body 
of men to change the state of things. And yet when 
the Monumental bell struck, directed by his intui- 
tions, he ran for his revolver as naturally, almost as 
involuntarily, as one throws up one's arm to ward off 
a blow at one's head. " I went for my pistol," says 


General Olney in his dictation, "and came down and 
found that many others had done the same thing. 
There was a feeling prevalent that something must be 
done, people hardly knew what. Then there began 
to be gatherings and discussions, and the talk was 
generally that a vigilance committee must be formed. 
I presently heard that there was a room where they 
were gathering for the purpose of forming such a 
committee. I went there and found quite a number 
of people, and the matter was being talked over." 

Oliver B. Crary, ship-captain and merchant, in an 
interesting narrative given my reporter, remarks: 
" Dempster and I got the notification too late to 
attend the first meeting. The next morning at break- 
fast Dempster said, 'We must attend to that thing 
to-day. I will go down to the office and tell Eben 
Hartshorn.' And we went." 

J. D. B. Stillman, after speaking of the flight of 
Casey from the police prison to the jail, and the angry 
demonstrations there indulged in by the people, con- 
tinues: "Then word came and was circulated through 
the crowd that there was to be a meeting at Mont- 
gomery block. A Committee of Safety was being 
organized; and as the crowd were not in condition to 
carry an assault against the jail, filled as it was with 
the sheriff's party, the people gradually dispersed. 
At that time the Vigilance Committee was managed 
as a close corporation; I joined afterward when sev- 
eral thousand were members." 

After introducing Thomas King to the citizens as- 
sembled at the jail, Mr Frink, who had been called by 
the excitement from the dinner-table, returned home to 
the Tehama House. "Jerome Bice," who was living 
there at the time, says Frink's narrative, "and Pro- 
fessor Otto Sutro came to the office and told me there 
was to be a meeting at the Pioneer Hall, on Wash- 
ington street, near Kearny, opposite the Plaza. I 
went up with a number of the hotel guests. There 
we were requested to sign our names for calling a 


Committee of Safety. It was then about eight 
o'clock. We were then instructed to meet at a later 
hour at G. B. Post and Company's warehouse, at 
North Point. We went, and found the second story 
filled with people, all wanting to talk at once. Among 
those who got a word in edgewise were William 
Arrington, William T. Coleman, and Gr. B. Post, who 
was considerably tight. He insisted on going right 
to the jail and taking the men and hanging them; 
and some of the others agreed with him. He said he 
had arms enough to batter the jail down. The result 
was that the meeting broke up without any concert 
of action. On going outside the building we found 
two carts, on each of which was loaded a ship's 
cannon. I called Coleman's attention to this, and 
said if they were left there the roughs would get hold 
of them, and they had better be put into the store- 
house. He agreed, and they were put inside for 
future use." Mr Bluxome designates the meeting as 
"more a mob than anything else." Mr Watkins 
says, " I was down there at the time of the meeting, 
but came back and found that some of the members 
of the old Committee were organizing in the rooms 
over the Bella Union." 

I may as well here state, if indeed such an avowal 
be necessary, that it is my sincere desire and my de- 
termined purpose in this work, as in all my writings, 
to present plain unvarnished truth, stripped of favor 
or prejudice. The best, the noblest, have their faults. 
My candid opinion is that no better or nobler men 
ever lived in any age or country than those who con- 
ducted this movement. I shall not go out of my way 
to pick flaws in their character, or to parade those 
little defects incident to human nature. I wish them 
to stand, as they deserve, high in the estimation of all 
good men throughout all time. I shall present them 
proudly before the world as nature's noblemen. But 
on the other hand I shall not go out of my way to 
cover their faults. I cannot. The charm of history, 


to me, is truth. The moment I suspect myself preju- 
diced on any subject, I take no further pleasure in it. 
This digression I feel necessary in view of Mr Frink's 
statement concerning drinking and its effect upon the 
initial meeting. It was the custom, a most deplorable 
one, among all classes in those days to drink at bar- 
rooms, and elsewhere, when not absolutely thirsty ; to 
drink at irregular intervals, and in no measured quan- 
tities, according to time, place, and state of feeling. 
This kind of drinking was the rule rather than the 
exception, and indulgence affected in no wise a man's 
respectability. Drunkenness was a different matter. 
But from moderation to excess is in some instances an 
almost imperceptible step. He who drinks at all may 
take too much at a time when he can least afford it. 
A merchant, no more than a monte-dealer, may exceed 
his measure of fiery liquid without being affected by 
it. There were many among the members of the 
Vigilance Committee who drank, some to excess; but 
they were by no means an intemperate class. Many 
did not drink at all. Those composing the Executive 
Committee of 1856 could scarcely be called drinking 
men. Nevertheless, whatever the extent of the vice, 
or however the custom may be regarded, it is no part 
of my duty or inclination either to expose or cover it. 
I present the facts. 

James D. Farwell, returning from an absence, found 
"the public feeling very much excited, and it did not 
take long to work it up into the systematic form it 
took. It did not require much time, because our 
minds were made up, and besides we had the example 
of the first Committee. We found the time had come 
to act." 

William T. Coleman appeared upon the Plaza after 
a hasty dinner, taken between six and seven o'clock* 
He found himself among a surging mass of people, 
well nigh wild in their violent demonstrations. As 
he approached a large group on Washington street, 
Arthur Ebbetts, George Ward, and others, mem- 


bers of the Committee of 1851, stepped forward and 

" We were looking for you." 

"For what?" asked Coleman. 

" To organize the Vigilance Committee," they re- 
plied. " Discussion is unnecessary. This state of 
things has been borne long enough. We can endure 
it no longer. We must organize, protect ourselves, 
and save the country, or submit to further disgrace 
and ruin." 

Coleman acquiesced in their sentiments, thanked 
them for the offer of leadership, but declined, saying 
he would assume his share of the risk and responsi- 
bility, but would serve in the ranks only. "I went 
my way," he says in his narrative, which is very 
full and of inestimable value to the annalist of this 
epoch, " comparing notes with people I met here and 
there, doing all I could, endeavoring rather to allay 
excitement. I called on a number of people; and 
wherever I met them, I advised them to be calm, and 
not allow the city to be disgraced by any excitement, 
or any ill-advised expressions even. There was a 
great diversity of opinion, and nothing could be 
gained by rashness; a great deal might be lost, cer- 
tainly would be. Later, meetings were held at differ- 
ent places, and all sorts of propositions put forth. 
Different attempts were made to organize a committee, 
seemingly without any good prospect of success. I 
did not share the excitement to the extent I found 
many of my friends did; excitement did not seem to 
be the remedy, nor needful." 

These the actual thoughts and experiences of the 
men who were foremost in what followed at the 
momentous inception of the scheme of reform cannot 
fail to impress us with the necessity of its formation, 
the spontaneity of its origin, and the earnestness 
and disinterestedness of those upon whom the burden 
and responsibility were destined to fall. From them 
and from what else has been written, the reader may 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 5 


form an approximate idea of what every good, patri- 
otic, and right-minded man then in San Francisco 
did on this night of the 14th of May. That is to say, 
given the bent of the man's mind and its surroundings, 
his action may be easily determined. Casey's pistol- 
shot was the applied match which should release the 
governing power latent in every free people, and whose 
full volume and strength the possessors themselves 
never before suspected. 

When James King, as the representative of those 
most eagerly laboring for public virtue, was shot down 
by a convict whose vicious career had made him a fit 
representative of the thieves and ballot-box stuffers 
who had secured public station, and the community 
saw him surrounded and protected from the anger of 
the by-standers by sympathizing friends among the 
officials, and hurried to the jail as a refuge from 
popular indignation, thousands who had previously 
hesitated felt that the time for action had come, and 
leading men who had argued against popular organ- 
ization realized that the issue was then and there 
forced upon them; that longer delay would only in- 
vite new outrages, if it did not, indeed, result in spon- 
taneous combustion ; and the passions of excitable men 
would be kindled into a blaze which might prove un- 
controllable. The assassination was generally regarded 
as the result of a conspiracy. While a thousand 
homes were stricken with indignant horror, the friends 
of Casey could scarcely restrain their joy. 

The excitement attending the outrage partook more 
of anger than surprise. It had been for some time 
past current opinion that King's assaults on the band 
of conspirators, who had divided nearly all the people's 
power among themselves, would eventually prove suc- 
cessful in accomplishing their downfall. It must be 
so. The central power of a community must be upon 
the side of right and morality; otherwise chaos quickly 
comes. But it was none the less certain that in their 
fall they would drag down him who caused it; that 


maddened by exposure and loss of power some one 
of their number would be found desperate enough to 
silence the voice that spoke their destruction. It was 
not surprise that caused men so suddenly to drop their 
merchandise and abandon their work-benches for the 
gossiping street; it was not solely affection for Mr 
King, though his unspotted integrity, warm heart, 
and high aims had won largely upon their kind re- 
gards; neither was it alone admiration for his daring, 
his perseverance, or his power as a reformer that 
drove the masses with close-set lips and flashing eye 
to spontaneous gatherings. It was the conviction 
that the man they loved, their champion, had been 
stricken down because he was their champion; and if 
they did not now proceed to enforce the law and 
execute justice, they would deserve the inevitable 
consequence, the still greater insecurity of property, 
liberty, and life. 

Why was there not an attack on the jail that night? 
Why was not battle raging and blood flowing on the 
streets immediately? Mark the query, for the cause 
is most significant. It was an old issue, and Califor- 
nians are accustomed to act quickly. Almost instinc- 
tively men on both sides seized their arms. Why did 
they not use them ? The reason is because the people 
had no organization, no leader. The citizens were 
very angry; but they were not so bereft of their 
senses as to turn themselves into a mob and their 
city into a slaughter-house. There were men enough 
among them fit to lead, but not one of them would 
lead a rabble. They must have authorization; God 
and the people must be with them, must direct and 
sanction their acts — then they would fight. But not 
one blow would they strike for passion's sake, for hate, 
or revenge ; not one drop of blood would they shed un- 
hallowed by authority. Cry your reverence for forms 
of law to bigots and simpletons ; here was the mighty 
power of law before which these breakers of formulas 
curbed their fierce passions and bowed with a dutiful 


obedience never so much as felt by mere sticklers for 
forms. Here was the sacred power of nature, of 
man, of morality, of right; and the people, though 
surging upon the angry waves of tempestuous wrongs, 
would not stir to battle without the benediction of the 
inherent and central power. 



Anarchy plus a street- constable; that also is anarchic to me, and other- 
wise than quite lovely. Carlyle. 

Evert organized movement of the people has two 
distinct phases or conditions, an internal and an ex- 
ternal. The visible cause and effect take on invisible 
agency, the invisible being no less real and substantial 
than the visible. The power which regulates does 
not make society, but is made by it; or, more strictly, 
formulated social force is a product rather than an 
agent; and aggregations of men, a priori, are in their 
quality and character determined and governed by 
the properties of the units. The sun beats up moist- 
ure — from the briny ocean clouds distilling fructi- 
fying rains, from stagnant pools miasmatic vapors 
breeding disease and death; so necessity, or progres- 
sional force, acting on society, from the fermenting 
follies of ignorance and superstition distils chaotic 
passion, and from its moral ideal cohesive life and ad- 

Hitherto this, the grandest of all popular exhibi- 
tions, has been seen only upon its surface; the hidden 
and secret springs of its machinery have been kept 
carefully wrapped in mystery. The world knew not 
the noble apostles of this reform. The disease and 
the cure only were visible; the medicine with its 
subtle chemistry was known alone to the physicians. 
Day by day the public knew what was done; but 
how or by whom, it did not know. Into this latter 



category falls this, and the greater part of the imme- 
diately succeeding chapters, which I shall endeavor 
faithfully to present as it came to me fresh from the 
lips of the actors themselves, and from the archives 
of the association. It shall be my aim to carry side 
by side in this narrative both the inner life and the 
outer expression of the movement, so that it may be 
seen in its entirety, so that it may be felt in its con- 
tinuous flow a mighty stream of popular will, its bank 
of vice -bound superstition burst, coursing its way 
through untried fields. 

We have seen the cause, the climax; we are now 
following the remedy. The immediate fear of the 
better-minded was an outbreak of ungovernable pas- 
sion on the part of the people, which would destroy 
all the benefits of the lesson to be taught and carry to 
its absurdest extreme that very doctrine of retaliation 
which it was their chief purpose to disavow. Coleman 
saw this danger from the beginning; so did many of 
the others ; and throughout the whole reform the dif- 
ficulty was not in going forward but in holding back. 
This will be more clearly seen as we proceed. 

It is not necessary for me to particularize all the 
numerous projects for avenging the assassination of 
Mr King immediately after the occurrence. The sen- 
timent of the people at the police prison, at the jail, 
on the street, and at the North Point meeting, has 
already been noticed. In several places about town, 
as the Pioneer Club, the rooms over the old Bella 
Union, a saloon fronting Portsmouth Square, on 
Washington street just above Kearny, on the Plaza, 
at the office of Aaron M. Burns, and elsewhere, 
attempts were made to organize; but this was too 
mighty a matter for cliques or clubs to handle. The 
exigency demanded men, all the men, the strongest 
and best of the town. Following the narratives of 
Frink and Coleman, we left these gentlemen return- 
ing from the meeting at G. B. Post and Company's 
warehouse, where nothing definite had been accom- 


plished. It had been spoken of upon the street that 
a meeting was in session there, as at Pioneer Hall 
and at other places. So merchants and others hastened 
thither to learn what was to be done, and finally after 
no little unfruitful discussion, becoming wearied, they 
dispersed informally. It is one thing for a rabble to 
talk of hanging, or even to do it ; but it is quite a dif- 
ferent matter when the pillars of society contemplate 
removing their support from underneath the social 
structure and turning public judges and executioners. 
There is no wonder that men substantial enough to be 
pillars at all should pause before kicking down what 
they all their lives, they and their fathers and grand- 
fathers, had been holding up as worthy and wor- 

Walking up Washington street from North Point, 
the two citizens continued their conversation as to 
what should be done. There had been much talk of 
reviving the old Vigilance Committee ; the rumor was 
abroad that this was being accomplished; the people 
were prepared, nay exceedingly eager, for such an an- 
nouncement. In view of the absence of any apparently 
more feasible plan, Frink fell back upon the old prop- 
osition, and advised calling a meeting for the next 

"Do you know of any good vacant building that we 
could get?" asked Coleman. 

"Yes," Frink replied; "the hall on Sacramento 
street, near Montgomery, formerly occupied by the 
know-nothing association." 

"The use of that hall might smack of politics, and 
so prejudice our cause with many," remarked Cole- 
man. "There are difficulties enough to meet without 
increasing them unnecessarily." 

" That objection amounts to nothing," said Frink. 
"Political jealousies are swallowed in a surging sea 
of pure -patriotism. We can use that hall tempora- 
rily, and then adjourn to a more fitting place as soon 
as we can find one." 


The measure was agreed upon. Stopping at the 
Bank Exchange, Coleman wrote a call for a meeting. 

" How shall I sign it?" he then asked. 

"Put your own name to it," said Frink, "as you 
are one of 'the Thirteen' of the old Committee." 

"No," replied Coleman; "let it be 'One of the 
Thirteen/ as we disbanded under the name of ' the 
Thirteen.' To this Frink assented. The call then 
read as follows: 


" The members of the Vigilance Committee, in good standing, will please 
meet at No. 105^ Sacramento street, this day, Thursday, 15th instant, at nine 
o'clock a. M. 

"By order of the Committee Of Thirteen." 

Of this notice Coleman made two copies and Frink 
three. The two gentlemen then went to the Alia 
office, where they saw Mr MacCrellish, the proprie- 
tor, and Mr Fargo and Mr Buffam, then on the 
editorial staff. They found these gentlemen much 
concerned as to the proper course for their journal to 
adopt under the present turbulent excitement. 

" Two editorials have been written and torn up," 
said MacCrellish, "and with the third we are not satis- 

" Let us see it," said the visitors. It was produced 
and read to them. 

" That will not do," exclaimed Coleman. "You 
say there was an affray on the street. There was a 
murder committed. Tell the facts as they are." 

Thence the two gentlemen proceeded to the offices 
of the Chronicle,, the Herald, the Courier, and the 
Town Talk respectively, where they were courteously 
received, and insertion of the notice promised in every 
instance, free of charge. Thus flew the hours till past 
midnight. One o'clock in the morning found the two 
men at the door of the hall on Sacramento street 
knocking for admittance. 

"Who's tare?" came in deep Dutch tones from 


"Tell us: is this hall empty, and who is the agent?" 
" Tamt if I know, this time o' night." 
" Never mind," said Coleman, turning to his com- 
panion, "the people will get into it in some way in 
the morning. Let them alone for that." 

Thus closed the night of Wednesday, the 14th of 
May. Early next morning, long before the appointed 
hour, an eager throng pressed round the entrance to 
the place of meeting, which was on the upper floor 
of a three -story building. This hall of the know- 
uothings, which was situated on the south side of 
Sacramento street, between Leidesdorff and Sansomc, 
and in which only one meeting was held, must not be 
confounded with the permanent quarters of the Vigil- 
ance Committee, sometimes called Fort Gunnybags, 
situated on the same side of Sacramento street, below 

It was as Mr Coleman had surmised. The people 
had come and had found a way into the room; what 
was one sleepy Dutchman to wide-awake San Fran- 
cisco? When Arrington, Taylor, Burns, Gillespie, 
Manrow, and others destined to play conspicuous 
parts in the unrehearsed drama arrived, they found 
the hall crowded. Then, as Mr Dempster remarks 
in a most able and eloquent narration, prepared for mo 
with great care, a narration in which the heart-beats 
of the movement seem to pulsate under his pen: 
"Somewhat reluctantly, but none the less resolutely, 
the men who were entitled to lead stepped forward, and 
with administrative energy, but with solemn deliber- 
ation of manner which betokened their appreciation 
of the weight of responsibility assumed, began to 
organize the eager masses, whose fiery enthusiasm 
urged instant action. Their demeanor quickly won 
the trusting confidence of those to whom they were 
personally but little known, and all authority was 
confided to their hands." 

As briefly as possible the preliminaries of organiza- 
tion were discussed — how it should be done, and who 


should take the lead. William T. Coleman, all things 
considered, seemed to them fittest for chief. He was 
a well known merchant, and his name would com- 
mand respect and inspire confidence. Against his 
honor and integrity suspicion had never breathed. 
Able and influential, he could likewise bring to his 
aid his former experience gained in the Committee of 
1851, of which, as we have seen, he was an efficient 

"It is a serious business," said Coleman, as the 
question was presented to him. "It is no child's -play. 
It may prove very serious. We may get through 
quickly, safely; we may so involve ourselves as never 
to get through." 

" The issue is not one of choice but of expediency," 
was the reply. " Shall we have vigilance with order, 
or a mob with anarchy?" 

"On two conditions I will accept the responsibility," 
replied Coleman; "absolute obedience, absolute se- 

It was agreed that these should be the corner-stones 
of the structure. Ten of those present, of whom 
Aaron M. Burns was one, were named to prepare the 
form of an oath of fealty to the association, which 
which would pledge the taker of it as fully and as 
strongly as the power of words could bind; which 
would pledge inviolate secrecy and implicit, unques- 
tioning obedience to an executive committee to be 
appointed; which would pledge property, honor, life, 
soul, all that man has or is in this world or in the 
next. Mr Coleman was the first to subscribe to this 
oath as president and No. 1, with power to organize, 
such being the expressed sense of the meeting. 

The executive body, as a matter of course, was to 
be representative of and chosen by the general body. 
But it was stipulated by Mr Coleman on accepting 
the presidency that he should be allowed to choose 
his first council, subject to the approval of the whole 
Committee. This was a most important measure, as 


by it alone could he secure such support as would in- 
sure unity of purpose and directness of action. There- 
upon he proceeded immediately to call round him such 
men as he could rely on for wisdom and energy. To 
the first half-dozen subscribers he administered the 
oath himself. He then requested these to name others 
from whom he might select. A book was then opened 
and the work of enrolment went on. It was agreed 
for greater safety, for better working results, that the 
organization in all its severalties and units should be 
entirely impersonal; that no names should be used, 
but that each member should employ the numerals 
designating the order of admission in place of his 
name, and that each should be known only by his 
number. This was carried into operation with much 
more completeness in this association than in that of 
1851, where it originated and was practised to some 

Mr Burns was No. 7. William B. Watkins' name 
was among the small numbers. After thus writing 
himself high among the rebels against wickedness he 
was stationed at the foot of the stairs, in company 
with Jerome Rice and others best acquainted with 
the character of the persons and classes applying for 
admission, to permit those only to pass who were of 
good standing in the community. Frink's number 
was 26. He was a little tardy that morning, having 
been up so late the night before. While speaking 
with Mr Rice at the door, Mr Dows, then assistant 
alderman, came up. 

"How is this, Frink? Is it sound? What do you 
think of it?" 

"How do you stand on the question?" asked Frink. 

" I am with the Committee," replied Dows. 

" Then join it," said Frink. 

Mr Farwell found a dense crowd upon the stairs as 
he forced his way in and wrote down his name op- 
posite No. 17. Isaac Bluxome junior subscribed his 
name at 33, and became famous as '33 Secretary,' this 


being the symbol of the same person representing the 
same dread power which in the first Committee was 
known as '67 Secretary.' Mr Smiley was the twen- 
tieth to enroll his name. Dr Cole's number was 252; 
and so on. 

The waves of tumult that had swelled so loudly 
the night before had subsided to a trembling calm. 
There was less noise, fewer words, and those low- 
spoken and curt; but there was none the less deter- 
mination. There was that in the atmosphere, highly 
charged as it was with electrical hate, which warned 
any so disposed that it was better not to defend the 
act of Casey, or manifest in any way disapprobation 
of the proceedings in this vicinity. It was a phe- 
nomenon of not frequent occurrence in the evolutions 
of society, to see a cityful animated as one mind, 
each wrought up by the same spontaneous idea, each 
flinging himself unsolicited into the general cause, and 
then hunting about the streets for some one to lead 
them. The compressed power of society was all ready 
for the discharge, but it lacked direction ; force cannot 
exist without control. 

Admissions were very rapid. By eleven o'clock of 
that day, and all day, and for several succeeding days, 
from morning till night, there and at the rooms to 
which they moved soon after, a long line of eager ap- 
plicants stretching far up the street, and round the 
corner into the cross-street, stood waiting each his 
turn for examination and enrolment. They were not 
impatient, and they did not seem to consider fatigue. 
They were set in their compressed energy, like a deli- 
cate fire-arm, to the discharge of this duty. 

Between this gathering and those of almost equal 
magnitude which were in the habit of besieging the 
post-office upon the arrival of each semi-monthly mail 
steamer, and waiting for hours in the hope of letters 
from home, there was a striking contrast. They were 
the same men, drawn up in similar lines, each await- 
ing his turn — but for how different a purpose ! Love 


and tender memories prompted the one : a godly hate 
the other. Leading as it did to sacrifice, along the 
vigilance line there ran neither laughter, jokes, nor 
jollity, such as accompanied the anticipations of pleas- 
ure which lit up almost every countenance at the 
periodic letter-delivery gatherings. Now every streak 
of humor in their nature was turned to nerve, and 
every nerve to iron. Stubborn and stolid they stood 
before the vigilance quarters; and although the lips 
were commonly compressed, there was that solemn 
stillness of demeanor which betokens a sense of deep 
responsibility. Coupled with resolute determination 
to bear it dutifully, there was that flashing from the 
eye which betokened the flame within, and which no 
Yosemite could extinguish. The occasional remarks 
exchanged by acquaintances were generally uttered 
in the low tones which men employ wlien in the 
vicinity of sorrow or death. Hereafter within the 
ranks of this organization we shall see none of that 
fierce excitement, none of those outcries for vengeance 
that flame out in most associations for the punishment 
of outrage or the resisting of some infringement of 
rights. Each man of them climbing those stairs lead- 
ing to the hall dropped at the entrance his mobbish 
instincts, and as his keen glance encountered the keen 
glances of the examining committee self was sub- 
merged, and his purpose took on a higher, holier form 
than that of passionate revenge. 

Not more than twelve of the Executive Committee 
were chosen at this meeting; and with these the 
president proceeded further to organize. The rooms 
had already been cleared of stragglers, and now the 
gentlemen before named were stationed at the door 
with instructions to admit all good citizens who ex- 
pressed a wish to join the Committee, scrutinizing 
closely, meanwhile, the name and character of all 
applicants. Those who were approved were admitted 
to an ante-room, where the oath was administered. 
After this they passed into another small room, where 


they signed the roll and took their number; they were 
then admitted to the hall, where members were en- 
gaged in grave discussion. 

One of the first questions raised in the hall of the 
general committee was the action which should be 
taken in regard to the attitude assumed by the San 
Francisco Herald toward the movement. 

In its issue of the 15th of May the Herald gives 
but a very short editorial on the subject absorbing all 
interest. I reproduce the whole it: 

"An intense excitement was caused in this city last evening by the affray 
between Mr James P. Casey and Mr James King of William. Motives of 
delicacy needless to explain force us to abstain from commenting on this 
affair; but we could not justify ourselves in refraining from the most earnest 
condemnation of the mob spirit last evening. The editor of this paper sus- 
tained the Vigilance Committee in times past to the peril of his life and for- 
tune ; but at a time when justice is regularly administered, and there exists 
no necessity for such an organization, he cannot help condemning any organ- 
ized infraction of the law. We see that a number of highly respectable mer- 
chants, some of them our warm friends, have called a meeting of the old 
Vigilance Committee for nine o'clock this morning. We wish to be under- 
stood as most unqualifiedly condemning the movement. Much as we admire 
the acts of the Vigilance Committee, we have arrived at the conclusion that 
it can never be revived except under the most extraordinary circumstances, 
and we declare that the time has not yet come. We refrain from expressing 
any opinion as to the affray of yesterday. If Mr Casey be guilty, let him be 
punished. If he be innocent, we will express our conviction to that effect 
though all the world were against us. But let him have a fair trial." 

For a time feeling seemed to run higher against 
the Herald than against Casey. A resolution was 
offered that every one present should discontinue his 
patronage of the Herald, and use his influence with 
his friends to do the same. Mr Labatt, then legal re- 
porter, and a member of the Committee, rose and said : 
" I object to this summary proceeding. Mr Nugent 
is a gentleman, and does not know what is going on 
here. I move that we send for him and let him de- 
fend himself." 

Mr Coleman, learning what was going on, left his 
post, and entering the hall, likewise endeavored to 
dissuade them from their purpose. 


" I am sorry to disagree with my friends so early," 
he remarked. " I see no good that can come of it. 
That the article is no less injudicious on the part of 
the writer than distasteful to us, there can be no 
doubt; yet he has the same right which we claim, to 
his opinion, and to the expression of it in his own 
way. Such action I hold unbecoming us and our 
cause; if we are strong enough it is unnecessary; if 
not, that will not strengthen us." The members 
thought differently, however, and the resolution 

Since the first Vigilance Committee the Herald had 
grown quite partisan in politics and religion. Now 
its friends were in office, its friends were in Nica- 
ragua, its friends were the roughs, the contractors, 
the schemers; yet had it suspected the perdition so 
closely at its heels, it would have sunk its friends 
deeper than Dante's hell before adopting such a 
course. A newspaper, though professedly a leader of 
public opinion, is, it is almost needless to say, the 
most servile of slaves. It leads by watching nar- 
rowly the direction public opinion tends; then cir- 
cling to the front, it shouts, 'Come on!' No journal 
of a general character ever yet wittingly suffered 
martyrdom for a principle. Fanatics may shed ink 
and fight to the death through the medium of the 
press; but public, commercial, or business journals 
are not the stuff martyrs are made of. Furthermore, 
it was but a slight change in the editor's views that 
wrought him all the evil which followed. He had 
heartily espoused the cause of the people in the 
actions of the first Committee, because, as he said, 
there was no help for it; now when the necessity no 
longer exists, as he says, he opposes it — but others 
thought, and, unfortunately for him, enough so 
thought to ruin him, that the necessity did still 

Among those present were many who had sustained 
the Herald from its beginning. It enjoyed the ex- 


elusive patronage of the auctioneers, the most lucra- 
tive in business or political circles. The auctioneers, 
as a class, in wealth, intelligence, and influence stood 
next to the importers, and were much more numerous 
and powerful then than subsequently. The method of 
conducting business at that time was favorable to auc- 
tioneers. Large quantities of goods were thrown into 
the auction-houses, both by shippers from the east and 
by the importers of San Francisco. Although the 
patronage of the auctioners was alone sufficient to 
support a journal, they alone were not sufficiently in- 
fluential to move public opinion. The importers were 
the real princes, and although stigmatized by the 
Herald as mercenary and base as compared with the 
more gentlemanly and chivalrous professions of law, 
prize-fighting, and politics, they were in fact the most 
honest and independent class. By no possibility could 
their motives be construed as selfish or sinister. They 
coveted neither political power nor the office of hang- 
man, "but," said they, "we are tired of seeing our 
people shot down in the streets." 

In the following notice, which appeared in several 
of the evening papers the day of its date, and next 
morning in others, the importers tell the auctioneers 
in so many words to withdraw their patronage from 
the Hei*ald, and the latter are obliged to obey, whether 
it pleases them or not: 

" San Francisco, May 15, 1856. 

"To the Auctioneers of the City of San Francisco: — 

" Gentlemen : As the undersigned, importers, commission merchants, and 
jobbers in this city, will not be subscribers to the San Francisco Herald after 
this date, they respectfully request you to advertise your sales in some other of 
the city papers. 

' ' Flint, Peabody , and Co. ; G. B. Post and Co. ; Rankin and Co. ; J. H. 
Coghill and Co. ; C. A. Gillingham and Co. ; R. E. Brewster and Co. ; Good- 
win and Co. ; Turner, Selden, and Co. ; Bragg, Rollinson, and Co. ; John Saulnier 
and Co. ; A. L. Edwards and Co. ; Shaw and Reed ; French, Walroth ; and Co. ; 
O. R. Wade; E. S. Gross; J. D. Hunt and Co.; D. L. Ross and Co.; Bond 
and Hale; Earl and Co.; Castle Brothers; Arrington and Co.; Sweetzer, 
Hutchings, and Co.; Moses Ellis and Co.; G. S. Gladwin and Co.; R. McKee 
and Co. ; Harold Randall and Co. ; Stanford Brothers ; William T. Coleman and 


Co. ; Stevens, Baker, and Co. ; George T. Peterson and Co. ; Gladwin, Hugg, 
and Co. ; Bosworth, Masten, and Co. ; A. M. Gilman and Co. ; William Langer- 
man and Co.; and two hundred and fifteen others." 

The question then arose what should be done with 
the auctioneers' advertisements. Mr Thomas J. L. 
Smiley, member of the association of auctioneers, 
being present, the matter was referred to him. After 
consulting with his associates, it was determined to 
transfer them in a mass to the Alta, which was done. 
The consequence was that the Herald, which on 
Thursday was the largest paper in the town, on Fri- 
day was the smallest, being obliged through this 
action and the withdrawal of other patronage to re- 
duce its size one half. 

There were but a few lines of it, requiring less than 
half an hour to write ; there was nothing in it so very 
bad, nothing a powerful and magnanimous association 
could not afford to pass unnoticed, and yet that little 
editorial undid the benefits of years of arduous labor, 
and changed forever the lives of those most interested 
in it. It is my opinion that the Herald, as edited and 
published up to this time, was the ablest journal this 
state has ever seen before or since. Mr Nugent, if I 
may judge, was, up to the day of his undoing, the 
deepest, clearest, most logical and eloquent journalistic 
writer ever upon this coast. I say up to this time; 
for before this he believed in himself, afterward he 
did not. He beat the air bravely to make himself and 
others think this was not the fact, yet all the while 
he knew his position to be false, his logic lying, and 
himself a most profound hypocrite. No man writes 
with vigor in opposition to his judgment. 

Hiding his regrets under color of bravado as best 
he may, in the living half of the severed sheet the 
editor thus strikes back on the morning of the 16th: 
"We have some words of explanation to say to our 
readers this morning in regard to the diminished size 
of the San Francisco Herald. It appears that either 
the language or views in a paragraph in the topics of 

Pop. Teib., Vol. II. 6 


yesterday's Herald gave offence to a number of per- 
sons in this city, who immediately signified their dis- 
pleasure by withdrawing their advertisements and 
subscriptions. This is not all. A number of mer- 
chants whose course the paper has offended, by 
thwarting their speculations and otherwise, called 
upon the auctioneers and others doing business with 
the Herald, and by menace forced them to withdraw 
their advertisements. This is not all. A number of 
valorous commercial gentlemen on Front street gath- 
ered together a number of the Heralds of yesterday 
morning, and making a pile of them in the street, 
burned them amid great rejoicings. This is not all. 
Two hundred and twelve persons yesterday withdrew 
their subscriptions from the newspaper. The number 
of other and further evidences of sovereign displeas- 
ure and discontent on the part of the disaffected, we 
have not space to narrate." 

Then this, the wisest and most eloquent of Cali- 
fornia's journalists, grows childish. And no wonder; 
for hitherto puffed by prosperity, he now begins to 
feel his mistake, to feel the firm ground which yes- 
terday he trod so proudly giving way beneath his feet. 
He sees his fatal error and deplores his ruin — to him- 
self only; the surface is still as conceitedly serene as 
ever. Yet withal he grows childish and talks of free- 
dom of speech and liberty of the press, as withered 
spinsters, too rickety to do wrong, talk of the rights 
of woman. ' How long will the stupid public be 
deceived by these meaningless terms! meaningless 
as applied by disputants and wranglers. The press 
may coerce, but it may not be coerced; it may bully, 
and blackguard, and throw mud, but once let the 
public retaliate, and straightway with hands uplifted 
in holy horror it cries, "Oh! oh! the freedom of the 
press! the palladium of our liberties!" Hear him: 
"We now appeal to the citizens of San Francisco and 
of the state whether or not they are willing that all 
freedom of speech should be crushed out in this city. 


We have exercised the vocation of newspaper editor 
in San Francisco for the last six years, and we have 
never yet been controlled. At this late day we fear 
it would be useless for us to attempt to submit to 
dictation. If the sacred position of a public journalist 
is to be degraded by compulsory subservience to the 
behests of a cabal, we confess we have not stomach 
for the office. The Front-street merchants may dam- 
age the business of the Herald, but we beg to assure 
them they cannot control the sentiments of its editor." 
A mediaeval king, gushing under a sense of his divinity, 
could not ring it out more royally. 



Un gouvernement parvenu au point ou il ne peut plus se reformer lui- 
meme, que perdrait-il a etre refondu? ■*, . 

The letter and spirit of the compact, voluntarily 
entered into by each individual thus associating, was 
that a few leading men should undertake the direc- 
tion of the organization, and that they should be im- 
plicitly obeyed by all the other members. The cause 
seemed to demand of its votaries absolute surrender 
of self; a relinquishment of individual rights, of indi- 
vidual liberty, of freedom of mind and body, a fling- 
ing-in of multitudes of little egos to make one great 
ego, greater than St George, and for the extermina- 
tion of a more monstrous dragon. 

Obviously this was necessary. A perfect body has 
brains and limbs, both essential, and neither of which 
can perform the functions of the other. A headless, 
brainless mass of people, acting under impulse alone, 
is a mob ; a hand that will not obey the head without 
stopping to question is practically paralytic, and worse 
than useless. This fact was instantly grasped by two 
thousand citizens, and shortly by six thousand, who, 
to accomplish their purpose, would command or serve, 
it made little difference to them which. 

This body was composed of all classes and condi- 
tions of men. Every nationality, every political and 
religious sentiment, every trade, profession, and occu- 
pation was represented, the only qualifications neces- 
sary for admittance being honesty and respectability. 



There were Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Gen- 
tiles ; believers and unbelievers ; know-nothings, dem- 
ocrats, republicans ; merchants, mechanics, clerks, 
porters, bankers, barkeepers, draymen, stevedores, 
lawyers, doctors, butchers, bootblacks, hotel-keepers, 
and ship-captains. There were Americans and Irish- 
men; Frenchmen, Germans, Italians, and Spaniards; 
Englishmen, Welshmen, Scotchmen, and all the rest 
of the white-skinned races, represented in this anoma- 
lous assemblage. Black men and Chinamen, not yet 
politically bleached, were not regarded as men at all, 
but when the master stood comfortless on duty as a 
common soldier through the night, we may be sure 
the servant was not far distant. 

The streams of applicants eager for enrolment were 
filtered through a committee on qualification, by whom 
such examination into character was made as was 
practicable amidst the haste and occupation of the 
time. Charles P. Duane applied for membership and 
was refused. A certain coroner, of whom it was 
averred that he coffined stones and charged the city 
for burial at the rate allowed for deceased paupers, 
found his way by some means into the Committee, 
but did not remain there long. 

To the duties of organizing, of preparing lists, of 
getting books ready, of receiving suggestions and 
reports, of appointing sub-committees for division of 
work, of enrolling military companies, providing arms 
and ammunition, and inaugurating a system of drill, 
through which discipline enthusiasm might be bridled, 
the first three days were mainly devoted. 

During the first twenty-four hours, as the work of 
registration progressed, it was seen by mid-day that 
the numbers were swelling the little hall of the 
know-nothings to overflowing, and that larger quar- 
ters would be required immediately, some fifteen 
hundred being already enrolled. A committee ap- 
pointed for the purpose, after canvassing the city, 
selected the hall of the Turn-Verein society, situated 


on Bush street, near Stockton, as the place for the 
next meeting. To this hall, toward night, the Com- 
mittee adjourned, to meet again that same evening at 
eight o'clock. 

At this first meeting the committee-men had worked 
very steadily and rapidly. The work thus far accom- 
plished, according to the record, was as follows : The 
meeting of May 15th was called a "Meeting of the 
original Committee of Vigilance," and was held at No, 
10 5Jr Sacramento street. At this meeting William 
T. Coleman was elected president, and James M. 
Taylor, Clancy J. Dempster, and others, vice-presi- 
dents. There were also at the same time chosen a 
treasurer, secretary pro tern., a sergeant-at-arms, an 
executive committee consisting of twenty-six mem- 
bers, an examining committee numbering nine, and 
a police force, twenty-six in number, of which Oscar 
Smith was chief. 

The first business was to provide a suitable room 
for their meetings, and a committee was appointed 
for that purpose. It was determined on this occa- 
sion, that the executive committee should act on all 
matters for the general committee and report at some 
future meeting; that the support of the Committee 
should be withdrawn from the Herald newspaper; 
that the Committee as a body should visit the 
county jail at such times as the executive committee 
might direct, and take thence James P. Casey and 
Charles Cora, give them a fair trial, and administer 
such punishment as justice should demand; Ijjiat a 
bell should be obtained for the use of the Committee ; 
that the executive committee should report to the 
general committee, after careful investigation, the 
names of such persons as the interests of society de- 
manded should leave the state ; that the organization, 
so long as occasion required, should be deemed per- 
manent; that the executive committee should have 
power to strike from the roll any suspicious or ob- 
jectionable member: that the general committee meet 


at their room at 9 o'clock a. m. and 3 o'clock p. m. 
each day, to hear the reports of the several com- 
mittees, and for the transaction of other necessary 
business; that Turn-Verein Hall be used temporarily 
for meetings. Members of the Committee unable to 
serve must be formally excused from serving for a 
given time. 

A subscription list was then opened for the purpose 
of collecting money to defray general expenses, and 
$346 collected. The Committee then took a recess 
until 8 o'clock p. m., at which time progress thus far 
was reported and the meeting adjourned to 9 o'clock 
next day. 

There was much interesting and important detail 
at this evening meeting, the first at Turn-Verein Hall, 
which the records do not show, but which the many 
copious narrations before me amply supply. One 
thing in particular, the organization of the military, 
illustrates the marvellous dexterity with which the 
ancient ponderous and formal methods of transacting 
public affairs were simplified by practical common- 
sense and business tact. 

An efficient military organization was a necessity. 
The sky was belligerent; and even if there was to be 
no fighting, there was plenty of work for fighting men 
to do. Arriving at the hall in good time, the Execu- 
tive found door-keepers in attendance, guards posted, 
and every precaution taken to prevent intrusion or 
annoyance. Entering, they saw that the large room 
was well filled. 

After a short consultation it was determined at 
once to organize the whole association into centuries, 
or military companies of one hundred each, ten com- 
panies to constitute a regiment. Mounting a table, 
Mr Coleman called the meeting to order. After 
briefly explaining what he was about to do, he called 

"Numbers 1 to 100 will please assemble in the 
south-west corner of the room; numbers 101 to 200 


will take the first window; numbers 201 to 300 the 
next window;" and so on until the members present 
were separated into fifteen sets. 

This was accomplished about as rapidly as the presi- 
dent spoke the words. "Each company will now pro- 
ceed to elect its own officers," was the next order. "Que 
les Francais se mettent au centre !" the president next 
called; which practically completed the work. The 
election of officers by the respective companies was to 
be regarded as temporary only, and subject to the ap- 
proval of the Executive Committee. The last order, 
calling all Frenchmen present to the centre of the 
room, was given for this reason: In the assemblage 
was a large French element, many of whom could not 
speak English; and as it would be awkward for such 
to serve under officers whose orders they could not 
understand, it was deemed advisable to bring them 
all together into one company, regardless of numbers. 
The French make good soldiers. Many of those 
present had been well drilled as members of volunteer 
companies, some had been or were officers, and as a 
rule they understood military tactics better than any 
other class. The result proved the wisdom of the 
measure. The French formed their own companies, 
sent up their nominations for officers, and were among 
the most efficient and reliable troops of the Commit- 
tee. If we remember that these fifteen hundred men, 
swelled in their numbers to two thousand during the 
evening, when they rose from their beds that morning 
were most of them strangers to each other, to their 
officers, to the association, that they had come hither 
of their own free-will, moved by interest and instinct, 
and that they were now organized and officered cit- 
izen-soldiery, some of them already drilling for effi- 
cient service, we may well marvel at the ready skill 
displayed by the leaders in this movement. 

The next necessity after thus improvising an army 
was to arm it; and this was done in almost as mirac- 
ulous a manner. It happened that several thousand 


good flintlock muskets, which had cost the govern- 
ment fourteen dollars each, and which had been 
bought for a trifle by George Law, were then lying in 
the warehouse. The use of these the Committee 
hired. Filibustering and aboriginal extinguishments 
were fashionable in those days; but these weapons 
were not just then wanted. Our pious revolutionary 
fathers would have said that providence had provided 
these arms; latter-day scientists, that they were 
evolved to meet the exigencies of the race at this 
stage of its development. The vigilants did not stop 
to discuss how they came there : that they were there 
and they could get them was sufficient for them to 
know. Money was George Law's religion and science. 
He could scarcely have realized a fortune from this 
venture, for when the Committee disbanded, members 
were permitted to keep their guns on payment of one 
dollar and a quarter each, and many of them did so. 
Seventy-five thousand dollars were contributed to 
carry out the measures of the association. Out of 
this the sum of five thousand dollars was paid for the 
use for seventy days of these muskets, which had 
arrived a short time before on the Adelaide. 

Revenue was raised by the voluntary gifts of mem- 
bers and sympathizers. Members were obliged to 
give their time and pay certain dues; they usually 
contributed much more than their dues. Three 
months' neglect of business and four thousand dollars 
in money was what Aaron M. Burns paid for the 
privilege of risking property and life for the general 
benefit. The expenses of the Committee, as may easily 
be imagined, were very large, several hundred thou- 
sand dollars being collected and disbursed in all. As a 
rule citizens gave cheerfully. "Men who did not belong 
to the Committee at all," says Mr Dows, "wealthy 
houses, merchants, bankers, and others, responded 
liberally to the demands made upon them for contri- 
butions. When we came round to make collections 
they would inquire how much was their share, and 


whatever we said they would draw a check for the 
amount. Of course they saw the benefit of it, and, 
though they took no active part in the work of the 
Committee, they gave it their sympathy and support. 
We had a large establishment, a regular hotel to feed 
our people, so to speak, a commissary department, and 
all that, and large expenses for military purposes, de- 
fence, and various other things. A great many who 
did not care to join as members lent their influence; 
in case of emergency they were ready to give their 
assistance." By the 8th of October the association 
was out of debt. 

There was no more disagreeable task than that of 
raising by subscription, after the work was done and 
enthusiasm had cooled, the money to liquidate the 
final indebtedness of the association, which amounted 
to about ninety thousand dollars. Of necessity the 
best men, the most patient, devoted, self-sacrificing 
men, must undertake the deliverance of the association 
from this burden, or it never would be done. Dempster, 
Dows, and Crary were appointed a finance commit- 
tee, and set themselves at work to collect the money. 
Many responded with alacrity, and wrote their names 
opposite large sums. Others were more backward, 
and among them Horace Hawes, who was more free 
with his sympathy than with his money. Hearing that 
the canvassers were after him, the astute Horace kept 
out of their way. Always on the alert, the gentlemen 
of the finance committee suddenly encountered him 
one day as they were down among the lumber men. 

"Ah, Mr Hawes!" began Dows; "glad to see you! 
Have been to your office several times, but had not 
the pleasure of meeting you there. Captain Crary 
holds in his hand a little book in which he earnestly 
desires to see your autograph." 

" Not a dollar will I give to that!" exclaimed Hawes 
as Crary placed the subscription book before him. 

"0 yes you will," said Dows. 

"Not a damned dollar!" replied Hawes. 


"Tut, tut!" exclaimed Dows; "don't swear about 
it. I knew I was a damned fool, but I did not think 
I was a damned liar until now. Let me tell you what 
I said to these gentlemen but a moment ago : ' Out in 
San Mateo County, where Hawes and I have estates, 
they say that he is the meanest man in all those parts, 
but I have always defended him.' Am I then a fool 
or a liar?" 

Horace fumed and swore fearfully. He cursed 
Dows, Dempster, and the Committee; but he finally 
wrote his name down for five hundred dollars. 

The Frenchmen of San Francisco as a body were 
in strong sympathy with the movement, and gave it 
their hearty support, both in time and money. 

Behold, then, the citizens of San Francisco organ- 
ized and armed, and in hostile attitude to the organized 
and armed authorities, which then consisted of the 
military, the militia, and the police. This, together 
with the formation of numerous committees, the plan- 
ning of the campaign, and the construction of all the 
principal machinery essential to the successful working 
of the largest, most powerful, and efficient popular 
tribunal known in history. And all in one day! 

There was also much other work effected. It was 
determined that notice should be given certain persons 
of evil repute to leave the city forthwith, or they 
would be forced hence. The question of wresting 
Casey from the hands of the authorities and trying him 
before a jury of the Committee was fully discussed, 
but no definite action was then decided upon. The 
meeting adjourned at half-past eleven. Thus, behind 
the scenes, closed Thursday, the 1 5th of May, the day 
following the one on which James King of William 
was assassinated. 

Friday morning at an early hour the Executive 
assembled at Turn-Verein Hall and the distribution 
of labor continued. With an army a military com- 
mander was required; and to this important position, 


after due consideration, Charles Doane was appointed 
as marshal and general-in-chief, to receive his orders 
from the president. Doane proved a good and true 
officer, and gave almost universal satisfaction through- 
out the entire campaign. He was a man of almost 
intuitive military perceptions, as we shall see by his 
achievements. Colonel Johns, an experienced artil- 
lery officer, was detailed to organize the artillery under 
Doane, which he successfully accomplished. Colonels 
Ellis, Lippitt, and Olney and others either then or 
soon after were assigned commands. Drilling was 
kept up vigorously. The preparation of camp equi- 
page, and all the paraphernalia of a military campaign, 
commanded early attention. In all these arrange- 
ments, such was the intelligence and enthusiasm of 
the members that soldiers were made of men who 
three days before hardly knew how to hold a gun. 

The division of labor completed, the result was two 
main departments, comprising the working force of 
the Committee; that is to say the entire association, 
as it was all working force, all the formulated power 
of latent law. First and supreme was the executive 
committee, or extra-judicial court, which thought 
and determined, and which was divided into numerous 
sub-committees; and secondly the general committee, 
or body of performance. As war was then the theme, 
the Executive resolved itself into a council, and the 
general committee into an army. Under this mili- 
tary organization the general committee comprised 
four departments: the department of the grand mar- 
shal, the commissary department, the medical depart- 
ment, connected with which was a hospital, and the 
police department. When the numbers had reached 
four thousand, or forty companies, of these were two 
cavalry, three flying artillery, one marine battery, one 
pistol company, and the rest infantry. The police 
companies were in addition to these last divisions. 

The police force of the Committee was organized 
with a chief director and regular policemen. When 


complete it numbered two or three hundred men, some 
of whom were under pay. In their permanent quarters 
on Sacramento street a part of the building was set 
off from the military department. The police had ac- 
cess to all parts of the building, which privilege mem- 
bers of the military had not. Mr Watkins was made 
captain of police, and was assisted by Oscar Smith, 
and others, at first. " The force was not very large," 
says Mr Watkins, " probably not more than ten or 
fifteen men, but we could at any time call any number 
of men to our aid in an emergency." 

Many of the regular city police resigned and joined 
the vigilant police. The city was patrolled night and 
day by foot and horse, and was never so well watched 
before or since. All the military companies except 
the Marion Rifles and the San Francisco Blues, com- 
posed chiefly of sporting men, abandoned their organ- 
izations and joined the Committee, prefixing the word 
'Independent' to their old name, such as Independent 
City Guard and Independent National Guard, thus 
keeping together the old association. 

Throughout the whole period drilling was kept up 
vigorously, and at one time the military force num- 
bered fifty-five hundred fighting men. None of the 
military, officers or men, received any pay. Those of 
the police who received pay were for the most part 
poor men, devoting their entire time to the work, and 
their pay was about the same as that of the regular 
city police. There was no military costume stipulated; 
but it was understood that each, as far as possible, 
was to dress in dark colors, not necessarily black, and 
was to wear a frock-coat and cap. Some companies 
wore belts, some carried cartridge-boxes ; each company 
followed its own inclination in this regard; each com- 
pany had its own drill-room, where its members worked 
night and day to accustom themselves to the use of 
arms, and to acquire skill in military movements. 
They were in deep and solemn earnest, and they 
learned rapidly. Far different was their personnel 


from that ordinarily found in military companies. It 
was no hireling soldiery. 

Although the ranks were composed of men bearing 
brains accustomed to work and to question, no argu- 
ments or discussions were allowed in regard to any 
order. The penalty of disobedience in this or any 
other respect was prompt expulsion from the associa- 
tion. Every commander took great pride in his com- 
pany. Some time after the organization was effected 
Colonel Olney was accustomed to gather the vigilant 
forces in regiments and battalions, and hold evening 
drills at the corner of Battery and Market streets, 
opposite where then stood the Oriental Hotel. There 
were four regiments of infantry, of which Colonel 
Lippitt commanded one, and Pinto another; a bat- 
talion and two squadrons of artillery, a rifle battalion, 
and a pistol battalion, all well organized, officered, 
and drilled. So excellent became their condition 
that in their final parade they could not be distin- 
guished from regulars. 

Dr Cole was surgeon of vigilant company No. 3. Be- 
sides serving professionally he was a good counsellor 
and an efficient member. When the organization was 
completed it was ascertained that there were some fifty 
physicians enrolled in the Committee. An attempt was 
made to organize a medical corps and establish a pro- 
fessional hospital, but the idea was nipped by the usual 
professional bickerings. Here we see how men are 
sometimes made mean and selfish by the very cultiva- 
tion which should ennoble them ; how training in some 
directions narrows and stultifies the mind it should 
make more charitable. The failure of harmonious as- 
sociation on the part of the medical fraternity, how- 
ever, did not prevent the establishing of a hospital 
within the building. A large hall was set aside for 
that purpose, with all the appliances of a hospital, 
devoted to the immediate care of injuries. 

A majority of the executive committee could find 
a verdict, but all decisions and sentences involving 


death or banishment were ineffectual until sustained 
by the board of delegates. If this body confirmed 
the action of the Executive, such confirmation made 
such action final; if not, the question went back to 
the Executive. The board of delegates was appointed 
by the general committee, and was to the executive 
committee what the lower legislative house is to the 
higher, but without the power of legislation. It was 
composed of three from each company, the captain 
being one, and the other two members chosen by the 
company. At one time this body comprised one hun- 
dred and eight members. It was intended, moreover, 
that the board of delegates would act as an advisory 
body in cases where the executive committee did not 
wish to assume the entire responsibility. Difficult 
and serious questions might be brought before them, 
when it would be impracticable to apply to the main 
body for general counsel. 

The leaders, even during the most intense excite- 
ment which at times pervaded every breast, were cool 
enough to reason that their organization, to be effect- 
ive, must be wielded with that singleness of purpose, 
promptness of action, and steadiness of eye upon results 
which characterize the successful handling of abso- 
lute power; while to be permanent and continue sub- 
missive, the masses must at least appear to exercise 
some direct influence in the management, and feel in 
some degree the burden of responsibility. To sub- 
serve these and other ends, the whole body, with the 
exception of the members needed to act as a police 
force and perform minor duties, were organized, as we 
have seen, into an army divided into companies, bat- 
talions, and regiments. 

Thus with profound sagacity we see these organ- 
izers inviting the masses to select by popular vote 
representatives to this board, which would form a 
medium of communication between the despotic 
power conferred upon the Executive and the prompt 
obedience promised by the members of the general 


body. Power to initiate measures was not bestowed 
on them ; but the Executive, solemnly impressed with 
the weight of responsibility which they had assumed, 
and determined that their errors should be on the side 
of mercy rather than the reverse, decreed that neither 
the death penalty nor sentence of banishment should 
be enforced upon any criminal until after the evidence 
in the case had been submitted to the board of dele- 
gates, and the verdict of the Executive confirmed by 
the vote of that body. 

Next to General Doane in the military came Gen- 
eral Olney. The chief of police received his orders 
direct from the executive committee. A civilians' 
committee, of which Aaron M. Burns was chairman, 
was appointed by the executive committee. It was 
the duty of this committee to take charge of all 
prisoners and the duties connected with them. None 
but members of this committee were permitted to 
enter the cell of a prisoner; not even a member of 
the executive committee might do so without special 
action of that body. 

The prominent recorded acts of this same Friday 
were as follows: Jerome Rice was elected sergeant- 
at-arms, with a salary of one hundred and fifty dollars 
a month. He was instructed to provide himself with 
aids, who were to receive no compensation. The con- 
stitution of the Committee of 1851 was unanimously 
adopted, subject to revision by the executive com- 
mittee at their leisure. Committees on communica- 
tions, on arms, on police, and on qualification were 
then appointed. 

A communication was received from the office of 
the Alta California newspaper, that Ira Cole and Bill 
Lewis had notified that journal that unless the author 
of a certain communication was given them they 
would attack the office with a strong force. The mat- 
ter was referred to the police committee, with power 
to act. 

It was further resolved that no city or county offi- 


cial should be admitted to membership; that a copy 
of the constitution should be given the citizens of 
Oakland, in accordance with their request, that they 
might form a committee of vigilance to cooperate 
with the San Francisco Committee. A communica- 
tion was addressed to David Scannell, sheriff of the 
county of San Francisco, to the effect that he would 
be held accountable for the custody of the prisoners 
then in the county jail. Isaac Bluxome junior was 
then unanimously elected a member of the Executive 
Committee, and the record of the meeting was closed 
by the signature of " No. 33, Secretary." 

Early on the morning of Saturday, May 17th, the 
Committee rooms were besieged by a dense throng, 
more eager, if possible, to enroll than had been those 
of the day previous. Five thousand citizens had 
already joined, and as many more would ere this 
have been added to the ranks of the Committee could 
they have been received so fast. 

Meanwhile the old appraiser's store, the property 
of Messrs Truett and Truett, situated on the south 
side of Sacramento street, between Front and Davis, 
old number 41, had been secured by the committee on 
rooms as permanent quarters, and there the association 
remained until its final disbandment, adjoining rooms 
being added as occasion required. Thither on this 
Saturday the Committee moved en masse; but this 
in no wise interfered with the work of organization. 
The Executive were in occupation of their new 
quarters at an early hour, and were in session pretty 
much all the time. 

Fort Gunnybags, under which cognomen these 
rooms became famous, when fully in order presented 
a unique picture. The principal entrance was from 
Sacramento street, but there was a private passage 
from Front street through the store of Atto and 
Jones. At the entrance was a door-keeper's box, 8, 
where the password was taken, and stairs on either 
side led up to the floor above. The first floor was 

Pop. Tkib., Vol. II. 7 



the armory and drill-room — see plan — round the sides 
of which hung arms, flags, artillery harness, and the 
bulletin-boards, on which were posted general orders 
and the notices of the various companies. On the 
north side was a sutler's stand, G, where coffee was 
dispensed to the guard, and on the south side offices 
were partitioned off for the commissary, 3, and other 
departments. As if to impress the beholder with the 
eternity of watchfulness which the vigilance principle 
demanded, an immense emblematic eye glared from 
the south-east corner of the room, and attracted the 
attention of each member as he entered. 

Between the stone-front building, A and B, and the 
three-story brick, C, there was an alley with a stair- 
way leading to the upper stories of the latter build- 
ing; and a stair also led from room C, to the second 
story. The yard was used for horses and artillery, and 
sheds were erected alonof its eastern and southern 
sides. An alley and gate- way, 17, led to Davis street 
on the south-east corner of the court. 

The front part of the second floor, B, was used as 
a guard-room and armory, and for drilling. Here 
each company, except such as occupied armories of 
their own, had a special place assigned its arms, and 
there they were kept when not in use. Banners and 
muster-rolls adorned the walls, and here also -from 
one side of the room a large vigilant eye, over the 
words Nunquam Dormio, forever encircled you. Upon 
a table stood the famous patent ballot-box, with its 
false bottom and sides partially drawn. Five thou- 
sand dollars was offered the Committee for this box; 
but they had better use for it then. This cunningly 
contrived specimen of rascality gave them at least a 
thousand good fighting men 

The executive committee rooms were at first lo- 
cated in the south-east corner of this floor, with the 
military in the room immediately under them. The 
French Legion ordered arms with such energy, rat- 
tling their loose flintlocks, as to cause now and then 





1 ! 

I 2 | 3 

5 ! 

1. Police Office; later 

Maloney's Cell. 

2. Yankee Sullivan's 


3. Brace's Cell. 

4. 5. Cells. 

6. Hetherington's Cell. 

7. Cell. 

8. Judge Terry's CelL 

9. Stairs. 

10. Passage through 

brick wall. 

11. Executive Commit- 

tee's first Room. 

12. Grand Marshal's 

1 13. Sergeant-at-arms* 

14. Stairs. 

15. Planks across pas- 


16. Passage. 

17. Stairs. 

18. Initiating Room. 

19. Police Office. 

20. Executive Commit- 

21. Enrolling Clerk. 

22. Stairs used by Ex. 
Com. only. 

23. Stairs. 

24. WindowwhereCora 
was hanged. 

25. Window where Ca- 
sey was hanged. 

3f 1 H , @2!itt l§.tre©ti; 


a discharge, which sent stray bullets up into the room 
above. One night an ascending ball entered Mr 
Dows' chair, whereupon the Committee concluded to 
remove to room F, on the Front-street side. 

The grand marshal's room, 12, was also on the 
south side of the floor. A passage, 10, had been 
broken through the brick wall into A, where the 
police were quartered and cells had been constructed 
for prisoners. A large cell, 1, in the north-west cor- 
ner was first used as the office of the director of 
police, but subsequently served as a place of confine- 
ment for Mr Maloney. In one of the adjoining cells, 

2, Yankee Sullivan committed suicide, and in another, 

3, Brace was confined until his execution. South of 
the opening in the wall were a few more small cells, 
in one of which, 6, Hetherington was kept. A larger 
apartment, 8, in the south-east corner, with an en- 
trance from the north, was used as Judge Terry's 
place of confinement. 

About the centre of the west wall of this floor a 
platform, 15, was erected across the passageway to 
the rooms of the executive committee, 20. Sim- 
plicity marked this inner sanctuary. There . were sev- 
eral long plain tables, round which the members sat 
during consultations and trials of prisoners. These 
and some cases filled with papers were all that could 
be seen. The president's seat was at the north wall, 
in front of a rack filled with muskets. Before him the 
secretaries, prosecuting attorney, and vice-presidents 
were conveniently seated, while on either side of the 
room, and converging to a point opposite the president, 
were placed two long tables, at which sat the mem- 
bers, and between which was placed the prisoner. 

On this floor were also the quarters of the grand 
marshal, the major-general, brigadier-general, quarter- 
master, and sergeant-at-arms. The stairs from the 
Sacramento-street end of the passage to the second 
floor of this three-story brick building, C, led to initi- 
ating rooms, 18, in the rear. The front part of this 


floor, 21, was partitioned off and occupied by enrolling 

The police office, 19, opened from the armory into 
another building on the west side. This was another 
portion of the same building which contained the 
apartments of the executive committee. Here were 
hanging festoons of handcuffs, the pistols of captured 
criminals, relics of assassins, hats made interesting 
by bullet-holes wreathed in the ropes which hanged 
their sometime owners; beside which were bowie- 
knives, slung-shots, and burglars' tools. 

In the third story of this building, immediately over 
the Executive rooms and the police offices, were the 
armorer's shop and the hospital. In the former were 
benches and tools for eight or ten workmen, and in 
the latter shelves and chests of medicine, and from six 
to twenty cots, varying with the number of patients. 
On the roof, supported by a strong framework, hung 
a large bell, whose terrible taps made the street in- 
stantly to swarm with scoundrel-hunters. A large 
steel triangle was first placed on this roof, which, 
struck with rapidity and force, was heard to distant 
parts of the city. But when sounds were wanted 
which could call according to responsive heart-beats, 
the triangle, like the classic Monumental bell, was laid 
aside for more ponderous summons. Likewise on the 
roof of the corner building, E, were two cannon, placed 
so as to command the streets either way, and one on 
the stone-front roof. Also at every port-hole in Fort 
Gunnybags was a field-piece. 

In front of these premises, extending from the walls 
of the building on either side across the sidewalks, 
out into the middle of the street, and along the entire 
stone front were piled to a height of about eight feet 
gunny bags filled with sand, which were to serve as 
protection in case of an attack. Gunny bags were 
then much used by packers and shippers of miners' 
supplies, as an outer covering and protection to origi- 
nal packages or cotton-sacked goods. Being the most 




available article for the purpose, immediately the idea 
seized some member it was acted on, and thereafter 
they sat behind their fort of gunny bags. As the 
texture of these sacks was coarse, it was necessary to 
bag the sand wet and to water the fort frequently, lest 
the sand should run away. Indeed the fort required 
more water than the members, both being constitu- 
tionally thirsty, more especially before the executive 
committee ordered that no intoxicating liquors should 
be used on the premises. 

The building of Fort Gunnybags was in this wise: 
Shortly after the arrest of a noted offender it was re- 
ported that five hundred men of chivalry, Texans and 
kindred sympathizing spirits of the interior, had 
banded, and had bound themselves by a hot and san- 
guinary oath to liberate him or be made mince-meat 
in the attempt. Word was received from Sacramento 
one day that they were coming down that night. It 
was further rumored that the opposition had secured 
two pieces of artillery, which they proposed to plant 
on Commercial street, and as soon as the Texans 
landed to open fire upon the building. One told them 
this who pretended friendship until he had obtained 
their secret. The Executive called Colonel Olney and 
others, and communicating to' them the fact, asked 
what preparations should be made in consequence. 

After due consultation it was determined that it 
was necessary to fortify the front, as there was a large 
open space before the premises extending nearly to 
Commercial street. The building was sustained by 
small granite columns, a few cannon-balls striking 
which, down would come the whole structure. It was 
deemed a wise precautionary measure to protect the 
front by a breastwork, and to use for that purpose as 
the safest and most available defence bags of sand. 
This, Olney was directed to have done. 

Going immediately to Curtis, Olney laid the plan 
before him, and asked him to take command of the 
working party and throw up the defences. Curtis 



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'-f araflJiiDDD : 

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1. Plaza. 

2. City Hall and Police Station. 

3. Bulletin Publishing Office. 

4. Portsmouth House. 

5. Bank Exchange. 

6. Montgomery Block. 

7. Pacific Express Company. 

8. Bulletin Editorial Rooms. 

9. Monumental Engine House. 

10. Dunbar Alley. 

11. County Jail. 

12. Tehama House. 

13. Old No. 105| Sacramento Street. 

14. Leidesdorff Street. 

15. Fort Gunnybags — Vigilance 


16. Turn Verein Hall. 

17. Alta Office. 

18. Herald Office. 

19. Bella Union. 

20. Palmer, Cook & Company's Bank. 

21. Blues Armory. 

22. California Exchange. 

23. Pennsylvania Engine-house. 


assented. He went about it at once in a most prac- 
tical manner, proposing to make short work of it. 
First lie bought twelve bales of gunny bags, borrowed 
ten dozen shovels, engaged all the drays and trucks 
he could secure, and sent all to the sand-hills in Sec- 
ond street, the teamsters to await instructions there. 
This was all kept strictly private. 

Olney then went into the main hall and called out: 
"Two hundred men with side-arms wanted for special 
duty!" Twice two hundred promptly responded to 
the call, thinking only of Terry s, Howards, jails, 
armories, and the like, not forgetting the five hundred 
Texans. In making his selection from them a close 
observer might have noticed that Curtis picked men 
of bone and sinew, regardless of skill and bravery. 

It was now about eight o'clock; and as in goodly 
array they marched the streets in the dusky twilight 
with the gallant Curtis their leader, surely, they 
thought, this is some high emprise upon which we 
are bent to-night. Out Front street to Market and 
from Market to Second they went until they were 
brought face to face with huge hillocks of blank solid 
sand. What foe was this, my countrymen ! Horsemen 
were there, but of the base ignoble kind; implements, 
but dirt -digging, paddyish, not of blood-letting ten- 
dency. Carts! bags! shovels! What had all this to 
do with war! Where were the five hundred Texans! 
Where were those panting to hash or to be hashed! 
Gradually upon their dazed, distorted minds the truth 
in its overwhelming reality dawned. Was it the in- 
tention of those awful intelligences that sit behind 
appearances that they should now fall to and form 
the connecting link between the shovels, sand, bags, 
and carts there before them? And as a realizing sense 
of their situation fell upon them they lifted up their 
two hundred voices with one accord and cried "Sold! 
sold! sold!" Nevertheless, to work they went with a 
will, and soon the building was fortified. 

Colonel Lippitt, a West Point graduate, was put 


in command of the fortifications, and the guns were 
brought and mounted. In the rear another similar 
wall of defence was built, and the roof was overspread 
with riflemen, and two small cannon were placed upon 
it. The organized band of the interior was by no 
means a myth. The Texans came that night, though 
there were not five hundred of them. They were 
met by their friends. Gladly, in their elegant and 
chivalric phraseology, would they have minced and 
hashed the vigilants and have set free their delect- 
able judicial friend; but when they saw how warm 
a reception had been prepared for them, they thrust 
their hands deep in their pockets, walked away, 
whistled, and took a drink. Brave fellows! and ex- 
ceeding wise withal. 

There was a stable at head-quarters where horses 
were kept constantly saddled and bridled, as in feudal 
times, ready for the immediate use of belted knights 
who slept in their harness. The stable consisted of a 
large yard in the rear of the buildings, having on one 
side a long shed, on the other out-houses. Cavalry and 
artillery horses were there kept, as well as those of 
the mounted patrol and a dozen or so for general use. 
Most of the artillery was kept in this yard, but there 
were a few pieces in the interior of the building. The 
two six-pounders belonging to the California Guard 
were kept in the armory brightly burnished. Captains 
of clipper-ships furnished the Committee with many 
pieces of artillery. Almost every vessel loaned Fort 
Vigilance a four-pounder while in port. As many as 
twenty-five pieces of this kind were sometimes in and 
around head-quarters. Carriages for them were im- 
provised by taking the fore wheels of strong wagons and 
lashing the guns to them. The cavalry was composed 
in a great measure of the draymen of the city. At an 
alarm they would leave their loaded carts standing in 
the middle of the street, strip the harness from their 
horses, and mounting would dash off and take their 
places in the line. Next to these were wealthy gen- 


tlemen who kept horses, so that here were cart-men 
and carriage-men side by side in fighting array. 

" I have seen at one time," said Mr Smiley, "not 
less than five men, members of the Vigilance Com- 
mittee, with muskets in their hands taking their turn 
at guard, not one of whom was worth less than half 
a million dollars." And half a million then was equiv- 
alent to Hve millions now. What distorted ideas we 
all have of men and money ! It was very creditable 
in half-a-million men to stand on guard day and night, 
rain or shine, to obey orders and be good citizens ; but 
was it not much more creditable for half- hundred- 
dollar men to do so? Why should not a rich man 
have patriotism and exercise self-denial when his in- 
terest in the welfare of the state is so much greater, 
pecuniarily, than that of the poor man, whose services 
he seems to expect for nothing? There being neither 
honor nor profit in acting as common soldier in the 
vigilance ranks, Mr Smiley's remark would have been 
much stronger had he said, "I have seen at one time 
five men not having a pecuniary interest in San Fran- 
cisco to the extent of over fifty cents, on guard, de- 
fending the right from pure love of right." 

In July the Vigilance Committee consisted of 1 
battalion, 4 companies of artillery, 1 squadron, 2 
troops of dragoons, 4 regiments, and 32 companies of 
infantry — in all 6000 men under arms, well equipped, 
and supplied with all the necessary munitions of war. 

When the rooms were thrown open for public ex- 
hibition the 21st of August, there were then 1900 
muskets, 250 rifles, 300 dragoon sabres, 78 Roman 
sabres, 55 artillery swords, 4 brass six -pounders, 2 
iron nine-pounders mounted on ship-carriages, 5 two 
and four pounders, and harness for some 30 horses. 
Besides these there was a French portable barricade, 
a framework on wheels, which could likewise be trans- 
formed into a scaling-ladder or litter, and with a 
bullet-proof mattress. 

During the entire regime it was wonderful the 



promptitude with which the alarm signal was re- 
sponded to. As a rule, within fifteen minutes from 
the time the bell was tapped, on any occasion, seven 
tenths of the entire vigilant forces would be in their 
places armed ready for battle. A military guard of 
three or four hundred was required to be on duty in 
various parts constantly, besides a police force in 
readiness at head-quarters. In every direction were 
pickets and spies. The password was often changed 
every day, and sometimes twice a day. 

A new and significant seal was procured, an impres- 
sion from which was thereafter attached to all docu- 
ments emanating from the executive committee. It 
was about two and a half inches in diameter. In the 
centre, between the words "Committee of Vigilance, 
San Francisco," was an open eye, from which rays 
proceeded, and round the whole was inscribed, "Fiat 
Justitia, Euat Ccelum. No creed. No party. No 
Sectional Issues." 

The principal features of Saturday's work, as shown 
by the record, is as follows : First was chosen a com- 
mittee of five for deliberation on matters of grave 



importance, with power to add to their number. A 
communication was received from the German mem- 
bers of the association requesting that one of their 
countrymen should be appointed to represent them in 
the executive committee. In reply to which it was 
determined that the Germans should be allowed to 
submit five names, from which the Committee would 
select one. Major Johnson was officially notified that 
the Committee would insist that their guard have the 
same privilege as the guard of the authorities. Charles 
Doane was confirmed in his election as chief marshal, 
and was given power to appoint aids. James Ludlow 
was made assistant secretary, Isaac Bluxome junior 
being secretary. It was resolved that eleven should 
constitute a quorum of the executive committee. 

The marshal was ordered to report as soon as pos- 
sible the number and efficiency of his men. E. H. 
Parker agreed to loan the Committee some muskets 
and furnish a quantity of ball-cartridges. Each di- 
vision was directed to appoint a sub-committee to 
examine its own members and report to the executive 
committee any who might be regarded as doubtful. 
The marshal was requested to report how soon he 
would be ready with his forces to take the jail. 

At this meeting it was directed that the grand 
marshal should transmit the following written mes- 
sage to the sheriff: 

" To David Scannell, Esq.: — 

"Dear Sib, : The Committee of Vigilance of this county have understood 
that the prisoners in the county jail were armed. We demand of you that 
such prisoners as are armed shall be immediately disarmed of their weapons, 
and in case of collision with our body we warn you and those whom you have 
called around you to beware of the just vengeance of the people, who will 
insist on their rights. We insist that our guard search prisoners who are said 
to be armed. 

"By order of the Committee. No. 33, Secretary.'''' 

The constitution of 1851 was revised to read as fol- 
lows, and was then adopted as the constitution of 1 856 : 

' ' Whereas, It has become apparent to the citizens of San Francisco that 
there is no security for life and property, either under the regulations of so- 


ciety as it at present exists or under the laws as now administered, and that 
by the association together of bad characters our ballot-boxes have been 
stolen and others substituted or stuffed with votes that were never polled, 
and thereby our elections nullified, our dearest rights violated, and no other 
method left by which the will of the people can be manifested : therefore, 
the citizens whose names are hereunto attached do unite themselves into an 
association for the maintenance of the peace and good order of society, the 
prevention and punishment of crime, the preservation of our lives and prop- 
erty, and to insure that our ballot-boxes shall hereafter express the actual and 
unforged will of the majority of our citizens; and we do bind ourselves each 
unto the other by a solemn oath to do and perform every just and lawful act 
for the maintenance of law and order, and to sustain the law when faithfully 
and properly administered. But we are determined that no thief, burglar, 
incendiary, assassin, ballot-box stuffer, or other disturber of the peace, shall 
escape punishment, either by the quibbles of the law, the insecurity of prisons, 
the carelessness or corruption of the police, or a laxity of those who pretend 
to administer justice; and to secure the objects of this association we do 
hereby agree : 

"First. That the name and style of this association shall be the Committee 
of Vigilance, for the protection of the ballot-box, the lives, liberty, and prop- 
erty of the citizens and residents of San Francisco. Second. That there shall 
be rooms for the deliberation of the Committee, at which there shall be some 
one or more members of the Committee, appointed for that purpose, in constant 
attendance at all hours of the day and night, to receive the report of any mem- 
ber of the association, or of any person or persons whatsoever, of any act of 
violence done to the person or property of any citizen of San Francisco ; and 
if, in the judgment of the member or members of the Committee present, it be 
such an act as justifies or demands the interference of this Committee, either 
in aiding in the execution of the laws or the prompt and summary punish- 
ment of the offender, the Committee shall be at once assembled for the purpose 
of taking such action as a majority of them, when assembled, shall determine 
upon. Third. That it shall be the duty of any member or members of the 
Committee on duty at the Committee rooms, whenever a general assembly 
of the Committee is deemed necessary, to cause a call to be made in such a 
manner as shall be found advisable. Fourth. That whereas an executive com- 
mittee have been chosen by the general committee, it shall be the duty of the 
said executive committee to deliberate and act upon all important questions, 
and decide upon the measures necessary to carry out the objects for which 
this association was formed. Fifth. That whereas this Committee has been 
formed into subdivisions, the executive committee shall have power to call, 
when they shall so determine, upon a board of delegates, to consist of three 
representatives from each division, to confer with them upon matters of vital 
importance. Sixth. That all matters of detail and government shall be em- 
braced in a code of by-laws. Seventh. That the action of this body shall be 
entirely and vigorously free from all consideration of, or participation in the 
merits or demerits, or opinion or acts, of any or all sects, political parties, or 
sectional divisions in the community ; and every class of orderly citizens, of 
whatever sect, party, or nativity, may become members of this body. No dis- 


cussion of political, sectional, or sectarian subjects shall be allowed in the rooms 
of the association. Eighth. That no person accused before this body shall be 
punished until after fair and impartial trial and conviction. Ninth. That 
whenever the general committee have assembled for deliberation the decision 
of the majority upon any question that may be submitted to them by the 
executive committee shall be binding upon the whole ; provided^ nevertheless, 
that when the delegates are deliberating on the punishment to be awarded to 
any criminals, no vote inflicting the death penalty shall be binding unless 
passed by two thirds of those present and entitled to vote. Tenth. That all 
good citizens shall be eligible for admission to this body, under such regulations 
as may be prescribed by a committee on qualifications; and if any unworthy 
persons gain admission they shall on due proof be expelled. And believing 
ourselves to be executors of the will of the majority of our citizens, we do 
pledge our sacred honor to defend and sustain each other in carrying out the 
determined action of this Committee at the hazard of our lives and fortunes. " 

The Vigilance Committee, when fairly organized, 
stood as follows, though subject to constant change : 

William T. Coleman, President. 

Thos J. L. Smiley, 1st Vice-President. 

J. D. Farwell, 2d Vice-President. 

Isaac Bluxome, junior, Secretary. 

Charles Ludlow, Assistant Secretary. 

James Dows, Treasurer. 

William Meyer, Assistant Treasurer. 

Charles Doane, Marshal. 

Jerome Rice, Sergeant-at-Arms, 

James F. Curtis, First Chief of Police. 

M. J. Burke, Second Chief of Police. 

R. Beverly Cole, Surgeon in Chief. 
Executive Committee: William T. Coleman, Thomas J. L. Smiley, J. D. 
Farwell, Isaac Bluxome, Jr, James Dows, Wm Meyer, Chas Doane, R. M. 
Jessup, Martin J. Burke, Clancey J. Dempster, Wm H. Tillinghast, Wm 
Arrington, Eugene Delessert, J. W. Brittan, Miers F. Truett, A. L. Tubbs, 
C. V. Gillespie, H. S. Brown, E. Gorham, Geo. R. Ward, Calvin Nutting, 
N. P. Hutchings, Wm T. Reynolds, Wm H. Rogers, E. B. Goddard, Jules 
David, Hy. M. Hale, A. M. Burns, J. P. Manrow, W. T. Thompson, J. S. 
Emery, L. Bossange, J. K. Osgood, J. H. Fish, Chas L. Case, F. W. Page, 
Emile Grisar, O. B. Crary, N. 0. Arrington, Samuel T. Thompson, H. J. 

Pop. Trie., II. 8 



This forced the stubborn'st, for the cause, 
To cross the cudgels to the laws, 
That what by breaking them't had gain'd 
By their support might be maintain 'd. 

Butler, Hudibraa. 

The "personnel of the Executive Committee of 185G 
was quite different from that of the Executive Com- 
mittee of 1851. In the former was more of character 
and less of circumstance. Society was older, more 
thoughtful, more sedate, and responsible in 185G than 
in 1851, and the leaders of the popular movements of 
their respective epochs partook of the qualities of the 
times. The men of 1851 were in the main earnest 
and efficient, and they did exceedingly well. All honor 
to them. It was under their impetuous action that 
the vigilant idea was more fully awakened. Like 
drowning men struggling to save themselves, they 
hardly knew what they did; but as is often the case 
in sudden and impromptu efforts, they adopted a 
course of action the best possible under the circum- 
stances. Examining their conduct critically, few are 
the improvements we could suggest, that is if we 
fully place ourselves in their position. Even at this 
day, with all our experience, we could teach them little. 
They were obliged to act quickly. They had neither 
the time nor the inclination to formulate their con- 
ceptions, consider chances, ponder plans, and work 
to a given rule. Deliberation was not the spirit of 
the day. 



And yet the leaders of 1851 were fluttering adven- 
turers compared with the broader-minded and more 
deliberative inquisitors of 1856. So quickly were 
turned the somersets of society in those days that 
neither thought, purpose, nor population were in the 
one crisis as in the other. California was no longer 
beyond the limits of civilization, nor was San Fran- 
cisco only an embarcadero for miners and traders. To 
him whose eye was single, nature smiled upon these 
shores. To him whose heart was pure, God was there. 
Thousands who had fled the country and its profane 
doings as from a pestilence had returned with their 
families, satisfied that for them there was no other 
spot on earth on which contentedly they might live. 
To them the whole atmosphere of ambition and inten- 
tion had changed. Men saw with different eyes; and 
it was little wonder that objects both hideous and 
beautiful were now discernible to which hitherto their 
eyes had been blind. 

We cannot do better for a moment than to place 
side by side the presidents of the two committees, 
taking the first president of the first Committee and 
the only president of the second Committee and 
scrutinizing somewhat their salient characteristics. 
Nothing can illustrate more clearly the distinguishing 
features of the two movements, the two presidents 
being strikingly representative each of his associates 
and the general temper of the times. 

Sam Brannan, men called the first, and sometimes 
plain Sam. There is no little significance in the name 
one goes by among one's associates. It implies dig- 
nity or the lack of it; morality or the lack of it; piety, 
temperance, hearty fellowship, wit, learning, modesty, 
refinement, or the absence of these qualities. In this 
instance to have employed the term Mister, or Samuel, 
or Reverend, or Esquire, would have seemed as mal- 
apropos in a friend or companion as to have applied 
the same expressions of courtesy or respect to a circus 


clown or to a watch -clog. Though for a time one of 
the most prominent men in California, one of the 
wealthiest — I do not say one of the most highly 
esteemed — the sobriquet Sam was used instinctively, 
as the synonyme of the individual. It was only once, 
within my recollection, when he assumed the role of 
banker, that these titles of respectability were affected, 
and then the sensitive public seemed shy of him, and 
the project was abandoned. Sam Brannan, banker, 
would have been a tangible reality, however hirsute or 
churlish he may have been, but Samuel Brannan, 
Esquire, banker, was a social myth, a far-away in- 
corporeal thing. 

When Sam was a saint appellations of reverence 
were not out of place; but saturated with the avarice 
and strong drink incident to California, since his 
arrival here Sam has been no saint. It is true he 
followed preaching, as a Mormon leader, priest, or 
prophet, for a short time after landing at San Fran- 
cisco ; but when the enlightened brethren declined the 
further payment of tithes he cursed them, told them 
to go to hell, while he went — his way. Monogamous 
or polygamous doctrines never troubled him much, 
judging from his flaming devotion to the tender pas- 
sion; in fact, in the not wholly pleasurable scrutiny of 
his life and character my labors have forced upon me, 
judging from the record since 1848 and from prac- 
tices notorious for more than a quarter of a century, 
I have often wondered what Sam really did preach 
when he was a Mormon elder. 

But as Casey said of his Sing Sing experiences, 
Sam's early piety should not now be raked up against 
him. He was a leader in Israel as long as it paid ; 
and all wise leaders lay down their arms when the 
remuneration fails, for in religion as in war money is 
half the battle. 

Yet with all these repulsive qualities flung in with 
other scarcely more palatable ingredients to the com- 
position of this character, the occasion of 1851, as I 


have before remarked, needed just such an instrument. 
Analyze still closer the qualities here present, and see 
how well they fit the exigency. Principle we regard 
as a nobler and more desirable quality than unbridled 
passion; yet principle alone would not have struck 
the sudden blow that stunned the monster of 1851. 
An evenly balanced mind wherein justice calmly sits, 
and soothing piety and all the sweet amenities of life 
find welcome, we look upon as more lovely than the 
ruling power of man roused to vindictive hate and 
bloody revenge; and yet neither justice, piety, nor 
civility alone would have delivered the city in 1851. 
The disease was passionate, hateful, bloody; so were 
the times, and bloody, hateful, passionate must be the 
cure. To odious, soul-bespattered, spiteful Sam, the 
commonwealth of California owes much. 

Now turn to the president of the 1856 Committee. 
From a lumber business in St Louis, William T. 
Coleman came to California in the summer of 1849 
gold-hunting; but traffic captured him, first at the 
tented city of Sacramento, carrying him thence to 
Placerville, and finally to San Francisco and New 
York. His early life was the school of business ex- 
perience : a hand-to-hand conflict with fortune, where 
lusty strength was guided by wits newly whetted each 
morning for the day's encounter. During this part 
of his career I find no trace of questionable transac- 
tions, of business aberrations, and those double deal- 
ings, not to say fraudulent failures and downright 
swindles, which stain the early record of so many who 
have since achieved pecuniary success. 

On the contrary, Mr Coleman's life has been one 
of honorable example from the beginning. Brought 
into prominence by superior skill and application, both 
at home and abroad, his good name has ever been a 
shining mark for calumny, yet always one from which 
the fiery darts of evil-minded men fell harmless. No 
man has done more to elevate the standard of com- 
mercial morals in California or to strengthen the 


commercial credit of San Francisco. During the 
eastern financial panic of 1857, when confidence was 
shaken and California's reputation particularly low, 
almost single-handed Mr Coleman wrought in New 
York an entire revulsion in feeling concerning Pacific- 
coast credits. If there be one whom it were safe to 
hold up as a model Californian, this is the man. 
Throwing himself into the vortex of adventure with 
all the ardor of high ambition, and with a mind of 
that highly tempered metal susceptible of the keenest 
edge, carefully avoiding meanwhile the shoals upon 
which so many noble characters were wrecked, who 
of eight thousand was a fitter chief than he? In 
honesty, practical sense, and presence of mind he was 
not surpassed by Themistocles. 

Destined like Csesar to success divine, in him was 
combined in a remarkable degree moral and physical 
courage. Without the slightest approach toward 
rowdyism, without pugilistic proneness in heart or in 
manner, preferring to the last moment the logic of 
mind to the logic of muscle, keeping his fine physique 
under the coolest control of intellect, he could never- 
theless, upon the failure of argument, employ the 
ultimate appeal with consummate force. In the 
Burdue- Stuart affair, as we have seen, his prepara- 
tion for the combat which he saw brewing on that 
Sunday morning was to go home and change his 
Sunday clothes for his every- day apparel; yet in the 
hot exercises of that day none were cooler, none 
mingled more earnestly in the exciting duties, and 
none did more to quiet the troubled sea. 

If there be one quality more detestable than another 
to the average Californian mind, it is the quality of 
meanness. A man may be lax in his payments, 
having a dull sense of honor, of integrity ; he may be 
immoral, dishonest in a dashing way, or even a fire- 
eater with human blood upon his hands; if he be not 
niggardly, abject, or socially sordid, all else may be 
forgiven him. On the other hand, no matter how in- 


telligent, or learned, or pious, or wealthy, or temperate; 
no matter how exact in the fulfilment of all monetary 
and other obligations, if he be what is currently called 
mean, reptile -blooded, selfish, soulless, let him be 
anathema. California is not his country; unless, 
indeed, as some seem to do, he covets contemptible 
distinction, and revels in an atmosphere of odium. I 
do not say that this is as it should be : I say that it is 
as it is. 

Mr Coleman was a man of intellect, of sound prac- 
tical understanding, of genius if you like, and if his 
path had led through the more abstract realms of 
mind he would have made his mark in any one of the 
various fields of intellectual ambition, of science, states- 
manship, or jurisprudence. To a thorough education 
early acquired he added general information; he was 
eminently intelligent and skilled in all the ways of 

When work was to be done he was one with the 
workers; saying not " Go thou," but " Let us go." In 
non-essentials he was in all respects yielding, but 
on vital points of policy or principle he was as Gib- 
raltar. He liked to have his own way, as we all do, 
but his way was usually the best way. When he 
could not have it, however; when his associates ruled 
against him, as was frequently the case, he yielded 
with as good a grace as any man I ever knew. 
Though conciliatory toward inferiors, and toward 
those who follow well, should any attempt coercion 
he could be as haughty as a prince of Persia. 

To elevate in these pages any man as the object of 
idolatry is foreign both to my taste and to my purpose. 
Friend or foe, I would weigh every individual charac- 
ter claiming attention in the even balance of truth. 
Doubtless Mr Coleman has his weaknesses, his un- 
pleasing side, as every one has; but I must confess 
my inability to find those glaring faults which critics 
delight in. If he has enemies they are few and 
reticent; or else, belonging to that hybrid class of 


politico-pugilists whom he hates, and from whom I 
do not draw my estimates of character, I hear little 
of them. 

The executive committee comprised the best talent 
in the city, and that Mr Coleman was the best man 
in the Committee for the position of president there 
can be no doubt. And the best talent of San Fran- 
cisco I hold to be as good as the best of any city on 
earth. In its ensemble it presents a widely different 
appearance from an association of the best talent of 
Boston or of London. To the prim and prudish such 
an assemblage might seem crude and incongruous, 
might seem profane or intemperate, might seem lack- 
ing in a due regard to dress, manners, and forms of 
speech; but they would tell them that brain power 
does not depend upon the style of hat, nor the force 
of language upon its elegance, and that as honest 
hearts beat under plain buttons as under diamond 
studs. Not that these men, all of them, lacked culti- 
vation of mind or elegance of manners; but simply, 
they set no great store upon these things. The 
question was not How much is he worth, who 
was his grandfather, what does he know? but What 
can he do? 

In one word, at once comprehensive and individual, 
these were Californians. There were never men like 
them before, and never will be again. They were a 
race sui generis; they came, and are gone. Many of 
them are living to-day, but they are not the men of '56 ; 
give to them a new birth, unless creation be born anew 
with them, they are not their former selves. 

Now Mr Coleman, though as thoroughly saturated 
a Californian as ever lived, was a gentleman in the 
highest sense of the term. He was possessed of 
honesty and integrity, which some who call themselves 
gentlemen lack. He had a bright, clear intellect, 
trained and burnished, and a well stored mind, always 
ready for use — qualities which many so-called gen- 
tlemen deem superfluous. To qualities of mind which 


did him honor were added kindness of heart and genial 

In physique he presented a figure which would be 
remarked even in a senate chamber, or in any gather- 
ing of cultivated men anywhere. Tall, large, sym- 
metrical in form, with a high intellectual forehead, and 
eyes of illimitable depth and clearness, his presence 
was always imposing, and would indeed be felt as 
awe-inspiring were it not for the visible good-humor 
that radiates from every feature. He is a man; place 
him anywhere you will, and he fills the position. Yet 
with all his commanding presence he drops to the 
level of his associates, whoever or whatever they may 
be, with instinctive grace and dexterity. In him unite 
more than in any other man I ever met the dignity of 
sincerity with genial affability. He was essentially 
the most natural of men; there was nothing artificial 
about him. 

So was Mr Bran nan natural, caring neither for God 
nor man ; but the two were quite different. In regard 
to the sterling qualities of heart and mind, the char- 
acter of Mr Brannan was cast-iron. Burnish it as 
you would, it was always iron, rough and unyielding, 
whereas Mr Coleman's character I should liken to a 
golden nugget, unstamped by conventionalities, but 
bright and polished as from some freshly split sierra. 

Next to Mr Coleman stood Clancey J. Dempster, 
in some respects the most remarkable man of the 
movement. A New Yorker, son of a distinguished 
clergyman, a portion of his early life was spent at 
Buenos Ayres, where his father had charge of the 
Protestant missionary station; thence to a business 
house in Baltimore, and in 1849 to California, to meet 
and be made a partner by D. L. Boss, because of his 
business ability. 

From his father he seems to have inherited an 
evenly balanced, logical mind, untiring and persistent 
energy, and no small degree of literary talent, with a 


love of the simple habits of a plain domestic home; 
from his mother, a noble Christian woman of good 
Scotch Presbyterian stock, a sweet amiability of temper 
and unselfish devotion to principle. Small of stature, 
of light complexion, with a mild blue eye and gentle 
mien, he is the last person even a close observer 
would select for an inquisitor or pronounce the most 
unswerving of a band of stranglers. In 1856 he was 
twenty-eight, but little more than boy in years, yet 
a Nestor in wisdom, with marked genius in certain 
directions. Light a candle and search the city dili- 
gently, and you will find no other such man. 

He was the moral ideal of vigilance as compared 
with Coleman, who was the physical; he was the del- 
icate spring that held and regulated, while the latter 
was the swift and powerful engine that drove the 
machinery. Call it a reformation, and he was the 
Melancthon of Coleman's Luther; a revolution, and 
he was the Franklin of Coleman's Hancock. Both 
will expend themselves in devotion to a great principle 
for the public good; and while the actuating motive 
of the one is noble, the other is absolutely pure. 

Close, methodical, painstaking, and industrious in 
business, thorough and conscientious in all things, 
Mr Dempster must necessarily measure others by the 
same standard, and exact from public men the same 
faithful discharge of duty that is expected from the 
honest private citizen. In fact, as regards culpability, 
he sees no difference in the laxity, inefficiency, or dis- 
honesty of a public officer and those of the citizen. 

Under provocation he was restrained, always pre- 
ferring persuasion to force, considerate of others, 
though firm, persistent, and fearless in maintaining 
the right. Genial, charitable, companionable, he is 
ever on the watch to serve and make others happy. 
Without any of the small or large vices incident to 
tempestuous experiences, incident particularly to Cal- 
ifornians, he enjoys a quiet home and the pleasures of 
domestic life. He is one who grows upon both a 


friend and an enemy: the former finds in him every 
day more to love, the latter more to fear. The widow, 
the fatherless, the poor, the distressed, ever find in 
him true and unostentatious sympathy and aid. Says 
one of my dictations: "The man who possessed more 
knowledge of law, of character, and had a better ap- 
preciation of the situations of things than any other 
man, was Mr Dempster." Another calls him a "cool, 
calculating, brave man; not a bit nervous; you can't 
frighten him." 

By instinct and education he was conservative. 
Tradition had done more for him, perhaps, than for 
any of his associates. Though of Scotch puritan 
stock, he retained his principles, thanks to California, 
in a great measure free from puritan prejudices. 
Regard him to-day, and notwithstanding the sulphur- 
ous flames of 1856, with freedom of thought on all 
subjects, with an intellect wholly emancipated from 
puritan prejudices, he is as strict in his obedience to 
the laws of God and man, as careful of the rights of 
his neighbor, as sensitive to the call of duty, whether 
in the family or in the state, as the purest puritan of 
them all. 

Difficulties seemed only to nerve him to greater 
effort, and danger to inspire him with greater courage. 
He was of all others a man for emergencies; for it 
was then alone he gave full rein to his resources. 
The strength as well as the beauty of his character 
lay in the marvellous blending of modest demeanor 
with unflinching courage, of mildness of speech with 
force of will, and of that steadfast earnestness which 
neither discouragement could daunt nor success in- 
toxicate. His deep quiet enthusiasm bordered on 
the sublime. So unselfish was it that, although able 
to fill the highest position, he was content with any; 
although keenly alive to the faults and failures of his 
associates, there was nothing captious, fault-finding, 
or unkind in his criticisms. To shirk responsibility; 
to withhold time, thought, or money when the cause 


demanded it, were as unknown to him as obtrusive- 
ness, vanity, or affectation. 

In his intercourse with his associates no less than 
in his conflicts with his antagonists, he was the per- 
sonification of discretion. His silence was often more 
powerful than the most ponderous or persuasive 
words of another. Positive in opinions, unflinching 
in the performance of what he deemed his duty, and 
as unyielding to threats as cast-iron to the blows of 
a lady's fan, there was latent within him a power be- 
yond that of the most noisy demonstration of unloosed 
and riotous forces. Let the storm rage, whether in 
the Executive chamber or before the armory of the 
Blues, the subtile electricity of his nature is sure 
in the end to equalize the wild antagonisms of less 
happily balanced minds. 

Sometimes we see the rarest wit shine through a 
melancholy face, sometimes the serenest mind tossed 
in an unquiet body; but far less often do we find in- 
crusted with so placid an exterior an energy at once 
volcanic and silent, joined to a keen, analytic, and far- 
sighted intellect. Given the course his mildness and 
strength of mind dictated, and the end was clear 
from the beginning. 

He was by far the deepest thinker of them all. 
Though elegant to preciseness in his literary composi- 
tion, he was as ready to display his own weaknesses 
as the kindly Horace or the latter's great imitator, 
Thackeray. Dempster was chairman of the committee 
on constitution and by-laws; and the able address of 
the executive to the general committee on the final 
disbandment was written chiefly by him, Mr Smiley 
lending valuable assistance. 

If you have something to be done, give it to the 
busy man; do not give it to the man of leisure. By 
degrees the cause rested more and more heavily on 
Dempster's shoulders, just as every responsibility in- 
cident to human affairs will shift itself from one to 
another until it finds the fittest support; so that the 


natural shrinking from prominence in affairs which 
characterized his first appearance gradually wore 
away, and day by day his influence seemed to 
broaden. No man had clearer or more direct concep- 
tions of the rights and duties of citizens of a common- 
wealth to themselves and to each other; and it was 
when aroused by a sense of wrong committed that 
he was strongest, most positive, and most efficient. 
Then the absence of physical vigor was lost sight of, 
and his companions saw, and society felt, only the 
mightiness of his mind. Day by day, as fresh duties 
were laid upon him, he grew; his labors, except in 
physical application, fertilizing his abilities. 

Side by side with Coleman and Dempster stood 
Truett, and Farwell, and Crary, and Dows, and 
Smiley, and others, superior in some qualities, in- 
ferior in others. Truett and Truett were among the 
leading merchants of the city in wealth, position, and 
trade. They were not exactly brothers Cheeryble ; 
Miers F. Truett was vigilance and H. B. Truett 
rather inclined toward law and order. The former 
was somewhat southern in his proclivities, the latter 
northern; the former did not recognize the duello, 
the latter did. Mr Truett, by which designation Mr 
Miers F. Truett is always meant, was at one time the 
best business man on Front street. He was afraid 
of nothing; a man of iron, morally and physically. 
Two heavy muscular teamsters were one day fighting 
on the street, when Truett came along and seizing 
each by the collar held them off at arm's-length, as 
the school-master separates pugilistic pupils. 

In the trial of Terry, the chief justice, before the 
Committee, which will be presented in due time, Truett 
was appointed to defend him; and so interested in the 
prisoner's fate did be become, so unremitting in his 
labors as advocate, that some believed, and openly 
alleged, that he had forgotten his duty as Committee- 
man, and was, indeed, lost to the cause. Says one of 


my dictations : "I think he is a man not to be depended 
upon. There were two or three men who, I am satis- 
fied, used to tell the secrets of the Committee. Things 
would get out in a few hours. I think Truett was one 
of them; another I think was Dr Rogers. He was 
a great friend of Boutwell, the commander of the 
Adams" and so on to still more serious charges. But 
I am of the opinion that such belief, expressed by a 
member of the Executive above the suspicion of de- 
faming jealousy, else I would not give it, arises from 
a simple misapprehension of character. Mr Truett's 
enthusiasm partook of the chivalrous, and the depth 
of feeling evinced when the defence of a human life 
was placed in his hands speaks louder than words the 
praise of his honesty and humanity. 

Captain James D. Farwell arrived in California 
from Maine by way of Panamd in the spring of 1850, 
having shipped round Cape Horn the autumn previous 
the river steamboat Tehama. He was a member of 
the first Vigilance Committee, the safe -stealing by 
Jenkins occurring very near his store. One of his 
first exploits in the second Committee was the taking 
of two field-pieces from the California Guard, to which 
duty he was detailed. 

He was a man of homely integrity, of single direct- 
ness of thought, stubborn in his sense of duty, and 
conscientious as before a power greater than that which 
threatens. One cannot be in the presence of this man 
long before one is satisfied that it would be as impos- 
sible for him to think or act in any cause for effect, 
for praise, for any sinister end, as for the earth to leave 
its orbit. 

He is made honest; he cannot help it. Of all men 
he is one of the most conservative, in business, in 
morals, in fashion. His brain of toughest texture, of 
practical convolutions, unpolished by hypocrisy and de- 
ceit, is the last place where one would look for loose or 
licentious ideas of good citizenship. Hard in its com- 
mon-sense, more adamantine still in its conscientious 


sense of duty, it is the last place one would look for 
selfish ambition or lurking designs on the welfare of 
the city. Listen to him on the subject of his motive 
in joining the Committee: 

"I went into that Committee with as earnest a 
sense of duty as ever I embarked in anything in my 
life/' he writes in his narrative. "I went into it as 
a religious duty to society, although I knew I was 
going antagonistic to the law of my city and state, 
which every good American looks upon with a great 
deal of dread, certainly. After embarking in it, as I 
did, with my whole soul and determination to purge 
the city of these abominations, I and my companions 
of the executive committee also, to a man, were 
governed by the purest motives. We sunk individual 
self entirely; and our only object was to save the 
lives and property of the community." 

Farwell was particularly efficient in marine matters. 
His courage was accompanied by that chivalric bear- 
ing which works even on an enemy, and that stubborn 
energy which pauses at nothing short of success. He 
was the commodore of the organization, as to him 
were intrusted the little naval expeditions incident to 
the campaign. He it was who chiefly managed the 
preparations to take care of Mr Boutwell of the United 
States ship John Adams, in case of need, of which 
full particulars will be given in due time. 

James Dows was one whose intellect and capabil- 
ities developed with the rapid evolution of the time. 
He was the John Randolph of the movement; though 
in rough-and-readiness he might be likened to Zachary 
Taylor, in strange and blasphemous diction to An- 
drew Jackson, while his rich humor, his tall, gaunt 
form, unswerving truth, and homely, straightforward 
honesty were not unlike those of Abraham Lincoln. 
Though his sound sense bristled with eccentricities 
and his far-sighted judgment was striped with oddi- 
ties, whenever he chose to speak, which was often 
and loud, he did not lack for hearers. His voice was 


always on the side of right; and his sarcasm was a 
scourge to evil-doers. 

Oliver B. Crary was a man of plain persistent 
honesty and single-hearted directness in speech and 
behavior. Declining the position of captain of his 
company, known in the annals of the epoch as the 
' Bloody Seventh/ he accepted the post of first lieuten- 
ant, and so served to the end of the ever memorable 
week at which our narrative is now resting. Soon 
after the organization of the military the Seventh and 
Seventeenth companies were merged into one, with 
George Hossefross as captain. This man was some- 
what rough in reputation if not in reality; he had 
been fireman and militiaman, and as such his expe- 
rience was of some value, so that notwithstanding 
these were not the professions which most delighted 
the qualification committee, especially when the ap- 
plicant's breath was odorous with politics, he was ad- 
mitted and given, greatly to his delight, command of 
the Bloody Seventh. 

On one particular night, when deep designs were 
afloat, officers alone were permitted to stand guard at 
the Committee rooms. Hossefross was officer of the 
guard. The Bloody Seventh, the French Legion, and 
the Citizens' Guard under Captain Ellis, comprised 
the guard. 

Hossefross stationed his lieutenant, Crary, at the 
door of the Executive Committee, with instruc- 
tions to let no man pass either way without special 
orders. That was Crary's post until twelve o'clock. 
He had not been long on duty when Farwell, who 
was in the room, attempted to pass out. Up went 
Crary's gun, which was a Sharp rifle, and the august 
inquisitor was brought to a stand. 

"Take care, Crary!" exclaimed Farwell, motioning 
aside the murderous weapon. "You know me well 
enough; I am in haste and must go out." 

"I know no man here!" was Crary's reply. 

Farwell was obliged to retire. When he returned, 


which was shortly afterward, he had the pleasure 
of informing Crary that he was relieved from duty, 
and furthermore that he was a member, that moment 
elected, of the Executive Committee. 

Dr R. Beverly Cole, surgeon-general of the Com- 
mittee, displayed not only public spirit and enthusiasm 
in the cause of right, but seemed ready to lay aside 
even those narrowing professional prejudices which, 
under the name of professional etiquette, seem so 
ready to sacrifice the comfort, and even the life, of 
the patient to the jealousy of form or the caprice 
of feeling. Dr Cole was among the most active in his 
efforts to consolidate the medical talent in the Com- 
mittee ; but this failing, he ever held himself ready to 
respond to any call which might be made upon him. 
It was he who was first at King's bedside, who at- 
tended stricken Vigilants, and who watched the life- 
vanishings of the executed. During the four months 
of active operation he kept in his stable a horse 
saddled day and night, that he might the more 
promptly respond to the vigilance signal. 

Tall, strong, straight as a pine, with a piercing 
black eye and a pronounced manner, Thomas J. L. 
Smiley was as active as he was bold and successful. 
During the last month of the organization, particularly 
after having been elected vice-president, he proved a 
fine executive officer, and was of great service to the 
association up to its close. Mr Smiley was one of 
the few who began at the beginning and continued to 
the end; who promptly responded to the first tap of 
the bell on the night of the 10th of June 1851, and 
continued to grow in efficiency and influence up to the 
final demonstration, the 18th of August 1856. He 
was on the war committee part of the time, and in 
the grandest achievement of the crusade; he was 
second to none in activity and bravery. Scouring the 
town at the head of a chosen company, hunting the 
enemy in their retreat, seizing and bringing them to 
head-quarters when found, he felt like one in battle, 

Pop. Tkib., Vol. II. 9 


he said — all thought of danger being lost in the 
courage of animal excitement. In his dealings with 
prisoners he was always on the side of kindness when 
kindness did not interfere with duty. " Tom Smiley," 
says a member of the Executive in his dictation, "was 
very influential, very active and useful, though not of 
very good judgment." 

And again, " Smiley I don't think had a well bal- 
anced mind; talked a great deal,' was very excitable, 
but ready and prompt to carry out any measure the 
Committee thought necessary." The opinions of 
strong-minded, independent, brusque associates, how- 
ever, when expressed of each other, should always be 
taken with allowance. 

Mr Gillespie did a large amount of valuable work 
in his position as chairman of the committee on evi- 
dence, and it was of that kind which made but little 
display. Of striking physique, with fine intellectual 
features, and an affable and polite demeanor, many of 
his hard-thinking: and rough- working associates re- 
garded him in the light of a pleasant, inoffensive gen- 
tleman, of no pronounced opinion or ability. But his 
labor consisted of quiet researches and secret investi- 
gations rather than brilliant displays of skill or learn- 
ing, and as it was usually performed alone, his nearest 
neighbor knew not the extent of it. 

Richard M. Jessup labored side by side with Mr 
Coleman in more perfect harmony, perhaps, than any 
other member. And while in unison with him in pur- 
pose and in action, he was ready to waive the honors; 
so that, being a man of marked respectability in the 
community, he was enabled to render the cause much 
assistance. Toward the latter part of the regime he 
became infected with politics and retired from the 

The duties and responsibilities of Secretary Bluxome 
were very different in the second Committee from 
those of the first. Counsellor as well as scribe, cus- 
todian of the archives as well as of all the unwritten 


secrets of the association, he served this his second 
long term with a steady patience which places him 
second to none in point of patriotism of the pure and 
unselfish quality. 

J. W. Brittan was a good man; not so profound as 
Dempster, nor so practical as Coleman, nor yet so 
impulsive as Truett, but cool, firm, and unimpassioned 
almost as stone. Like Jessup, he was a devout fol- 
lower of the president, evincing, as Coleman says, "a 
readiness to take any direction that I might indicate, 
relying upon my judgment and previous consideration 
without explanation." 

The French element was represented by Emile 
Grisar, a bold, true man, clear-headed, and an able 
thinker and speaker and ready worker. 

E. B. Goddard, the only gray-haired man in the 
Executive, was eminently conscientious and prudent. 
Doctor Burke was a patient and enthusiastic worker. 
A. L. Tubbs, F. W. Page, and W. H. Tillinghast were 
among the best men in the Committee. All these and 
many others did their quota of work, took their share 
of the responsibility, and commended themselves to 
the approval of their associates and to that of the 

Then there were fiery little George Ward, holding 
over from the first Committee, and Thompson, and 
Tillinghast, and many others— I cannot analyze their 
characters, all of them, pleasing as is the task. " These 
men," writes Mr Dempster, "and others, who long 
ago laid down to rest, and perhaps are almost for- 
gotten by the community for which they perilled 
more than life, were unconscious heroes, instinct with 
such love of justice and the right, that sacrifices and 
perils encountered in the cause conferred only pleas- 
ure, and perhaps scarcely increased their own self- 
respect. I have never seen in any other organization 
with which I have been connected such general devo- 
tion to duty, such unselfish indifference to the honors 
or the praises which might be obtained, or so little 


of that jealous segregation into cliques and indulgence 
in little animosities." 

In all the Committee there was no man better fitted 
to his place than Marshal Doane, the central figure 
of the military. And I doubt if in the annals of 
human warfare an example can be found of a civil- 
ian unexpectedly called to general three thousand 
unexpectedly called civilians with such a showing as 
that of the Sunday next after the assassination. It 
was this quickness of perception and adaptability of 
resources to necessity, the instantaneous and intuitive 
knowledge of cure, absorbed as it were from the 
disease itself, that claims our highest admiration 
throughout this entire movement; and in these re- 
spects none may claim higher distinction than Marshal 
Doane. Whether it was that his success operated in 
his eyes as a magnifying mirror, leading to the dis- 
covery in himself of yet another new and wonderful 
talent which this flush of popularity alone could bring 
to its unfolding, or whether mercenary ambition 
marked him for its own, I know not; but much as I 
admire the man, much as San Francisco and this 
history are indebted to him for beneficial and brilliant 
services, truth compels me to uncover his char- 
acter, and disclose the only blot I find upon it, a 
blot of such discoloration that had all the members 
of this fraternity been so tinctured, or any consider- 
able portion of them, perdition would have been the 

Unfortunately, toward the latter part of the cam- 
paign this marvellous organizer and truly worthy and 
efficient man lost that singleness of purpose which 
was the charm and sanctitication of the movement, 
became selfish, and sought to prostitute his good work 
and position in the Committee for personal advantage. 
In a word, he sold himself, his popularity, his good 
name for office. He was elected sheriff of the city 
and county of San Francisco, though not until after 
the disbandment of the Committee, and he made an 


excellent officer. This in itself was not so heinous an 
offence, had he not thought of it while in the Com- 
mittee, and there prostituted himself, his strength and 
influence, to politics. 

I do not say that there were no others of the Ex- 
ecutive who were not above using the hearts of the 
people and the holiness of their cause as the stepping- 
stone to place, provided the office was high enough. 
I do not say that there were not those who would not 
have declined the presidency of the United States had 
it been offered them; but I do say that as a body 
there never before were fifty men having in their 
hands the political power wielded by these fifty who 
laid it down so gracefully, thus vindicating their high 
and holy integrity throughout all time. Had the 
tendency of the Executive been sinister, such as are 
almost all bodies in any wise related to our political 
system, especially those loud in their professions of 
disinterested patriotism and public good, in the place 
of a moral revolution this would have been a moral 
rebellion; instead of a reform it would have been a 
riot; instead of vigilance, the highest and holiest 
principle of associated humanity, it would have been 
mobocracy the lowest and most profane. Further 
than this, he who served in this Committee and ac- 
cepted office in consequence of it, gave the lie to every 
protestation, and displayed the presence of only the 
shadow of a man. 

Mr Coleman takes the right view of it when he 
says: "While we openly held and declared that it was 
unbecoming in any prominent member of the Com- 
mittee to entertain any such ulterior views, and un- 
worthy of them, and unjust to the whole Committee 
to ever afterward accept office, or directly or indirectly 
accept office or gain of any kind arising out of or 
from any of the labors or the results of the labors of 
that Committee, yet it was of course impossible to 
bind or even control what should come after the dis- 
solution or disbandment of our organization, and we 


could only look to it as best we might that while we 
were together no power or position should be prosti- 
tuted to such end, so far as lay within us to discover 
and prevent it. I never blamed Doane for accepting 
office afterward, or rather never censured him with 
any severity — had no ill-feeling about the matter. It 
might be considered rather a fine-drawn assumption 
on my part, a superlatively chivalric view of the 
matter, without a right to expect so much; but still 
I sincerely regretted the fact of his or any other prom- 
inent member accepting any office of profit, because 
we really undertook the work without a selfish end or 
aim in view, and the large body strictly, rigidly, and 
tenaciously held to that view, and to that rule of 
action, and it was one of the sources of our chiefest 
pride that we could truly say that all we did was for 
the good of society, and of morality, and that we gave 
our time, efforts, and money, and risked all that we 
had in the world without ever having any share in the 
results, directly or indirectly, not held by those who 
were least connected with and farthest removed from 
any participation in our operations." 

Under Doane was a score as good officers, as 
gallant, brave, and devoted men as ever drew blade 
for the right, among whom were Olney, Ellis, Curtis, 
Pinto, Johns, Ebbitts, Lippitt, and Bartlett. The 
whole rank and file were composed of men seldom seen 
playing soldier, and though many of them had never 
before shouldered a musket, such were their intelli- 
gence and zeal that a few days' vigorous and atten- 
tive drill was sufficient to make of them efficient 

Many served in the ranks as common soldiers who 
would not accept seats in the Executive though enti- 
tled thereto in every respect by wealth, intelligence, 
and respectability. Of such was Thomas H. Selby, 
a merchant of the Coleman stamp, true and pure as 
the all-regulating sun, afterward mayor of San Fran- 
cisco, and in all his relations, private and social, beyond 


the suspicion of reproach. Of such were John O. 
Earl, Samuel Soule, George H. Howard, Charles R. 
Story, S. P. Webb, W. W. Montague, H. S. Gates, 
and a thousand others. 

Many more there were whose names with equal 
propriety I might mention; but enough, I trust, has 
been given to enable the reader to form a just concep- 
tion of the character and quality of the Executive 
Committee. In every association, even of able men, 
there are some who fail in that efficiency which com- 
mands admiration; and this not through lack of en- 
thusiasm, or even necessarily of ability, for such may 
be ill-fitted to duties or hampered in the discharge of 
them. Able men are not all equally able in different 
departments of usefulness. There is as much genius dis- 
played in adjusting character and talents to the work to 
be performed as in the performance of a great work. 

There were in the Executive Committee two distinct 
elements, the only abstract principles which at any 
time divided the members of the association or any 
committee of the association. Indeed politics, re- 
ligion, morality, and all the great questions affecting 
society being strictly eschewed, all except the one 
great question of crime and its punishment, there 
was really nothing else to divide upon than simply 
as to the intensity of the reform. "In a body of that 
kind," says one of the Executive, "there are cer- 
tain always ready to hang any man ; and half a dozen 
have to be restraining the hot-headed portion." There 
was the radical element and the conservative element, 
the former in favor of inflicting extreme punishment 
on all offenders without too careful inquiry into the 
nature and extent of guilt and the legal penalty at- 
tached to it, the other taking no step except after the 
most careful consideration, and inflicting no penalty 
beyond that applied by law, and that only after the 
guilt of the criminal was established beyond a perad- 
vcnture. Fortunately the conservatives were suffi- 
ciently in the majority to hold the others in check, 


otherwise their bark would have split upon the rocks 
before well outside the harbor. 

The leaders of the Committee found that they had 
undertaken a task which taxed their utmost wisdom 
and energy; but they appear never to have faltered 
in council, never to have hesitated in the field. 
Throughout all their trials, their perils, their tempta- 
tions to excess in the use of almost unlimited power, 
their associates honored them with unswerving faith 
and an adherence which deserved the triumphant 
success that finally crowned their efforts; a success, 
however, won only after a struggle between the forces 
of the Committee and the civil and military powers 
which at one time had well nigh assumed the propor- 
tions of a revolution. 

Under their auspices an extraordinary and complete 
system of police with magical celerity sprang into 
existence over the entire country. In tracking crime 
their scent was sure, their aim unerring. They under- 
took nothing that they did not execute; they made 
no mistakes in their arrests and executions. No in- 
nocent man suffered at their hands. Prudence and 
moderation characterized their conflict with crime 
on the one side and law on the other. Four only 
of the worst criminals the San Francisco Com- 
mittee exterminated, the rest they drove from the 
country — an almost bloodless victory when we con- 
sider the result accomplished. Posterity will rise 
in homage to the majesty of mind displayed on these 

"They manifested a marvellous power to control 
excited multitudes, to develop their capacities, and 
turn their energies into channels of action," says Mr 
Dempster, who, though he was one of them, saw 
further into them, into their nature and design, into 
their little ambitions and their large unselfishness, 
than any other. They had no time for long discus- 
sions on the sacredness of law. "Some questions will 
improve by keeping" with Daniel Webster they used 

AS A BODY. 137 

to say. The London Times asserted of them, after 
their work was done, that they had shown sufficient 
ability to found a state organization, a nation, if cir- 
cumstances had demanded its exercise. 

Stolid physical bravery most of them possessed, 
some in a remarkable degree. At the thundering at 
once of a hundred Sinais I should not expect to see 
them quail. But far above and immeasurably superior 
in its texture to their physical courage was their high 
moral courage. It needed nerve for the most law- 
abiding of men to break the law, to arraign the law and 
place it on trial for dereliction of duty, to incarcerate 
and try for his life the highest judicial official, to seize 
and hold with a grasp of iron the state government, 
and respectfully to warn off federal authority. For 
those to do this who had honor, households, reputa- 
tion, wealth, love of God, and love of country at 
stake, I say called up a courage superior to that of 
the savage who taunts his torturing enemy or of the 
fanatic who to win heaven submits his body to the 

As time and events manifested conclusively that 
the Committee desired the public good and not private 
or individual advantage, public opinion ranged itself 
on their side; and before they voluntarily resigned 
the power which appeared resistless, and disbanded 
their forces, a strong majority of the people of Cali- 
fornia sympathized with their efforts and rejoiced in 
their success. 

Though theirs was the amplest influence, as a rule 
they w T ere free from ambition's crime ; moderate, reso- 
lute, the strongest were the least pretending, being 
no less wise in council than efficient in action. Theirs 
was the wisdom of common-sense; theirs the great- 
ness of simplicity. All the people knew them, and 
believed in them, believed them to be outside the pool 
of brain-fuddling forms, knew them as men of iron 
will and iron nerve, true to themselves and to occasion. 
It seemed that almost on the instant circumstances 


had purged them of their traditional superstitions, even 
as Theodoras, Rabelais' royal physician, who, to cure 
Gargantua of the wickedness of his heart and the per- 
versity of his brain, purged him canonically, so that 
he might forget all he had learned from other teachers. 

While rigidly restricting themselves in the exercise 
of the power assumed, the leaders of the movement 
sought by every means in their power to impress 
upon their followers that the great duty of the organ- 
ization was to execute the spirit of the laws which 
had so long been defied; that the existence of the 
Committee sprang from a universal determination 
that these should thenceforth be enforced, and that 
their duties must be limited to a dispassionate and 
impartial outpouring of the essence of law which 
might not be dissipated by suicidal adherence to 
form, when it w r as found that such action defeated 
that protection of life, liberty, and property which 
law is established to maintain. 

The acts of the executive committee were singu- 
larly free from blunders. I search in vain for one 
serious error of judgment, or for a signal failure in 
the attempted execution of their purpose. From 
their organization to their disbandment, wisdom, cool- 
ness, and courage characterized all their actions. 

It is easy to magnify motives which actuate either 
good or evil results. Always I strive to deliver my- 
self from this propensity. And yet it seems to me 
that the candid observer of heroic actions which illu- 
mine the highways of history fails to discover higher 
or purer considerations than those which governed 
these men. The lust of power was not apparent; 
for what is power where identity is lost? Honor? 
They shrank from it, and swore to each other a solemn 
oath that their deeds should be secret. Wealth? 
Their labors cost them much time and money, with no 
hope of any return, not participated in by the humblest 
citizen, unless, indeed, it should be in the shape of the 
anathemas of those who opposed them. I see no- 


where in history, I say, greater unselfishness. You 
do not find it in religion, in missionary enterprise, in 
any kind of proselytism. All religion, even that of 
the meek and lowly Jesus, is based upon selfishness: 
Do good and receive the reward. Patriotism, which 
covers hypocrisy, is the lowest form of selfishness; 
The open and honest money-maker is a nobleman 
beside him who plays upon the unselfish instincts of 
his fellows for his own selfishness. 

Patriots, indeed ! I would not insult these men by 
calling them patriots. What is a patriot? One who 
loves himself supremely, and his country a little be- 
cause he happened to be born in it. One who in 
seeking public favor seeks not the public good, but 
Iago-like, himself. Patriotism is but a reflex form of 
self-love. The Frenchman loves himself and France. 
To him art, science, and literature are French. Great 
men are Frenchmen, great thoughts and learning are 
French thoughts and French learning. Blot from 
the earth Paris, and from the earth civilization is 
blotted; sink France, and there is no world left. The 
German hates Frenchmen and France, but loves 
Germans and Germany. His talk is of Germany, 
her unity, her philosophy, her science, church, and 
army; and so on. The purity of purpose, the holy 
and unselfish considerations which urged forward 
these men of vigilance, were as much superior to what 
is commonly called patriotism as is Christ superior 
to Belial. Socrates says a wise man keeps out of 
public business. There were some as wise as Socrates 
in the Executive Committee. They now held power, 
but it was only in trust. Mensura juris vis erat. 
This they believed, that power was the measure of 
right, and that it was not their own but the people's. 
Martyrs are made of tough fibre. 

Here was true nobility, true godliness, true manli- 
ness. Throughout their whole life, long after a knowl- 
edge of their secrets ceased to expose them to any risk, 
and when among their fellow-citizens it was counted 


an honor to have been ranked among the number, 
each seemed to shrink from prominence in the affair, 
or to take to himself any special credit for any special 
act. " No/' each spoke for himself, "I was but one 
in the great assembly, and I will not do hundreds in- 
justice by arrogating to myself credit, or appearing 
more conspicuous than they, before the world." 

Coleman, Dempster, Truett! and the rest, long may 
your memories be fragrant in the hearts of Califor- 
nians; long may your names be held in grateful re- 
membrance by generations to come! As gold to 
dross, in the evolutions of refining civilization your 
pure purposes shall stand beside the so-called patriot- 
ism of selfish statesmen ; as glorious sunlight to sombre 
night, beside the piety of cant, the record of your 
deeds shall shed their radiance, blessing your children 
and your children's children till day and night are 



A long train of these practices has at length unwillingly convinced me 
that there is something behind the throne greater than the king himself. 

William Pitt. 

The term Law and Order Party is often applied to 
opposers of Popular Tribunals throughout this work. 
It may be well more clearly to define the term as 
herein used, and also the character of the persons 
composing it. 

The party is never a palpable organization like the 
Vigilance Committee; it is seldom an association; 
yet the anteposition, which commonly takes upon 
itself this name, is always present wherever there is 
a popular tribunal. It is the natural enemy of any 
idea or principle not measured by stereotyped forms. 
In the assumption of this name it implies that its 
members believe in and conform their conduct, whatso- 
ever the emergency, strictly to the existing laws, and 
that by so doing alone can order be maintained in the 
community. Per contra, popular tribunals, by breaking 
the law, engender only disorder. This position is 
stoutly maintained; as to the honesty and intelligence 
of those so holding, I leave it to the reader of these 
pages to judge. 

But before questioning the sincerity or wisdom of 
those who style themselves promoters of law and 
order par excellence, let us glance for a moment at 
the personnel of the respective parties. 

Committees of vigilance were formed for the most 
part of men of substance and character, of those 


having some stake in the commonwealth. They were 
men of property, of family: merchants, mechanics, 
farmers, miners — workingmen all. In their ranks 
were found producers, who by the labor of their handa 
feed the world; those of industrial and commercial 
pursuits, who by their brain build cities and drive 
forward civilization. This is the class upon which 
crime preys; this is the class which must support not 
only the criminals themselves, but courts and their 
satehites tolerated for the suppression of crime. From 
this class governors, legislators, and judges draw their 
pay; from this class corrupt officials steal. Crime 
fattens on the fruits of industry, and lawyers fatten 
on crime. The interests of the industrial class lie 
not on the side of government, unless it be good 
government. They were the bone and sinew of the 
land, these men of vigilance, whose traditions fostered 
a love of truth, justice, and morality, and whose future 
depended upon their keeping these things inviolate. 

On the other hand, the law and order party was 
composed of non-producers, for the most part respect- 
able members of society, but who, in common with 
criminals, obtained support not by adding to the 
material wealth of the community, but by defending 
producers from the sharks and vultures that prey 
upon them. These were office-holders, judges, lawyers, 
sheriffs, policemen, jail-keepers, politicians, law-makers, 
and such nondescript subalterns, contractors, dema- 
gogues, manipulators of elections, and hangers-on as 
found food or profit in the law. Military men must 
likewise support the government, else their occupation 
is gone. These with their associates, sympathizers, 
and organs ranged themselves on the side of what 
they pleased to call law and order, and opposed any 
interference of the industrial class in the affairs of 

I do not say that this distinction was arbitrary or 
universal. Many lawyers, preferring purity to old- 
time conventionalities, took sides with the reform 


party; many officers of the law, military men, and 
government employes resigned their positions and 
joined the ranks of the popular tribunal. But in the 
main, the material composing the two parties was 
such as I have described. The public press, following 
the direction of its own interests, likewise divided, 
some taking their stand on one side and some on the 

There was yet another sentiment that strongly in- 
fluenced this division of opinion as to the right and 
fitness of this uprising. It so happened that the com- 
mercial and industrial interests of the country at that 
time were mostly in the hands of those born and 
educated in the northern states of the republic, while 
the affairs of government were more particularly 
looked after by those who had come hither from the 
south. Northerners and foreigners naturally took to 
work and trade, while southerners as naturally became 
politicians, ran for office, practised law, and filled official 
positions. Following their chivalrous proclivities, they 
lightly esteemed labor, and held law, politics, and like 
professions the only occupations befitting a gentleman. 
Hence it was, when shopkeepers, clerks, draymen, 
carpenters, and blacksmiths questioned the policy of 
these natural lords of government, they were looked 
upon as impertinent fellows, meddlers in matters 
which did not concern them. When they went fur- 
ther, and dared to lay their horny hand upon the sacred 
altar of justice, they were denounced as impious law- 
breakers, violators of constitutional liberty , defamers of 
time-honored tenets, profane, and traitorous. On the 
other hand, the practical men of work and business 
asserted most emphatically that if law and law officers 
could not and would not suppress crime they would 
do it themselves, in spite of statutes, custom, or any- 
thing else. Though cursed by factions, the people are 
the power, and if roused by rank accumulated wrongs 
they vindicate it. 

The contest waged at this time between vigilance 


and law and order was more bitter than we can now 
well realize. Spreading to a greater or less degree 
among all the communities of the Pacific slope, it 
separated friends, divided families, and armed brother 
against brother in deadly hostility. All nature gyrates 
to the right ; the opposers of vigilance were now twist- 
ing sadly to the left. 

I do not wish to be understood as charging hypoc- 
risy upon all those opposing popular tribunals. Those 
who live by the law, the high-priests of legal tribunals 
whose fires cannot be kept burning but by devout and 
humble worshippers, it is difficult for such as these 
always to see clearly, least of all to allow the profane 
rabble to tamper with their deity. Hence there was 
present honest difference of opinion, or what was called 
opinion, what perhaps the several opponents really 
believed to be opinion. For much of that which 
people call opinion, much of that which they really 
believe to be honest conviction, is nothing more than 
passion, prejudice, or partisan bias, based on self- 
interest, pride, education, and association. Evidence, 
and the careful balancing of the right and wrong of 
a question, do not enter into it at all. Men will to 
believe right that which accords with their interest, 
which is not belief, but desire. Biassed by interest or 
feeling, it is impossible for the merchant to look upon 
a matter with the eyes of the lawyer, or the man of 
conservative ideas with those of a reformer. Opinions 
are warped even in the ablest minds by the most 
trivial circumstances. Labor and capital, cooperative 
and private enterprise, employers and employed, agri- 
culture and commerce, look upon questions from differ- 
ent sides, and arrive at decisions often diametrically 
opposed, honest, but erroneous. 

And yet it is passing strange, if these men were 
honest and intelligent, that they could not see the 
falsity of their position, the inconsistency between 
their doctrine and their deeds. For of all members of 
the community these law and order men were the 


first to right their wrongs, and break any law that 
did not suit them. 

Law and order: that was the name they gave it. 
A well sounding name, especially in the mouths of 
rogues and politicians. But here on this coast had 
been law without order for years, and at last the 
people were determined to have order, even at the 
sacrifice, if necessary, of the forms of law. Law had 
become criminal, and must be put upon trial by the 
people for dereliction of duty. Good men left their 
business to perform jury duty reluctantly; straw-bail 
and false witnesses were plenty and cheap. The 
public mind, furthermore, seems to have become 
calloused, and the sensibilities even of the better class 
blunted; pistols, knives, and slung-shots had become 
to be regarded as adjuncts of life in California, if 
not a necessity, and their use now and then was ex- 
pected as a matter of course. Respectable citizens, 
even those who felt it a conscientious duty, in common 
with all good men, to attend the polls on election 
day and cast their vote in their country's interests, 
kept away on account of the rowdyism and fighting 
which rendered the place unsafe. 

" Law or no law," exclaim the men of vigilance, 
"the cause is just because it is necessary." " However 
pure your motives," return the men of law and order, 
"however necessary your stringent measures, you are 
warranted by no law, your acts are without founda- 
tion in right; therefore when you take human life,, 
though it be of an open and notorious foe of society, you 
do a fearful wrong, you undermine the edifice of social 
order, you commit murder." "We have committed 
various acts of insurrection," continue the men of 
vigilance, "in assembling in numbers to accomplish 
by force measures not sanctioned by our written laws, 
in taking a large share of criminal jurisprudence into 
our hands without warrant, and in opposition to 
the regular constituted tribunals; in nullifying legal 
processes; in establishing a court whose jurisdiction. 

Pop. Teib., Vol. II. 10 


is bounded by its own discretion. But although we 
have erected a new engine, we have not broken the 
old one." 

Expediency and illegality are the arguments pro et 
con. Whatsoever the condition of a community, how- 
soever democratic or despotic its government, whether 
it be based on bills of rights, articles of confederation, 
specific charter, or time-honored custom, should that 
government fail properly to fulfil its functions, its ob- 
ligations, its agreements, the people not only possess 
the right, but it is their bounden duty to throw it off 
and fit to themselves a new form if they can. Be- 
tween the government and the people there is an 
implied if not a written agreement; laws are estab- 
lished which it is the duty of the people to obey and 
of the government to enforce. If the people break 
the laws the government may rightly punish; if the 
government fails to fulfil its part of the compact, the 
people have the same right to punish the government. 
To say that the people break the law in throwing off 
an incompetent government, is to hold one side to the 
compact and not the other. So say the men of vigil- 

In all their arguments the advocates of law and 
order assume that law is right because it is law, that 
obedience to existing law is obligatory, however un- 
righteous the law, or by whomsoever made; which 
makes liberty a crime and any opposition to tyranny 
and oppression an unpardonable sin. All nations, 
from the beginning of history, have exercised the 
right of revolution whether they possessed such a 
right or not, just as the appeal to arms has always 
been the dernier ressort of diplomacy. Civil law may 
be held in abeyance by military law whenever neces- 
sity demands it; it is therefore not infallible. Like 
the laws of nature, religious and political institutions 
must of necessity embody elements of self-preserva- 
tion, else they fall of their own weight. This is 
truth; all else is falsity. And the evidence of truth 


is that it remains, that it cannot die. Laws of soci- 
ety, therefore, when, how, or by whomsoever made, 
are simply regulations for the preservation of society. 
Enfolding a preponderating element of self-destruc- 
tion, they cannot live. 

Mr Herbert Spencer relates a circumstance coming 
under his notice where "two law-makers propose to 
support the law by breaking the law." It is a trifle; 
something of almost daily occurrence. Two members 
of parliament become so excited over certain letters 
concerning the rules for the regulation of Hyde Park 
as to propose arbitrarily to punish the writer of them. 
Do we not see the most disgraceful scenes upon the 
floors of every legislative hall? It is not necessary 
to go to the capitals of our western states to witness 
the lawlessness of law-makers; our senators and con- 
gressmen at Washington use the knife and cudgel 
often enough to remind us that after all their legisla- 
tion, muscle still is their ultimate appeal. 

Inconsistently, as one would think, they who in 
1856 bowed lowest in their idolatry of law and con- 
stitution, when roared rebellion five years later were 
the first to arm against the laws and constitution of 
the confederation. When crime reigns, and law lies 
bleeding, and the fangs of venomous villainy are 
fastened in the throat of justice, touch not the mon- 
ster, they say; let law by law resuscitate itself or ever 
lie low. But when by pride, or prejudice, or real or 
fancied wrong their passions are stirred, away then 
with idle form; shall we, they ask, wrap ourselves in 
a Nessus-shirt of tradition and perish out of worship- 
ful regard for that which has no regard for us? If 
it be their bull that gores the neighbor's ox, they are 
on the side of the bull; if the neighbor's bull gores 
their ox, then they favor the ox. They do not hesi- 
tate a moment to fight a duel contrary to law, and 
contrary to law to shoot a man for any insult. Multi- 
tudes of such examples seem to force upon one the 
conclusion that nine tenths of the so-called principles 


of politicians are pure fiction. Blinded by the dust 
of their own egoism, deafened by their own hollow 
shouts, the stupid unthinking masses are tamely led 
by those whose principles are made and governed by 
self-interest, and changed as self-interest changes. I 
do not ask or expect men to serve their country at 
the expense of self; I only ask that they should not 
hypocritically profess to do so. This view may appear 
cynical, but I am no cynic; it is not humanity but 
humbug I hate. 

Thus was opinion warped to the one side or to the 
other by interest and education, until in one instance 
at least the community divided and proposed to light 
it out. 

Writing Judge Field in November 1873, General 
Sherman, who was active on the side of law and 
order during the movement of 1856, says: "You and 
I believe that, with good juries, Casey, Cora, Hether- 
ington, and Brace could all have been convicted and 
executed by due course of law; that San Francisco 
had no right to throw off on other communities her 
criminal class, and that the Vigilance Committee did 
not touch the real parties who corrupted the legisla- 
ture and local government. Again, if the good men 
of any city have the right to organize and assume the 
functions of government, the bad men have the right, 
if in the majority." There spoke the soldier, a mind 
trained to military precision. The sentiment, how- 
ever, loses somewhat of its force when we see how the 
author regulates his own conduct under it. About 
this time, one of these very men, Casey, published in 
a paper of which he was proprietor certain remarks 
derogatory to bankers, of which fraternity Sherman 
was at that time a member. Naturally the general 
was furious. " I went up stairs to Casey," he sa}^s, 
"and asked him what motive he could have for the 
article in question, so full of falsehoods and unfair de- 
ductions. He tried to make some excuse, alleging his 


special guardianship of the interests of poor depositors, 
etc., when I told him that I would not permit any- 
body in our building to be concerned in such a dirty 
trick, and that if he ever attempted by false publica- 
tions to levy black-mail on us and on our brother 
bankers I would pitch him and his press out of the 
third-story windows." 

Another incident of judicial inconsistency where 
personal feeling is excited may be mentioned in this 
connection — an incident of early times, doubtless for- 
gotten by General Sherman, as he makes no mention 
of it in his Memoirs: 

Under the Mexican republic it was the custom in 
California for the municipal authorities to impose a 
duty, in addition to that collected by the custom- 
house officers, of six dollars per eighteen-gallon cask 
on foreign liquors. To avoid payment of this tax, 
liquors were usually landed in the night. Under 
American rule, however, and up to the permanent 
settlement of affairs in 1848, it was different; then 
accounts of sales were sent from the custom-house to 
Colonel Mason, military governor of California, who 
gave copies of the same to the alcalde, Walter Colton, 
that he might know who had purchased liquors, and 
so collect the municipal tax. While the United States 
ship Lexington, in April 1847, was lying in the bay of 
Monterey, two casks of brandy were landed one night 
and left on the wharf. Several soldiers happening 
that way spied the tempting poison, and procuring a 
gimlet, opened speedy connection between the liquid 
and their throats. In due time the two lay senseless 
beside the cask, where they were found and taken to 
the fort. One of them died and the other barely re- 
covered. Lieutenant Sherman was so exasperated 
by the occurrence that, taking with him a posse of 
men, he proceeded to the wharf and tumbled the 
casks over on to the rocks, breaking them in pieces. 
The owner of the brandy brought suit against Sher- 
man, who was tried before General Kearney, and 


acquitted on the ground that the owner had no busi- 
ness to leave the liquor there to tempt the soldiers. 
Whatever the quality of General Kearney's law, 
Sherman clearly committed a lawless act, and how- 
ever exasperating the circumstances or noble the ob- 
ject, they were certainly not more so than those which 
actuated the members of the popular tribunal he so 
carefully condemns. 

Following is an extract from a letter to the Mo- 
hawk Courier, of the state of New York, by an 
eminent member of the San Francisco bar, who has 
often sat high upon the judicial bench: "Unfortu- 
nately for the peace and reputation of our city, there 
were some members of the Vigilance Committee, whose 
object being to bring the judiciary into disrepute with 
the people, for reasons which will hereafter appear, 
were not disposed to let the opportunity slip by unim- 
proved. Bold, unscrupulous, and resolute in pursuit 
of their selfish ends, they pulled the wires and exer- 
cised the chief control in the association; and having 
thus far committed it, having thus far succeeded in their 
assumption and demonstration of arbitrary powers; 
having found the laws powerless, and the people, for 
the reasons before mentioned, unwilling to punish 
their violation of them, these designing spirits were 
not content to resign their power so easily. As the 
Indian tiger that, once tasting human blood, never 
afterward satiates its thirst for it or contents itself 
with less noble prey, so they, elated with their suc- 
cess, and the impunity which attended it in this in- 
stance, were resolved to maintain their organization, 
not for the useful and praiseworthy objects which 
they first proposed, but avowedly for the purpose of 
exercising judicial functions, and of setting the es- 
tablished laws and tribunals of the state, nay more, 
the very constitution of the United States itself, at 
defiance. They assumed and publicly announced their 
determination to exercise the right of searching pri- 


vate dwellings without the warrant of law, and of 
arresting, confining, trying, condemning, and exe- 
cuting any whom their inquisitorial researches might 
implicate in crime. Judge, jury, counsel, and wit- 
nesses, sheriffs, jailer, and executioner, uniting each 
and every function in their own body, they publicly 
announced their intention to carry out their plans and 
purposes regardless of all opposition, and in defiance 
of the law: still, however, under the specious pretext 
of maintaining its supremacy and enforcing its de- 
crees; in short, powers and privileges of a regularly 
organized legal tribunal." The significance and value 
of such sentiments lose much of their force when the 
reader is informed that the writer of the communica- 
tion was once before the police court of the city of 
San Francisco for attempting the life of the editor 
of a city journal, the ball from the judge's pistol just 
grazing the editor's hair. 

Like the clergyman who for bread must play in his 
pulpit the part most agreeable to his hearers whether 
he will or not, so the officers of the law, beguiling the 
thing they are by seeming other than themselves, some- 
times think it their duty to hide their real sentiments 
under the cloak of hypocrisy, and pander to the im- 
perfections and superstitions of the law which pays 
them for acting the part of its high-priest. A case in 
point occurred during the movement of 1 85 1. Meeting 
one day Gerritt W. Ryckman, third president of the 
Executive Committee, John W. Geary, then mayor of 
San Francisco, thus addressed him : 

"Mr Ryckman, I am astonished that you, of all 
others, should engage in this unlawful and disgraceful 

" Geary," said Ryckman, "were you not a paid limb 
of the law you would to-day be a captain of vigil- 
ance police." 

It was true. No sooner had Geary's term of office 
expired than his conscience, chameleon-like, assumed 
the popular color, and hastening to Ryckman, he said, 


"I come as a matter of duty to tell you if I had not 
been mayor of the city I would have taken a leading 
part in the vigilance movement. I approve, in un- 
limited terms, of every act of the Committee as con- 
ducing to the prosperity of California." 

But why confine ourselves to minor illustrations of 
the hollowness of partisan opinion, of which there are 
thousands, when we may step at once to the bench 
of the highest legal state tribunal, and among the 
supreme judges themselves find numerous instances 
of their utter contempt, in action if not in words, of 
that law which they dealt with such exactness to 

J. Neely Johnson, governor of California during the 
vigilance epoch of 1856, and a hearty hater of any- 
thing like one's taking the law into one's own hands — 
unless, peradventure, he should happen to be that one — 
on the 17th of July 1851 at Sacramento offended the 
peace of that city by assaulting a journalist, Mr 
Lawrence, of the Times and Trcmscript, from which 
fight Johnson narrowly escaped. 

The case of the chief -justice of the California su- 
preme court, who, while in the full exercise of the 
functions of his high position, was arrested and tried 
by the Vigilance Committee of 1856 for a deadly as- 
sault on an officer of the vigilant police, requires no 

Of the many chivalrous deeds of Chief-justice 
Murray at variance with the law which he admin- 
istered, one will here suffice: Entering the store of 
Hill, Clark, and Company, in Sacramento, May 22, 
1856, Murray, accompanied by three friends, stepped 
up to Mr Hill and asked him if he had made certain 
remarks derogatory to his character. Not receiving 
a positive denial of the charge, Judge Murray seized 
Mr Hill by the collar, raised his cane, and struck him 
on the head, inflicting an ugly though not a danger- 
ous wound. They were at the time standing at the 
office door. Hill's friends drew him into the store, 


closing the door upon Murray, thus terminating a 
lawless and uncalled-for assault. 

Says a counsellor-at-law, commenting upon the 
attitude of the Vigilance Committee: "Although this 
modern Areopagus was composed of men of high 
respectability, whose decisions, abstractly considered, 
were distinguished for impartiality and justice toward 
their victims; and although crime abounded in the 
city and the guilty had often escaped punishment in 
the legitimate courts, yet its organization and action 
cannot be justified on any sound principles. They were 
anarchic and revolutionary; and their apology is the 
overthrow of all security of person or property founded 
on constitutional forms and proceedings. The energy 
which the Committee displayed in the exercise of 
usurped authority might have been directed in aid 
of the courts, consistently with the constitution and 
the laws, with equal if not superior efficiency." This 
is the old, old story, and simply bald assertion. Their 
action can be justified on sound principles, on the 
soundest of all principles, the principle of self-protec- 
tion; and for the rest, the conditions and the results 
prove the falsity of all such statements. Vigilance is 
neither anarchical nor revolutionary. It saves society 
from anarchy, and is a different thing from revolution, 
as we well know. 

One calls it an inconsistent trampling of law under- 
foot to punish lawlessness, thus justifying in practice 
what it professes to denounce, and violating the 
sanctity of a principle, which is the only sovereign of 
a freeman, and, professing to obey which, he cannot 
disregard in practice without the establishment of a 
precedent eventually detrimental to the cause of con- 
stitutional liberty. Another exclaims, "Better that a 
hundred criminals should escape than that the whole 
law of California should be outraged by an act that 
denies at once the value and the authority of our 
government." In answer to which I would say that 
a state of things which would allow the escape of a 


hundred criminals, or of one, should not be tolerated 
for a moment. Punishment, sure and swift, is a mercy 
to mankind, a charity to the poor degraded offenders. 
If God would chastise the wicked now, he would save 
worlds for heaven. 

If we compare the two following extracts from the 
same journal, written by the same editor, the first 
published on the 5th of November 1850, and the 
second the 28th of August 1856, we shall see how 
differently this question was regarded from different 
standpoints and at different times: 

In commenting on the many acts of violence and 
incendiarism following the first influx of convicts, such 
as knocking men down in the street, boarding a vessel 
and beating the captain, attempts to fire the city, and 
the like, he remarks: "We are opposed to lynch law, 
and even averse to capital punishment, but it would 
be a praiseworthy act to take out and hang in the 
Plaza the first man detected in setting fire to a house 
in this city, and we hope to see that gentle admonition 
given, should any of those wretches be fortunately 
detected." The editor certainly did not intend by 
these words to inflame the public mind, and he little 
thought then that the gentle admonition of which he 
speaks would be so quickly and so earnestly given. 
Five years later his tone is quite different: 

u We are free to admit that there is such a right as 
the right of revolution. Our forefathers availed them- 
selves of that right and overthrew the English rule 
in this country. It was a right which they possessed. 
It is a right which the oppressed people of Europe 
now possess, for the reason that they can redress their 
grievances only by revolution. They stand in the 
same position as our forefathers did nearly a century 
ago. There are, however, two kinds of revolution, 
physical and moral. The difference between our con- 
dition and that of the founders of this republic and 
the people of Europe at the present time is that we 
can accomplish by a moral revolution what the former 


could only have effected, or the latter can now effect, 
by a physical revolution. We possess the right of 
moral revolution, they of physical." Sophistry so 
simple would be unworthy our notice but for the 

The arguments advanced by a certain San Francisco 
doctor of divinity were these: " Surely there is not a 
word in the Bible," he says with clerical naivete, "that 
teaches Christians to rebel against the legal authorities 
of a free Christian land. The Bible teaches nothing 
if it does not require Christians to be a law-abiding 
people. The early Christians conquered by submitting 
even to tyrants. It is marvellous how you can find an 
analogy between some mere local corruptions in San 
Francisco and the causes of the English revolution 
of 1688, or of the American revolution of 1776, or of 
the war of Great Britain in the days of Bobert Hall. 
In 1688 and 1776, and in the days of Cromwell, there 
was no way to obtain redress but by revolution. 
Fundamental laws had to be obtained. Great funda- 
mental rights and principles, both as to the civil 
liberty and religious, had to be secured by force. The 
government was not then, as it is now, in the hands of 
the people. They had not then the right of making 
their own laws and electing their own officers. Nor 
was there then, as now with us, a constitutional way 
to change or amend our laws and to remove unfaith- 
ful officers. There is no analogy or resemblance in 
the cases. With us, if the laws do not reach the evil, 
let the people, in the constitutional way, make laws 
that will reach it. The wrongs complained of in a 
popular government cannot make it right or expedient 
to paralyze all law. It is law and not lawlessness we 
want. Our government, as Chief -justice Marshall 
has said, is one of laws and not of men. It is the 
people, but the people embodied in a written constitu- 
tion, and in written laws made in pursuance of that 
constitution. So ample and so specific is the method 
prescribed in our constitution and in our laws for 


amending or changing them, that it is the decision of 
the supreme court of the United States that a revolu- 
tion by force is impossible. It must be so ; for if there 
is not a constitutional way of correcting the abuse of 
popular governments they cannot stand. My plat- 
form is the Bible, the constitution, and the union, just 
as they are." Which in the first place has ever been 
the platform of blind bigotry, and which in the second 
place is not true. The writer of the above lines a few 
years later was obliged to leave his pulpit and Cali- 
fornia because he was not satisfied with the union 
just as it was, and because he sympathized with re- 

It is not a little strange that in a mixed community 
like that of San Francisco, enjoying a liberty or license 
wider and less trammelled than that under any other 
republican government, there raged in certain quar- 
ters a fiercer fanaticism favoring absolutism than even 
might be found under many monarchical despotisms. 
Principles, however, are rarely separated from self- 
interest. It is worthy of remark that the law and 
order element, emanating from that school of chivalry 
which finds expression in the bowie-knife, the duello, 
state -rights, and rebellion, were of all republicans 
the quickest to defend their rights with their own 
arm in defiance of constitution or law. Having mi- 
grated to a new land, they clothed themselves in the 
robe of office, and fattened on the perquisites of the 
law. Law became to them what doctrine is to the 
religious teacher, a sacred thing, a sine qua non, in- 
volving wealth or poverty, influence or insignificance, 
food and raiment, or starvation and nakedness. The 
other extreme is found in the radical mob spirit. An 
individual rightly or wrongfully commits a rash act, 
it may have been in defence of his own or another's 
life; it may have been while laboring under aggra- 
vated excitement, so taunted and provoked that to 
pass the insult unavenged calls in question his man- 
hood; or it may be he is only suspected of having 


committed an outrage, and straightway without in- 
dictment by grand inquest, without the examination of 
a sworn and dispassionate tribunal, in the blindness 
of momentary rage he is seized and hurried away by 
the inflamed populace, and unconvicted of any crime, 
unannealed and unshrived, hanged on the nearest tree. 
Many instances are on record where a wretched vic- 
tim has thus been deprived of life by a mad populace 
and afterward found guiltless of any crime, or, if 
guilty of the deed, it was found to have been com- 
mitted under greatly extenuating circumstances, and 
not meriting the extremest penalty of the law. It 
was such lawless and sanguinary measures in the ad- 
ministration of justice, with excesses and outlawry in 
other directions, that brought opprobrium on Cali- 
fornia's fair fame. This is one phase of the subject; 
but this is not all. Vigilance reprobates one extreme 
no less than the other. 

It is well enough in settled communities for statute- 
makers and legal dignitaries to defend the majesty of 
law and set the seal of opprobrium on rabble attempts 
to defy it; but where there is no law, or where law 
becomes inoperative, there is but one remedy for 
those who would escape anarchy and save themselves 
from social perdition. Undoubtedly some innocent 
men have suffered at the hands of an unorganized 
populace, have been inconsiderately and unjustly 
launched into eternity by a drunken mob; yet when 
the very best appliance for the dealing out of simple 
honest justice which human ingenuity can devise 
fails, it is scarcely wise to throw it aside for some 
worse system because it lacks perfection. Legal 
tribunals are not always infallible in their decisions, 
and the skirts of a more orderly justice have not been 
always clear of blood-guiltiness. Many a poor wretch 
is made unjustly or innocently to suffer, while the 
great scoundrel escapes with scarcely a blemish upon 
his golden escutcheons. To-day the administration of 
justice in all the courts of Christendom is in many 


instances a farce. The Mormons have a system 
which, though crude, is nearer right in principle than 
our own, for there he who feels himself aggrieved 
may lay his cause before his peers, and if necessary 
carry it from the lowest to the highest tribunal with- 
out cost; but who can win a suit, however just, in 
any of our courts without money? The heathen in 
our midst quickly understand this, as the following 
incident will show: In conversation with a bright- 
eyed smiling Mongolian, Ah Foy, a gentleman for 
whom he did washing expressed the opinion that one 
Ah Chung, lately arrested for the murder of Ah Li, 
his Celestial love, would be hanged. " Him no hang," 
exclaimed Ah Foy, "him all same Melican man; he 
got two thousand dollars ! You sabe, no hab money, 
him hang; hab plenty money, no hang: all same 
Melican man." Three times in four when wrong" is 
done the remedy is worse than the disease. Justice 
is too expensive a luxury, and so rascality thrives and 
honest men are brought low. 

Let our wise and worshipful jurists study to per- 
fect the system under which justice is at present 
administered before they so sweepingly condemn all 
other methods, however singular the emergency. So- 
ciety breeds its own customs, and makes such yokes 
as best befit its distempers. In California, was crime 
to hold perpetual carnival because there were no Dog- 
berrys at hand ? If substance be superior to shadow, 
or the essence of morals to legal forms, then law must 
not be exalted above the power that makes law. The 
law protects those only who can handle it; suffer it 
to escape control, and it is a nullity. Rulers will 
never be much better than the people who set them 
up. Vicious governors and unjust judges can never 
long hold sway over good and just men. A funda- 
mental element of progress is greater security to 
person and property. Not only is the power of man 
over nature ever increasing, but man's power over 
himself, which latter is the greater achievement. 


Governors are the servants of the governed; judges, 
policemen, and all holders of public office, are subor- 
dinate to the people, who, under God, are almighty. 
What constitutes a state ? Not legislative halls, with 
their law-makers and governors; not armed men and 
military accoutrements; not statutes, law courts, jails, 
and officers of the law — these are but the servants of 
the commonwealth, and their liveries. The people 
are the state; people, good or bad, according to the 
goodness or badness of the state. If the state is 
honest and high-minded, the people are so ; if the gov- 
ernment is mercenary, the officers corrupt, the press 
venal, the people are inglorious, base, and well befitted 
to such a rule. 

This was no time or place for abstract theorizing. 
The assassin's knife was at the throat of society; 
courts of justice were inefficient or corrupt — in many 
places they had no existence; there were no jails, or 
none to speak of, and such as there were, criminals 
often were glad to enter as an asylum which should 
protect them from the fury of the populace. There 
were throughout the country no settled systems for 
the detection and punishment of crime, no police, no 
efficient officers of the law; every man of the com- 
munity was hurrying hither and thither, absorbed in 
ferreting his own affairs, caring little what became of 
the land and people that he intended soon to escape 
from; and when the robber or murderer was arrested 
by his fellows, who would waste weeks or months or 
undertake a journey to some distant justice out of 
respect for forms and legal ceremonies when with 
their own eyes they had seen the deed committed and 
knew the man should die? The people must protect 
themselves by the simplest, quickest, and most prac- 
tical system of retributive justice that it was possible 
to adopt, a system divested of mystery and delay, a 
system unnecessary and injurious to public morals in 
settled communities with an upright judiciary and the 
machinery of law perfect in its operations. No pun- 


ishment is so effectual in the prevention of crime as 
the fear of certain and immediate death. In a roving 
border life, where conflict with savages and wild beasts 
is the normal state, where every man is armed against 
every other man, and the life of each is in his own 
keeping, the widest field is offered for the play of pas- 
sion. In California, where most of the inhabitants 
were strangers to each other, wandering singly or in 
small parties through quiet canons and pathless wilds, 
often having in their possession large quantities of 
gold-dust, the temptations to rob and murder were 
peculiarly great, for there dark deeds could be done 
with but little risk of detection, so that to condemn 
lynch law or mob law, unjustly or brutally as it was 
sometimes administered, is practically absurd. The 
forms and technicalities which in the judicial proceed- 
ings of settled communities are instituted for protec- 
tion, are in lawless unrestrained societies for the same 
reason disregarded. In both cases the strictest jus- 
tice is aimed at, and thus far experience teaches that 
thus in both cases it is best attained. Let him who 
would sweepingly condemn lynch law or vigilance 
committees first provide a substitute which promises 
protection. Among the criminal class the thirst for 
violence and blood increases in tenfold ratio with in- 
dulgence ; if unrestrained it soon rages like the flames 
of a burning city, and the more uncertainty connected 
with arrest and conviction, and the longer the time 
which must elapse before punishment, the less are the 
feelings of horror and of fear for the penalties of 



One never needs one's wits so much as when one has to do with a fool. 

Chinese proverb. 

We must now go back a few days and review the 
situation from the standpoint of the opposers of vigil- 

Never in California was there so strong a feeling 
against popular tribunals as at this time. The senti- 
ment was limited to a class representing the minority, 
and for that reason it was probably all the more 
bitter. Many had come to this state for the purpose 
of entering politics, and had staked their all for office. 
It appeared to them as if the whole country was alive 
with mobs and murderous committees, and they were 
heartily sick of such doings. In the eyes and con- 
sciences of many this disrespect of law was like 
trampling their religion into the dust. We all know 
how men will fight for their traditions, their opinions, 
the truth of them having nothing whatever to do 
with it. We have seen how the ranks of the op- 
posers of vigilance were composed to a great extent of 
the worst elements of society; yet there were present 
some of the best elements. Of necessity there is some- 
thing good in the worshippers of tradition, something 
productive of good in the act. "I never knew a man 
good because he was religious," says Coleridge, " but 
I have known one religious because he was good." 

There is no lack of divinity in human nature; there 
is no lack of the spiritual in the material world. The 

Pop. Tkib., Vol. II. 11 (161) 


unseen and impalpable are as powerful in their in- 
fluence upon us, in our organization, growth, and con- 
duct, as are things material and tangible. Scores of 
sacred books have been made from mixed material, and 
even profane writings may mellow with age into some- 
thing sacred. We might call the Homeric poems the 
first bible and the writings of Shakespeare the last. 
But religions have their birth and death. Long before 
Christ the philosophers of Greece scoffed at the gods 
of Olympus, and the floor of heaven, which was the 
azure vault, was swept of the supernatural by ad- 
vancing thought. Yet not to all does the light come 
with equal clearness, and with many popular tribunals 
were as popular heresies or popular infidelities. 

In the present instance the people were indignant. 
Passion is contagious. The law became indignant, 
and so did the military. Officials were angry because 
the people were, and soldiers must needs fight because 
they were made for that purpose. The army, how- 
ever, gave the vigilants but little trouble. Those 
that could have brought matters to a bloody issue, to 
their great praise, be it said, would not; those who 
would, fortunately could not. The navy was under 
the direction of one less discreet, who soon began to 
talk loudly of annihilation. Many of the city officials, 
feeling their own weakness, became on that account 
all the more desperate. 

But few of the United States authorities, however, 
took an active part in the movement, and these of 
course ranged themselves on the side of law and 
order. Most of them wisely refused to interfere, 
deeming the conflict one of those local disruptions 
which would spend itself soonest if left alone. Many 
reports at various times were in circulation to the 
effect that the United States forces at Benicia and 
the United States war vessels lying in the harbor 
would attack the Vigilance Committee, but such was 
never the intention of those who held these forces at 
their command. General Wool preferred rather to 


keep the United States out of the affair; and to this 
end he directed Captain Stone, with a party of regu- 
lars, to proceed to Rincon Hospital, where were four 
large pieces of ordnance, and remove them to Benicia, 
that neither of the contending factions might seize 
them. This was a wise and humane proceeding. He 
had no fear that Mr Dempster would shoulder the 
United States and carry it off. Further than this, 
when General Wool saw with what wisdom and mod- 
eration the Committee were acting, and how large a 
majority of the people were with them, he addressed 
an order to the United States officers under his com- 
mand to observe the strictest neutrality. 

It will be remembered that it was on Wednesday, 
the 14th of May, that the shooting was done. And we 
have seen how quickly the officers of the law hastened 
to the protection of the assassin Casey, how they de- 
fended him at the jail, and how the criminal's friends 
and sympathizers united in armed squads for his pro- 
tection. Next day, Thursday, there was scarcely less 
activity manifested in law and order circles than at 
the rooms of the vigilants. The police force was in- 
creased, the armories were replenished and put in 
order, and recruiting and drilling were prosecuted vig- 
orously. The sheriff summoned posse after posse of 
those on whom he thought he might rely, and armed 
them for the defence of the jail. The military com- 
panies, fagged out by a whole day and night on duty 
at the jail, on Thursday morning were dismissed by 
Colonel West. During the day a detachment of the 
National Lancers rendezvoused at the City Hall, sub- 
ject to the order of the mayor. The citizen-soldiery, 
though hissed and hooted at by the excited crowd, 
admirably maintained their equanimity; indeed they 
were too much in sympathy with their assailants to 
attempt retaliation. 

By Friday morning it was apparent that a strong 
effort was being made to organize and bring out the 
state militia to put down the insurrection. An order 


was issued by the sheriff and served on various per- 
sons favorable to the cause, calling a meeting, which 
was held at the place and hour appointed. Here is 
the order: 

"State of California, County of San Francisco. 

" To , a male inhabitant of said county, and above fifteen years of 

age: Whereas, I have good reason to believe that a serious breach of the 
peace and riot are to be apprehended, and that an organized attempt will be 
made violently to wrest from my custody a prisoner committed to my charge 
for safe-keeping : Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority in me vested, 
and in the discharge of my duty as sheriff of the county of San Francisco, 
you are hereby commanded to be and appear, at half-past three o'clock p. m. 
this 16th day of May a.d. 1856, at the Fourth District court-room, in the city 
hall, in the city of San Francisco, to aid me in the execution of my official 
duties in the premises. 

" San Francisco, May 16, 1856. Davtd Scannell, 

" Sheriff of the County of San Francisco." 

This call was answered by some sixty prominent 
men, mostly judges, lawyers, and primary election 
manipulators, who expressed their willingness to fight 
in support of law. After a desultory debate the fol- 
lowing resolution was adopted: 

"Resolved, That we, the citizens of San Francisco, have heard with great 
regret of the injury inflicted upon Mr King by one Casey ; that we depre- 
cate the existence of the present excitement and its cause ; that in the event 
of the death of Mr King we are in favor of the immediate presentment of 
Casey by the grand jury, his immediate trial by a court of competent juris- 
diction, and, if convicted, his immediate sentence and prompt execution." 

The meeting then adjourned, and soon after the 
men of law met and placed in command William T. 
Sherman, just then made major-general of militia by 
the governor. The party then divided into companies, 
each electing its own captain ; after which all separated 
to meet at half-past seven that evening. 

Those detailed by the sheriff as special officers were 
then ordered to repair forthwith to the jail and enter 
upon their duties of guarding the prisoner and pre- 
serving the public peace. About one hundred men 
were placed on guard ; sentinels paced to and fro upon 
the prison walls, and others were stationed with loaded 


muskets in front of the premises. Meanwhile the gov- 
ernor of the state, at Sacramento, had been telegraphed 
by the mayor of San Francisco that his presence was 
required. The governor at once responded, and arrived 
in the city that evening. 

Unfortunately for those who aimed at arbitrary 
justice, James King of William had arrayed against 
him not only a large class but several classes. The 
press he had offended because he had castigated all 
who apologized for irregularities in public affairs. The 
Catholics he had offended because he had taken ex- 
ceptions to certain acts of their clergy. Citizens from 
the southern states he had offended because of his 
antagonism to their ideas and codes of chivalry. All 
these elements now threw their combined weight upon 
the side against the Committee. It was assailed as 
King's champion, a merchant -mob, an anti- slavery 
rabble. This, as well as the efforts of the mayor, the 
sheriff, certain of the military, and others, public and 
private, to suppress what some even dignified by the 
name of a rebellion, the Vigilance Committee greatly 
regretted ; but as there was no help for it, they nerved 
themselves the stronger to meet the issue. Besides 
all this, and in addition to the innumerable questions 
hourly arising within the Committee rooms, they were 
fearful on the one side that the organized masses 
would forget themselves and open an assault, and on 
the other that the prisoner Casey would be spirited 
away, under the connivance of his friend the sheriff. 

The governor of the state, whose name was J. Neely 
Johnson, was not a man of pronounced character. In 
morals and religion he was loose; in rectitude and 
honesty he was not stern. As chief magistrate he 
was artificial and inconsistent; he could not play any 
very deep part, small things being to him great, and 
great things small. Some natures are more suscep- 
tible than others, but the most susceptible are not 
always the most profoundly or permanently moved. 
The land is more quickly heated by the sun than the 


sea, but the sea is warmed to a greater depth than 
the land; likewise, the land loses heat more rapidly 
by radiation than the sea. 

Of more natural rectitude than Bigler, he had not 
the cunning of Weller. Left to himself, the Commit- 
tee would have had no trouble with him, for besides 
being no match for them intellectually or practically, 
he had no special desire to injure San Francisco or to 
interfere with the will of her citizens. But he was 
afraid of his partisans. Although a lawyer, he cared 
little for the law; lacking the chivalrous ideal, he 
magnified chivalry. His supporters were mostly 
among the political and office-holding class, though he 
had great respect for the beans and bacon sellers. . A 
stupid ruler is the greatest of American blessings if 
he be good-natured; but make him angry and he will 
back the state off a precipice and carry himself with 
it. Poor ignoble Johnson! In this his dire dilemma 
he was cursed alike by friends and foes, and never 
again in the eye of the people did he rise to common 

The Sacramento boat was due at nine o'clock. At 
half- past nine on the Friday night of Johnson's 
arrival Coleman received at Turn-Verein Hall — the 
removal to Sacramento street not having yet been 
made — a message that the governor was at the Con- 
tinental Hotel, that he desired an interview with the 
president of the Vigilance Committee, and that he 
would repair at any hour to any point the latter might 
indicate. Mr Coleman informed the messenger that 
he would wait upon the governor at his hotel imme- 
diately. Without prelude or subterfuge both came to 
the question at once. 

" What do you want?" demanded the governor. 

"Peace," replied Coleman; "and we would like to 
have it without a struggle." 

" But what is it you wish to accomplish?" 

"Much that the vigilants of 1851 accomplished: 
to purify the moral and political atmosphere, to do 


what the crippled law should do but cannot. This 
clone, we will gladly retire. Now governor," contin- 
ued Coleman, "you are asked by the mayor and cer- 
tain others to bring out the militia and crush this 
movement. I assure you it cannot be done; and if 
you attempt it, it will cause you and us much trouble. 
Do as McDougal did; see, as he saw in a similar 
demonstration, a local reform merely. We ask not a 
single court to adjourn; we ask not a single officer to 
vacate his position; we demand only the enforcement 
of the laws which we have made. If you deem it the 
duty of your office to discountenance these proceedings, 
let your opposition be in appearance only. You know 
the necessity of this measure ; you know the men man- 
aging it ; you know that this is no mob, no distempered 
faction, but San Francisco herself that speaks. Leave 
us alone in our shame and sorrow; for as God lives 
we will cleanse this city of her corruption or perish 
with her. So we have sworn. Issue your proclama- 
tions if you feel that the dignity of the law may be 
best maintained by frowning on justice; declare your 
manifestoes if the government can maintain its self- 
respect only by public protestations against virtue; 
but leave us alone in our righteous purposes." 

" Sir," said the governor, taking Coleman by the 
hand, "go on in your work ! Let it be done as speedily 
as possible, and my best wishes attend you!" 

All which was most considerate on the part of the 
governor; most benignant. Undoubtedly he was sin- 
cere in every uttered word; at that time he intended' 
to do as he had said. But Johnson fell on evil com- 
panionship, and Johnson was weak. He requested 
Coleman to hasten his undertaking. " For," said he, 
"the opposition is stronger than you suppose, and the 
pressure upon me is terrible." After some conversa- 
tion concerning the prisoners who were the immediate 
cause of this commotion, in which Coleman declined 
in any manner to commit himself or his associates, the 
governor and the president parted. 


If at this juncture, with affairs in their present 
position, a man of ordinary firmness and discretion had 
been at the head of state authority, ten days would 
have seen the reform accomplished and the Commit- 
tee, if not formally disbanded, essentially so- — ten days 
at the furthest. Said Governor Foote subsequently 
at the McGowan trial at Napa: "Had Governor 
Johnson listened to me, within five days after he 
himself had ordered the surrender of the jail the 
Committee would have been disbanded, and all the 
subsequent difficulties avoided." But coercion forced 
upon the Committee the attitude of defence; for the 
thought of retiring from their unaccomplished purpose 
seems never to have occurred to them. 

Later that same Friday evening, after Coleman 
had returned to his work in the Committee room at 
Turn-Verein Hall, a messenger brought him word that 
several gentlemen, Governor Johnson, Mr Garrison, 
General Sherman, and others, were at the door re- 
questing an interview. Coleman found them in the 
anteroom. Johnson's manner was changed. He had 
evidently been under the influence of the opposing 

"We have come to ask what you intend to do," 
began Johnson, as if there had been no previous con- 
versation upon the subject, "and to ascertain if mat- 
ters cannot be amicably settled." 

"Outrages are of constant occurrence; our suffrages 
are profaned, our fellow -citizens shot down in the 
'street, our courts afford us no redress; we will endure 
it no longer." Such was the reply. 

"I agree with you as to the grievances," said the 
governor, "but I think the courts the proper remedy. 
The judges are good men, and there is no necessity 
for the people to turn themselves into a mob, and 
obstruct the execution of the laws." 

"Sir," replied Coleman, "this is no mob. You 
know that this is no mob. It is a deliberative body, 
regularly organized, with officers pledged to do their 


duty. It is a government within a government, the 
very heart of government pulsating under the poison- 
ous effects of unrebuked villainy." 

" The opposition is stronger than you imagine," 
continued the governor; " there is danger to the city, 
great danger of bloodshed, which should be prevented 
if possible. It may be necessary to bring out all the 
force at my command. I would suggest that you 
take no active steps; hold yourselves together if you 
like, but leave the cause of Casey to the courts; and 
I pledge myself in his fair and speedy trial, and the 
immediate execution of his sentence." 

" That will not satisfy the people, who, however 
they may regard your intention, will doubt your 
ability to keep such a promise," was the reply. The 
conversation became general. Shortly after Coleman 
withdrew, saying that he could take no steps of a 
definite character without consulting his associates. 
He briefly reported the conversation in the Executive 
room, where the governor's proposals met with prompt 
disapprobation. Returning to the conference with 
Messrs Truett, Arrington, and others, Mr Coleman 
repeated the governor's proposition, that there might 
be no misunderstanding, and again the officials were 
assured that there could be no possibility of any 
halting or concession on the part of the people. 

It was then suggested by a member of the Execu- 
tive that the Committee should promise to take no 
active steps against the jail, or the prisoners, without 
first giving the governor notice of such intention, pro- 
vided the Committee should be permitted to place in 
the jail a squad of say ten of their own men to act 
in conjunction with the state and county officers to 
insure to the people the safety of the prisoners. 
This guard should be furnished food and comfortable 
quarters, and should be treated in every respect as 
became the people's representatives, and such guard 
might be relieved as often as the Committee desired. 
This conceded, the Committee would remain quiet 


for the present; and if at any time they desired to 
withdraw from the compact, they reserved the right 
to do so on withdrawing their guard from the prison 
and giving the governor formal notice to that effect. 
A guard of thirty under Olney had been placed round 
the jail Thursday night. These in citizens' dress, with 
no distinguishing badge, armed only with revolvers, 
and frequently relieved, stood round the enclosure 
and at the openings communicating with the street 
to see that none escaped. But it was more fitting 
the vigilant guard should stand within the walls. In 
all this the Committee did not ask possession of the 
jail or of the prisoners; but the measure, if adopted, 
would be regarded as purely precautionary, that the 
people, who were apprehensive of the escape of the 
prisoners, and who demanded action, might be as- 
sured of the security of the men-killers there confined. 
This was finally agreed to on both sides. The gov- 
ernor and his attendants withdrew, and proceeding to 
the jail gave instructions that the vigilant guard be 
admitted. Half a score of picked men, under two 
good officers, were immediately despatched thither by 
the Committee to carry out the arrangements. 

This was Governer Johnson's third mistake on that 
single Friday night. First, he should have kept away 
from the Committee entirely, whether he proposed 
to countenance or to crush it. Secondly, referring to 
his laisser faire policy, he should have done without 
pledging himself, what he pledged himself to do and 
did not. Thirdly, to brand the gathering a band of 
rebels, and then to treat with them to their advantage, 
was the very irony of wise rulership. 

Next morning, Saturday, it came to the ears of the 
Committee that the governor and his confreres had 
expressed their doubts as to the maintaining of the 
compact of the night previous on the part of the 
Committee. In announcing to their party the terms 
of the compact, they had, moreover, either inten- 
tionally or otherwise, misconstrued them, in letter 


and in spirit. They affirmed that this truce extended 
to a permanent armistice, almost to a surrender of 
right of action on the part of the Committee ; that in 
availing themselves of the permission accorded the 
Committee to introduce into the prison their guard 
for the further security of the prisoners and the satis- 
faction of the people, the promise was implied, if in- 
deed it had not been expressed, that the case should 
be left to the courts, and that the people should not 

It was a source of great surprise to the Committee, 
who had entered into this compact in perfect good 
faith, and who had taken special pains that there 
should be no misunderstanding of its terms on either 
side, to learn the construction now placed upon it by 
their opponents; it was mortifying to them. They 
felt aggrieved at the false position in which the gov- 
ernor and his associates wished to place them. In 
their single-heartedness of purpose they could not 
understand why men pretending to have in view only 
the welfare of the city should wish to play the citizens 
false. They could account for this strange miscon- 
struction of so plain a proposition, limited to the single 
agreement on the part of the Committee not to move 
on the jail while their guard was there, only in one 
of two ways : either their error arose from confusion 
of mind incident to the excitement attending their 
novel position before the people's representatives, or 
else, their eyes being opened to their mistake, and un- 
willing to be regarded in the light of political and 
military leaders outwitted and outgeneraled by plebeian 
mechanical non-professionals, they sought to hide their 
fault under this base subterfuge. 

But little it availed them. The Committee, who 
were men careful to promise and strict to perform, 
men to whom chicanery and duplicity were strangers, 
men whose art was common-sense, whose shrewd wis- 
dom the energy of high and honorable enthusiasm — 
these well knew the terms of the compact, well 


remembered what they had promised, and, knowing, 
they proposed to do that and nothing else. I cannot 
write these vigilant leaders down knaves or fools, as 
I must needs do in order to entertain for one moment 
the charge thus laid at their door by the opposition. 
For first, they well knew they could not stop the 
movement if they would; that with five thousand 
deeply determined men at their back, men of whom 
they were but the mouth-piece, they might as well 
hope to dam Niagara with a handkerchief as to divert 
the people from their purpose. And secondly, the 
Executive themselves would have died sooner than 
have forfeited their oath and honor, betrayed the 
trust imposed upon them, and slunk back to their 
homes the slaves of villainous circumstance. They 
never promised to rest their proceedings at this point ; 
they only agreed that their prison-guard, introduced 
by courtesy of the authorities, should satisfy their 
colleagues for the moment, and should not at any time 
be employed as the entering wedge to their own ad- 
mission into the prison. And they never were so em- 
ployed in the slightest degree. The stipulation was 
of no collateral benefit whatever to the Committee; 
the introduction of their prison-guard within the walls 
was for the simple object expressed by them at the 
time, and for nothing more. 

Later on Saturday, hearing the construction placed 
by the governor's party on the compact, all the mem- 
bers who had met the party the night previous being 
present, the executive committee passed resolutions 
that they would make no change in their position at 
the county jail, and had then no further answer to 
make the authorities, who questioned them as to their 
purpose. They resolved, moreover, that they would 
notify the governor that they would maintain the 
treaty made with him the evening previous, and that 
the same involved no pledges on the part of the Com- 
mittee, except that they would make no attack on the 
jail while their guard remained within it. 


General Sherman seemed not unwilling for an op- 
portunity to display his military genius in mustering 
forces for an attack on his fellow-citizens. As to the 
right and wrong of the principles at issue he was 
as capable of judging as the average citizen of San 
Francisco; not more so. He did not herein display 
any remarkable breadth of intellect or precision of 
thought. He was a good soldier; he could plan 
campaigns, and move regiments with skill and success, 
but these duties were no aids to clear unbiased 
judgment. He was chivalrous and loyal, but these 
are not the media through which the mind arrives at 
just discriminations. Made mechanical by body drill, 
mind drill, and soul drill, in feeling and in principle, 
when the high-priest of his profession was touched, 
even in the hem of its garment, careless of the hu- 
mane and just, he was as ready, ay, apparently more 
ready, more eager to slay the righteous than the 

It ill became one so ready himself to break the law, 
whenever passion or prejudice dictated, to manifest 
such murderous ambition when his neighbor broke the 
law upon necessity and high moral principle. Upon 
this principle of vigilance Sherman's ideas seemed 
somewhat erratic. In a former chapter I have spoken 
of his going to the upper floor of his building and 
threatening to throw Casey and his printing-press out 
of the window if he did not cease the publication of 
certain obnoxious articles, which was, to say the least, 
an energetic demonstration for a champion of law and 
order. Again, I mentioned the fact of his rolling off 
the wharf at Monterey certain casks of brandy whose 
contents had intoxicated his thieving soldiers, which 
manner of procedure in such cases I find nowhere 
laid down in statute-books. Yet another fact points 
to feeling rather than thoughtful consideration as 
the governing principle. Subscribing funds, in com- 
mon with other bankers and business men, for 
the support of the Vigilance Committee at the out- 


set, when made general of militia by Governor John- 
son, and placed at the head of the forces organized 
for crushing the movement, he refused to pay his sub- 
scription. How different such conduct from that of 
those whom for the exercise of their fixed and unselfish 
principles he would have slain ! 

And yet another inconsistency of Sherman's which 
I had omitted. Strange how these things come to 
one when once the subject is started. To Captain 
Dimmick of San Jose, W. T. Sherman writes the 
2 2d of December 1848 concerning: certain irregular 
though perhaps quasi legal executions. I quote from 
the original letter: 

"I received your note a few days ago, and assure 
you I was well pleased to hear of your election and 
that you had hung those three men. You may rest 
assured that Col. Mason fully approves of the step — 
as he will in all cases when he finds that the accused 
have fair trials. A good many men will have to be 
swung before an honest man can travel in the country. 
Ord has gone down to see about the S. Miguel mur- 
der. I expect every day to hear that they too have 
been hung. An alcalde can execute any sentence, in 
my opinion, when the jury sentence and he feels that 
there is no doubt. The only danger is that some may 
act too hastily and hang the wrong man. Such will 
not be the case when the alcalde is a discreet man. 
Capt. Ingalls has just returned, and tells me that one 
man of that gang was whipped and the other two 
were awaiting trial. If they are guilty, they too 
should be made an example of, for then the many 
robbers will see a determination to punish and will be 
careful what they do. I think a good record of each 
case should be kept, so that the territory would at no 
future time be accused of encouraging lynch law. I 
write this privately, as you know my office is in the 
military branch of government — not civil. I shall 
always be glad to hear from you and will serve you 
in any way in my power." 


Thus we see, originating from the same source, 
three forms of popular power, the civil, the military, 
and the social, apparently opposed to each other. In 
reality there was no antagonism between them. But 
it required more than human discretion for each, under 
tantalizing and untried circumstances, to maintain 
that just equipoise which would avoid any display of 
pride, passion, or prejudice. 



Let them call it mischief, 
When it's past and prospered 'twill be virtue. 

Ben Jonson. 

Saturday afternoon the marshal was ordered to re- 
view the troops, and to have his whole force under 
arms at eight o'clock next morning. Fifteen hun- 
dred infantry, besides several companies of cavalry, 
and a fine park of artillery, with pieces of various 
calibre, were reported ready for service. More would 
be on the ground before sunrise. During the evening 
the Committee examined their forces in person, and 
found that a remarkable degree of proficiency had 
already been attained. The men were full of enthu- 
siasm; they expected something to be done, they were 
impatient for it. Of the regular vigilant military 
there were at this time twenty-six hundred, with about 
four hundred under arms who had not drilled in any 
company. These latter were assigned to guard and 
other duties. 

The time was at hand. The determination to move 
on the jail, demand and take the men Casey and Cora, 
bring them to the Committee rooms, give them a trial, 
and if found guilty to inflict punishment upon them, 
began to assume form. The guard should be with- 
drawn, and the governor notified according to agree- 
ment. In pursuance of the right, though extraordinary 
measures seemed necessary, nothing should be done 
that might not bear the scrutiny of honorable men, 
nothing that should stain the fairest integrity. 

Colonel Olney was sent for. "Will you accept the 



command of a picked company in an important and 
somewhat perilous movement under contemplation?" 
asked a member. 

" I will with thanks," was the reply. 

" Choose then out of all the vigilant forces of what- 
soever companies sixty men. Let them be those who 
have seen service, if possible. In any event, accept 
none but men of unflinching bravery; let them know 
that they are chosen for the post of danger, which is 
the post of honor, and permit none to serve who shall 
not so esteem it." 

Accompanied by two members of the Executive, 
Olney then visited the different companies, and re- 
quested their several commanders to call forward such 
as had served, and who were willing to volunteer to 
go to the front on dangerous duty. A rush from all 
quarters was the result; and for every one taken five 
disappointed applicants were left. 

The selections completed, the men were ordered to 
meet immediately at head -quarters. John S. Ellis 
was made first lieutenant, and J. V. McElwee, George 
F. Watson, H. H. Thrall, Asa L. Loring, and H. L. 
Twiggs were named as assistants. Then all went to 
drilling, working heads as well as heels and hands, 
and twelve o'clock that night saw the little company 
in very good condition. " There they are," said Olney 
proudly to the Executive next morning, "there they 
are, every man of them of good tough courage, and 
you can handle them as well as any old soldiers." 

Taking a map of the city, the president entered the 
marshal's room, and the two seated themselves at a 
table. The entire vigilant force was then divided 
into squads and companies, and the position of each 
assigned. The time required for each division, march- 
ing by a designated route from the place appointed to 
reach the prison, was carefully estimated. A plan 
was drawn of an attack; and the marshal was in- 
structed to station his several divisions at the places; 
indicated, and at a given moment each was to move.. 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 12 


No commanding officer of a division was to know the 
orders given to the commanding officer of another 
division. Each had only his own duty to do; and 
this was made so simple that there could be no mis- 
take. Starting from one point at a given time, and 
marching by a given route, he must be at another 
given point at another given moment, neither sooner 
nor later; and there must be no mistake about it. 

Early Sunday morning the Executive were in close 
conference. It was agreed that all business connected 
with the association, other than that immediately in 
view, should rest; that there should be no admission 
of members, no granting of interviews, or examination 
of reports, and that no member entering the general 
rooms that morning should be allowed to leave the 
premises without the special permission of the Exec- 
utive. The most inviolate secrecy was charged on 
all. The mouth of him receiving orders was hermet- 
ically sealed, and though his mind might conjecture 
what others were to do, his ears were open only to 
what concerned himself. In view of the inexperience 
of officers as well as men, a committee for the day 
was appointed, known as the war committee, with 
power to cooperate with, and, if need be, to direct the 
marshal. This committee was composed of Truett, 
Osgood, H. S. Brown, and the two Thompsons. Mr 
Smiley 's name was subsequently added to the others. 

One hundred picked men, of whom Frink was one, 
were ordered to station themselves upon the hills in 
convenient proximity to the jail. They were armed 
only with pistols, and these concealed; they were 
likewise scattered so as not to attract attention. They 
took their position at half-past ten, at which time the 
jail was well defended by the roughs. At half-past nine 
o'clock the Committee's guard was withdrawn from the 
jail, and the following letter sent the governor: 

" To His Excellency J. Neely Johnson: — 

' ' Dear Sir : We beg to advise you that we have withdrawn our guard 
from the county jail. 

" By order of the Committee. No. 33, Secretary ." 


The plan of attack was as follows: Certain divis- 
ions were to rendezvous at certain points, for the most 
part at their respective drill-rooms or other more con- 
venient spot. The main body was to start from the 
Committee head-quarters on Sacramento street. At 
the appointed moment all were to move, and approach- 
ing the point of convergence by different routes, each 
was to take the position assigned it. This was ar- 
ranged so that there should be two bodies on Broad- 
way immediately in front of the jail, one approaching 
by the streets on the east side, and the other by the 
streets on the west side, and on the hills north of the 
jail another body. These in taking their position 
should march and countermarch before the prison, in 
order to display somewhat their prowess and give time 
for reflection to those within. Their movements 
should be watchful, but deliberate. Round every 
block in the thickly settled portions of the city squads 
were stationed and patrols doubled, that no advantage 
miodit be taken of the absence of citizens from their 
homes by house-breakers and thieves. Instructions 
were peremptory that there should be no noisy dem- 
onstrations, no shouting or cheering, nor even loud 
talking. It was a solemn assembling for solemn pur- 
poses; and let every participant in the proceedings 
feel the weight of responsibility resting on him. 

It is sufficient for us to follow the main body, which 
formed at head-quarters on Sacramento street. By 
nine o'clock the streets in that vicinity showed unusual 
signs of life for a quiet Sunday morning. Those in 
the immediate neighborhood began to inquire what 
was to be done, but they received no satisfactory 
reply. Any one might surmise, but no one had aught 
to say. 

Colonel Olney's company, called the Citizens' Guard, 
was placed at the head of the column, it being their 
duty to act as executive escort and more immediate 
guard of the prisoners. Next after them was company 
1 1 , under Captain Donnelly and Lieutenant Eastman, 


followed by a French company, Captain Richard; 
then a German company, and so on. Aaron M. Burns 
was on the grand marshal's staff with the rank of 
major, and commanded the battalion that brought the 
prisoners from the jail. Olney ranked next to the 
grand marshal; his company of sixty on this occasion 
were already equivalent to veteran soldiery and were 
in every respect to be relied upon. 

Behold, then, this citizen army, men of every caste 
and calibre, thus so suddenly and unexpectedly fused 
by an idea. There was the baker, dusty from his 
kneading-trough ; the brewer, fragrant with the odors 
of his occupation ; the auctioneer, with his voice tuned 
to command; while the mild-mannered banker and the 
quiet merchant, who were fit for nothing else, were 
put into the ranks beside their own clerks and porters. 

Just before marching, Olney addressed his company: 

" The duty is one of danger," said he. "I would not 
have you taken unawares. The company is dismissed 
for ten minutes. Any one who does not wish to risk 
his life is excused." 

Not a man of them moved. 

Shortly before twelve the order was given to march. 
Their course was up Sacramento street to Montgomery, 
along Montgomery to Pacific, thence to Kearny, and 
along Kearny to Broadway and the jail grounds. A 
solid body of glistening bayonets occupied the street, 
while on either side pressed a throng of spectators, 
increasing at every step, and the whole living mass 
moved simultaneously forward, past doors and win- 
dows filled with curious lookers on, toward the jail. 
And this, while worshippers were praying in the 
churches to be delivered from the evil, and while the 
wife and children of Casey's victim were tremblingly 
watching death's creeping shadow. Before the moving 
of the main body, and besides those who had set out for 
the jail from their own quarters, several companies 
filed out of the Committee rooms and took different 
routes to Broadway, those starting first taking the 


longest route, so as to bring them all upon the spot at 
precisely the same moment. 

Everybody in those days knew Colonel Gift — a tall, 
lank, empty-bow elled, tobacco-spurting southerner, with 
eyes like black burning balls, who could talk a company 
of listeners into the insane asylum quicker than any 
man in California, and whose blasphemy could not be 
equalled, either in quantity or quality, by the most 
profane of any age or nation. Gift was standing on 
the street, opposite the St Nicholas Hotel, talking with 
a New Hampshire lawyer named Grant as the great 
body of merchants and mechanics filed past. 

" I tell you, Grant," said he, "when you see these 
damned psalm -singing Yankees turn out of their 
churches, shoulder their guns, and inarch away like 
that of a Sunday, you may know that hell is going to 
crack shortly!" 

The jail was a strong one-story-and-basement edifice, 
with heavy walls of brick and stone, the upper portion 
of which was not yet completed. It stood on an em- 
bankment, since cut down to the street, and the front 
door was approached by steps badly constructed from 
the veritable lumber used as a gallows in the hanging 
of the poor Mexican, before mentioned, on Russian 
Hill. The rooms and cells were in the then half-story 
or basement which opened on these steps leading down 
the embankment to the graded street; its flat roof was 
overlooked by residents above Stockton street and 
those upon the sides of Telegraph and Russian hills. 

The street called Broadway, on which, between 
Kearny and Dupont streets, the jail was situated, 
when graded cut through the base of Telegraph Hill. 
At this time the street was not open to the city front. 
Between Montgomery and Sansome streets was a 
high bluff, commanding a fine view of the ground in 
front of the jail, particularly suiting such spectators as 
delighted in a little distance between them and the bel- 
ligerent citizens. All the streets for blocks to the 
south and west lay open to the beholder, so that the 


simultaneous doings in each could be easily wit- 

Seen from this spot, the assembling of the vigilants 
was grand in the extreme. Up Montgomery street 
they came, up Kearny, Dupont, and Stockton; up 
through the cross-streets, and forward and backward 
from street to street as each company had been ap- 
pointed. Column after column marched up to the 
prison, some passing, wheeling, and countermarching 
to their places with fixed bayonets and military pre- 
cision. In their plain attire the men were less con- 
spicuous than their arms. The streets seemed filled 
with a solid blue of steel. 

Just as the column began to move, Mr Watkins, 
one of the most active and reliable upon the vigilant 
police, was ordered to take two carriages from the 
Plaza and drive directly to the jail. He had been there 
but a few moments when he found himself hemmed in 
on every side. All the avenues leading to the spot were 
suddenly filled with soldiers, and house-tops round the 
jail were taken possession of by vigilant riflemen. 
Twenty thousand persons had by this time gathered 
upon the hills adjacent as spectators of whatever was 
to happen. - 

" Having only a moderate military experience," says 
Mr Coleman, "I perhaps exaggerated the precision 
with which these movements were made ; but to me it 
was very charming to see every single command 
arriving at its respective objective point almost with- 
in half a minute of each other." 

The entire force thus brought together formed a 
complete cordon round the block on which the prison 
stood, with a regularity that commanded the admira- 
tion of all present. "We see now what this means!" 
was written with smiles upon the faces of the troops 
along the line, brought to a halt by the meeting of 
other lines. No one was allowed to come within the 
lines formed by the military, or to pass out from the 


While for the moment the destinies of the day were 
left in the hands of the military, the war committee, 
accompanied by the president, hastened to quarters 
reserved for them on the corner of Broadway and 
Stockton streets, commanding a full view of the field. 

It was one of San Francisco's loveliest of lovely 
Sundays. The stillness of a New England Sabbath 
ushered in the memorable day with that soft sunshine 
which under a cloudless sky freshens the air with 
ocean mists. This quietude as the day wore by was 
broken, not by rude alarms, but by the low tone of 
occasional command and the echo of the measured 
tread of many men joined in one purpose. 

Again, when the bustle attending the arrival of 
forces at the prison had subsided, there fell upon the 
multitude another stillness, deeper and more solemn 
than that of the unruffled morning, the silence of 
awful expectation. It was characteristic of the day, this 
noiseless self-restraint, which removed their doings as 
far. as possible from riotous demonstrations or passion- 
ate outbursts of temper. The inarching of the citi- 
zen companies was unattended by drum-beat or the 
sound of instrument, and words were spoken only at 
intervals, and then in low tones. 

The line drawn up in front of the jail extended from 
Kearny nearly to Stockton street. All the houses 
on the opposite side of the street from the jail were 
searched, that there might be no surprise from that 
direction. Immediately the Citizens' Guard had taken 
their stand in front of the jail a squad of artillerists 
under Colonel Johns arrived with a six-pounder, the 
property of the First California Guard, taken by a 
company under James F. Curtis for the use of the 
vigilants on this occasion from the store of Macon- 
dray and Company, where it was lying. The gun was 
placed in position by Lieutenant Ellis; it was then 
deliberately loaded with powder and ball, and the 
match lighted ready for instant use. 



At this juncture Marshal Doane rode up to the 
door of the prison and gave three smart taps with 
the handle of his riding-whip. The wicket opened 
and the following letter, addressed to the sheriff, was 
passed in: 

"David Scannell, Esq.: — 

"Sir: You are hereby required to surrender forthwith the possession of 
the county jail now under your charge to the citizens who present this de- 
mand, and prevent the effusion of blood by instant compliance. 

" By order of the Committee of Vigilance." 

This was at ten minutes past twelve. Mark the 
hour. The guard of ten had been withdrawn at kalf- 
past nine, leaving the sheriff in full possession. The 
notification of such withdrawal had been delivered to 
Governor Johnson in person by a member of the Ex- 
ecutive Committee at eleven o'clock. The demand 
now made for the surrender of the jail was at ten 
minutes past twelve. The governor was advised by 
his friends, spies upon the Committee, of the fact that 
Casey was to be removed an hour before he was taken. 
There was plenty of time for him to bring out his 
forces if he could command any, or if he was so in- 
clined. Lest the charge of duplicity, or breach of 
faith, might be laid at their door, these events, and 
the exact moment of their occurrence, were noted in 
the records of the association. The charge that this 
guard of ten was introduced for the purpose of open- 
ing the jail doors to three thousand armed men, who 
could have blown the whole affair to atoms in five 
minutes, shows how scant the foundation on which a 
lie may be based. 

Mr Watkins, who was one of the captains of the 
guard of ten, states that Scannell, the sheriff, and 
Harrison, his deputy, were disposed to treat him 
cavalierly at first, but became more affable as time 
went by. He further affirms that Billy Mulligan was 
the only man about the prison who treated him with 
real civility. " On entering," says Mr Watkins of his 
first experience within the jail, "we found a large 


number of men inside, stationed all over the jail, all 
well armed with double-barrelled shot-guns, rifles, and 
other arms, in addition to the regular force of the jail. 
Many of them were very valorous while they were 
inside; they outnumbered us about ten to one." Billy 
quite won his heart; the fact is, Mulligan did not 
know how soon he might be in a prison of which 
Watkins was keeper, and that not as captain of a 
guard of honor, but as captain of a band of thieves 
and murderers. " But among the modest men there," 
continues Watkins, "the man who treated us the best, 
and. recognized us as the agents of the Vigilance Com- 
mittee, was William Mulligan. He was on guard 
there with the rest, and treated us in a very gentle- 
manly manner, to my surprise ordering breakfast for 
us, and providing other accommodations." 

There were now not more than twenty officials 
about the prison, and it was soon discovered that the 
sheriff intended no resistance. Standing upon the 
jail roof, apparently spectators only of the singular 
scene, were two deputy- sheriffs and three or four 
police officers, none of whom made any display of 
arms. These at one time made a move as if to de- 
scend, when the marshal shouted, "Stay where you 
are, or we will fire on you!" Within the prison were 
Sheriff Scannell, with two or three deputies, and 
Marshal North, with one or two policemen, all 
watching the movements outside with intense in- 
terest. Of serious aspect were their countenances, 
but there was nothing in them to show anger or op- 

What were the thoughts of the criminal Casey, as 
he lay in jail, the centre of this social whirlwind which 
his evil destiny had so unexpectedly invoked? The 
journals of the day furnished him entertaining reading 
enough; some of them were a little too personal in 
their remarks to suit his pride, but after all it was a 
grand thing to be the subject of general commotion. 
This was the most glorious killing of the time; his 


shot had struck not one, but thousands, and there 
was a pleasing fear in seeing them wince under the in- 
fliction of his chastisement. Scores of friends visited 
him in prison; he was their champion, and they 
were rallying nobly to his defence; everything that 
money could buy was at his service; on the whole 
he was well satisfied with his quarters. But should 
his victim die — ah, there was the danger! In that 
event his friends might not be able to protect him, 
and he might be torn in pieces by this infuriated 
rabble. The fact is, although Casey did not know, 
could not know, the extent of the terrible and de- 
termined preparation then being made in secret for 
his punishment, he did not feel comfortable as he lay 
in jail reading of the doings on his behalf of his fellow- 
citizens. And now to him the shadow of the vigilant 
army athwart his prison walls was as unwelcome a 
visitation as was the shade of his mistress Dido to 
pious ^Eneas in hell. Take it altogether, he wished he 
had not killed King. 

On this still Sabbath morning, with its flood of 
golden sunlight freshened by the soft airs of ocean, 
when one would think that even a murderer might 
find momentary repose but for the thought of having 
blotted so fair a sight from the eyes of a fellow-mortal, 
Casey had felt the approach of his marshalled ene- 
mies, though at first he could not see them. There 
was a closeness in the atmosphere closer than that 
caused by prison walls; there was a darkness in the 
universe darker than that of his prison cell. As his 
companions recited to him the scene of the gathering, 
as they permitted him to look out upon the angry 
human clouds that darkened all that vicinity, he did 
not hear and see so much as feel their soul-stifling 
presence. Reading that which he most feared in the 
face of the sheriff, who now approached him with the 
vigilant order for the prisoner's delivery in his hand, 
Casey, terror-stricken and overcome, threw up his 
hands and cried: 


" What ! are you going to betray me and give me up?" 
"James," said Scannell, "there are three thousand 
armed men coming for you, and I have not thirty sup- 
porters about the jail." 

"Not thirty!" replied Casey; "then do not peril 
life for me. I will go with them. And yet I will 
not!" he exclaimed, starting up and drawing a long 
knife which he had kept concealed; "I will never be 
taken from this place alive ! Where are all you brave 
fellows who were going to see me through this affair 
so safely?" 

When the war committee, from their point of ob- 
servation, saw their plans so perfectly completed, saw 
their forces standing invincible around the jail, saw 
their cannon planted before the door, and the lighted 
match, and saw the marshal deliver their message to 
the sheriff, they stepped forth, entered their carriages, 
and drove hastily to the scene of action, the ranks 
opening for them, and the marshal and his staff 
saluting them as they approached. 

Taking their station in front of the prison, they were 
immediately surrounded by Olney's guard, who formed 
a hollow square about them. A deputation of the 
war committee, with the president at the head, and 
accompanied by Mr Truett, all under a strong guard, 
then approached the prison door and demanded ad- 
mittance. Sheriff Scannell appeared immediately and 
opened the door to them. They entered, leaving their 
guard at the door. 

" We have come for the prisoner Casey," said Cole- 
man. "We ask that he be peaceably delivered us 
handcuffed at the door immediately." 

"Under existing circumstances I shall make no re- 
sistance," replied the sheriff; "the prison and its con- 
tents are yours." 

" We want only the man Casey at present," exclaimed 
Truett pointedly. "For the safety of all the rest we 
shall hold you strictly accountable." 



The sheriff then proceeded to the prisoner's cell and 
informed him of the demand. Casey agreed to go, but 
peremptorily refused to be handcuffed. He moreover 
submitted the following proposition in writing, which 
he requested Scannell to deliver: 

"To the Vigilant Committee: — 

" Gentlemen : I am willing to go before you if you will let me speak but 
ten minutes. I do not wish to have the blood of any man upon m} r head. 

< 'J. P. Casey." 

Evidently Casey feared immediate execution as at 
the hands of a mob. 

Meanwhile Deputy Harrison had made an effort 
to induce the prisoner to acquiesce in their demands, 
but he only flourished his knife the more excitedly, 
and swore he would plunge it into his heart sooner 
than submit. Marshal North then came forward and 
said that Casey had promised him that if two respect- 
able citizens would give him assurance of gentlemanly 
treatment, that he should not be dragged through the 
streets like a dog, that he should have a fair trial, and 
be allowed to summon witnesses, he would quietly 
yield to their wishes; otherwise he might as well die 
then and there. 

" Show us the prisoner," demanded Coleman. North 
led the way to Casey's cell. His manner was still 
greatly excited; his eye was wild, and the long sharp 
dagger he still flourished in his hand. Coleman 
fastened his deep clear eyes upon him, and regarding 
him steadily, sharply for some time, Anally spoke: 
"Lay down that knife." Casey, the poor hunted 
criminal, saw in that eye the master, and he obeyed. 
"All your requests are granted," Coleman now as- 
sured Casey; then turning to North he said, "Open 
the cell door and bring him out." Coleman and Truett 
then returned to the jail door. Presently Marshal 
North appeared with the prisoner, and delivered him 
to the deputation. He was not ironed, the Committee 
having waived that demand; and they supposed him 


unarmed, but at that moment he had another dagger 
concealed in his boot. 

As the president and Mr Truett, with their associates 
of the war committee, emerged from the prison door 
with Casey in their midst, and began slowly to descend 
the steps of the embankment, a burst of grateful re- 
lief rose to the lips of the vast multitude surrounding 
the vigilant forces ; rose timidly at first, for round the 
prison all was silent as death, and began to roll up the 
hill-sides, and quickly would have swelled to their sum- 
mits, when lo! the president, with hat removed and 
uplifted hand, beckoned silence, and immediately all 
was still. Hushed was the half-uttered cheer, and 
stifled the shout of joy ; for after all it was the victory 
of twenty thousand over one wretched offender. More- 
over, this was not revenge, but duty. 

It was one of the most touching episodes of the 
epoch, the quick response to that silent request. 
Nothing could have better evidenced the warm sym- 
pathy of the masses for the association, and the re- 
spect for and confidence in the leaders, than this quick 
obedience to a silent signal made on the very verge 
of an outburst of exultant applause. Moreover it 
spoke the innate manliness of those who could so in- 
stantaneously sec the propriety of thus suppressing 
demonstrations of joy in the presence of one poor 
criminal, powerless to resist. Yet none the less real 
to them and to him was the shadow of retribution 
cast by that unspoken applause which shut the shiv- 
ering murderer from the cheering rays of human 
sympathy. Alas! why should he wish to live, on 
whom all eyes glared abhorrence ! 

At the foot of the steps the guard, took the prisoner, 
and leading him to a carriage in waiting placed him 
within it. At his request Marshal North took a seal 
by his side, and Mr Coleman and Mr Truett occupied 
the remaining two seats. Mr Smiley placed himself 
beside the driver, and Mr Watkins took his station by 
the carriage door. The guard formed a complete 


square round the vehicle, the main body of the vigil- 
ant forces followed, and in this manner the prisoner 
Casey was escorted to the Committee rooms on Sacra- 
mento street, and placed in a small cell which had 
been hastily constructed on the east side of the large 
room. A knife and his papers were taken from him. 

Before leaving the jail the war committee had 
notified the sheriff that in one hour they should in 
like manner require at his hands the person of Charles 
Cora, warning him meanwhile that no person other 
than the sheriff or his deputies should be allowed to 
pass the prison door. About half the vigilant force 
had remained on the ground to guard the jail, while 
the remainder served as escort of the first criminal to 
the Committee rooms. 

The marshal and war committee had been directed 
by the executive committee to accept possession of 
the jail in the name of the Committee of Vigilance. 
The war committee now concluded to leave the jail 
in possession of the sheriff upon his surrendering the 
person of Charles Cora. 

In accordance with the notification given the sheriff, 
at the expiration of the hour named the war com- 
mittee again appeared at the jail door and demanded 
that Charles Cora should be brought them. The 
sheriff now hesitated, and requested thirty minutes 
in which to consider the matter. These were granted 
him, but he still declined passing out any more 
prisoners, saying that as they possessed the power 
they might take the whole jail if they desired. The 
Committee assured the sheriff that he was the proper 
custodian of the jail, responsible for the safety of its 
inmates, and that they had no disposition or intention 
at that time to interfere with his duties further than 
in obtaining possession of Cora; but Cora they would 
have. The sheriff finally complied, and the murderer 
of Richardson was likewise removed to the Committee 

Lying in jail at this time was one Rodman Backus, 


a rough, somewhat respectably connected, who had 
killed a German at the corner of Stout alley and 
Washington street because the latter had dared to 
visit the lady of his affections residing in the alley. 
He had been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to the 
state-prison, and the German vigilants insisted that 
this man likewise should be taken from the prison, as 
his friends seemed determined to have him released 
on a technicality. After witnessing the demonstra- 
tions of this Sunday, Rodman lost all taste for liberty, 
and begged retirement at San Quentin. That night 
he was taken over from the jail to the state-prison in 
a small boat. 

. A grand rush of spectators had been made from 
the jail and its vicinity to the streets round the Com- 
mittee rooms. It being their constant purpose to allay 
excitement so far as possible among the people, Mr 
Dows and Mr Burns were requested by the executive 
committee to address the people, and to say that it 
was the intention of the Committee not to be hasty. 
This information they were requested to convey in as 
few words as possible. Mr Dows presented himself 
at the window and informed the people that no exe- 
cution would take place that day. 

"Where are Cora and Backus?" asked one. 

"The Committee hold possession of the jail, and all 
the prisoners are safe," was the reply. 

Apparently satisfied, the crowd slowly dispersed. 

Three hundred men were retained at the Committee 
rooms as guard for the night; the work of the day 
being now accomplished, the remainder were permitted 
to disperse. One by one the several companies filed 
off to their respective rooms, some of them marching 
down to the water to discharge their arms and re- 
turning to leave them freshly loaded. A guard of one 
hundred also watched the jail that night. 

Pop. Teib., Vol. II. 13 



Lookers on many times see more than gamesters. 


I have said that there were several standpoints 
from which to view this movement, notably two which 
present to us its inner and its outward phases. Fol- 
lowing affairs chronologically, let us examine the 
matter in the present chapter from yet a new point 
of observation, our outward view of this social sea, 
white foaming in its mad unrest. 

James King of William was shot on Wednesday, 
May 14th. Next day the following printed address, 
over the signature 'Brutus,' placarded throughout 
the city acted as fuel to the flame : 

" Emergency of the moment ! To the people ! Friends and fellow- citizens, 
lend me your ears ! The time was when in San Francisco many among us, 
law-abiding men, regretted the acts of the Vigilance Committee, and were 
willing to hope that if the law of the land had been duly supported the guilty 
would have met with their deserts. Since then experience has convinced us 
that the law is here a mockery ; that the weak, the poor, the stranger, may 
pay his misdeeds by the forfeiture of his liberty or his life ; but the rich 
villain, the powerful gambler, supported by his rich confederates, laughs at 
the impotence of the law, and stalks through our streets with bowie-knife or 
revolver to work out his wicked will, conscious of a friend at court who will 
screen him from his deserts. Patience is a virtue, but there is a point beyond 
which it degenerates into cowardice. Obedience to the law is the duty of 
every citizen ; but when the law is effete, or its protection becomes tyrannical, 
resistance becomes the duty of every freeman. Such is the present emergency 
to our view. Law and its courts are a farce ; murder stalks amongst us and 
must be checked. Then up, friends, and let the majority of the people try 
the presumed murderer, and then, if he be guilty, execute." 

Throughout the day the excitement increased rather 
than diminished. Most of the daily papers, particu- 



larly the religious journals, were in favor of prompt 
and determined measures. Two or three of them, 
however, ranged themselves on the side of law and 
order, and opposed the Vigilance Committee; but- 
public sentiment was not with them, and they never 
afterward recovered from the effects of their course. 
The pulpit with few exceptions fully approved the 
action of the people. The next evening the Bulletin 
appeared with a significant blank column in place of 
a leader. On every side was heard the cry "Hang 
the murderer!" A flood of communications poured in 
upon the Bulletin. "My God!" says one, "is it pos- 
sible that the people of this city are such a craven set 
of cowards as to suffer this grievous wrong? No, 
no! Let every man in this city enroll himself at 
once in this Vigilance Committee, and let us rid the 
city of these infamous thieves and assassins." "Had 
Cora been hanged, James King would not have been 
shot," said another. At Sacramento, Stockton, Marys- 
ville, Sonora, Vallejo, and almost every place of im- 
portance in the interior, meetings were held and 
resolutions passed in sympathy with the movement 
toward arbitrary reform. An offer of a thousand 
men for the Vigilance Committee was telegraphed 
from San Jose. The San Francisco City Guard dis- 
banded, and so escaped the dilemma of being called to 
take up arms against their fellow-citizens. In fact 
both battalions of the regular military disbanded and 
resumed citizens' dress. The first appeal to federal 
authority was in the application of the mayor to the 
captain of a revenue-cutter to take Casey on board 
for safe-keeping, which proposal was declined. 

Daily and hourly the excitement increased. Men 
but lately hesitating and doubtful took up arms; 
women talked freely of hanging, and children even 
whetted their fathers' courage by their infantile bra- 
vado. Up to the time when King appeared as the 
champion of honesty and morality, swindlers and 
assassins had been waxing stronger and stronger. A 


series of masterly strokes had placed their minions in 
office and secured to them the ballot-box, the merce- 
nary press, and every other means of public remon- 
strance. Almost every office of trust or profit was in 
their hands, and few editors dared rouse the hostility 
of so powerful a band of desperadoes by exposing 
their villainy. Every avenue to political advancement 
was blocked by them; no nomination could be secured 
without the payment of money to them, and no elec- 
tion secured until after a division of the spoils had 
been agreed on. To wipe this poison from society 
was Mr King's crime. 

The beginning of the end had come. Says a vehe- 
ment writer of the day, " Virtue, insulted beyond 
endurance, has buckled on her armor. Let every form 
of vice quail beneath the vengeance of her eye. 
Gamblers, I tell you that your day has come! Pros- 
titutes, I bid you fly to the mountains and ask them 
to fall on you! Violators of the right of suffrage, 
your reign is over! The people are in arms, and woe 
to the ruffian who draws a weapon, and to the assas- 
sin who stabs in the dark!" 

Friday, the 16th, a large and enthusiastic meeting 
sympathizing with the vigilance movement was held 
at Sacramento, and the excitement is said to have 
been greater even than in San Francisco. The French 
citizens of San Francisco passed resolutions support- 
ing the Vigilance Committee. 

Saturday, the 1 7th, a meeting of the law party was 
held in the fourth district court room, about one 
hundred, mostly lawyers, being present. The officers 
commanding the volunteer militia made a requisition 
on Sacramento for arms and ammunition, to be used, if 
necessary, in maintaining the peace of the city, which 
were supplied by Quartermaster Kibbe. Captain 
William T. Sherman was appointed general of this 
division and placed in command of all the military 
forces in San Francisco. The military were every 
moment edging round to the side of vigilance; the 


mounted battalion all declined to act in support of 
law, and most of the other companies were by this 
time disbanded. The governor was telegraphed for; 
and there were delegations from a dozen interior 
towns sent to express their sympathy and offer their 
assistance. News was now received of large and en- 
thusiastic meetings, commendatory of the Committee, 
still farther back in the interior, at Columbia, Shaw 
Flat, and all along the foothills, as well as at San 
Jose and down the coast. 

Vagabonds and scoundrels presented themselves 
for admission as members of the Vigilance Committee 
in common with good citizens; it was an old trick of 
theirs; to be within the fold during such troublous 
times was the safest place for the suspected; but these 
when recognized were carefully excluded. The same 
day the city began to vomit its human offal; many 
suspicious characters, not liking the aspect of affairs, 
left that night by the Sacramento boat. Some of the 
courts adjourned, others continued uninterruptedly. 
Some of the judges left town; all kinds of business 
were affected by the excitement, and many persons 
were thrown out of employment. All who had any- 
thing upon their minds at this time went into the 
country; numbers found White Sulphur Springs a 
pleasant place of resort. 

The advocates of law and order called the move- 
ment a revolution, and likened it to the bloody com- 
munism of Paris ; yet again and again did they wonder 
and remark on the solemn stillness which prevailed, 
the moderate determination of the masses, so different 
from the loud huzzas, the noisy marching, and the 
Marseillaise singing of the French. Petulantly cer- 
tain San Francisco officials refused to discharge their 
duties, the excuse being that the Committee wielded 
the superior power, and as the people seemed to desire 
that kind of rule, why, let them have it. The vacilla- 
tions of the weakTjaiinded governor, the bull-dog blood- 
thirstiness of his general, and the innate selfishness 


of office-holders roused antagonisms which threatened 
serious evil. With all their boasted capabilities, the men 
of law needed a leader. Either the y should have arisen 
and struck their blow promptly and powerfully, or 
they should have remained quiet. A quasi opposition, 
in which their own dignity and the dignity of the 
law might have been sustained, would have been more 
respectable, more creditable to them than real but 
puerile antagonism. 

Confidence in the almighty power of forms and 
ceremonies led many to trust in law, never doubting 
that the mob would shortly be scattered. But when 
they saw, in addition to other bad omens, the Satur- 
day morning after the shooting, the posse comitatus 
called by the sheriff for the protection of the jail, 
refuse to serve, the faith of many began to waver. 
That same day five dray-loads of muskets with ammu- 
nition passed into the armory of the Vigilance Com- 
mittee. Until a late hour that night the people 
lingered about the Committee rooms, but of what was 
going on within they knew nothing. About half-past 
ten that night bodies of men in single file, bearing 
muskets, marched up Sacramento street in the direc- 
tion of the jail. At midnight a dense fog settled on 
the city. Upon the roof of the building indistinct 
forms stalked to and fro in the misty moonlight, but 
the streets about the prison were deserted. The 
events of Sunday wrought a complete revolution both 
in fact and in feeling. The vigilants \Vere masters of 
the government; right and morality were dominant, 
vice was disarmed. The law was dumfounded; it 
hardly knew where it belonged — with the virtuous, 
who disregarded it, or with the vicious, who nursed it. 

On Monday, the 19th, the court rooms as a rule 
were empty. The limbs of the law were rheumatic. 
General attention was directed toward the Committee 
rooms on Sacramento street, but the day passed 
quietly and without the anticipated demonstration. 
Were a foreign foe entering the Golden Gate, prepara- 


tions on the part of the merchants and mechanics for 
defence could not have been more thorough. Bands 
of armed vigilants paraded the streets, pickets were 
placed, and mounted patrols served day and night. 
Ammunition and gun shops were watched, and the 
general sale of weapons prohibited. In the evening 
it stormed; but the rain seemed in no wise to dampen 
the enthusiasm, which was fast becoming morbid. All 
day and half the night crowds waited about to see 
what would be done. At eight o'clock several vigil- 
ant companies were marched in good order to head- 
quarters, where duties were assigned them for the 
night, and the relieved companies were permitted to 
return to their homes. The cannon of the California 
Guard was brought from the jail. 

Early in the morning of Tuesday, the 20th, the 
streets for two blocks round the Committee rooms 
are packed with expectant humanity watching the 
development of events. At nine o'clock four or five 
companies are abroad in different parts of the city 
making arrests. An hour later companies composing 
the night guard are marched out of the Committee 
building, the relief guard taking their place. At ten 
o'clock it begins to rain. Nature, in sympathy with 
the occasion, spreads a pall of murky clouds over the 
bereaved city, and wrings out tears of sorrow over its 
martyred patriot, who even now is breathing his last. 
Crowds of idlers fill the thoroughfares, and knots of 
earnest talkers stand on every street-corner. Of one 
of the classes then in San Francisco living by the 
law, William H. Rhodes, over the nom de plume of 
'Caxton,' writing in the Bulletin of May 19th, says: 

" They stand all day at the street-corners flourishing whalebone canes and 
twirling greasy mustachios. At night they flock to the gambling hells 
abounding in all our thoroughfares, where they feast and carouse, bet and 
blackguard, damn their own souls, and take the name of God in vain. Or 
else, flushed with the pillage of some poor miner or despairing clerk, elated 
with wine and lust, they throng the houses of prostitution, and there, in the 
presence of male and female comrades in crime, rehearse the downfall of their 
last victim, plot the ruin of others, and gloat in hellish triumph over the 
desolation they have made." 


Since the Vigilance Committee of 1851, which was 
the last open war between the two great contending 
classes, there had been continual battling in secret. 
Now hostilities had again broken out, and one or the 
other must yield. The people were determined that 
victory should not be upon the side of vice. 

In a slightly exaggerated strain of not unmerited 
praise, 'Caxton' continues: 

" Previous to the advent of Mr King as the editor of the Evening Bulletin, 
the thieving fraternity for many years had been in the ascendant in this city. 
By a series of masterly movements they had secured every avenue of public 
remonstrance and reprehension. The ballot-boxes were theirs, for their 
minions filled all the offices of trust and profit in the county, and thus laid 
the basis of the perpetuation of their power. The press also was theirs, for 
no editor dared to expose their villainy and array against himself the deadly 
hostility of the worst desperadoes the world ever saw. A few spasmodic 
efforts were occasionally made to throw off the incubus, but being seconded 
by no corresponding movement in the public mind, were almost immediately 
abandoned. The social circle was theirs, for they mingled openly and famil- 
iarly with candidates for the highest state and federal offices, and were hail 
fellow with mayors, marshals, aldermen, senators, sheriffs, and judges of 
the supreme court. The political arena was theirs, for, courted by all parties, 
they enslaved the leaders of all. No man could get a nomination without a 
bribe ; no candidate could secure his election without taking from their ranks 
a partner in the plunder. The field of personal combat was also theirs, for 
they were men of blood by nature, boxers by science, crack shots with the 
revolver and rifle, and adepts in the art of stabbing and assassination. Thus 
fortified by the most powerful influences of society, they went on from year to 
year, gathering strength as they gathered public plunder, growing bolder as 
they grew more burdensome, aspiring higher as their ambition was achieved, 
until during the past year the theatres were filled with their mistresses, the 
public offices reeked with their toadies, and the streets were stained with the 
blood of their victims. The consequences of this dreadful scourge were soon 
felt in all the business relations of life. Public confidence was shaken, public 
honor suspected. Many of our best and worthiest citizens sacrificed their 
property and sent their families to the east. No man felt secure for a 
moment in the possession of life, property, or reputation. At this juncture 
Mr King started the Bulletin. At first he was scoffed at as a madman, then 
pitied as an enthusiast, then respected for his courage, then applauded for his 
independence, then beloved for his purity, his self-sacrifice, and his noble 
m a gn a nim ity. Finally, by a revulsion of public sentiment in his favor, which 
is without parallel in our history, he stood forth the acknowledged champion 
of public and private morality, the scourge of villainy, the vindicator of the 
freedom of the press, the friend of every social reform, and the benefactor of 
his country. 

" San Francisco was not alone in awarding him these distinguished honors. 


On the contrary, his chief support came from the interior of the state. 
Every valley and mountain in California echoed his praise, and the people 
everywhere welcomed his paper as a fireside friend. That such a man, the 
first, it might be the last, of his race, should have been assassinated in the 
streets of the commercial emporium of the state sent a thrill of horror to 
the heart of every honest man and woman from the sea-shore to the crest of 
the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Our citizens at first stood aghast with terror. 
But it was only for a moment. The reaction soon came on, and with it 
started into being one of those resistless impulses of the human heart which 
overthrows dynasties and effects revolutions as easily as an ocean wave 
dashes a yawl upon the rocks. " 

At half-past one on Thursday Mr King's condition 
was pronounced by his physicians to have improved, 
and hopes were entertained of his recovery. At two 
o'clock Friday graver doubts as to the result were 
expressed. His state was then considered critical. 
At two o'clock on Saturday his condition was said 
to be gradually improving, and he was comparatively 
comfortable. Monday, though more restless and less 
comfortable, his real condition appeared unchanged. 
During these days of suspense the carriers of the 
Bulletin often found ladies waiting at the door to sec 
them, to inquire after the state of the editor's health. 
Said one Amazonian matron, "What is to be done 
with that villain Casey? If the men don't hang him 
the women will!" 

At half-past one on Tuesday, the 20th of May, 
James King of William died. Then was the doom of 
felons sealed. The sad intelligence rapidly spread, 
and soon the streets were filled with sorrowful faces. 
The bells tolled, crowds assembled around the Com- 
mittee rooms, expecting every moment to see the mur- 
derer brought forth to meet his just doom. All 
places of business and resort were closed ; flags floated 
at half-mast, and public and private buildings were 
draped in mourning. Stretched from the Bulletin 
office to Montgomery block was a funereal device of 
the Howard Fire Company, bearing the inscription, 
"The great, the good is dead; who would not mourn 
his loss?" Another device, with the motto, "A martyr 


to principle ; we mourn thy loss," was raised at the 
corporation yard on Jackson street. On the arm of 
almost every man that walked the street was the 

bad^e of mourning. Never before had there been 

& f . . . 

such a demonstration in the city. 

Tidings of his death reached distant parts of the 
state sooner than distant parts of the city; bells, in 
measured sounds, like echoes from the bells beside 
the sea, announced the sad event in all the cities of 
the plains. Gloom like a black cloud settled upon the 
Great Valley of California; business was generally 
suspended, the people of the cities came together in 
solemn assembly, and the lusty miners in the mountain 
towns bristled in anger as the telegraph told them of 
the result of the dastardly deed. "We ask the people 
of San Francisco to act," said Coloma to the Vig- 
ilance Committee; "if you need help, let the sea 
speak to the mountains." The principal houses of 
Nevada, Grass Valley, and Auburn were draped in 
mourning. Sacramento, Stockton, Marysville, Oak- 
land, Sonora, and other large towns performed the 
solemn obsequies simultaneously with those of San 
Francisco. That the people at large might have 
an opportunity of testifying in a substantial man- 
ner their approbation of Mr King's character, books 
were opened at different points throughout the state 
for one-dollar subscriptions to what was called the 
King testimonial, an offering to the family of the de- 

At half-past three o'clock on Wednesday, the 21st, 
the Sacramento merchants held a meeting, and after 
passing resolutions commendatory and consolatory, 
appointed two committees, one of six to receive spon- 
taneous offerings for the benefit of the widow and 
children, and one of fifty to carry to San Francisco 
the sympathy of her sister city and to attend the 
obsequies of the honored dead. The Sacramento 
theatre devoted its receipts of Friday night to the 
benefit of Mr King's family. 


The following letter speaks for itself: 

"Sacramento, May 25, 1856. 
"Mr W. T. Coleman:— 

"Sir : There was a meeting of some forty to fifty of our citizens last even- 
ing to take into consideration the propriety of forming a vigilance committee 
in our city, and it was thought advisable to organize ; there was a committee 
of seven appointed, of which the undersigned was one. The business of said 
committee was to obtain a copy of the articles by which the San Francisco 
Committee are governed, and if a copy of your by-laws, etc. , could not be ob- 
tained, then the business of said committee was to draft a set to be submitted 
at our next meeting ; but as I understand that your present organization is 
the same one that was forced into existence in 1852, and I think with your 
three years' experience that your by-laws, etc., must be much more perfect 
than any that we could hope to draft at this time, my object in writing to you 
is to know if we send a committee to your city whether said committee could 
obtain a copy of your by-laws and all of the articles by which you are 
governed — that is, as far as would be applicable to us in Sacramento. Please 
answer by return express. Yours truly, 

"C. P. Huntington." 

Five thousand men gathered at Sonora one night 
early in June to demonstrate their sentiments in 
favor of vigilance. There were processions, consisting 
of hundreds, each from Shaw Flat, Jamestown, 
Brown, Kincaid, and Campbell flats. A series of 
spirited resolutions concluded with the following: 

"Resolved, That although the citizens of San Francisco have repeatedly 
rejected all offers of assistance from the mountains, yet if the rowdies will 
go down to assist the military, we shall consider it our privilege to send 
enough men to whip them out. " 

Says the Nevada Journal upon the subject: " The 
feeling evinced in Sonora finds a full response in this 
county. Public meetings have been held in various 
parts of the county, in favor of the Committee, while 
not once have the opponents of that organization ven- 
tured to show their hand. Some muttering about 
street-corners, and wise head-shaking by the few who 
sympathize with ballot-box stuffing, and bowie-knife 
arguments are the sum of counteraction. The Demo- 
crat feebly hints dissent, but has neither the moral 
courage nor honesty to follow in the track of the 
State Journal. We know no better indication of 


public opinion than this mute acquiescence of our 
time-serving neighbor." 

Then dark insinuations were thrown out through 
the medium of the Herald's columns by the roughs 
and friends of Casey that, should harm befall him, 
the city would suffer for it. This was the month of 
May, they said — May, with its gloomy reminiscences, 
the month of fires, with their attendant pillagings. 
The hard times throughout the country had driven to 
the city hundreds of desperadoes only too ready to 
profit by general disaster and anarchy. Therefore 
beware, citizens of San Francisco! To your homes, 
and leave the affairs of the municipality and the 
avenging of her wrongs to the advocates of law and 
order, to impotent judges, wriggling lawyers, ballot- 
box stuffers, and prize-fighters. 

"Were it not better," says one, writing in the 
Herald the 17th, "that these criminals should es- 
cape justice entirely than that the blood of many inno- 
cent persons should pay their death? A mob must 
be resisted. There are persons whose duty it is to 
resist it, and it cannot be expected that they will de- 
sert their posts. The consequence will be that many 
lives will be lost, whatever may be the success of the 
mob." What a doctrine was here! Murderers were 
abroad, the ballot-box was subverted, wicked men sat 
in judgment upon their accomplices, the very life of 
social order and good government was in danger, and 
anarchy was threatened. Hirelings were appointed 
to defend the skeleton of justice, through whose 
wickedness or imbecility criminals escaped; and when 
in self-defence society strikes a blow in aid of justice, 
this man of peace cries out, "Beware! don't touch 
the assassin with his bloody knife, or some of you 
will be hurt!" Nay, I say, where such principles are 
at stake, better perish half the good citizens of San 
Francisco than let one murderer escape. And so 
thought the men of vigilance. 



Tout faiseur de journaux doit tribut au Malm. 


To be right, and know it, is dangerous. Few can 
afford to be reformers. The world of opinion, aside 
from the alphabet of morals, is as apt to be on the 
wrong side as on the right side of a question. A pub- 
lic journal cannot be a reformer. As the mouth-piece 
of a sect or school it can but speak the opinions of its 
sustainers. If it sets up a morality of its own, its 
readers drop it; if it attempts to run without pre- 
tence to morality, that is to say without cant and 
hypocrisy, its readers drop it. Every journal boasts 
its independence, yet no journal is independent. 
There is no such thing, speaking broadly, as freedom 
of the press, any more than there is freedom of the 
pulpit. The press and the pulpit must speak to a 
class, and must tell them only that which they wish 
to be told. And of all things on earth, the people like 
to be humbugged. King of William's paper was the 
mouth-piece of a class longing to express its senti- 
ments; otherwise it would not have lived a week. Of 
all servile, cowardly things, a bombastic, braggadocio, 
independent newspaper is the most servile and cow- 
ardly. It dare not think a thought nor breathe a 
word but as the reflection and echo of its supporters. 

From first to last the proceedings of the law and 
order leaders were based upon a hypocritical pretence 
of reverence for law, or rather for the forms of law. 



Now it was notorious that of all men in the commu- 
nity these were in their acts the most lawless. From 
President Pierce to Yankee Sullivan it was notorious 
that those whose cries of 'Great is the law with its 
time-honored protecting technicalities !' rose alike from 
legislative halls, court-houses, and jails; that these, of 
all others, in their deeds almost daily set law at defi- 
ance. The careful reader cannot have failed to ob- 
serve that the double-dealing president, the imbecile 
governor, the stabbing supreme judge, the murderous- 
minded general, as well as the ballot-box stuffer and 
the ordinary assassin, all went contrary to the law 
that they pretended so devoutly to worship. In more 
than one instance in connection with their dealings 
with the Vigilance Committee little heed was paid to 
law when it stood in the way of passion, prejudice, or 

But what has become of our organs, our mouth- 
pieces, our exponents of public sentiment, our brains, 
those who do the thinking for us, those who form for 
us our opinions and give them us ready-made, our 
teachers, the daily press? The ranks of the leaders of 
public opinion seem to be demoralized, broken into 
helter-skelter scrambles. Men are seen rushing hither 
and thither and round corners chasing opinions "of 
their own engendering. Stand aside, if you would not 
be crushed, oh, directors of human progress, manu- 
facturers of general ideas ! For one brief moment the 
people will think for themselves. 

The California Chronicle, a daily morning paper 
edited by two of California's most able journalists, 
Frank Soule and W. L. Newhall, was at this time in 
the height of prosperity, and Second only in strength 
and ability to the Herald. But the pistol-shot of 
Casey struck it as with paralysis. It hated King; 
must it now praise him ? It loved law ; but it would 
have killed King itself had it possessed the courage. 
It loved order and hated law when it looked upon the 
people; it loved Jaw and hated order when it turned 


to King and Casey. It loved and hated everything 
and everybody; especially it loved itself and hated 
the Bulletin. The people ! It would have damned the 
people, had it dared, while it licked their hand and laid 
at their feet its most humble and devout services. 

About this murder, what was to be done? Mount- 
ing the fence, it takes a survey, and sees the surging 
masses on the one side and lowering law on the other; 
then lifting its voice the morning after the shooting 
it cries — nothing; mouthing generalities. Listen: 

" What, then, shall we do? Appeal to the courts and see that they do their 
duty. Let reason and law, nay, make reason and law, vindicate the outraged 
laws and peace of society. Our courts must protect us, and vindicate at 
once the character of the community and the violated laws. There must be 
henceforth no trifling. Offended law must be vindicated. Justice must be 
satisfied. Murder must be punished. Homicides must cease. Riot and blood- 
shed must be prevented, or society is at an end, and irremediable havoc and 
ruin will cover us like a pall." 

That is to say, if this shooting is not stopped, some 
one is likely to be hurt. If society is slaughtered, let 
slip the dog of war! Twaddle. But stop; this will 
not do ! See the almighty people ! They mean some- 
thing ; a thought has struck them, a veritable thought, 
and the Chronicles subscribers rave and run about 
the streets like mad. Hence its cock-a-doodle of May 
15th, delivered after an unquiet roosting on the fence 
that night; but perceiving yet darker thunder in the 
sky next morning, it again lifts its voice, flaps its 
wings, and hops down upon the side of vigilance. 

Listen to the manly and independent journalist 
now, Friday morning, the 1 6th. How lovely ! 

"The condition of things has changed. Our best citizens have come to- 
gether and organized. The excitement has become a sentiment. They feel 
that the time has come when murder must cease, when it shall cease ; when 
this community must be purged of its dregs, of the creatures, whoever they 
are, who have poisoned the fountains of society and made the place as loath- 
some as a charnel-house. With this sentiment we fully agree. There are men 
among us for whom we have no use. They are a curse, a leprosy. There is 
no use for the gambler, except to drive him out of the city. There is no use 
for the murderer, except to hang him. If the courts will do nothing, what are 
the rights of the people? When all other means of redress fail, have not they, 


who are the source of all power, who are all power, the right to arise and vin- 
dicate violated and outraged humanity? Most certainly. The right of revo- 
lution is theirs, the right of defending themselves and each other, the right to 
weed out the villains of whatever kind who league together to cheat, to rob, 
and to murder. For seven years our streets have been turned into slaughter- 
pens. For seven years, almost without exception, the courts have stood as 
protectors of murderers, cheating justice by their shams, and turning the 
offender loose upon society with an endorsement of innocence, while the whole 
community knew the endorsement to be a lie. They have punished miserable 
thieves with despatch, but rich robbers, moneyed murderers, and successful 
gamblers have gone free. What punishment has been inflicted for any of the 
murders of the past seven years? Only two men have suffered, and they 
because they had no money and no friends. One or two others have been 
found guilty. The poor German, Oldman, killed like a dog, is in his grave. 
How the lawyers and the courts tried to save his slayer ! It was only because 
Judge Hager was on the bench that he was not set free on a quibble the 
second time. Dr Baldwin, an old man, was shot in the back, and his mur- 
derer was cleared and sent out upon society as if he had done a good deed. 
Twitchell was murdered because he stepped over an imaginary line, and a farce 
in the form of a trial set his murderer free. Richardson's murder is still un- 
avenged ; so is that of many other of our slaughtered citizens. What use have 
we for the thieves, vagabonds, and murderers who infest the city and make it 
hideous? In the gambler's hell, in the strumpet's den, murderous deeds have 
been concocted ; in the city's streets, in the marts of business, in the dark 
alley, in the highways and in the by-ways, life has been taken ; in the courts 
perjured jurors have acquitted the criminals, and judges have justified as- 
saults with intent to kill, if not murder itself ; and if by chance one is con- 
victed, immediately the jury recommends him to mercy, and the supreme 
court grants him a new trial. Who need wonder that public patience is at 
length exhausted? Who wonders that a vast portion of our people, our best 
men, our merchants, our mechanics, honest, honorable, quiet men, have at 
length banded together with a stern determination of cleansing this Augean 
stable? They have a right to do it, and they ought to do it." 

Converted! but too late — the Alta has the auc- 
tioneers' advertisements. Waver not, leader of public 
opinion! Judge instantly which way the herd 
headeth; then quick to the front and cry them on, if 
you would not be trampled under-foot. 

Says McGowan in his narrative: "The evening 
before the rencounter of King and Casey I was in 
Barry and Patten's urinking-saloon, on Montgomery 
street, in company with J. C. Cremony, Esq., of the 
San Francisco Sun, and Mr Casey. While we were 
drinking at the bar we were joined by Frank Soule, 


Esq., of the Chronicle, and another gentleman, also, I 
think, connected with that press. The subject of 
conversation when they joined us was the braggadocio 
and threats of the King family, and the white feather 
shown by Tom in the Caliban matter that morning 
Mr Soule stated that he had been persecuted by 
James King of William, and had even gone so far 
as to procure a double-barrelled shot-gun for the pur- 
pose of killing him, and that nothing but the en- 
treaties of his partner had prevented him from doin^ 
so. The evening of the shooting of King, Mr Soule 
called upon Casey in the county jail, and taking him 
by both hands shook them heartily, saying that the 
people would thank him for what he had done." 

Take this statement for what it is worth; pass the 
Chronicles purgatorial day, the 15th, and read the 
following from the issue of the 21st: "James King of 
William is no more ! Another victim of the bloody 
code lies still forever. One martyr more for liberty 
has paid his penalty for speaking what he thought. 
What threats could not effect, bribes failed to ac- 
complish, the pistol has done, assassination has fin- 
ished. The bold denouncer of wrong, the fearless 
antagonist of crime, the brave citizen who risked life 
and reputation, happiness and home, in the herculean 
task of tearing the mask from vice and laying villainy 
open to the view, lies in his bloody shroud, because 
he felt it his duty to expose evil and possessed the 
daring to do it." And so on. And how beautiful it 
is! How sincere! This man performs his unwelcome 
task like one hired to mourn an enemy's loss. And 
the stupid people sit and swallow it, because they 
like the taste of it. 

The Town Talk turns upon a rustier pivot. At first 
it is prompt and pronounced for law and order, and 
several days of veering elapse before it points squarely 
to the side of the people. The next morning after the 
shooting it says: "We do hope and trust that the 
sober second thought will prevail, and that our city's 

Pop. Tbib., Vol. II. 14 


fair name may be preserved. Though a great wrong 
has been committed against society, and a lasting injury 
inflicted upon our city, let the law have its course and 
punish this offence." The next day, the 16th, the edi- 
tor's mind seemed somewhat perplexed. "The people 
have the power in their own hands/' he says, "and 
can demand that justice be done in the matter, or that 
that failing, mete it out themselves. Whatever is 
done, let it be done calmly, coolly, and deliberately, 
without sacrificing the lives of our citizens. To attack 
the jail would be to throw away many valuable lives, 
as its ramparts bristle with bayonets. Rather let the 
law punish, and the committee of the public see that 
the law is faithfully executed." The morning before 
Mr King's death it appears impressed by the imposing 
appearance of the three thousand under arms. It dwells 
on the "sublime sight of a whole community rising 
up in the majesty of their power and demanding the 
surrender of authority delegated to their servants, who 
have proved unworthy of the trust," and concludes by 
saying that "it is to be hoped that the city and county 
officers will resign, and not continue in office after the 
sceptre of power has departed, and confidence in them 
has been lost." The morning after Mr King's death 
the editor is too affected to speak. "This is not the 
time to write his eulogy; the hour is burdened with 
grief, and the heart too sad for the task." Revived, 
tHe 24th he strikes out in a vehement defence of the 
Committee. Alluding to the * reign of terror,' as the law 
and order advocates characterized the rule of the 
Vigilance Committee, he remarks : "We adopt the term 
in the only sense in which it is true, the reign of terror 
to the rogues in the city. And long may that reign 
of terror continue which has driven the ballot-box 
stuffers and the election bullies to their hiding-places; 
that secures the honest man the right to vote, and 
enjoy the property in peace which he has acquired 
by honest industry; that secures the virtuous wives 
and daughters of our people from the contamination 


of the brazen courtesan in the public streets ; and lono* 
may that terror reign which secures the honest man 
his rights as a citizen, and drives the gambler and his 
satellites to their hells, more gloomy than hades itself. 
To those who have lived in every violation of God 
and man, to those who have fleeced the unwary and 
thoughtless in the gambling hells, to those who have 
fattened on the spoils of office illegally obtained, to 
those who never earned a dollar by honest toil, but 
roll through our streets in pomp and luxury on the 
means filched from our people, to all such this is 
indeed a reign of terror. God grant that the lesson 
may continue until every rogue in the land shall flee 
our city; then the fruits of the recent revolution will 
be seen, and this reign of terror will be complete. 
Business will be resumed; the mechanic will return to 
his labor with renewed energy, feeling that there is 
still security for person and property in California. 
But who feels the present government to be a reign 
of terror? Does the merchant, whose business has been 
suspended for a whole w T eek, and whose money has been 
freely contributed to support it? Does the honest 
mechanic, who has laid aside his tools and shouldered 
the musket to sustain it? Do these gallant men who 
have sacrificed their ease and comfort, and endured 
the dangers and privations of a soldier? Do good and 
just men everywhere regard it as a reign of terror? 
We answer emphatically, No. They know it is the 
only salvation of the noble city they have toiled to 
build up. They yield the government not mere tacit 
obedience, but are willing to peril life and property to 
sustain 4t. The city was never more orderly than at 
the present time. Approach one of the court-rooms, 
and it is like some banquet-hall deserted. The officers 
are lounging about idly from old associations, not that 
they have any business to do; those eloquent ha- 
rangues that we were wont to hear in that vicinity 
have 'dried up,' and your footstep sends back a hollow 
sound, and the echo reverberates through the building 


without a response. It looks sad and desolate, and 
those who have been cut off from the crumbs look de- 
jected and sorrowful indeed. Many will be driven to 
that last sad alternative — work. It is hard, but this 
is one of the evils of this reign of terror. May they 
find consolation in a good appetite." 

Very well done for one so slow to see so plain a 
path. The fact is, these journals could not face the 
ruin which they saw staring them in the face. After 
all, John Nugent of the Herald was the manliest of 
them all; not in persisting in an erroneous course, but 
in his consistency. One respects a hearty fighter in 
a bad cause more than a renegade. 

" If asked whether five men or five hundred men/' 
writes the editor of the Sacramento Union on the 21st 
of May, "possessed the right abstractly to hang a 
man charged with crime without authority of law, and 
without his having been convicted according to the 
rules of evidence which obtain in our courts, we 
should answer in the negative. But the action of 
the people of San Francisco during the late fearful 
excitement, caused by the shooting of Mr King, is as 
unlike the proceedings of a mob as some legal farces 
of trying men for murder which have been enacted 
in that city are unlike legal proceedings in courts 
where law is administered with an impartial hand, 
and where all the officers of court take a pride in dis- 
charging their duties faithfully and fearlessly." 

"When are these things to end?" asks the Alta the 
morning after the shooting. "How long is San Fran- 
cisco to be cursed with the enactment of such scenes 
as that of yesterday? How long are people* in the 
Atlantic States to be deterred from coming here by 
the fact that human life is held here at so light a 
value? How long is the death-dealing pistol to be 
the arbiter of differences between man and man here? 
These are questions which must be seriously con- 
sidered; and it is time they were answered, and an- 
swered emphatically. Through all the excitement of 


yesterday there was a deep and earnest feeling pre- 
vailing among all good citizens, a determined expression 
that it was time to act and do something to redeem 
the blood-stained character of our city, to save it from 
the reputation of being another golgotha." 

For these and like brave words the Alta was re- 
warded by the patronage of the associated auctioneers, 
which it retained for twenty-five years, and yet retains 
at this writing, and whose united advertisements, more 
than once, have been the means of saving that jour- 
nal from bankruptcy. 

The evening press, having had more time in which 
to consider matters and arrive at conclusions, exhibits 
the tone of public opinion more evenly than the 
morning papers. Says the Journal: "It was known 
to many before the fatal moment that it was about to 
happen, and it was spoken of as a thing certain to be 
accomplished ; and the fervent hope and prayer of our 
citizens is that these parties shall be ferreted out, that 
the seal of public condemnation shall be placed upon 
them, and the majesty of the law visited upon them 
in its greatest force and extent. All pimps and street- 
brawlers who parade our thoroughfares armed with 
revolvers, derringers, knives, and bludgeons, these 
people must be banished from every post of official 
trust and power. And if the citizens do not now 
firmly resolve to give no rest to the matter from this 
time forth until its accomplishment, then we are lost, 
and our city will become a prey to gamblers, de- 
bauchees, and a gang of political hell-hounds that 
know no law but passion, and recognize no arbiter but 
the assassin's knife and deadly revolver. Shall we 
yield this fair city a prey to such men and such influ- 
ences, or shall we, like men who can justly value the 
rights we have been taught to enjoy, band together 
and by a united impulse and a persevering, untiring 
vigilance, reclaim our city from this detestable class, 
and inaugurate the era of justice and the rights of 
the people?" 


And the News: "We have watched our young state 
almost from its infancy, and have witnessed all the 
disorders and crimes incident to a new and disorgan- 
ized society, yet Ave are free to confess that no event 
has filled us with greater horror or detestation. Rob- 
bery, arson, and murder, it is true, have been re- 
corded, and even the assassin has dared to lift his arm 
in an unfrequented street, but never before has an as- 
sassin audaciously performed his dastardly work in the 
lio-ht of day, amid a crowd of witnesses, and at the 
risk of increasing the number of his victims from 
among our most peaceable and best citizens. Our 
society, instead of advancing seems to have retro- 
graded. In years past, robberies were sufficient to 
consign the culprit to the gallows. We have now 
proceeded from robbery to murder, from murder to 
assassination. We are aware the criminals in our 
midst form a very small proportion of our population, 
yet our whole people are held by the civilized world 
as responsible for their deeds. We are no advocates 
of vigilance committees or lynch law. The remedies 
which they afford for existing evils are perhaps as bad 
as the evils which they propose to eradicate. But it 
is impossible that things should remain as they are. 
A change must be effected; our very existence de- 
pends upon it." 

The religious journals were the most pugnacious 
and lawless of all. Thus the Pacific: "The only 
question is, what is the duty of our citizens ? A meet- 
ing of the Vigilance Committee has been summoned 
to meet at nine o'clock this morning. Shall the Com- 
mittee reorganize and reassert justice once more in 
our midst? If the people have reasonable ground of 
confidence that justice can now be secured, not only 
in this case, but generally, in our courts, the duty is 
then plain to leave the case there. To leave it. The 
mere exhortation to secure the action of the courts, 
tin; exhortation of the courts to fidelity, is of no ac- 
count whatever. But if there is no chance of justice; 


if criminals are certain to go free; if gamblers, and 
prison-birds, and blacklegs yet control "the forms of 
law; if, while James King lies in his gore, James 
Casey, guarded by friends in prison, can mock at jus- 
tice and laugh at public indignation — then let the 
strength of the people be felt once more, inspiring 
fear alike among the black-hearted criminals and offi- 
cials equally corrupt. If no justice be meted out in 
this case, other victims will yet be demanded. The 
life of no man is safe who dare utter his true senti- 
ments. If it becomes impossible to convict a man 
who brutally assaults an editor, his fit associates 
standing around to prevent relief; if, at Sacramento, 
a judge of the supreme bench will turn aside from his 
office to attack a citizen for expressing an opinion 
upon his character; if the murderer of Richardson, 
purchasing with money the eloquence and influence 
of the bar, can set justice at defiance; if one of our 
most useful citizens, to whose fearlessness and truth- 
fulness the community is largely indebted, can be 
shot down in open day by one who has also a public 
journal at his command for his own defence, and if 
there is no chance of convicting him — then we say no 
man's life is safe, unless we connive at the rule of 
gamblers and ruffians. It is a serious thing for the 
people to take the execution of the law from the ap- 
pointed tribunals, but it is a thousand times more 
serious that it be not executed at all. In the eye 
of the law, without possibility of counter-testimony, 
James P. Casey is a murderer. He ought to be 
hanged. It is for each man's conscience to say whether 
he believes that, left to our courts, Casey will be 
hanged. Believe it who will, we do not." 

The Globe seems much concerned for the liberty of 
the press, and asks, if editors cannot call supervisors 
names, what will become of us? The German Jour- 
nal, Wide West, Golden Era, Mail, UEcIlo du Paci- 
fique, Le Phare, Le Patriote, come out in about the 
same strain of condemnation of the deed, and sym 


pathy for the wounded editor's family. Says the 
German Democrat: "To us it is a matter of indiffer- 
ence whether Casey will be hanged or not, because if 
Casey is hanged, there are ten others like him; and to 
call a vigilance committee for this purpose only is of 
no use. What we do desire is an entire annihilation 
of the criminals and gamblers, removal of the same 
class from office, reestablishment of the elective fran- 
chise, and guaranty of the freedom of the press. As 
long as we let these scoundrels remain here, things 
will not be better. A vigilance committee must not 
only hang Casey, but must also clear out our city of 
his like." 

For a long time after the uprising, the Bulletin con- 
tinued ungenerously to kick the dead bodies of its 
enemies. It spoke slurringly of those who took charge 
of the remains of the departed unfortunates, and stig- 
matized those who followed them to their graves. 
Under the editorship of Thomas King, who suc- 
ceeded his brother, it rapidly degenerated, and was 
kept alive more by public sympathy than b}^ personal 
merit. The issue of May 28th leads off in a puerile 
imitation of the original editor, as like his as the 
braying of an ass is like the roaring of a lion, in 
which the brother bellows and brays at judges, offi- 
cials, and bankers in the silliest of verbiage. The 
personal abuse upon which the journal had fattened 
during the regime of the original King, under the 
brother's impotent rule had become a species of in- 
tensified, blackguarding hate. He who was not a 
friend to this newspaper was the enemy of God and 
man. Here was the touchstone of good citizenship; 
and here the good citizen's catechism: 

Who made you ? The Bulletin. 

Who redeemed you ? The Bulletin. 

To what end were }^ou created? The Bulletin. 

Do you love, subscribe for, advertise in the Bulle- 
tin; do you think upon all subjects as Tom King, its 
editor, thinks? Yes. 


Then be you received into the good graces of the 
Bulletin; so long as you remain in the faith, be you 
severely let alone, be your reputation never slandered 
and your ruin never attempted. 

The career of the Herald was somewhat remark- 
able. Beginning 1st of June 1850, at a time when 
the mining fever was at its height, it rapidly rose to 
the first rank in Californian journalism; and I would 
here again take occasion to remark that neither before 
nor since has there been a more ably conducted news- 
paper on the Pacific coast. Its editorials during the 
first few years of its existence were equal to those of 
first-class eastern and European journals, and while 
fully alive to the magnitude of the times, and behind 
none in energy, its temper was moderate and its judg- 
ment sound. One fatal mistake it made — opposition 
to the Vigilance Committee of 1856, and for this it 
ultimately paid the penalty of its life. In September 
1851 the associated auctioneers and commission mer- 
chants of San Francisco, comprising some twenty 
auction and commission houses, representing the 
largest business interests of the city, made arrange- 
ments to advertise exclusively in its columns, and 
these arrangements were formally continued from year 
to year up to the 14th of May 1856. 

Then sold this journal its soul to Satan. From 
that moment the San Francisco Herald became the 
champion of scoundrels. Villains were openly praised 
and villainy defended. The arrivals and departures 
of notable rascals were recorded with all their as- 
sumed titles, and amidst eulogistic details the most 
disgusting. Any man who was a filibuster, fenian, 
democrat, or southerner, might safely claim the pro- 
tection of this sheet, no matter what his antecedents 
or his crimes may have been. In this severe state- 
ment I believe I do not exaggerate; I belicvo that I 
am not governed by prejudice, and that it is only after 
a careful and candid study of its columns for months 
that I am led to these conclusions. I knew John 


Nugent at the time; years after we were in closer, 
friendlier relationship. I always admired the man, 
honoring and respecting him in my heart and in my 
words. I have had occasion to entertain such senti- 
ments toward some of his successors, but I must con- 
fess to but few of them. The vigilance journals of 
1856 were in many particulars as bad or worse than 
their opponents. They were partisan and insincere in 
many things. Some of them had taken a stand on 
that side from passion, others from pecuniary interest. 
But it happened in the main that they were on 
the side of truth and righteousness, however detest- 
able the character of their editors may have been; 
but the Herald from the moment of its disgrace was 
filled with black malignant hate, and in its state- 
ments scrupled at neither untruthfulness nor immo- 
rality, though it did not seem to know it. 

Its earlier piety was not unprofitable. It derived 
its full share of patronage from the first Committee. 
Among several bills ranging from twenty-five to one 
hundred dollars is one dated 26th June 1851, for 
"two hundred extra large posters in English, French, 
German, and Spanish, thirty dollars." These were 
notices of meetings and rewards for criminals to be 
advertised, beside subscriptions and job printing. 
From the Harold's bill of eighty-five dollars, Septem- 
ber 1851, thirty-five dollars are deducted "for the 
good of the cause." 

"The position of the San Francisco Herald" says 
the Nevada Journal of the 23d of May 1856, "is at 
present a most unenviable one. It stultifies its whole 
former course by its present denunciations of the ac- 
tion of the citizens of the city in which it is published, 
for in former years when the people of that city exer- 
cised with less caution and moderation the powers 
they have recently been compelled to assume, the 
Herald was one of the warmest supporters of the 
Vigilance Committee, and seemed to be half satiated 
with vengeance when the people laid down their tern- 


porary authority. But since those days it has passed 
from a pretended friend of the people to be the organ 
of the very corruptions the people are most called 
upon to abate — has become the tool of men whose 
necks would be least safe were a scrutiny sufficiently 
keen directed upon the movers in many of the dark 
schemes continually evolved in San Francisco. Truth 
and justice have not changed, but the Herald has 
shamelessly deserted them; and its present attitude 
needs no other commentary than its former course in 
reference to scenes similar to those now transpiring in 
San Francisco. 

It is not a little curious to watch this journal in its 
death throes. It is said that a well established news- 
paper dies hard; but seldom is there such a blow 
struck at such a journal, and with like effect. Though 
it struggled for several years, and in time resumed its 
former size, it received its death-blow here; it never 
regained its prestige, and was finally obliged to suc- 
cumb. Listen to the editor Saturday morning, May 
17th: " There is no denying that the storm has burst 
upon us in all its fury, but it is just such a storm 
as we love to breast. We are alone in this fight, 
and we cannot say that we prefer to be otherwise. 
In our whole editorial career we have never felt a 
more thorough conviction of the correctness of our 

Like the man of clear convictions whose luck it was 
always to sit upon the jury-bench with eleven fools, 
this editor assumes well nigh infallibility when he 
acknowledges himself alone and glories in it; yet 
possibly there may be more of braggadocio and re- 
gret in these remarks than glad courage. I do not 
know. Then he threatens: "We assure those gentle- 
men who have joined in this unjust, wanton, and des- 
picable crusade against us that we will make them 
hide their heads for very shame before we are done 
with them." So the press may strike, but the people 
may not. Diminishing the size of the paper was in 


my opinion poor policy; unless it hoped by assuming 
an attitude of persecution to excite sympathy and 
turn the tide of popularity in its favor, which signally 
it failed to do. When King of William died two 
black bars enclosed the notice of his death, and the 
editor's remarks were sympathetic and respectful. 
The next day, however, as if to make amends for his 
passing bow to death, in a two column leader he rants 
louder than ever against the reign of terror, military 
despotism, the defiance of the constitution, the over- 
throw of trial by jury, the surrender of our birth- 
rights into the hands of an oligarchy, and twenty 
other such straits to which the three thousand bay- 
onets had brought us, and almost attempts to justify 
the deeds of Cora and Casey. Strange this man of 
sense should so suddenly have become rabid, insane. 
Why were not all these able and eloquent arguments 
thought of five years before, when this same editor 
was throwing himself and all his journalistic influence 
upon the side of summary justice? 

Compare this with a statement of Mr Nugent's in 
the columns of the same journal the 27th of January 
1855, and bear in mind, meanwhile, that he affirms 
his sentiments have not changed. "We are called 
upon this morning to chronicle the hanging of four 
more criminals, by order of a people's jury. These 
make ten executed in this state without recourse to 
the machinery of law, during the past month, one at 
Volcano, one at Mariposa, one at Iowa Hill, two at 
Los Angeles, one at Sonora, three on the San Joa- 
quin, and one on Salmon River; and in every in- 
stance they richly merited their fate. Had they been 
left to the slow process of the law, there is not the 
slightest probability that any of them would have 
been punished: or if nominally punished, that they 
would have remained any longer than suited their 
pleasure in that paradise of cutthroats, the state- 
prison. Let the murderers and burglars of San Fran- 

• i 

cisco, who seem to have been let loose upon us, 


take warning by the fate of their fellows in the in- 

For weeks after the great uprising he beats the air 
like a man distraught, and in his two or three columns 
daily sinks into bombastic sophism and verbiage. In 
vain have I searched his editorials, written with a 
mind wrought up to its intensest pitch, for one sound 
argument favorable to quiescent obedience to law 
under the circumstances. He constantly brings for- 
ward the people as having usurped the government, 
trampled upon the constitution, and violated all the 
sacred rights of freemen, when no one knows better 
than he that such was not the wish or intention of 
the Vigilance Committee. Their only object and 
their only action was for a moment to assist an imbe- 
cile government and put paralyzed law upon its feet. 
He talks of the sacredness of statutes, constitutions, 
and legal forms, as Moses would talk of the ten com- 
mandments. Angels and ministers of grace ! Sacred ! 
How sacred a scene was Ned McGowan passing sen- 
tence on a pal ! This magistrate, by the way, in com- 
mon with other noted rowdies, he always mentions 
most respectfully, most tenderly, as if fearful of hurt- 
ing the villain's feelings, calling him 'Judge McGowan,' 
and the 'Honorable Edward McGowan.' 

The Committee found it necessary to search certain 
private rooms suspected of harboring criminals, and 
although exceedingly guarded in the exercise of this 
duty, and publicly disclaiming "any intention of avail- 
ing itself of the power of searching private residences 
or rooms for the purpose of arresting criminals, with- 
out receiving permission from the proprietors of the 
suspected localities, unless such search is countenanced 
and aided by the city authorities, under the customary 
warrants," yet the IleralcVs editor indulges in lengthy 
tirades against the despotism of domiciliary visits and 
the violation of the sanctity of households. 

The term revolution was often applied to the move- 
ment by the law and order party, which unless a 


moral revolution was meant was manifestly wrong, 
for revolution, in its ordinary sense, is a radical change 
in the political constitution or government of a 
country. These wilfully blind well knew that it was 
not the overturning of the government, but of crimi- 
nals unwhipt by the government, and whom the gov- 
ernment claimed the exclusive right to punish and 
would not, that the Committee of Vigilance sought. 
There was not a man of them who would soil his 
fingers with law, government, or punishment, if those 
elected for that work would perform it. It will not 
do for a man to be vehemently partisan in politics or 
religion if he wishes to remain honest. 

It was a lofty tone he sometimes assumed. "We 
are too firmly wedded to principle to think with seri- 
ous concern of personalities," says the issue of May 
29th, which I am uncharitable enough to interpret: 
"I have taken this step; I regret it exceedingly; I 
cannot go back, for then I would lose my law and 
order friends without gaining my former position 
among the merchants. Then the humiliation of re- 
canting; I would sink the paper first. So I will brave 
it and make the best of it." There was no principle 
involved; it was merely a matter of opinion as to 
wdiether the law could cope successfully with crime 
without the untrammelled aid of the people. The prin- 
ciple of the matter this editor determined for himself 
five years previous when he pursued a directly oppo- 
site course; and he repeatedly says that his opinions 
are the same. "We stand now precisely where we 
stood then. The only difference is, that we now up- 
hold the laws and their administration, because the 
safety and well-being of society are involved in their 
maintenance. Then we justified the resort to extra- 
legal and extra-constitutional courses because the very 
existence of society and of our city depended upon 
such resort. The law of revolution is the law of 
necessity. When the necessity no longer exists, the 
right ceases. The necessity did exist in 1851, and it 


does not exist in 1856." Clearly, that is to say, the 
principle of the thing is the same now as it was then; 
the right to revolutionize when the necessity exists is 
admitted by this champion of law and order; the 
necessity did exist, it does not exist now. Three 
thousand merchants and others, having as much at 
stake as the editor of the Herald, think the necessity 
does exist now. And this was all the foundation for 
that war of words, that pugilistic logic and parade of 
legal lore that for years divided the city into factions. 
The insignificance of the thing is only equalled by its 

Hear what Mr Dempster says of Nugent: "The 
very morning after the assault the proprietor of one 
of the most influential journals, who had cause for 
jealous dislike of King, editorially described the as- 
sassination as an affray, and earnestly besought the 
public to refrain from any infraction of the law. This 
editor had been an active and prominent member of 
the previous Vigilance Committee, and continued its 
ardent defender, but now appeared to think the shoot- 
ing of a rival editor a crime which concerned society 
less than he had previously regarded the theft of 
property. He had a courageous combative tempera- 
ment, and having taken ground against others follow- 
ing the example he had set, sought to create as strong 
an opinion against the organization of a second as 
he had excited in favor of the first Vigilance Com- 
mittee which he had aided in establishing. His 
efforts had much to do in consolidating the opposition 
to the second Committee, and inducing the authorities 
to gather arms and drill militia for the purpose of 
conquering the traitors; and there would probably 
have ensued a military conflict with great destruction 
of life and property, if the overwhelming numbers of 
the Committee had not awed many adversaries, and 
the watchfulness and skill of its officers caused the 
capture of a large portion of the war material which 
their adversaries were accumulating." 


Seldom have I met a man toward whom my sym- 
pathy went out as toward Mr Nugent. Small, of 
light complexion and delicate features, soft and slow 
of speech, modest and sensitive, yet lion-hearted and 
intellectually great withal, he deserved a better fate. 
This one great mistake hovered like a spectre over 
all his after-life. And though the assertion may seem 
paradoxical, it is my opinion that this man at this 
juncture could in no other way have served his country 
so well as in taking and maintaining the ground he 
did — that is to say, fighting under the banner of error 
was, in this instance, likely to prove productive of 
more beneficial results than fighting under the banner 
of truth. 

The danger lay, not in the hanging of criminals 
and the ferreting of crime, but in the fostering of a 
spirit of mob violence and lynch law, fostering in fact 
the very spirit the Committee sought to crush, that 
of every man or band of men taking the law into 
their own hands, and righting their own wrongs, when 
there existed no necessity for such a course. And in 
this way Mr Nugent assisted Mr Coleman. Had the 
advocates of law and order taken this ground only, I 
should be with them heartily. What I object to is 
their accusing these patriots, or more than patriots, 
of wickedness when they should have ranked them 
among the most righteous. They might bewail the 
necessity for such a course, the necessity of ignoring 
for the moment the presence of law, as they would 
bewail the necessity of the amputation of a limb, but 
when they saw that putrefaction had set in, and that 
the whole body politic was in danger, they would praise 
the surgeon for his cruel kindness. They might even 
say to him, "Now that you have cut off the diseased 
limb do not cut off any more ;" but to blame him for 
resorting to the only method possible for curing the 
disease, to say to him, "How can you so sin against 
the sacredness of the body, born of God, as to raise 
your knife against it?" is childish. The fear was that 


a sentiment would spring up throughout the state 
favorable to monocracy, and the Herald did much to 
check it. It is not always he who shouts loudest for 
God that does the most good ; praise Satan somebody, 
lest we forget he lives. 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 15 



See they suffer death; 
But in their deaths remember they are men, 
Strain not the laws to make their torture grievous. 


No sooner were Casey and Cora secure in the vigil- 
ant cells than arrangements were made for their trial. 
The first question to determine was whether there 
should be selected a jury of twelve, or whether there 
should be a greater or a lesser number. After some 
discussion it was finally resolved that the executive 
committee should act as a court. Counsel were as- 
signed, each making his own selection, and every step 
being taken to give them a full and impartial trial. 
The prisoners, both of them, had expected immediate 
execution if they fell into the hands of the Vigilance 
Committee. They could hardly credit the promises 
of their captors made them at the jail; particularly 
when, on being brought out, they saw the angry 
thousands. Now they were again assured they should 
have a trial, that witnesses should appear for and 
against them, and upon the proofs adduced judgment 
should be rendered. 

Mr Truett had pledged Cora that he should have 
an impartial trial; that it should not be immediate; 
that he might see Belle Cora; and that in case of con- 
viction he should be permitted to see friends. The 
pledges of Mr Truett were ratified and observed by 
the executive committee. The sergeant-at-arms was 
instructed to make proper arrangements for the com- 
fort of the prisoners. 



Neither attempted to deny the slaughter of his 
victim, but sought to excuse the act — Cora upon the 
plea that he had been assured that Richardson was a 
vindictive man and he feared his own life would bo 
forfeit if he permitted him to live, and Casey on the 
ground that he had given King time enough to draw 
and fire if he desired. He acknowledged that he had 
served a term in the New York prison under sentence 
for burglary, but said he had determined to prevent 
the publication of the fact in California. The excuses 
were at best but excuses, and entitled to little consid- 
eration in this connection. Half the world could pro- 
duce just as good reasons for killing the other half. 
There was no evidence that Richardson sought Cora's 
life. If he had he could easily have taken it. Casey's 
plea even in those days of easy shooting was lame in 
the extreme, not worthy of notice, and even this was 
disproved by several witnesses. How easy it would 
have been to have convinced before a court some one 
or more jurymen with more conscientiousness than 
common-sense that Casey killed King in self-defence ! 
How many of King's enemies would gladly have 
sworn to some movement of the victim's hand, which 
an intelligent jury summoned under forms of law 
would have construed into a threatening demonstra- 
tion which justified Casey in firing first ! 

Monday, the 19th, the executive committee were in 
session all day. A notice was posted at the door of 
their rooms stating that any who desired to assist the 
Committee in the performance of their duties could 
do so by enrolling their names at the house of the 
engine company, on Pine street, and holding them- 
selves subject to the order of the executive commit- 
tee. Throughout the day members were in session 
at the several sub-committee rooms where the utmost 
harmony prevailed. 

Casey was permitted to see persons on business 
matters, but none could approach him nearer than a 
distance of ten feet, and then only in the presence of 


some member of the executive committee. He was 
also permitted to write to his mother and others, his 
letters to be entrusted to the executive committee. 
Archbishop Alemany requested access to him as spir- 
itual adviser, but the Committee decided that such 
service must be deferred until its necessity was certain. 

Encouraged by the unexpected evidences of dis- 
passionate impartiality, the prisoners asked for counsel 
other than members of the tribunal. " How shall our 
judges be our advocates'?" they asked. But they were 
firmly informed that no outside counsel, any more 
than an outside judge, would be tolerated. The tri- 
bunal was not after innocent blood. Advocates should 
not act as judges, but should perform the duty of 
friend and counsel in all integrity and to the best 
of their ability. 

The Committee claimed that to the lawyers society 
was indebted for at least half the ills arising from un- 
caged criminals and maladministration of the laws, 
and they determined that lawyers should have nothing 
to do with their trials. What they wanted was 
justice, not fustian. If that was law, well; if not, so 
much the worse for the law. And the right they 
could determine without the aid of learned judge or 
statute-book. And here let me say that these unso- 
phisticated attorneys entered on their duties in every 
instance fully resolved to clear their client if it lay in 
their power; and so fully carried away by their cause 
were they that in every instance he who defended a 
criminal, ever afterward asserted a belief in his inno- 
cence; and if he cleared him, they were friends for 
life. The prisoners were moreover informed that they 
could summon and question any witnesses, and if the 
trial went against them they could have the benefit 
of clergy, if they believed in such benefit, and be per- 
mitted to see their friends. Shortly after proceedings 
were begun the following letter was received : 

"To the Executive Committee: — 

"Gentlemen: I am credibly informed that James P. Casey and Charles 
Cora, both clients of mine, are in the custody of the Committee of Vigilance. 


Being one of their counsel, I am desirous of seeing whether they wish to hold 
any communication with me. If so, you will confer a favor by admitting me 
to an interview with them. Respectfully, 

"George F. James." 

Mr James was informed that the prisoners Casey 
and Cora did not require his services. 

A committee of surveillance, consisting of Demp- 
ster, Burns, and Jessup, were appointed as guard over 
the prisoners ; and it was ordered that all communica- 
tions and business connected with the prisoners pass 
through their hands for inspection and consideration. 
They alone were to hold intercourse with the prison- 
ers; they were to have access to the records of the 
committee on evidence, and were empowered to com- 
municate with any persons in this connection with 
whom they saw fit to do so. 

During the trial of a prisoner none were admitted 
to the executive rooms except the chief of police, the 
accused, and his witnesses. In all meetings there was 
full parliamentary usage, and at the trial of a prisoner 
regular court proceedings. John P. Manrow, who in 
his narrative to my stenographer explains many points 
not touched upon by the others, occupied the chair in 
most of the murder cases. In the trial of Cora he 
was appointed to prosecute the prisoner, and Mr Cole- 
man presided over the deliberations of the tribunal. 

The form and order of trial was then made known 
to the general committee, and the work proceeded 
without delay. Every member of the court was 
sworn to give a verdict fairly and honestly according 
to the testimony. In these cases, to expedite matter , 
a committee was appointed to aid the counsel in ob- 
taining testimony, with power to increase their num- 
ber from the general committee if desired. These 
appointees proceeded industriously to the work a 
signed them. A committee on evidence was appointed 
to collect testimony. The desired witnesses were 
summoned by the sergeant-at-arms. No one, not 
even a member of the executive committee, save the 


committee of surveillance, was permitted to visit the 
prisoner Casey — so it was ordered by the Committee 
on Monday. The members of the executive com- 
mittee were to render their decision by ballot; it was 
resolved that a majority could convict, and that the 
verdict should thereupon be declared unanimous, and 
so presented to the general committee as a unani- 
mous vote of the executive body. Every member 
was to put his name to his vote. Before proceeding 
to trial the tribunal in a body took the following oath : 
''We hereby pledge our sacred honor to God and to 
each other, not to divulge the votes taken in our ver- 
dicts rendered in the trials of Cora and Casey to any 
living being outside these rooms. So help us God." 

Cora was brought in by the war committee Sun- 
day afternoon. It was then resolved that the trials of 
Casey and Cora should rest until Tuesday, the 20th, 
at twelve o'clock. On Monday Cora asked to see Mr 
Truett, and permission being granted by the execu- 
tive committee, Mr Truett visited him. He was quiet 
and courageous ; and regarded Mr Truett as his friend. 
Had he not killed Richardson, he would have been 
killed by him, he said, and had not Casey shot King 
lie would have had no trouble. Poor Cora! His life 
was not much to another, but it was everything to 
him. As the old Scotch woman remarked when she 
saw the head of the duke of Hamilton rolling from the 
block, "It was nae great head in itsel, but it was a 
sair loss to him." 

The Committee applied to the physician of Mr King 
to ascertain if he might with safety give evidence in 
the trial of Casey. The physician replied that Mr 
King was not then able to testify. A committee of 
live was appointed to confer with Mr Casey and ob- 
tain from him all possible information concerning his 
abettors and accomplices in the assassination. The 
chairman of each committee was permitted to with- 
draw from the tribunal, and a majority of each com- 
mittee in session pending the trial was pronounced 


competent to transact business. After the beginning 
of the trial the Executive was to take no recess of 
more than thirty minutes until the trial should be 
ended. One member was appointed to ask questions 
during the trial, and no other person was permitted to 
interrogate until after the general examination was 
over ; then any one might cross-examine. 

At the hour appointed, namely at twelve o'clock on 
Tuesday, the 20th, Charles Cora was brought before 
the tribunal. On entering the executive chamber he 
made his obeisance in a modest manner, and address- 
ing his august judges he begged that the fermentations 
of the hour might not prejudice his case, and hoped he 
should have a chance for his life. 

He was then invited to select from the members of 
the Committee one to assist him in defending him- 
self on a charge of murder, for which offence he was 
now on trial. After a moment's pause he named Mr 
Truett. Not liking to assume the entire responsi- 
bility of the defence, Mr Truett asked that Mr Smiley 
might assist him, which request was granted. Cora 
then entered into consultation with his counsel, and 
soon after the examination of witnesses began. Nearly 
every witness that appeared at court was brought 
before the Committee. During the trial, that is to 
say at about half-past one, the grand marshal appeared 
and announced the death of James King of William. 
The marshal was directed to notify the assembled 
multitude that the trials of Cora and Casey were pro- 
gressing with proper deliberation. 

When Casey was told that King was dead, a deadly 
pallor overspread his face, and he trembled in every 
limb. Like Eugene Aram, he feared his murdered 
victim dead more than living. That announcement 
was the sounding of Casey's death-knell. Whatever 
hope he may have entertained before, he had none 
now. In the hands of his judges it was a simple, 
alas! for him, too simple, proposition; Casey killed 
King; Casey must die. Friends should nothing avail ; 


money should avail nothing. There was here no op- 
portunity for bribing judges, for packing juries, for 
appeals, and new trials. Casey had reckoned without 
his host. He had thought, and so his friends had 
assured him, that he would never be hanged for the 
killing. King had too many enemies at court; he 
had exposed too much villainy for serious harm ever 
to come to his exterminator. There would, of course, 
be an arrest, a trial, possibly a conviction of man- 
slaughter, but indeed there was no danger of serious 
results. How different the reality ! The moment he 
heard of King's death, the matter seemed so serious 
to him that he immediately sent for his man of busi- 
ness, arranged his earthly affairs, ate and slept but 
little, paced the floor, and held long and earnest con- 
verse with his ghostly advisers. Let us hope that 
th.ej did him much good, lending him wings by which 
to waft his spotless soul to heaven. 

The testimony in Cora's case was closed ; the counsel 
on both sides addressed the tribunal; the sergeant- 
at-arms was then directed to remove the prisoner. 
As he was about to go, the poor fellow hesitated, 
turned to the dread inquisitors on whose will his des- 
tiny hung, thanked them for the attention they had 
given his case, and the consideration he and his 
witnesses had received at their hands; then seizing 
Smiley by both hands, he earnestly exclaimed, "Had 
my case been presented as well before the courts, I 
should not now be here." He was declared guilty of 
the murder of Marshal Richardson. Thus his trial 

At six o'clock the tribunal took a recess until eight 
o'clock. At eight o'clock James P. Casey was put 
on trial for the murder of James King of William. 
He was prosecuted and defended by the same persons, 
before the same tribunal, which after due deliberation 
adjudged him guilty. When informed of the result, 
the courage of Casey gave way, and from that hour 
he was greatly depressed. Cora, the brave little 


villain, said never a word but that he would see 
Belle, heaved never a sigh but for the hastening of 
her coming. What may this thing be, oh thou whose 
name is Love ! and whence is it, heaven-born or begot 
in stygian pools, that the presence of a prostitute for 
a few short hours should seem to take the sting 
from death itself? Watkins was ordered to go for her 
with a carriage. He brought her to the rooms by 
the rear entrance from California street, the other 
streets at that time being impassable on account of 
the military, who had taken possession of all approaches 
to head-quarters. After a short interview with tho 
executive committee she was admitted to Cora's cell, 
where the two were married between eleven and 
twelve o'clock on the 2 2d, by Father Alcoty, the 
priest refusing to absolve Cora unless he first married 
his inamorata. 

All testimony was taken down in writing and is now 
before me. Guilt in both cases was conclusive, and 
both were sentenced to be hanged, the day not being 
immediately fixed. Cora was convicted by a bare 
majority; Casey by a unanimous verdict. The tes- 
timony was read in full to the board of delegates, and 
the finding of the executive committee was unani- 
mously approved by them. Before voting, the fol- 
lowing oath was taken by the delegates: "We hereby 
pledge our sacred honor to God and to each other 
never to divulge the vote to be taken by this body, as 
a verdict on the trials of Cora and Casey, to any living 
being outside these rooms, and also not to divulge the 
proceedings of this meeting until such shall have been 
declared to the general committee. So help us God." 

The matter of time and place of hanging was left 
to the executive committee. The execution was ap- 
pointed for the 23d, but was subsequently changed to 
the 2 2d, between the hours of twelve and two, the day 
and hour on which King's funeral was to take place. 
And this for obvious reasons. It was meet the mur- 
derer should quickly follow his victim; much more time 


and consideration had been allowed him than he had 
given. Then the people would be better satisfied, and 
the lesson more striking and solemn. 

The testimony implicated another managing poli- 
tician, Edward McGowan, who in connection with a 
subordinate tool by the name of Wightman was in- 
dicted by the grand jury as accessory before the fact, 
but both had been spirited away by their associates, 
and the Committee during several months expended 
much time and mone}^ in pursuing the former in distant 
parts of the state. It was indeed a sad state of things 
when a scoundrel felt obliged to run away from a prof- 
itable field because he could not buy or manufacture 
justice. The adventures of this redoubtable man will 
be given at length in the next chapter. In the midst 
of the trial the sheriff and his deputy appeared at the 
door of the Committee rooms, armed with a warrant 
growing out of this indictment, and demanded the 
prisoner Casey. The reply of the Committee, as found 
in the record, is unique. The Committee were satisfied 
that the sheriff and his deputy had performed their 
duty according to law, and the Committee had no 
further communication to make. 

Casey spent most of the time now remaining to him 
in arranging his affairs. In regard to the night pre- 
ceding his execution, the Chronicle of the 23d reports: 
"He was restless, and passed a portion of it walking up 
and down. He was heard to exclaim, "Oh, my God! 
has it come to this? Must I be hung like a dog? 
During the first two or three days I might as well 
have escaped from jail as not; I only staid there for 
Scannell's sake!" 

Early in the morning of Thursday, the 22d, the 
guard round the Committee rooms was augmented. 
Several companies of infantry were drawn up in a 
line on Sacramento street, from Front to Davis, 
cavalry were paraded up and down all the streets in 
the vicinity, and the house-tops adjacent were crowded 
with armed men and spectators. The field-piece for- 


merly used at the jail was brought and placed in front 
of the Committee rooms. There were the usual horror- 
hunters abroad at an early hour, although the im- 
pression prevailed that the criminals were not to be 
executed till the morrow. Thus waited the assemblage 
patiently all the morning. 

At a quarter before one two small platforms were 
thrust from two of the windows of the Committee 
building, extending about three feet beyond the wall. 
An instant afterward two beams appeared shoved out 
from the roof directly over the platforms. At the 
ends of the beams were fastened noosed ropes, and 
ropes reaching from the roof were also attached to 
the platforms, so that both could be dropped simulta- 
neously. At a quarter past one a white paper was 
thrown from the window, and the guard below was 
ordered to present arms. 

Both of the condemned wished to see priests; and 
immediately after their conviction Archbishop Ale- 
many and Father Gallagher were admitted to their 
presence. Casey was permitted to see friends and 
to arrange his earthly affairs. The following letter, 
addressed to the editor of the Herald, was delivered 
by order of the Committee: 

"San Francisco, May 22, 1856, half after twelve. 
"To John Nugent: 

' ' you have not Judge me to gratify the publick may god bless you. If 
you will pleas to see Estell, Farley, Alderman Peckham, and others, you may 
yet satisfy the Publick you are right. I am innocent of murder or an attempt. 
Farewell. For my mother sake save my name in New York. 

"James P. Casey." 

The question of executioner arose. Several names 
were mentioned, but none cared to assume the odious 
office. Finally a well known merchant remarked that 
he knew one who would do it, but he was in the ranks. 
Immediately Watkins wrote an order on the captain of 
the division for the man named to be detailed for special 
duty. It was none other than Sterling A. Hopkins, 
of whom more hereafter. This man performed the 


duties of hangman, and performed them well. In this 
business hangmen were as necessary as presidents; and 
to hold that the honorable Executive planned work 
dishonorable to perform would but be like the many 
sophisms by which we sing ourselves upward and on- 
ward. At the same time none of us would care to hang 
Casey or Cora. To say the least, it was not a pleasant 
duty ; neither was much of that which was done in this 
connection by better men than we. 

Two Catholic clergymen continued to attend the 
prisoners during their last hours. Both were peni- 
tent, both made their last confession, and to both was 
administered the sacrament. They were then informed 
that their hour had come. Their shackles were taken 
off, and their arms and legs were bound with cords. 
Over the face of Cora and round his neck a white 
handkerchief was fastened, and thus he was placed 
upon the platform and the rope adjusted round his 
neck. And there he stood, motionless as a statue, 
without the utterance of a word or the movement of 
a muscle until his soul was launched into eternity. 

Casey wished to address the assemblage. Hence 
he was permitted to appear upon his platform as he 
desired, with head bared and a white handkerchief 
in his hand. With pale face and bloodshot eyes he 
stammered through an incoherent speech, made up 
mostly of ejaculations, denials of guilt, expressions of 
concern lest his name should be immortalized as that 
of a murderer, and of confidence of having made his 
peace with his maker. " Gentlemen," he cried, "I am 
not a murderer! I do not feel afraid to meet my God 
on a charge of murder. I have done nothing but 
what I thought was right. To-morrow let no editor 
dare to call me a murderer. Whenever I was injured 
I have resented it. It has been a part of my educa- 
tion, during an existence of twenty-nine years. Gen- 
tlemen, I forgive you this persecution. Oh, God! my 
poor mother! Oh, God!" 

Is it not a little strange that nine tenths of all the 


wickedest men that ever swung from a gallows, who 
received religious attention during the hours imme- 
diately preceding their death, die confident of being 
received at once into glory ! It is almost enough to 
convert us to a life of villainy, and make us covet 
death by strangulation. 

At the end of his speech, which occupied about 
seven minutes, Casey stepped back inside and received 
the rope round his neck and a white cap over his 
head. He then shuffled himself forward on the plat- 
form like one groping in the dark. Casey stood on 
the west platform and Cora on the one toward the 
east. At the signal both platforms dropped simulta- 
neously. The two men fell about six feet, and died 
almost without a struggle. 

In the room where he died they wrapped in a 
shroud the remains of James King of William, and the 
restless ten thousand visited the spot that evening. 
Two days after, that is to say, Thursday, the 2 2d, 
funeral services were held at the Unitarian church on 
Stockton street, whither the body was borne by the 
Masons at twelve o'clock, the reverends Cutler, 
Taylor, and Lacy officiating. The church was crowded 
to overflowing, and the congregation was literally in 
tears. In the midst of his remarks Mr Lacy was 
overcome by emotion. The funeral procession, which 
was nearly two miles in length, represented all the 
societies and guilds of the city, besides containing 
hundreds of horsemen, carriages, and citizens on foot. 

Turn quickly, while the undertakers are thrusting 
the coffined martyr into the plumed hearse, and the 
long array of mourners are filing after it toward Lone 
Mountain — turn one glance on Fort Vigilance and 
its vicinity. All the streets and squares about head- 
quarters are filled with military, as we have seen. 
The Executive are assembled in a body in the front of 
the building. The board of delegates are likewise 


there convened in full force. At twenty-one minutes 
past one the funeral cortege of Mr King moves, and 
all the bells of the city toll their solemn requiem. 
At that moment the military present arms; the signal 
is given, and James Casey and Charles Cora drop into 

On Thursday morning at half-past ten the steam- 
ship Golden Age arrived with twelve hundred and 
twenty -one passengers. In crossing the Isthmus 
these passengers had undergone the horrors of a 
serious railway accident, in which fifteen of their 
number had been killed and sixty wounded. Besides 
their own troubles they could talk of late outrages 
committed there in which others had severely suffered. 
Arrived at San Francisco, they found the city in a 
turmoil, public places closed, flags at half-mast, and 
houses draped in mourning. Scarcely had they time 
to deposit their luggage at the hotel and step upon 
the street when the body of a murdered man with its 
two-mile cortege was passing by, and two thousand 
angry citizens were there in arms, and two men 
swinging by the neck from two second-story windows. 
If those twelve hundred and twenty-one regarded 
their entertainment during the voyage, and their re- 
ception on the shores of the Pacific, too tame for 
them, they were indeed hard to please. 

Within a week after Mr King's death a communi- 
cation appeared in the Bulletin over the signature 
" Many Women of San Francisco." After praising 
the deeds of the Committee it said: "But, gentle- 
men, one thing more must be done. Belle Cora must 
be requested to leave this city. The women of San 
Francisco have no bitterness toward her, nor do they 
ask it on her account, but for the good of those who 
remain, and as an example to others. Every virtuous 
woman asks that her influence and example be re- 
moved from us. The truly virtuous of our sex will 
not feel that the Vigilance Committee have done 
their whole duty till they comply with this request." 


There, my sisters, you do yourselves great wrong. 
With your own hands you would heap agony and in- 
dignity on the head of one already overwhelmed with 
sorrow. She is a sinner; so are we all. She has just 
buried her lover, her husband, whom, though a mur- 
derer, she attended to the last moment of his life, and 
through an agonizing death. Him your husbands and 
brothers have killed; is not that at their hands punish- 
ment enough upon her for being an unfortunate fallen 
woman ? Ay ! bristle as you will in your immaculate 
wrath, I tell you, proud dames, stainless dames, dames 
proud of your stainlessness, that but for the providence 
that plans your destiny or the environment that props 
and guards you, delivers you from temptation, and 
makes her sin loathsome to you, you would be like 
Belle Cora. Had you been born, reared, and circum- 
stanced as was Belle Cora, a thousand to one you 
would be Belle Cora. Had Belle Cora been born, 
reared, and circumstanced as were you, a thousand to 
one she would be as pure and as proud of her purity 
to-day as are you. Environment and circumstances 
make us, nine parts in every ten. Perhaps we do 
the rest. How can you then so loathe and persecute 
your frail sister ! You say it is not she, it is her sin 
you hate, and you would drive her hence not to 
punish her, but to protect society, to save your 
daughters, to maintain morality at the current 
standard. Softly ! softly ! That crime in a man, in your 
male acquaintance — in your brother, even — would 
you so hate it there ? Are you sure it is the sin only 
you abhor ? You would drive her hence to protect 
society and save your daughters. She saves your 
daughters. Who made her what she is ? Not she. 
Not one of your sex. It was your husbands and 
brothers, or their associates and yours — it was they 
upon whom you now call to drive her out, it was they 
who made her what she is. If you truly desire to 
eradicate the evil, drive out the men. Make war on 
them. They are the criminals; such as she, the 


victims. Indeed it is pitiful to see you tread her 
deeper into the mire with your haughty feet, while 
you smile on him who placed her there. How many 
of your male acquaintances are culpable ? How many of 
them are not culpable? Ask them. Your God, your 
bible, your creed, your savior make no distinction 
between male and female sinners; how, then, dare 
you? Drive out the men, I say; but beware whom 
you drive, lest you should run after some to call them 
back. Over woman's wrongs to woman, angels weep. 

No, it is false. "Many women of San Francisco" 
never made such a request. One woman wrote the 
communication, in which she twice calls herself virtu- 
ous. Whether she be virtuous or not, she best knows ; 
but those are not virtuous lines which she has written. 

Hear what a true woman says upon the subject in 
the Bulletins issue of May 27th: 

"A woman is always a woman's persecutor. In my humble opinion, I think 
that Belle Cora has suffered enough to expiate many faults, in having had 
torn from her a bosom friend, executed by a powerful association. It was 
j ust and right that Cora should die, but I contend that by his death the public 
ia avenged. She has shown herself a true-hearted woman to him, and such a 
heart covers a multitude of sins. This very circumstance of expulsion might 
be the means of utter desolation of heart. The effects of the tragedy may be 
the means of improving her moral character and making her socially a good 
woman. Adelia." 

What a contrast between this and the former com- 
munication, between this and the other woman! 
These lines breathe of virtue, none the less stainless 
because intermingled with that spirit of divine for- 
giveness which the dear Christ bestowed on the 
sinner. Noble Adelia! with thy lofty-minded purity 
and sweet charity; were all so-called virtuous women 
like thee, there would be fewer fallen. 

Belle Cora kept a bagnio on Waverly place. Like 
Cleopatra, she was very beautiful, and, beside the 
power that comes of beauty, rich; but oh, so foul! 
Flaunting her beauty and wealth on the gayest thor- 
oughfares, and on every gay occasion, with senator, 
judge, and citizen at her beck and call, and being a 


woman as proud as she was beautiful and rich, she 
not unfrequently flung back upon her stainless sisters 
the looks of loathed contempt with which they so often 
favored her. She was what she was, God only knows 
how or why; they were what they were, being made 
so. The homely pure hated the beautiful bad in 
self-defence, so we are told. A little jealousy might 
have been mixed with their virtuous irritability, be- 
cause men ran after beautiful badness rather than 
unattractive goodness; but what sort of citadel is this 
which fashion provides for female chastity which 
compels the virtuous woman to fling at the feet of 
every prostitute she meets on the public streets the 
gage of battle? Heaven save me and mine from 
that quality of female virtue which for self-protection 
must needs at every turn heap scorn and reproach 
upon the wicked and unfortunate. Says a biographer 
of one of the purest of English poets: "To be taken 
into Lamb's favor and protection you had only to 
get discarded, defamed, and shunned by everybody 
else; and if you deserved this treatment, so much the 
better ! If I may venture so to express myself, there 
was in Lamb's eyes a sort of sacredness in sin, on 
account of its sure ill consequences to the sinner; and 
he seemed to open his arms and his heart to the 
rejected and reviled of mankind in a spirit kindred 
at least with that of the deity." Would to God the 
spirit of this man, if Christ's be wholly denied them, 
might fall on our wolfish women. 

There are those who hold that Charles Cora should 
not have been hanged. Members of the Committee, 
who participated in the trial before the Executive, 
have expressed to me their opinion that he was not 
guilty of murder, but that he killed Richardson in 
self-defence. As a matter of course in his trial before 
the law court half a dozen witnesses were brought 
forward who testified that Richardson slapped Cora's 
face, that Richardson drew a pistol, that a revolver 
was picked up near his right hand after he had fallen, 

Pop. Tbib., Vol. II. 16 


and the like. Belle Cora offered a woman, who hap- 
pened to be passing at the time, a thousand dollars to 
testify that she saw a weapon in Richardson's hand 
just before he fell. In criminal cases money and 
skill can prove almost anything. After the lapse of 
time, with all the evidence before us, there is no ques- 
tion but that Cora was guilty of murder, and should 
have been hanged by the court. Even though Rich- 
ardson quarrelled with him, he need not have killed 
him. Even though Richardson held a weapon in 
his hand at the time, the fact does not necessarily 
imply that Cora's life w T as in danger. He could have 
walked away, and Richardson would not have slain him. 
There was not the slightest danger of it; and even had 
there been, I had rather be a murdered man than a 
murderer. That vigilance judges themselves, some 
of them, should wish to excuse so foul a crime, only 
shows how totally unfit some men are, from the con- 
struction or training of their minds, to determine 
justice where the life of a fellow being is at stake. 

It was a grand old-fashioned Irish funeral Casey's 
friends gave him. After all he had done something 
for his party, if he was hanged for it. And the men 
of law were not ungrateful. Besides there was the 
King burial display of the vigilants; and the stuffers 
and strikers must now see what they could do. From 
the Crescent engine-house, where the body of Casey 
was taken, eighty- four carriages, eighty horsemen, 
and four hundred on foot followed it to the Catholic 
cemetery. It was a grand sight. Who would not 
die the death of the assassin, if one's end might be 
like his! 

Meanwhile poor Belle Cora could boast of but six 
hacks at her husband's funeral. She had taken the 
body from the stern executioners; she was bad, she 
was very bad, but she was a woman! She took the 
body and bathed it in her tears. Were they genuine 
salt-water tears, or were they ditch-water tears? And 


six poor hacks held all the gambler's friends, while 
Casey's proud carcass, which never contained half 
the manliness of little Cora's, boasted its well nigh 
six hundred followers. But Cora had the handsomest 
coffin, thanks to his ever loving mistress -wife; a 
beautiful affair, they called it — solid mahogany, lined 
with white satin, sides of gilt scroll-work, silver nails, 
and a silver plate. Comfortable, but for the dripping 
grave-walis and the worms! 



A fine and slender net the spider weaves, 

Which little and light animals receives; 

And if she catch a common bee or fly, 

They with a piteous groan and murmur die; 

But if a wasp or hornet she entrap, 

They tear her cords like Sampson and escape; 

So like a fly, the poor offender dies, 

But like the wasp, the rich escapes and flies. 


Ned McGowan was a genius. He was as great a 
man in his way, as unique and individual as any who 
have achieved distinction in the more ordinary paths 
of life. He belonged to a fraternity sui generis; what- 
ever they did was in a way of their own. Their style 
was themselves; they studied in no foreign school; 
they adopted no foreign code. Original was their 
situation, and they were original. In ethics and 
politics utility was their standard. If falsely testify- 
ing and falsely judging would sooner bring about the 
desired end; if false-bottomed ballot-boxes would 
bring true and speedy election, when all other means 
were uncertain, would not a wise man avail himself 
of the most direct and certain agencies? 

McGowan reminds me of Spinoza, because of their 
dissimilarity. Spinoza was a Jew, born in Amster- 
dam; McGowan was a Philadelphia shoulder-striker of 
Irish extraction. Spinoza was slender in form, in com- 
plexion olive, frail, delicate, consumptive-looking, and 
leading the life of an anchoret ; un moulin de raisonne- 
ment, Leibnitz called him, an intellectual mill for the 
manufacture of syllogisms. McGowan was stout, in 



complexion ruddy, frail and delicate in his morality, 
and exceedingly consumptive about bar-rooms. His 
mind was a machine, not for grinding out syllogisms, 
but for turning off a certain quality of men wherewith 
to fill offices. 

Both achieved the full mastery of their abilities. 
There is sometimes found present in characters where 
least expected, a dull, heavy harmony, springing from 
the play of opposite qualities. 

Any one can be an anchoret; any one can be honest. 
It is easier to be upright than dissolute. Any one 
can thieve and be caught. Much talent is required to 
achieve an occasional misdemeanor, and still be able 
to walk the streets a free man. When therefore we 
encounter a character rich in honorable rascality, which 
throughout a long and illustrious life has occupied 
a front rank in professional scoundrelism, and has 
attained old age still happy in that equipoise which 
brings success, we may safely conclude such a one to 
be nothing less than a genius. Honor to the honor- 
able Edward McGowan! He lived long and pros- 
pered. He reaped by wickedness that which few 
can attain but by a life of laborious virtue. 

Ned was bad enough, but he gloried in a reputation 
for being worse than he was. The great mistake of his 
life was not in adopting rascality as a profession, for 
in that he succeeded very well, but it was in writing 
a book. Conscious of the sacred fire within him, he 
could not die and tuck his soul beneath the shades in 
comfort, never having shed ink. His work is a kind 
of Knave's Rest. It is entitled Narrative of Edward 
McGoivan, including a full account of the Authors Ad- 
ventures and Perils, while persecuted by the San Fran- 
cisco Vigilance Committee of 1856. Published by the 
Author, 1857. Posterity might have forgiven every- 
thing but a hideous picture, of the bull-dog style of 
beauty, yet a faithful representation of himself, which 
he put on the cover. How vanity blinds one ! Had 
this man sought to convince the world of his inherent 


brutality and baseness, which in truth was the oppo- 
site of his purpose, he could not have found a more 
direct or certain method than by publishing his like- 
ness, in which was a grotesque melancholy, as of one 
more sinned against than sinning, overspreading feat- 
ures stale with gin and iniquity; long greasy hair, 
covering high, pointed brain-chambers behind a man- 
sard forehead; sinister eyes, piggish cheeks, and a 
cataract of bristles on the upper lip — these mark the 
returned exile who, in the pages accompanying this 
model representation of human debasement, casts him- 
self upon a prejudiced public. 

In all this the honorable Edward did himself great 
injustice. A portrait published in the Police Gazette, 
at the time a reward was offered for his apprehension, 
was much handsomer. In truth a jolly villain was 
the judge. A sight of his fat, flabby face, his kindly 
eye, beaming blood or festivity according to circum- 
stance and potations, with Greeley hat covering low 
the brain which had planned and plotted to the own- 
er's eternal renown, was better than a whole night's 
revel unaccompanied by his genial presence. Never- 
theless we will in this instance go by the book, and 
take him at his own imprinting. There is still to 
be seen, on pleasant afternoons, at the time of this 
writing, loitering along the sunny side of the streets 
in San Francisco, a neatly though somewhat loudly 
dressed white-haired and white-hatted man, who de- 
lights in the name ' Ubiquitous,' whose military mus- 
tache is now bleached by gin-fumes and some sixty-five 
years of sinning, and whose history, like that of many 
another poor straggler along the same streets, is full of 

The portrait upon the book, however, is the man; 
and his life, the words which follow, are empty wind. 
Characteristic of his writing is the appearance of the 
author's belief in his own innocence. This ghost 
of sincerity is carried to the verge of irony through 
every page. Like the frail damsel who bewails her 


lost virtue by superfluous asseverations of her purity, 
Ned harps upon his honor, his wrongs, and sufferings 
until the most stupid reader cannot but detect the 
hollowness of the strain. And yet tinged with such 
sombre shades, in some measure, are all good and 
great men of virtue and genius born. 

Mr McGowan's book opens with an introduction 
full of bogus pathos, in which he strikes the attitude 
of martyr, and ranges the members of the Vigilance 
Committee round him as fanatics. This is truly 
placing matters in a new light. It reveals to our 
understanding a view from the other side, which 
simple thought and research could by no possibility 
obtain. We thank the judge for this illumination. 
We would if possible concentrate light and pour it 
upon this subject until through it and on every side 
of it all is as clear as crystal. After diligent search I 
find nothing in Ned's martyrdom unusual to the suf- 
fering people of Satan. He was persecuted for the 
truth; in this he says rightly, for it was true that for 
which he was persecuted. They who did it were 
fanatics; that is to say, in the same sense that Ned 
was a persecuted saint. 

The honorable Ned says he entered political life in 
1837, was made five times district clerk, and in 1842 
was elected to the legislature of Pennsylvania, of 
which state he was native. He says nothing of the 
Chester County Bank robbery, of which he was 
ashamed ; nor of the time prior to his politico-pilfering 
career, when he was compositor, a swift, industrious 
craftsman, of irreproachable character, a compositor, 
in the printing-house of Adam Waldey, of which 
honest occupation he was no doubt also ashamed. 

To this book, I must say, we are indebted for very 
little information of any kind. What we would know 
of Ned himself, and of his doings, we must seek from 
other sources. In the latter part of 1835 he began 
to be seen about the democratic primaries and public 
meetings in Philadelphia, where his ready intelligence 


and fiery spirit soon caused him to be marked as a 
rising star among the tough old politicians of the 
democratic regime. He was soon master in the art of 
managing elections, and was courted by the great ones 
of his party as a young man who had merit in him 
and was useful to the country. He soon fell into the 
evil ways of the politicians, and began to loiter about 
drinking-saloons and gaming-tables, where his wit, 
dash, and fluency as a tap -room orator made him 
always welcome. He began to read law, also, and was 
elected clerk of his political district. He continued to 
rise in the favor of his party, and was finally elected a 
member of the assembly. At Harrisburg his youth, 
pluck, and proficiency in all the arts and wiles of the 
politician rendered him conspicuous, and he soon 
plunged into the arena of debate with a violent speech, 
abounding in the grossest personalities, against the 
governor of the state. The State Capital Gazette, in 
an article reviewing this speech, excoriated the young 
Demosthenic bully mercilessly; and the next morning, 
McGowan seeing the editor, Mr Brannan, seated at 
a desk in the hall of the assembly, deliberately walked 
up and stabbed him, inflicting a serious but not fatal 
wound. His political friends shielded him from pun- 
ishment, but he was counselled to resign his seat and 
return to Philadelphia, which he had the prudence to 
do, and was soon afterward appointed a captain of 
police. At this time he had ripened into an accom- 
plished roue, and was the boon companion of some of 
the most dissolute characters in the city. Then fol- 
lowed the Chester County Bank robbery and the flight 
of Captain McGowan. He was apprehended in the 
western part of the state disguised as a drover, with 
some of the stolen money in his possession, and was 
brought to Philadelphia, and after undergoing a form 
of trial escaped to California, arriving in San Francisco 
in 1849, and entered eon amove upon the wild life of 
the time and place. He soon became a power with the 
democracy here, presiding in conventions and man- 


aging elections in a royal manner. A special bill for 
his relief from the Chester County Bank difficulty was 
passed by the California legislature, and he was cheek 
by jowl with the greatest men of his party. He was 
elected a justice of the peace, and his court was the 
scene of many fierce battles among the windy votaries 
of the law. In 1851 we find him sitting as associate 
justice in the court of sessions. He resigned his legal 
sceptre after a time, however, and was appointed 
commissioner of immigrants by his friend Governor 
Bigler. This was a remunerative office, and the gay 
and eccentric McGowan is supposed to have made the 
most of his golden opportunities, as he basked in the 
smiles of the most charming and costly cyprians, and 
floated in oceans of champagne. He was involved in 
*a number of amours and intrigues, and would brook 
no rivalry in affairs of this kind. 

In June 1851 John Nugent was indicted for send- 
ing a challenge, and brought before the court of ses- 
sions, Campbell, judge, and Brown and McGowan, 
associate justices. Weller and Heydenfeldt were 
Nugent's counsel, and McGowan was his friend. This 
and other favors Nugent never forgot. Ned was then 
an upright judge, and had nothing to fear from the 
newly organized Vigilance Committee, especially as 
long as he had a friend at court in the person of the 
editor of the Herald, one of the chief supporters of 
the cause. 

Upon the minutes of a general meeting of the first 
Committee, held the 22d of July 1851, Selim E. 
Woodworth in the chair, a motion was made by Mr 
Brindley, and adopted, that: 

"Whereas, E. McGowan, formerly a police officer in the city of Phila- 
delphia, now an associate justice of the court of quarter sessions of the 
county of San Francisco, was convicted of being an accomplice in the robbery 
of the Chester County Bank, in the state of Pennsylvania, and obtained a new 
trial, on which he escaped conviction from the absence of witnesses who had 
testified against him on the former trial; and whereas, the said E. McGowan 
has been charged with official corruption by a grand jury of the said county 
of San Francisco ; therefore, be it 


"Resolved, That if these charges be true it is a disgrace to the county to 
tolerate him in the position he occupies ; and be it further 

"Resolved, That the executive committee be directed to investigate the 
matter and report to the general committee ; and if their report furnish suffi- 
cient grounds, in the estimation of the general committee, that he be re- 
quested to withdraw from the bench, under penalty of the said report being 
published to the world in case he refuse." 

There never yet was a man just because he was 
judge, though many may have been made judges 
because they were just. Ned was neither the one nor 
the other; he was not judge because he was just, not 
just because he was judge. And there were others 
like him in those days. 

On the fatal afternoon when James King of William 
fell before the pistol of Casey, McGowan is known to 
have armed himself with unusual care, and was heard 
to say, as he hurriedly glanced at the paper containing 
the article abusive of his quasi friend, "Casey will 
attend to that!" And this notwithstanding Casey 
and McGowan were not just then upon the best of 
terms. In virtue they were enemies; in vice, friends. 
Often it is easier to quarrel with a friend than to dis- 
charge an obligation. 

The testimony that was given at the coroner's in- 
quest showed plainly enough that McGowan knew 
what was going to transpire that day, and stood 
around whiling the leaden hours away with gin cock- 
tails as he awaited the portentous report of Casey's 
revolver. The fact does not, standing alone, condemn 
him as a malefactor of the blackest type. Those were 
hard days. Casey had his quarrel to dispose of accord- 
ing to the savage practice of the time, and McGowan 
was simply loitering and listening with a friendly 
interest in the event, which in the lurid heat of the 
people's mighty passion made an ugly-looking case for 
him, and actually imperilled his life. The fearful up- 
rising of the people, and the swift and menacing action 
of the executive committee, soon hedged McGowan 
about by imminent danger. The grand jury indicted 
him as accessory before the fact to the murder of 

FLIGHT. 251 

King, and the vigilants rushed forth on his trail. 
McGowan went into hiding promptly, and began that 
interesting series of experiences as a fugitive from 
the terrors of the Committee, which he so feelingly 
sets forth in his book. 

On Tuesday, the 20th of May, as the bells tolled 
the departure of James King of William, Casey lifted 
his eyes in his cell as the slow and sorrowful knell 
struck the air, then bowed his head in his hands with 
a sigh of despair. It was an ominous and terrible 
sound to Edward McGowan likewise, and he knew 
that he must fly for his life. For ten days he lay 
concealed in the rooms of a friend in Commercial 
street; meanwhile the emissaries of the Committee 
were putting forth every exertion to find him. He 
finally was compelled to venture out, and, disguised 
and heavily armed, he made his way to another place 
of concealment on the road to the Mission Dolores, 
in the house of an old lady, where he remained for a 
month. While there he frequently saw companies of 
vigilants out on drill, and the sunlight flashing from 
their polished arms aroused mingled emotions. 

On the 27th of June, with the intention of making 
his way to Philadelphia by the southern route through 
Mexico, McGowan, accompanied by a friend, started 
south, travelling with elaborate caution and assuming 
disguises, chief among which was that of an Ameri- 
can priest examining the missions for the purpose of 
writing a book. Reaching a rancho in the vicinity 
of Santa Barbara after a long and arduous journey on 
horseback, Ned paid his respects to the Fourth of 
July by exciting an old Mexican to intoxication. 
This made the Mexican's wife angry, and perhaps 
Ned was never at any time, during the period of his 
flight and concealment, in greater danger of utter 
annihilation, and he was almost constrained to wish 
that his country had never been born. I may here 
remark that in the narration of Mr McGowan bottles 
of whiskey, and bottles of brandy, and bottles of low 


degree waltz up and down in . gorgeous procession, 
shedding a tropical glow over the rocky pathway of 
this distinguished man. 

Certain persons who knew McGowan recognized 
him in the streets of Santa Barbara, and raising the 
alarm a mob was gathering to apprehend him, when 
a horseman dashed up, and leaping to the ground 
caught Ned by the hand with the rapid exclamation, 
"They are on your track, Judge; trust yourself to me, 
or you are lost!" It was Jack Powers, the robber 
chief, whose career on the road had won for him the 
weird title of Destroying Angel. Following the high- 
wayman at a run down a narrow street, McGowan 
was passed by him through an open window into a 
room where there happened to be lying loosely on 
the floor some forty yards of carpeting, into which he 
was rolled and left to lie there like a gigantic cocoon. 
Jack then sprang out through the window and led 
the noisy chase after an imaginary McGowan, render- 
ing himself conspicuous by his energy in the matter, 
but never finding his man. Eventually, however, the 
pursuit became so warm that a Spanish friend of Ned's, 
desiring to throw his enemies off the trail, started a 
report that a man was seen skulking into a tule swamp 
near town, and thither the clamorous crowd turned, 
thinking the game was at last in the toils. The tules 
were fired, and crackled with empty exultation before 
the evening wind, as McGowan lay suffering with 
thirst and fighting millions of fleas in the roll of 
carpeting. That night, with the assistance of Jack 
Powers, he managed to escape to the mountains back 
of town, and hid himself in a thicket. There he re- 
mained all the next day, and slept in an oatfield the 
following night. Hunger at last drove him to a 
neighboring rancho for food. Wandering about, he 
lost himself, and at last, by good fortune, fell in with 
Jack Powers again, who put him upon a mule, and 
conveying him to the Arroyo Hondo, placed him in 
charge of a Spaniard and his wife, with the request 


that they should take care of him until the hunt was 
over. Here on the Arroyo Hondo, in a wild and 
lonely canon whose rocky walls forever echoed the 
melancholy thunder of the neighboring sea, the 
hunted man rested from his fears for a while and un- 
dertook to recuperate his wasted frame on a diet of 
jerked beef and pinole. The inevitable brandy-bottle 
chassez into this idyllic pause in the sounding epic of 
our honorable judge, in a little anecdote which fitly 
illustrates the fathomless treachery of the native Cal- 
ifornian character in all exigencies involving the 
care and custody of the amber-hued stimulant which 
usually attacks society under the familiar legends of 
Hennessey, Martel, or Noble. Ned had despatched 
one Pedro to town for a number of articles, in- 
cluding a bottle of the liquid alluded to, which 
errand Pedro faithfully performed, with the exception 
that he had transferred the brandy to an original 
Californian package, and was heroically cheerful under 
the trying circumstances of the hour. He gravely re- 
ported that certain friends of McGowan's objected to 
his being furnished any more liquor, for fear he would 
be guilty of some imprudence; consequently he had 
ground the bottle to powder under his heel, and had 
scattered it to the winds. 

Things went smoothly enough until the night of 
the 14th of July, when General Covarrubias, of Santa 
Barbara, a friend of McGowan's, galloped up to 
the door and informed him that a detachment of 
twenty or more vigilants had arrived at Santa 
Barbara by the San Francisco steamer, and were 
going to renew the search for him. Packing a mule 
with blankets and provisions, he went back a little dis- 
tance into the mountains where the chaparral grew 
in densely woven thickets, and remained there for a 
week, visited only by the little son of his host on the 
Arroyo Hondo. While sleeping out in the canon, 
about this time, Ned was crawling into his blankets 
one night, when a movement and an ominous whirr 


started hini in terror to his feet. The blankets 
having been displaced by the action, a large rattle- 
snake glided from his bed and coiled itself menacingly 
before him. When we consider the quantity of Mexi- 
can brandy the exile was absorbing in those days, our 
sympathies naturally fall on the side of the serpent. 
It was perilously near biting the wrong man. 

Relaxing his watchfulness somewhat, Ned was re- 
freshing himself with a bath at a little spring near 
the dwelling of his friends one afternoon, when the 
boy accustomed to carry him food came running 
toward him from the house shouting breathlessly: 
"Los hombres en la casa ! vigilantes! escopetas! 
vamos ! vamos !" Ned again escaped to the friendly 
shelter of the chaparral, and calmly waited for the 
danger to pass. 

Two Americans, one of them named Meacham, 
the keeper of the light-house there, and the other a 
San Franciscan, had visited the house, armed to the 
teeth, with the intention of taking him dead or alive, 
but their inquiries failed to elicit anything from the 
senora or her husband which would betray him, and, 
having partaken of the repast that had been prepared 
for McGowan, they rode away. Not long after, other 
members of the Vigilance Committee, carrying bench- 
warrants for the apprehension of McGowan, arrived 
at Santa Barbara, but could learn nothing of his where- 
abouts, and so returned. The newspapers of the state 
were teeming with all manner of false reports and 
sensational accounts concerning him and his move- 
ments, and he was really the lion of the day. Here 
is an advertisement which appeared in the Santa 
Barbara Gazette: 

"Three hundred dollars reward! It being rumored that one Edward 
McGowan, a fugitive from justice, on the charge of murder, from San Fran- 
cisco County, who was last seen in Santa Barbara, has been murdered for a 
sum of money known to have been in his possession, the above reward will be 
paid for the recovery of his body, or for information that will lead to his re- 
covery, by applying to the office of Russell Heath, sheriff of Santa Barbara 


About this time McGowan became satisfied that 
Don Pedro, his host on the Arroyo Hondo, was 
meditating treachery, and so he determined to seek 
shelter under the roof of Doctor Den, whose rancho 
was on the road from the Arroyo Hondo to Santa 
Barbara. He knew the doctor to be a friend, and 
he was loath to trust himself longer to the Punic 
faith of the native Californians. Arriving stealthily 
at the rancho, Ned was chagrined not to find the 
doctor at home, but was more than mollified by the 
kind reception given him by Dona Bosa, wife of 
the doctor, who provided for him generously. She 
also informed him that armed horsemen were con- 
tinually patrolling the roads in search of him. Leaving 
a letter for General Covarrubias at the rancho, with 
the request that it be forwarded at the earliest mo- 
ment possible, he retired to the mountains to await 
the reply. There he became lost in a labyrinth of 
canons, and nearly perished from hunger and thirst. 
By great good fortune he at last struck the waters 
of an arroyo which led him down to the doctor's 
rancho. General Covarrubias was already at the 
rancho, awaiting him, and he and Doctor Den received 
the forlorn fugitive with open arms, and extended to 
him every kindness. A camp was made for him in 
the centre of a cornfield convenient to the house, where 
for six weeks he remained in comfort and security, 
after which a room was given him in the house during 
the remainder of his stay. 

Meanwhile every now and then a rumor would be 
started that Judge McGowan was scented, or cap- 
tured, or tried. Scores of reports of this kind came 
in from every quarter, from San Jose, Sacramento, 
from Napa, from Monterey, from Nevada, and from 
beyond the mountains. A gentleman wrote from Phila- 
delphia that he was there with him at his house, on 
Ninth street, below Catherine. So that to Ned was 
given the sobriquet of ' Ubiquitous.' 

When tidings of his appearance at Santa Bdrbara 


reached San Francisco, certain members of the Vigil- 
ance Committee waited on Sheriff Scannell and re- 
quested the warrant issued at the time of King's 
murder. The sheriff refused to give it up, but prom- 
ised to send a deputy after the culprit. As the matter 
seemed to the Committee to demand haste, they 
chartered the schooner Exact, which with ten of the 
vigilant police went to sea on the 9th of July. The 
sheriff's deputy went down on the Sea Bird two days 
afterward. Jack Powers was arrested in San Fran- 
cisco the 27th of March 1857. 

Thus passed about nine months since McGowan 
left San Francisco. Some time in the month of Feb- 
ruary McGowan concluded that a reaction in public 
sentiment had taken place, and that it was possible 
for him then to appear among his fellow-citizens any- 
where outside of San Francisco without danger of 
violence; so accompanied by a few friends he set out 
on horseback for Sacramento, where he hoped to pro- 
cure the passage of a special-legislation act to defeat 
the ends of justice, allowing him a change of venue 
from the courts of San Francisco to some other dis- 
trict where he might have a fair trial — that is to say, 
a trial which would be sure to leave him free. He 
arrived in Sacramento in due time, when his appear- 
ance on the streets in the outre costume of his exile 
created no little excitement, and was warmly greeted 
by a host of friends and sympathizers. The political 
friends of McGowan were largely in the majority in 
the legislative body, and despite the opposition of the 
San Francisco delegation, a bill was finally passed 
allowing any person, making the proper showing, to 
apply to any court where a criminal charge was pend- 
ing against him for a change of venue to some other 
court, without the necessity, the sine qua non in 
McGowan's case, of making a personal appearance in 
the said court. Under the provisions of this act 
McGowan procured a change of venue to the seventh 


judicial district of California, and in May 1857 stood 
his trial at Napa City, and was of course acquitted. 

The Bulletin was disgusted. Says the issue of the 
3d of March 1857: 

"Ned McGowan, the ubiquitous, has actually arrived in Sacramento. 
This time there is no humbug about it. It is the identical ballot-box stuffer 
himself. He puts up at the Magnolia drinking-saloon, where during all of 
yesterday he was the centre of a large circle of admirers with the like of 
whom this city swarms at present. Sacramento at this time resembles one of 
the old Jewish cities of refuge, where murderers and other criminals could 
flee for shelter from the avengers of blood. How long this state of things 
shall continue depends entirely upon the inhabitants themselves, and of course 
is no business of the San Franciscans. It appears that owing to the organiza- 
tions of vigilance committees and sheriffs' posses, from San Diego to Monte- 
rey, McGowan was afraid his quarters would be beaten up, and that some 
well intentioned but ignorant party of men might mistake him for an escaped 
felon or fugitive from justice, and hang him before his friends had a chance 
to establish his remarkably good character. That part of the country, then, 
becoming too hot for him, he was forced to look around for one where he 
would find friends and comrades better able to shelter him, and where anti- 
hanging prejudices obtain more generally than in the lower country. One of 
the numerous copies of Estill's speech which were gratuitously placed upon 
the desks of the members of the legislature for distribution, and were for sale 
in the bookstores, found its way into his hands. From that, and the fact that 
it was suffered without opposition, save from a vigilance man, to be read in 
the assembly hall, he formed his own estimate of the character of the present 
legislature ; and, if he longer hesitated, a copy of the report of the quarter- 
master and adjutant-general, and notice of the pardon of Stoncifer, and that 
two of the exiles were here unmolested, must have decided him. It is said 
that he will now ask the legislature to pass a special act for his benefit, to 
enable him to be tried here without going to San Francisco. It remains to 
be seen whether his numerous and acknowledged services to the democratic 
party will be rewarded in this way. Members of the legislature will now 
have a fair chance to express their opinions, and will in all probability be 
compelled to come out and show distinctly whether their sympathies are with 
the people or in favor of shielding this prince of ballot-box stuffers, shoulder- 
strikers, and assassins. " 

And again, the 23d of May, speaking of the trial: 

" The first act in the farce of trying a notorious scoundrel for being acces- 
sory to a foul murder has come off at Napa. Ned McGowan, the cunniug bat 
cowardly and unprincipled man who has played so conspicuous a part in the 
villainy that has heretofore been practised in this city, the tool and accom- 
plice of equally as guilty parties now in our midst, has at last been caged in 
Napa, and is undergoing a farce of a trial, which is only intended to create 
sympathy for a hardened wretch, totally unfit to be loosed on. society,. Nearly. 
Pop. Teib., Vol. II. 17 


three months since, this fugitive from justice made his appearance on the 
public streets of Sacramento. Under the eye of the very governor who claims 
to have offered a reward for his apprehension, he was suffered, although under 
an indictment of a grand jury, to roam at large, hold levees, and be lionized 
by men of the same stripe. He was not only persuaded to ask for special 
legislation in his behalf, but members seemed eager to obtain his favor by 
granting his request ; and he was permitted to occupy a seat within the bar 
of the assembly, during the session, by the side of a boon companion. After 
being feasted and lionized by his gaping advisers and would-be imitators, a 
judge was found who had sufficient regard for the forms of law and public 
decency to order McGowan to close confinement. That he is guilty of every 
charge, and even more, that has been laid to him, no one pretends to doubt. 
His criminal conduct in Pennsylvania, and his subsequent villainy in this 
state, have rendered him infamous. That he could be convicted, if the proper 
course was pursued, of crimes sufficient to consign him to the gallows, is 
true; but that he could be punished at the present time, while his friends 
are in possession of power that ought to be in honest hands, is doubted by 
all. A want of confidence in the authorities has produced an apathy among 
the people, as regards any attempt to prosecute this trial to a successful issue. 
They believe that the only thing to be done in this case is to mete out justice 
themselves, or await the advent of honest officials of their own choosing. That 
McGowan 's occupation as ballot-box stufTer and worker in crime in this city 
is at an end, we are confident." 

Napa had acquired quite a reputation in those 
days for liberating murderers. It was quite the thing 
if you had killed a man to go to Napa to be cleared. 
Lawyers, barkeepers, and hotel proprietors all treated 
such felons as favored them with their patronage 
with every kindness, sending them their choicest 
viands free of charge. Ned's friends were of a class 
that drank often. The saloon-keepers could rely on 
them; they were always thirsty. Jailer, judge, and 
jury were all free and easy, kind and lenient; if the 
prisoner had money and spent it, he was a good fellow 
and need have no fear. In this instance with a 
gravity which challenges our credulity, the trial turned 
on the question whether King was killed by Casey's 
pistol-ball or by the physicians who did not cure him; 
and as there was no other plausible ground on which 
to cleanse Ned's skirts, they easily found two physi- 
cians, Dr Cole and Dr Toland, who testified that in 
their opinion King died from the effects of treatment 
by other physicians to whose course of practice they 


took exceptions. In other words, it was not the 
shooting which caused King's death, but the sickness 
which followed the shooting and which the physicians 
failed to cure ! 

No sooner was Ned declared an innocent by Juclo-e 
McKinstry than he set about editing and publishing 
a paper. It is not a little singular how many inno- 
cents there are in America to-day editing newspapers. 
Ned's paper was called the Phcenix at first, under 
which name it ran twenty-five Sundays, from the 30th 
of August, when in wrathful decay it ulcerated and 
appeared under the name of the Ubiquitous, the morn- 
ing of Sunday, the 21st of February 1858. 

The first number of the Phoenix opens with Mc- 
Gowans Lives of the Stranglers. But for his art of 
dodging, the biographer himself might ere this have 
tasted the new social reform; as it was he must con- 
tent himself concocting smells which if rank enough 
to reach the object aimed at, filled the measure of his 
ambition. Having analyzed Ned's Narrative, I shall 
now examine his journal. 

The King of the Polecats is the polite heading of an 
article in the first mumber, on the brother of James 
King of William, the substance of which is in fair 
keeping with the caption. On the second page a com- 
plete "list of the stranglers" is given. This is followed 
by a "salutatory" which is "fully aware of the respon- 
sibility" falling on an editor; which promises that, 
truth being abundant, lies will not be resorted to for 
the annihilation of enemies — a position which, though 
possibly assumed, never before was maintained by a 
public journal; which acknowledges the duello a part 
of its political creed; and which declares that none 
but vigilants " need fear exposure in our columns." 
According to the bold licentiousness forthcoming, the 
editor says : "We shall strive to present a paper which 
will be read and sought after by all, but should our 
columns contain things which should shock the fastid- 
ious, and prevent it from being the companion of the 


drawing-room and family circle, we shall have to ask 
grace of our readers, for we deal with filthy subjects, 
and as a faithful historian we are compelled to give 
every item both of atrocious vulgarity and glaring 

The second number comments on the ancient puri- 
tan as he appears in the modern strangler, and views 
him in his " admixture of piety and hypocrisy," his 
liberty-loving desire of crushing others, and his quaker- 
hanging and witch-drowning proclivities. It then takes 
up one after another of several of the executive com- 
mittee and comments upon their chararter in no flatter- 
ing terms. 

The fourth number appeared in mourning for the 
death of Judge Murray, as left-handed an honor, 
surely, as ever was paid a chief-justice of a supreme 
court. Every printed word concerning McGowan or 
his narrative was reproduced with lively if not very 
chaste comments. Scores of San Franciscans were 
thus bespattered with the filthiest blackguardism. 
To obscenity it added blackmailing, and until the 20th 
of June 1858, the last number I have seen, drove an 
iniquitous trade. 

The dead Phoenix, rising on the 21st of February 
1858 into new life as the Ubiquitous, again salutes its 
patrons with "no ordinary feelings of pride and self- 
gratulation." "In defiance of all right and justice," 
it adds, "in violation of every principle of truth, our 
enemies have seen fit, in their demoniac rage at our 
showing them to the world in all their hideous de- 
formity, to endeavor to hinder and delay us in its 
further execution. In this, however, they have not 
succeeded." The opening number of the Ubiquitous 
contains a wood -cut of ' 33, Secretary/ which with 
the additions of two leading saloon-keepers, Hopkins, 
whom he calls the hangman, and Jules David, graces 
the last page of the last number, under the title of 
'McGowan's Portrait Gallery of the Stranglers for 
Fraser Rivor.' 


All the issue of the 14th of February of this de- 
lectable journal sent to San Francisco was seized by 
the chief of police as unfit for circulation; whereupon 
next day in an 'extra' a great cry was raised by 
the editor. " Another outrage in the city of blood! 
Newsboy arrested and paper seized! Is there any- 
thing obscene in this paper? The freedom of the 
press tolerated by the stranglers in their strangling 
press only. The stranglers writhing under our lash ! 
Who says we are not getting even, more than even?" 

A whole volume of reflection on the freedom of the 
press is offered in this ludicrously absurd cry. Nor 
should the honorable judge have so openly acknowl- 
edged that he was getting more than even, for that is 
not justice. 

In 1862 we hear of Judge McGowan in the gold- 
fields of British Columbia. Ned always possessed 
quite a penchant for gold-getting, in whatsoever ca- 
pacity. "As an instance of the workings of universal 
suffrage," writes Mayne, "it may be mentioned that 
this man at one time filled the office of a judge in 
California; and quite recently when, after shooting at 
a man at Hill Bar, whom he luckily missed, he es- 
caped across the frontier into American territory, he 
has been elected to the house of representatives of 
one of the border states that lie east of the Rocky 

And again, speaking of some disturbance created 
by McGowan at Yale, he says: "Colonel Moody, 
representing the majesty of the law, was still at Yale. 
Mr McGowan outraged it unmistakably by com- 
mitting an unprovoked assault. This, coupled with 
sundry other suspicious circumstances, caused Colonel 
Moody to think that McGowan's friends and ad- 
mirers would, if provoked, break into serious insub- 
ordination; and he at once instructed me to drop 
down the river to Hope and Langley and order up 
the engineers, marines, and blue-jackets left at those 
places. Mr McGowan, after enjoying the sensation 


he had caused, paid the commissioner a formal visit, 
and after making a very gentlemanly apology for the 
hasty blow which had disturbed the peace of British 
Columbia, committed himself frankly into the hands 
of justice! What could be done with such a frank, 
entertaining rascal? He was fined for the assault, 
exonerated from all previous misdemeanors, and next 
day, upon Hill Bar being visited by Mr Begbie, the 
chief -justice, and myself, he conducted us over the 
diggings, washed some dirt to show us the process, 
and invited us to a collation in his hut, when we drank 
champagne with some twelve or fifteen of his Cal- 
ifornia friends. And whatever opinion the Vigilance 
Committee of San Francisco miodit entertain of the 
gentlemen, I, speaking as I found them, can only say 
that, all things considered, I have rarely lunched with 
a better-spoken, pleasanter party. The word miner, 
to many unacquainted with the gold-fields, conveys an 
impression similar, perhaps, to that of navvy. But 
among them may often be found men who by birth 
and education are well qualified to hold their own in 
the most civilized community of Europe." 

I give herewith some letters of Mr McGowan's 
which fell into the hands of the Vigilance Committee, 
which fix his social status more definitely than any 
other evidence I have seen. And first, one addressed 
"Judge McG-owan, care D. C. Broderick, Union 
Hotel, San Francisco. By Adams and Company's 
Express from Auburn." 

"Auburn, September 8, 1853. 
"Dear Judge: 

" I seize the moment to communicate the news from Placer County. Our 
vote is not so large as last year by 1000; Bigler's majority will be about 225. 
Precincts all heard from except two or three small ones in the mountains. 
County ticket all elected. Drunkard's Bar, 100 votes, polled Bigler 98 ; the 
rest of the ticket 100 — in sporting language a flush. Can you beat it, hey? 
I'll be at home on the 10th. Yours, 


" Dr Dickson who wrote this letter was killed in a duel at Sacramento, 
March 9, 1854, by Philip Thomas. I was the ' friend ' of Dickson. He 


was a noble fellow, and was deserving of a better fate. The quarrel was not 
his own, but that of a friend, whom Thomas refused to recognize as a gentleman. 
Dickson took his friend's place and fell mortally wounded. Peace to his ashes. 

„ , "Edw. McGowan. 

"San Francisco, March 26, 1854." 

The honorable John B. Weller to the honorable 
Edward McGowan: 

"Washington City, January 24, 1853. 
"My Dear Sir: 

"In the multiplicity of other engagements I have only time to write you 
a short note in reply to your letter of the 15th ult. You will be kind enough 
to pay over to my brother C. L. Weller the amount due me from the Marine 
hospital. In regard to the federal offices in California, I can only say that I 
am much mortified at the great number of applicants for all the offices in that 
state. I am literally overrun with letters, etc. After all names have been 
presented, the delegation from California will attempt to unite in their recom- 
mendations. If in the general scramble anything can be done for you it will 
give me great pleasure. Respectfully, your friend, 

"John B. Weller." 

" Ed. Mc Go wan , Esq. ' ' 

" I, John," desire the election of Skinner: 

"Benicia, October 9, 1853. 
"Dear McGowan: 

" I desire you to aid the election of J. S. Skinner as city physician all in 

your power. Say to Broderick that I am anxious for his election for reasons 

which I will explain to him. I will be down on Monday evening without 

fail. Truly yours, John Bigler." 

The roughs do not want their leaders to fight. Vi 
Turner and J. F. Quin to Judge McGowan in relation 
to a proposed duel between Bagley and Casey : 

" N. B. — Private and confidential. 
" Dear Ned: 

" We have been called on to act in the capacity of seconds in a duel that 
is to come off in the morning between Mr Bagley and Jas. Casey. To you, 
as the friend of Mr B. , we now write, and if our former intimacy can guar- 
antee the demand, we insist upon you lending your hand to the settlement of 
the same. From what we understand of it, it is a difficulty that can be set- 
tled without the least trouble. Take the advice of friends, though younger 
in years than yourself, that the settlement of this matter would benefit all 
parties interested. There is no necessity for any haste in this affair. Come 
in town with your friend and confer with us, and I am certain it can be 
arranged. Let me assure you that Vi and myself are equally friendly with 
one as the other. For your sake and ours come immediately on receipt of this. 
You shall not compromise yourself. Your friends, 

"Vi Turner and Jas. F. Quin. 

" To Judrje McGowan" 


How Ned kept his politico-pugilistic accounts: 

Peter Whiteman, $175 

Errickson, 20 

Small & Co., 160 Draft on Philadelphia dishonored. 

Dick Howell, 130 " " 

John Abrahams, ..... 25 

Young Elder, 30 Philadelphians and Pennsylvaniana 

Irish Thornton, 25 that I have loaned money to, not one 

Jim Galaway, 50 of which ever made the first offer, or 

"W. Williams, 25 ever will, to pay. 

O. Bailey, 113 

Sowing the good seed at election : 

"San Francisco, September 5, 1854. 
" Rec'd of Edward McGowan three hundred dollars for the county. 
"$300. W. J. Sweasey." 

"San Francisco, September 4, 1854. 
"Rec'd from Edw. McGowan $150 for election purposes. 
"$150. 2d Ward. Thos. M. Cahill." 

"San Francisco, September 4, 1854. 
"Rec'd from E. McGowan $150 for election purposes for 8th Ward. 
"$150. 8th Ward. D.B.Castro." 

"San Francisco, September 5, 1854. 
"Received of E. McGowan the sum of $150 for the Seventh Ward. 
"$150. 7th Ward. Peter Kenny." 

"San Francisco, September 6, 1854. 
" Rec'd of Edward McGowan $150 for the Third Ward. 
"$150. David Scannell." 

"San Francisco, September 6, 1854. 
" Rec'd of Edward McGowan $150 for the Sixth Ward. 
"$150. Peter Veeder." 

"San Francisco, September 6, 1856. 
" Rec'd of Edward McGowan two hundred dollars for Fifth Ward. 
"$200. Jacob Ritchie." 

Ned neglects his little French girl: 

"My Dear Friend: 

' ' I suppose that you are very surprise, not see me since any days, but not 
you knows that Madame Dubucourt she as been very bad for me, an she says 
if I am going to see you the door should be shut me. Madame Dubucourt is 


very jealous and sorry why anybody like me. I am been very sick by this 
conduct, an very sorry that you not come see me. You know my dear friend 
the affection that I have for you, and I suppose that you have the same for 
me. Any time that you call, I shall have very happy to see you ; if you not 
come now I think you very bad for you, but I hope my letter find you the 
came for me as before. Your friend, 

"25 August. Lenny." 

Among the actresses Ned was a darling gay Lo- 
thario : 

" Paris, 3d March, 1855. 
"Edward McGowan, Esq.: — 

' ' My Dear Friend : Alone in my little parlor far away in this gay place 
I think of those who love me — and you are not forgotten. 

" My eyes are still very weak, indeed, and pain me very much, or I would 
write you a long letter — all about my thoughts of you and other dear friends 
I left behind me in California, that blessed land of gold and good hearts ! 
But it will not require many words to assure you of all the grateful remem- 
brances I entertain of you; I often close my eyes and think I see you, every 
night, before the rise of the curtain, walking down the aisle of the parquet of 
the Metropolitan Theatre, a bill in your hand and looking so cheerfully at 
everybody near you as though you would say, 'Well ! have you come to see my 
daughter play to-night?' Oh, those dear old happy times ! Will they ever come 
again? Have you had any new pet yet since I left? I hope the artists who 
have followed me have not eclipsed me from your heart. It would give me 
pain to think so, for neither fate nor circumstance could change my thoughts 
of you. 

"I have been in Europe now nearly five months; in company with my 
brother and sister I am now spending some time in Paris. I have seen 
Rachel — the European Rachel. I must not praise her, since everybody here 
says she bears such strong resemblance to me, and I might be thought vain 
did I speak my opinion of her. I am forced to confess that the resemblance 
between our styles of acting was so striking that I felt wonder-struck during 
the first act. But I can never hope to attain the excellence to which she has 
arrived, which is truly wonderful. Her acting is so powerful, it at first alarms 
you; then positively frightens, then subdues, then delights you. She goes to 
America, where I hope you will see her. Her style, however, touches the 
head, but never once the heart. The world here is all astir preparing for the 
World's Fair. But neither England nor France have any charm for me. I 
would rather pass a single year in California than bask among their beams 

" I am studying very hard in the sweet hope to be, some day, worthy of 

the good name which San Francisco has already crowned me with; it Avill 

give me great pleasure to return to you all once more and show you the good 

use I have made of my time; and then, judge, we will have a good long chat 

about old times. Will we not? Yes, indeed ! Until then may God be with 

you; and believe me ever your grateful friend, 

"Matilda Heron." 


Here is a specimen of Steve Whipple's dunning 
letters for money lost at gambling in his establish- 
ment : 

"Wednesday, August 16, 1854. 
" E. McGonxtn, Esq. :— 

" Dear Sir : At your request, as conveyed to us by Doct. Parker, we have 
not called upon you for the balance due the house on your check, supposing of 
course that you would on Monday have met the same. That day, Monday, 
and yesterday having passed without our being able to see you, we are com- 
pelled to call on you for a settlement of the -same to-day. 

"Very respectfully, your obedient servants, 

"Whipple and Burroughs. " 



Objection ! Let him object if he dare. 


Early in the present century an English wine- 
merchant, John Dobell, wrote a book entitled Man 
Unfit to Govern Man. To have obtained a hearing in 
San Francisco shortly after the middle of the century, 
Mr Dobell would have had to make his title-page 
read Man his own Master. After the execution of 
Casey and Cora every honest man felt more honest, 
carried his head higher, and breathed more freely. 
He felt that he was again indeed his own master. 
The conspiracy of law and order was broken, but it 
was not yet eradicated. There was other work for 
the Committee to do. Society must be further sifted. 

Idlers and criminals are the greatest curse entailed 
on society, greater than war, pestilence, earthquake, 
and famine; and to permit bad men and their crimes 
to multiply and go down interbreeding to posterity, 
such imposition falling always alone on the industrious 
and virtuous, is the greatest evil one generation can 
inflict upon another. 

It was the bounden duty of San Francisco to arrest 
and eradicate the leprosy then overspreading her 
young institutions. Her citizens, represented by the 
tribunal in session on Sacramento street, had no right 
to permit the disease to spread and so transmit to 
their children, their fair inheritance, the pestilential 
carcass of its former self. And they did not; for on 

l 267 j 


their opinion they acted. A point was reached where 
a laissez-faire policy in matters pertaining to public 
weal could no longer be endured. The laissez-faire 
of the state government at this time was a laissez- 
faire which let alone the thief when he robbed, 
and his victim when he cried for justice; it was not 
the let-alone principle which gives to each citizen all 
the good he can get, leaving him to suffer such evils 
only as he brings upon himself. 

And so thinking, they acted upon the only true 
principle, that the most merciful, not to say economi- 
cal, way is to punish crime quickly, surely, and severely. 
Advocates of the abolition of capital punishment were 
requested to shift their sympathies from the mur- 
derer to the murdered. Letting them rest there for 
but a single moment, if they are the humanitarians 
they profess to be, they will say that the venomous 
reptiles of society should be exterminated, as settlers 
exterminate rattlesnakes and grizzly bears. Humane 
justice will punish severely, for severe justice is the 
most humane. And not only this, but it will seek to 
save the otherwise lost; it will cast down, but it will 
likewise lift up. 

To the new order of things in this heterogeneous 
civilization the old worn-out machines of eastern 
traditions were ill adapted. Stronger and better fitted 
wheels of swifter velocity were requisite to keep pace 
with the new jurisprudence. Men tire of watching 
each other, of hiring their fellows to perambulate 
streets with bludgeons ready drawn for the hammer- 
ing of refractory humanity, of watching political parties 
in belligerent attitudes snarling and glaring at each 
other lest one shall steal more than its share. It was 
not the people immediately who were responsible for 
it, but government, law, and law officials ; yet after all 
it was the people. The moralities of mankind, like the 
moralities of nature, are pure and peaceable, and the 
masses, as a rule, are right. As a rule their law is 
nature's law, God's law. No more can the flower 


thrive while nursing in its bosom the envenomed worm 
than can society prosper under customs oppugnant to 
nature's laws. For crime we are indebted, first to 
criminals, the abnormal element of society, the igno- 
ant, vicious, wilfully wicked; next, to statesmen, gov- 
ernors, judges, lawyers, those who subsist on the labors 
of the people, pretending to punish vice, but in their 
selfish counsels as often fostering vice as punishing 
it; and last of all, the people, for permitting such things. 
Out of an ignorant, irrational, or brutal society 
there does not spring a wise and humane government. 
Wicked men do not select their leader for his virtuous 
qualities. A good man will not accept office obtained 
through that hypocrisy and lying, that rousing of 
deceitful hopes and fostering of senseless prejudices 
necessary to his election. Nor is it in man, least of 
all in kings, but in nature only, that we may look for 
right or might divine. To nature we must go for law, 
for learning, for intellectual as well as for physical food. 

So these popular-tribunal men concluded to work 
away for a brief space lustily, and give the city a 
moral scrubbing. Thus far the people were satisfied 
with their leaders, and were content to follow and 
obey these so-called autocratic traitors. Remember- 
ing a saying the Chinese have, that "the wise man 
does not speak of all he does, but he does nothing that 
cannot be spoken of," they were satisfied to know only 
results. Says the Golden Era of the 25th of May: 
" Were this executive committee not composed of the 
most respectable and honorable of our citizens, we 
might question the policy of veiling their actions 
from the scrutiny of the people whose province it is to 
approve or condemn them." But as they were safe men, 
the people did not fear to trust them, the journal goes 
on to say, taking a quarter of a column to say it in. 

To the destruction of the aeries of these moral 
vultures the Committee then applied itself. A com- 
mittee waited on the city police with an offer of three 


hundred dollars for the arrest of McGowan, and two 
hundred dollars for the arrest of Wightman. A dis- 
claimer was ordered published in the journals of the 
day "of the intention of this body to avail itself of 
the right of search, without the permission of occu- 
pants of houses or legal warrants," and no arrests 
were permitted to be made by members of the Com- 
mittee without a warrant from the Executive. 

Prominent among the birds of prey were Billy 
Mulligan, Dan Alrich, Bill Lewis, Yankee Sullivan, 
and others famous for doughty deeds perpetrated in 
defiance of law, and while yet law's most kindly min- 
isters. Every one knew them to be guilty of criminal 
acts, and yet the law seemed powerless to reach them. 
Terrorism was their play. Prominent in all political 
matters, they held the polls at election, and often 
attacked, maimed, bruised, and abused all who opposed 
them. They levied black-mail almost at will, and 
when in drunken bravado they appeared on the street, 
quiet citizens were obliged to take themselves out of 
their way. And, indeed, if the law so desired, there 
was little use in arresting them. 

While the Committee could not conscientiously dis- 
band leaving these social coyotes still prowling the 
streets, on the other hand they were resolved to inflict 
no punishment not authorized by the courts; particu- 
larly none should be capitally punished who would not 
under the law be subject to such treatment. And yet 
this chronic criminality must be checked. After much 
thoughtful consideration it was determined to adopt 
the plan of banishment, after trial and conviction, of 
notoriously bad characters whom the hangman could 
not legally reach. 

While the men of law affected adoration for form, 
the vigilance party believed in the sacredness of 
human life. Thieves and murderers preying upon 
a people are bad enough, but their doings are far less 
injurious than the influence of those who live by 
poisoning the fountains of social morality, and quoting 


tradition to sanctify their wickedness. In order to 
prevent the disintegration of society, the Vigilance 
Committee found it necessary to assume absolute 
power; and in the administration of justice they re- 
solved to restrain the tendency toward excess which 
characterizes the possession of unlimited authority by 
constitutionally limiting its exercise. They confined 
the death penalty to the crime of murder, and ad- 
hered to this restriction during all their rule, although 
the interest of justice at times seemed to warrant its 
suspension. Banishment was the only punishment 
awarded the worst criminal against whom the crime 
of murder could not be proved. Banishment has a 
severe sound ; but under the regime of the Committee 
it amounted to little more than allowing the criminal 
to select the city to which he would make a pleasant 
voyage, the association paying the expenses of the 
journey if he had not the money. 

In most cases the expelled decided to go to New 
York, and were furnished passage by the regular mail 
steamers. The good accomplished was chiefly in 
making lawless characters understand that though 
they might successfully defy the law, there was in the 
community a reserved power which was absolutely 
irresistible, whose grasp might on the next occasion 
prove fatal. 

One night about one o'clock the police were aroused 
by one who thought he had found McGowan's track 
in the vicinity of Washington street. During this 
time Pete Wightman was stowed under Folsom's 
stable; and there his ravens fed him until he effected 
his escape. 

A committee of ^ve on foreign relations was ap- 
pointed to furnish transportation for those who might 
be requested to leave the state. Of all notorious 
characters a list was made, called the Black List, and 
orders were issued the 25th for the arrest of William 
Mulligan, Dan Aldrich, Bill Lewis, J. W. Baglcy, 
Martin Gallagher, and Yankee Sullivan, and next day 


the last three were brought before the Committee. 
The evening of the 27th they were tried, each on the 
individual merits of his case, and all having their 
counsel, with the privilege of summoning witnesses, 
as in trials for murder. And thereupon the following 
resolution was passed: 

"Whereas, The evidence we have heard establishes conclusively that 
Billy Mulligan, Yankee Sullivan, and Martin Gallagher have for years been 
disturbers of the peace of our city, destroyers of the purity of our elections, 
active members and leaders of the organized gang who have invaded the 
sanctity of our ballot-boxes, and perfect pests to society ; therefore 

"Resolved, That William Mulligan, Yankee Sullivan, and Martin Gallagher 
be transported out of the territory of the United States at the earliest practi- 
cable moment, and that they be warned never to return to California, under 
penalty of death. " 

Orders were then issued for the arrest of Billy Carr, 
Woolly Kearny, Jim Burke, and J. P. Hickey; and 
on the 30th the two first named were in like manner 
sentenced to exile. Dan Aldrich was discovered soon 
after with his inamorata, secreted in Sacramento. A 
new order was issued for his arrest, and also for that 
of Edward Bulger. 

She who called herself Mrs Sullivan sighed to see 
her husband in words like these : 

"May 29, 1856. 
"Dear James: 

' ' I take my pen in hand to write those f ue lines to you for I do not no wot 
to do for I have not got one cent in the world and theay will not let me come in 
to see you I have been three times to see if they would not let me in to see 
you ; Dear James how are I to folow you When thay Seand you A Way My 
heart is almost broke Aboute you I wishe you to write me a f ue lines out so 
that I can no wot to do I will wate wile youe rite me a fue lines 

"So no More at preasent from your Affectionate Wife untill Death, 

"Emily Mary Sullevan." 

Suddenly in the midst of these engagements the 
Committee was shocked by the announcement of 
an officer of police that Yankee Sullivan had com- 
mitted suicide in his cell. An extra session of the 
Executive was immediately called and the matter 

It appears that about six o'clock Saturday morning, 


the 31st of May, Sullivan called the guard and re- 
quested a drink of water. He then related a horrible 
dream from which he had just awakened. He thought 
he had been condemned to die; that the last rites of 
religion performed, he had been seized and pinioned 
by the guards, taken from his cell, led to the fatal 
window, where the rope was adjusted round his neck; 
then, placed on the platform before the deridino- 
crowd, the trap was sprung, and in the fancied agony 
of the last awful struggle he awoke. He was greatly 
excited. So strong a grasp upon his fevered brain had 
the terrible fancy taken that he could not drive it 
hence. The guard sought to pacify him, told him 
there was no danger of his being hanged, that at the 
worst he would only be expelled from the country, and 
that in another land he could reform and lead a life of 
virtuous industry. The unhappy man took the water 
offered him apparently relieved. But when two hours 
after the guard entered the cell with the prisoner's 
breakfast he found him lying on his back upon the 
bed in a pool of blood, with a frightful gash on the 
inside of the left elbow, dead. He was dressed in 
pantaloons and shirt, and near him, red with gore, lay 
the knife which he used to cut his food. The body 
was given to the coroner. 

The cause of the melancholy event, it was thought, 
was the denial of stimulants to which the prisoner was 
almost momentarily accustomed. It was shown that 
drunkenness was his normal state, from fifty to eighty 
drinks a day being his customary indulgence; and 
when after incarceration tea and coffee were substi- 
tuted, his nervous system sank, circulation became 
sluggish, and his mind gloomy. This lesson to the 
Committee proved profitable to the drinking pro- 
clivities of the remaining prisoners, who lest they 
should droop and kill themselves were ordered full 
rations of spirits. The enemies of the association 
were not backward in raising accusations of foul play 
against the Committee, accusing them of murdering 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 18 


Sullivan in his cell, and like absurdities which are 
not worthy of refutation. 

Sullivan was an English prize-fighter. The appel- 
lation 'Yankee' was given him from wearing in one 
of his great fights a handkerchief with the American 
flag painted on it. He was a Sydney convict who had 
escaped to New Zealand. There was no thought on the 
part of the Committee of punishment more severe than 
a free passage to wherever he wished to go out of the 
United States. Some said that he was slain in resist- 
ing his guard, but even the Herald declares: "We 
dismiss as entirely unworthy to be entertained, that 
the man has been assassinated." 

Shortly before his death Sullivan made a confession, 
which brought to light some startling developments in 
regard to frauds at the Presidio polls. The publica- 
cation of portions of the confession, with the names of 
the individuals mentioned left blank, was authorized 
by the executive committee, and appeared in the 
journals of June 2d. This confession was to the Com- 
mittee of 1856 what the confession of Stuart was to 
the Committee of 1851. It introduced the crime- 
crushers at once to the mysteries of the ring, and gave 
them the cue to the campaign. As the confession is 
lengthy I can give only a summary of it: 

The September previous Sullivan lived at the Pre- 
sidio House, on the road to the fort. Election was 
held there, and the ballot-box for that precinct was kept 
in the hotel. Sullivan was one of the judges of election. 
On the morning of election day the agent of one of the 
candidates rode up and offered him five hundred dollars 
to bring in a majority for his friend, the money to be 
paid after election. The clerk, satisfied with the offer, 
proceeded to write out on the spot, and before the 
balloting, the return of the candidate; but Sullivan, 
knowing the man would not pay, declared himself 
incorruptible, and tore up the returns. 

Another candidate offered three hundred dollars for 
an election. This one was good pay, for he held the 


money in his hand, but he had treated Sullivan badly 
in 1850, and he should not have the office at any price. 
Then he goes on to say who bought of him an election, 
at what time in the day, and how much was paid for 
it. One office was sold for one hundred dollars, that 
is to say, so far as that precinct was concerned, and 
another for five hundred, for which Sullivan never 
received anything. Thus he went on at length de- 
scribing corruptionists, exposing fraudulent schemes, 
and fighting his battle over again until to the light 
were spread systems and series of villainies unparal- 
leled in republican governments. 

And now from his tomb in the cemetery, near the 
old adobe church of Mission Dolores, the stone that 
marks his resting-place cries daily and nightly unto 
God for forgiveness on his enemies. Exceedingly 
charitable and Christian of the tombstone ! 

Charles P. Duane, surnamed Dutch Charlie, late 
chief engineer of the fire department, was arrested on 
Sunday, the 1st of June, and placed in garrison. 
Quite a little commotion was occasioned by this ar- 
rest. Charlie was always fond of a fracas. He was 
in the saloon of Fiske and Loring, on Clay street, at 
the time, when a vigilant officer entered and notified 
him of his errand. Duane dropped his dignity, flung 
aside his bravado, felt his courage flying in every di- 
rection into space: "O troublous times!" he sighed; 
"where shall the wicked find rest?" Thereupon, as 
if in an answer to an inspiration, he lifted up his 
heels and ran for the police office. Darting through 
an alley leading to Merchant street, at the end of it 
he encountered a body of armed men, who seized him. 
Duane made a desperate effort to shake them off, and 
shouted loudly to the police, but all in vain. Several 
of his friends were standing by at the time, but none 
of them interfered. They were learning discretion. 
Meanwhile the triangle struck three times; the guard 
was doubled, the cannon made ready, and mounted 


men were stationed in the streets. But all passed off 

Notice in words like the following was served on 
the banished either in writing or verbally. The ex- 
ample given is from a genuine document : 

"Executive Committee Chambers, \ 
San Francisco, 6th June, 1856. J 
11 James Cusich: — 

"Sir: The Committee of Vigilance, after full investigation and delibera- 
tion, have declared you guilty of being a notoriously bad character and dan- 
gerous person, a disturber of the peace, a violator of the purity and integrity 
of the ballot-box, and have accordingly adjudged the following sentence: 

' ' That you, James Cusick, leave the state of California on or before the 
twentieth day of June 1856, never to return, under the severest penalties. 

' ' In witness whereof, the seal of the Committee of Vigilance is hereunto 
attached. By order of the Committee. 

[seal] "No. 33, Secretary." 

Rodman Backus, the murderer of Oldman, as we 
have seen, was only too happy to escape the city. 
After undergoing the forms of a trial, and threading 
the labyrinth of law, assisted by the usual technicali- 
ties, subterfuges, and quibbles, he succeeded in quieting 
justice by a conviction of manslaughter and a sentence 
to two and a half years in the state-prison, and three 
thousand dollars' fine. For an aggravated case of 
deliberate murder, one would think this would have 
satisfied him. Not so. In his opinion the law was 
very unreasonable to punish him at all. So he ap- 
pealed to the supreme court, and was in a fair way of 
soon being set at liberty. This was before the killing 
of King. Witnessing the uprising attending this and 
subsequent tragedies, Backus was led to believe that 
murder was becoming unfashionable in San Fran- 
cisco, and that a murderer was safer between good 
brick walls than when mingling with such unreason- 
able and excited men. Consequently he withdrew his 
appeal; and never did convict more earnestly or 
honestly beg permission to serve his term than did 
Backus. Oh! blessed walls of San Quentin, through 
whose window comes the soft wood-scented air of San 


Rafael, or the sterner passioned ocean wind fro::, 
round Tamalpais, to the hunted murderer thy open 
gate was as the gate of heaven through which might 
be seen the eternal courts of rest ! 

Billy Carr kept a Whitehall boat. His occupation 
was to convey passengers to and from vessels lying in 
the harbor. This gave him regular exercise, and kept 
the muscles of his arm in good condition for striking 
from the shoulder. Carr was king of the wharf-rats. 
But he aspired to something higher; the aspirations 
of his genius gave him no rest. Dray drivers had 
before now been seated in the gubernatorial chair, 
pimps had been placed on the supreme bench, and 
blackguards sent to congress; why should not he, an 
able and honest boatman, become great like the others? 
So he determined to turn a patriot. He would serve 
his country, lay down his life for her sacred institu- 
tions, if necessary, and be held in grateful remem- 
brance ever after. He began in an humble way as 
early as 1852 or 1853, as convention delegate, doing 
fist duty at elections and burning his midnight oil 
over the intricacies of ballot-box machinery. One 
day, it was the 28th of May, 1856, about three 
o'clock in the afternoon, Billy was taking his cus- 
tomary constitutional at a well known political bar- 
room on Pacific street, when a man entered and 
approached him. 

" May I have a word with you?" he asked. 

Now if there was anything Billy despised it was to 
be disturbed in his potations; and to be disturbed by 
a stranger, by a respectable-looking stranger, in such 
times as these — to be requested, by one who apparently 
knew him, for a word in private — Billy didn't like it. 
He fidgeted and felt uncomfortable, and the vision of 
that first-ward ballot-box, of which he was inspector, 
and which on election night contained a third more 
tickets than there were voters in the ward, flashed 
across his brain. 


"What do you want?" said Billy in a gruff, dogged 
tone, with apparently no intention of leaving the bar. 

" I want you to go with me," replied the man, 
giving him an earnest, meaning look full in the eye. 

Billy understood it perfectly; but surrounded by 
his friends, and seeing but one man who so persistently 
desired his company, he began to argue and to bully, 
when the messenger interrupted him. 

" We will not waste words," he said ; "you are wanted 
at the executive committee rooms. Twenty armed men 
are at the door. If you will go without disturbance, 
well; if not " 

Billy went. 

Bright were the faces on Montgomery and Front 
streets when, on the morning of the 6th of June, 
it was known that the day previous an important 
shipment of scoundrels had been effected by the 
Vigilance Committee. Joy beamed on every coun- 
tenance, and the sun seemed brighter and the air 
purer since the withdrawal of their hateful presence. 

Six of them there were in this gang; and that their 
law and order friends might not be disturbed, a little 
ruse was practised by the Committee, which effected 
their embarkation with the utmost quietness and de- 
spatch. It had leaked out in some way that the cells 
of the Committee rooms were to be emptied that 
morning, and as the law and order party had been 
specially active of late, many thought there would be 
fighting; so that when the hour arrived the front 
windows of the Committee rooms looked out on a 
dense mass of excited human beings. 

This would not do. It was impossible to tell of 
what material that crowd was composed. A failure 
or mistake now might seriously mar their work and 
destroy their further usefulness. The hour arrived. 
Six cutthroat looking men, with slouched hats half 
concealing their villainous features, were brought 
down the front steps by a strong guard and marched 


off to Vallejo-street wharf. As a matter of course, the 
crowd followed; the streets round the Committee 
building were completely emptied, and a Sabbath 
stillness pervaded the neighborhood. Arrived at 
the foot of Vallejo street, on perceiving no boat 
in readiness the crowd became critical, and thought 
the managers of the affair had bungled it. They 
were becoming impatient of the delay, when the 
wheezy little old tug Hercules hove in sight, coming 
from the direction of Bincon Point. "She'll fix 
'em," said one. But the tug passed on toward the 
Golden Gate without stopping, only some thought 
they detected signals between a strange-looking party 
on board and the prisoners' guard on shore. As the 
tug rounded Cark Point, the guard with a broad 
grin unbound their prisoners and let them go. These 
were not the real villains; they were six good vigil- 
ants transformed with no small difficulty into tem- 
porary scoundrels for the purpose of drawing the 
horror-hungry populace from the scent. As soon as 
the joke was comprehended, something between a 
cheer and a groan burst from the crowd, which in- 
stantly melted into the several streets leading from 
that locality. 

They were right, those who fancied some signifi- 
cance in the signals between the tugboat and the 
shore; for no sooner had the streets round the Com- 
mittee rooms been cleared by the manoeuvre than the 
true prisoners were brought out by a back passage, 
brought out so secretly that the guard at the front 
passage knew nothing of it, and quietly put on board 
the Hercules, ready and waiting with steam up. Then 
they were off in an instant. Three of the immortal 
six, Billy Carr, Martin Gallagher, and Edward Bulger, 
were placed on board the bark Yankee and sent to 
the Sandwich Islands. The other three, Charles P. 
Duane, William Mulligan, and Woolly Kearny, the 
tug retained until the mail steamer Golden Age 
stopped just inside the heads, and they were shipped 



for Panama\ Duane and Mulligan ranked among the 
aristocracy of crime. They objected to being classed 
in the same category as that of Kearny, who was a 
common thief. Very free was Duane with indignant 
bravado, swearing as they hoisted him up the steam- 
er's side that he would yet return and be avenged. 
Mulligan was sad at heart, and penitent withal. "I 
know," he said to one of the guard, "that my punish- 
ment is just. I deserve it, and more. I find no fault 
with the Committee. They are all respectable gentle- 
men, and are acting rightly, and they ought not to 
stop with what they have done. There are a hundred 
others as bad as I, that deserve the same treatment. 
There is not an officer in the city or county of San 
Francisco who is legally elected. They are all thieves 
from the mayor down, and should be driven from 
office. I shall hope to hear that they have all been 
made to resign." 

Before the sailing of the steamer of the 20th of 
June the Vigilance Committee rooms were trans- 
formed into a picture gallery. An artist was engaged 
by the Committee to daguerreotype the faces of the 
prisoners, that their likenesses might be sent with 
them to the chiefs of police of other countries, that 
they might be on their guard. Some of the more ill- 
favored objected, and intentionally changed position 
while undergoing the infliction, thus spoiling several 
sittings. Finally, warned by their guard that unless 
they were tractable a worse fate would befall them, 
they submitted. Dan Aldrich was arrested on the 
night of the 2 2d of June. 

About one o'clock on the 8th of July Chris. Lilly, 
a noted pugilist of San Mateo celebrity, was standing 
in front of the Cosmopolitan saloon, on Montgomery 
street, when a member of the vigilant police, having a 
detachment of men at his call, approached him and 
requested his presence at the Committee rooms. Chris, 
said he would go, but he did not want a crowd at his 
heels. Accordingly he was marched quietly down to 


Sacramento street and placed in one of the rooms 
vacated by one of the recently exiled. Two days after, 
on giving the Committee satisfactory assurances that 
he would leave on the steamer following, his liberty 
w r as given him that he might attend to some business 
before quitting the country forever. 

The Committee's black list on the 20th of June, 
one month after the death of James King of William, 
stood thus : 

James P. Casey and Charles Cora, executed; 
Francis Murray, alias Yankee Sullivan, committed 
suicide; Charles P. Duane, William Mulligan, and 
W r oolly Kearny, shipped on board the Golden Age; 
Billy Carr, Martin Gallagher, and Edward Bulger, 
sent to the Hawaiian Islands. Jim Burke, alias 
Activity, Pete Wightman, Ned McGowan, and Jim 
White, ran away; John Crowe, took passage by the 
Sonora; Bill Lewis, Terence Kelly, John Lawler, 
T. B. Cunningham, Alexander Purple, James Hen- 
nessey, Tom Mulloy, Frank Murray, Jack McGuire, 
William Hamilton, and Philander Brace, shipped on 
the Sierra Nevada. 

J. W. Bagley and James Cusick were ordered to 
leave, but refused to obey. The latter fled to Sacra- 
mento and took refuge under gubernatorial wings. 
The expatriated three by the Golden Age were steer- 
age passengers, but Duane was taken from his humble 
quarters by ex-governor McDougal, who shared with 
him his state-room and treated him with distinguished 

Abraham Craft was arrested the 21st of July in a 
gaming-house, next to Maguire's old opera house, by 
Durkee. Craft was a short -card thief and a bad 
fellow upon principle. William McLean, whilom a city 
official, was arrested the same day. Once when judge 
of election at the Presidio precinct, McLean altered 
his returns on the way to the city hall, making him- 
self supervisor. 

Notice was given J. D. Musgrove, formerly super- 


visor, and the third holding a seat in that body from 
precincts outside the city limits who had been expelled 
by the Committee, was notified on the 28th of August 
over the signature 'No. 33, Secretary/ to leave the 
state on or before the 20th of September, or subject 
himself to the usual penalty. 

Mike Brannagan was a ballot-box stuffer and a bad 
character generally. He drove a hack, and his stand 
was on the Plaza. His arrest was made by John L. 
Durkee, being his first job after leaving the city police 
and joining the vigilants. In making arrests, as in 
everything else, there are hard ways and easy ways. 
Durkee chose the easiest way; and being a man of 
sense and discretion, he knew the easy way when he 
saw it, which not all men do know. He thought it 
one to justice and mankind, when vigilance wanted 
Mike, whether vigilance should go to Mike or Mike 
should come to vigilance. Mike's stand was opposite 
the police prison, the rogues' haven of rest, with its 
attendant ministering spirits. The American Hotel 
was just round the corner from Fort Vigilance. To 
request Mr Todd, a respectable young married man, 
to engage Mike to call at the hotel to drive his wife 
to the steamboat, was a quiet way of bringing Mike 
away from the moist airs of the police into the lighter, 
drier, and more wholesome atmosphere of vigilance. 
Mike departed by the Sonora the 15th of August; 
Craft and McLean by the Golden Age the 21st of 
July; Chris. Lilly by the Sierra Nevada the 15th 
of August. 

They of the flush times would have their practical 
jokes, no matter how serious the business in which 
they were engaged. One night there was an arrest to 
be made. The order was written out and signed by the 
terrible symbol ' No. 33, Secretary,' when Bossange 
begged command of the party. It so happened that 
Bluxome was indebted to Bossange for some prank 
played on him, and the former thought it time to 


liquidate. Bossange, being a Frenchman, was not so 
familiar with Californian English as with that found 
in popular phrase-books ; though bar-room idioms were 
usually not the last for foreigners to learn. 

" All right," said Bluxome, as he filled the blank in 
the order with the name of his friend Bossange, "all 
right; the man's name is Toddy. He is usually seen 
loafing at the bar-room of the Union Hotel." 

Meanwhile Bluxome notified the barkeeper, who, 
it happened, was a personal friend of Bossange. Put- 
ting on an air of nonchalance deemed necessary in 
trapping keen-scented game, Bossange strolled up to 
the bar, his men all alive in their watch at the door. 

" I want one Toddy," whispered Bossange. 

" Certainly," replied the barkeeper, "which will you 
have, brandy toddy or whiskey toddy?" 

One night an expedition under Captain Burns was 
sent to arrest Cunningham, coffin and ballot-box 
stuffer, who once attempted to join the Committee. 
Among the vigilants was a Dutchman weighing two 
hundred and fifty pounds. The arrest was properly 
made, though not without resistance, and the cormo- 
rant carried off ; but as the captors were descending 
the stairs the female of the premises fired at them a 
shot which took effect in the Dutchman's back. Taken 
to the Committee rooms, the sufferer was laid out on 
a table face downward. As the surgeon stood over 
him brandishing his carving-knife, the victim, nothing 
intimidated, turned up his fat, flabby face and remarked 
to the doctor, "I wouldn't care a damn about it if I 
hadn't been shot in the back, and that by a woman!" 



Cethegus, Catiline ! whose ancestors 
Were nobler born, were higher ranked, than yours? 
Yet ye conspired, with more than Gallic hate, 
To wrap in midnight flames this helpless state, 
On men and gods your barbarous rage to pour, 
And deluge Rome with her own children's gore. 


When so good a man as General Sherman, a man 
so full of noble qualities, and afterwards occupying so 
warm a place in the hearts of his countrymen — when 
such a one scatters abroad loose statements involving 
the good name of other good men, we should perhaps 
show more charity to exasperated southern chivalry. 

At the request of Justice Field, of the United 
States supreme court, General Sherman wrote from 
St Louis, the 25th of February 1868, a letter detail- 
ing his Californian experience of 1856, which was 
published in the Overland Monthly of February 1874, 
and reproduced in substance in his Memoirs. This 
document abounds in incongruities and misstatements, 
a few of which I will point out : Among other things, 
he asserts that without a standing army the American 
people would become a mob, which language many of 
his best friends would dissent from. Surely if Gen- 
eral Sherman had considered for a moment he never 
would have placed a free people in the anomalous 
position of holding over themselves a guard of hired 
soldiers to keep themselves from insurrection ! Least 
of all do the American people require so to keep 
themselves. Was it a mob General Sherman led 



through Georgia? Do the transactions of the Vigil- 
ance Committee of 1856, as recorded in these pages, 
read like the doings of a mob? 

He states further that James Kino: of William 
" turned against his old associates" when he exposed 
the rascality of I. C. Woods, and Adams and Com- 
pany, "and against Woods especially, who by public 
clamor became alarmed for his personal safety and 
escaped the country." Now no one knew better than 
Sherman that King was a single-minded man and 
Woods a trickster. If circumstances should throw 
the general unwittingly among thieves, would he call 
it turning against his old associates when he exposed 
them? Besides, who ever heard of an honest man in 
America becoming alarmed for his personal safety 
and escaping a country to get away from a news- 
paper? Again he affirms, "a war grew up between 
these two evening papers and their editors, King and 
Casey." This is not true. There never was war 
between the papers. King exposed Casey for stuffing 
the ballot-box which made him supervisor. He never 
cared a fig for Casey or his paper. Three lines after, 
Sherman says: "King sent to New York and prepared 
the record of a case in which Casey had been con- 
victed of robbing the room of his mistress." King did 
nothing of the kind. A member of Casey's own 
party, with whom he had quarrelled and exchanged 
pistol-shots at a primary election, procured the evi- 
dence against Casey, as we have seen. Sherman goes 
on to say that " King treated him rudely," as if that 
excused Casey in killing him. If it did not, it being 
"no unusual thing at that time" for one man to shoot 
another surely would exculpate him. "Casey then 
told him he would shoot him on sight." Casey told 
him nothing of the kind: there were two listeners to 
the conversation in the adjoining room, and we know 
what King said. King "started for his dwelling on 
Stockton street," continues this veracious writer. Mr 
King lived on the corner of Mason and Pacific streets. 


Next are three misstatements in a single short sen- 
tence: "Several people who happened to be near ran 
up, caught, and carried him" — he was not carried — ■ 
" into the office of Wells, Fargo, and Co." — it was the 
Pacific Express Company — "and laid him on the 
counter." Mr King was never put upon the counter 
at all. The newspaper press, he says, all but the 
Herald, "became in the highest degree inflammatory, 
and drowned all reason and argument." That is to 
say, all reason and argument of the Sherman order. 
All the people, all the newspapers were fools; only 
Sherman was wise. "King died the next day, Friday, 
I think, and his funeral was fixed for the Sunday fol- 
lowing." Mr King died on Tuesday and was buried 
on Thursday. He makes the execution of Casey and 
Cora take place on the day of their seizure, within 
the hour, almost, that they were taken from the jail, 
when there was an interval of four days. "Every- 
body supposed that when this funeral was over, the 
matter was at an end; but to our surprise the Vigil- 
ance Committee maintained its organization." "Every- 
body" was Sherman, Johnson, and Garrison. "While 
the better elements of society were at work intent on 
their own personal affairs," the general goes on to say, 
"the idle and vagabond sought the power in existence 
for an easy support, and through the Vigilance Com- 
mittee they became what our ward politicians are at 
all times. Even Sydney convicts became judges and 
constables, and sent around San Francisco their absurd 
writs, with a big all-seeing eye impressed thereon as 
their great seal." That is a falsehood; and I cannot 
see, even though uttered by a general of the United 
States army, how it can be otherwise than wilful and 
malicious. "This went on from month to month, and 
none of us knew who was our king, whether the pack 
of fellows who sat at midnight on Front street," etc. 
It was not Front street, but Sacramento street; and 
as if this were not bungling the locality enough, in 
his Memoirs he calls it Clay street. Now, is General 


Sherman true, manly, honest? does he mean what he 
says when he stigmatizes the Committee thus ? The 
fact was never questioned that they were San Fran- 
cisco's best men. Sherman as a banker knew them to 
be as a class infinitely better men than those of his 
party. Is it honorable, is it gentlemanly, is it decent, 
for him to employ such terms in speaking of such 
men? "In a day or two after this" — it was the same 
day — "Judge Terry of the supreme court made the 
writ commanding the sheriff to bring before him the 
body of Maloney" — Billy Mulligan was the. man. 
"This writ was put into the hands of a deputy, who 
tried to enter the rooms of the Vigilance Commit- 
tee on Front street" — Sacramento street — "but was 
kicked out." He was courteously invited to enter, and 
did enter, and was not kicked out. Besides, how 
should a man be kicked out of a place which he tried 
to enter and could not! 

Thus the letter goes on to the end. The misstate- 
ments may some of them appear trivial, but in this 
connection they are not so. Sherman has made state- 
ments impeaching the integrity of California's purest 
and best citizens, statements which are either true or 
false, and which were made either wittingly or un- 
wittingly. To say the least the assertions of one so 
lax in language should be taken with allowance. The 
general is popular in California, as in other states, 
and his friends are disposed to pass his random re- 
marks charitably, as the harmless offhand way of the 
soldier. But although I entertain personally none but 
the most kindly sentiments toward him, and have 
great respect for his military success, I can speak of 
him in this connection only as he is, and that accord- 
ing to my best judgment. So judging, General Sher- 
man in this letter is either prejudiced, ignorant, or 
false, in either of which event writing is no credit to 

In a subsequent letter, illustrious also for its lack 
of sound judgment, Sherman says, "You and I be- 


lieve that with good juries, Casey, Cora, Hethering- 
ton, and Brace, could all have been convicted and 
executed by due course of law." Most assuredly they 
could. A child could fathom that assertion. Good 
juries could convict and execute four murderers. But 
where were good juries to come from when the 
sheriff, friend and associate of the prisoners, had 
the summoning of them ? Certainly they could have 
been convicted; but ten thousand men each as capable 
of determining the chances as Field or Sherman did 
not believe they- would have been convicted. "You 
and I believe," the letter continues, "that San Fran- 
cisco had no risrht to throw off on other communities 
her criminal class, and that the Vigilance Committee 
did not touch the real parties who corrupted the legis- 
lature and the local government. Again, if the good 
men of any city have the right to organize and 
assume the functions of government, the bad men 
have the same right if in the majority." 

We notice now the "pack of fellows" are "good 
men," and must infer in U. S. general-in-chief phrase- 
ology, packs of fellows must mean good men. I have 
before stated that these criminals were not bred on 
California soil, were no outgrowth of California so- 
ciety, were never invited hither, came for no good 
purpose. They were old offenders in every instance, 
generated in the pestilential purlieus of older cities, 
and San Francisco had the right to drive them out. 
As regards the next assertion I confess my inability 
to fathom the general's meaning. If the ballot-box 
stuffers, primary election fighters, if Ned McGowan, 
Casey, Sullivan, and that class were not corrupters 
of government, I am at a loss to know who were. 
One thing I know; that before the organization of 
vigilance the local and the state government were 
notoriously corrupt, and that for ten years after the 
disbandment municipal affairs were singularly pure. 
To the truth of this assertion I can produce the 
records with hundreds of witnesses behind them. 


Lastly, the general seems to forget that in our gov- 
ernment the majority rules, the majority have the 
right to rule, and if the majority be bad, as is too 
often the case, the bad have the right to rule. 

Not being familiar with the incidents of General 
Sherman s life I am unable to test the veracity of his 
Memoirs in any other part than that which relates to 
California; but if in other parts it is as crammed with 
misstatements as in that which relates to the Pacific 
States it will be handed down to posterity as a mar- 
vel of error and prejudice. One may take by way 
of illustration a sentence almost at random, as the 
following: "In July" — it was in June — "1856, they 
arrested Chief Justice Terry" — he was not chief jus- 
tice, but associate justice of the supreme court — "and 
tried him for stabbing one of their constables, but he 
managed to escape at night" — neither Terry nor any 
other prisoner ever escaped from this Committee. He 
was discharged and escorted by the Committee be- 
yond the reach of danger from the populace who were 
even then eager for his punishment — "and took refuge 
on the John Adams. In August" — it was in July — 
" they hanged Hetherington and Brace in broad day- 
light, without any jury trial." They had a full and 
fair trial, with the entire Committee as a jury. Sher- 
man may be a good soldier, but he made a great mis- 
take when he undertook to write a book. It makes 
little difference to the reader whether current and 
authenticated facts are misstated through ignorance 
or intention. Of a truth I never saw so great a man 
with so little common-sense ! 

Let us briefly review the political situation, and the 
relations of federal, state, and municipal authorities. 
The know-nothing party had at this time the control 
of the state, but the administration was composed of 
weak men. Shortly before the organizing of vigilance 
in San Francisco, Sherman, then resident partner in 
the banking-house of Lucas Turner and Company, 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 19 


had been made major-general of the second division of 
militia embracing San Francisco, by the governor 
of the state, J. Neely Johnson, though he did not 
formally accept until after the organization. General 
John E. Wool then commanded the military depart- 
ment of California with his head-quarters at Benicia. 
Captain D. G. Farragut was in command at the Mare 
Island navy-yard. The U. S. ship John Adams, 
E. B. Boutwell captain, lay at Sauzalito. Mr Van 
Ness was mayor of San Francisco. 

There was at this time in the state militia a com- 
pany of artillery with four guns, Captain Johns, and 
three infantry companies, most of whose men soon 
passed over to vigilance. Sherman was one of the 
posse comitatus summoned by the sheriff to keep the 
prisoners, and spent one night in jail. E. D. Baker 
was another; Thornton, he with but one arm, Peachy, 
and Billings, lawyers, were others. On the night of 
his arrival Johnson telegraphed Sherman to meet him 
at the boat, which he did in company with C. K. 
Garrison. In his letter Sherman says they proceeded 
immediately to the jail; in his Memoirs, to the Inter- 
national Hotel. It makes no difference where they 
went; I only speak of it as showing the extreme 
looseness of the general's statements. Sherman then 
recites the interview at Turn Verein Hall and the re- 
sult in which by implication he charges Coleman, 
Truett, Smiley, Arrington, and the rest with treachery 
and falsehood. 

I cannot believe that so vital an error at such a 
conference could arise unwittingly; that a number of 
chief officials could meet a number of chief merchants 
for the purpose of arranging a very simple affair; that 
an hour and more could be occupied in deliberation; 
that discussion on both sides could be ample and 
general, and that after all the very point in question, 
namely, whether or not the Committee should stop 
where they were and take no further steps toward 
seizing and executing Casey, could be totally misun- 


derstood. There was wilful prevarication somewhere ; 
it is not reasonable, where all the mental faculties of 
keen and powerful minds were concentrated upon a 
single point, to account for the difference on the 
ground of stupidity. That subterfuge and falsification 
should rest at the door of the Committee I do not 
deem right; because, first, the members of the Exec- 
utive were incapable of such conduct; secondly, they 
were incapable no less of being mistaken on the very 
question which brought them together than of wilful 
false promising; thirdly, they knew it to be beyond 
their power to keep such a promise; they were not 
the people, but only the mouthpiece of a mighty 
power which would not be further stayed by words; 
and lastly there was not the slightest interest or ad- 
vantage to them in the alleged deception. Such is my 
opinion after a candid study of the subject; the reader 
may believe as he pleases. 

Sherman and Johnson witnessed the seizure of 
Casey and Cora from the roof of the International 
Hotel. After the execution the two men returned, 
one to Sacramento and the other to his banking, both 
in deep disgust, and both deeming the affair over. 
And so it would have been in a few days more if the 
now angry governor had not been stirred to overt acts 
which placed it beyond the power of the Committee 
to retire without the loss of that wholesome influence 
which they had met to exert. This they would not do ; 
the principle of vigilance they would not, could not 

All was not harmony in the ranks of law and order. 
There were many of his own party, shrewder, wiser 
men, who took exception to the governor's concession 
in admitting the vigilant guard within the jail walls. 
And herein is my solution of the so-called misunder- 
standing. The governor, becoming dissatisfied with 
his bargain, or rather, seeing that he was compromised, 
and even made contemptible in tbs eyes of some 


thereby, attempted subterfuge, accused the Com- 
mittee of falsehood and treachery, and called on 
Sherman to witness the truth of what he said. The 
latter newly appointed, and willing to conciliate, tacitly 
acquiesced, until finally, hammered into heat by sub- 
sequent discussion, the false assertions of the party 
assumed the hue of half-reality in the general's effer- 
vescent brain, and fancies reiterated became clothed 
with the reality of fact. I may be wrong, but I see 
no other explanation at all consistent with reason 
which is half so charitable. 

Pricked by friends and partisans who saw or fancied 
they saw their vocation slipping from under them, 
Johnson concluded to make another effort to crush 
rebellion, an effort this time more direct and pro- 
nounced. Among those who exercised a marked in- 
fluence over the governor was David S. Terry, justice 
of the supreme court of the state of California, an able 
jurist of no inconsiderable will and courage, honorable 
according to certain ideas of honor, chivalrous after 
the manner of southern fire-eaters, with a cultivated 
mind, and, when he chose, engaging manners. 

Judge Terry represented a class, the extreme and 
rabid law and order. It was the class denounced by 
King, who was as rabid on the side of public morality 
and purity. The law and order men, in their own esti- 
mation, were the cream of society, the salt of the earth, 
very honorable and high-minded gentlemen, by birth 
and education infinitely superior to Boston codfish 
dealers, and the natural rulers of America. It was 
with pleasure that these marked men saw King slain, 
and the slayer would have been safe enough in their 
hands. True, their passions began to warm as they 
saw the impudent rabble rise in defiance of majestic 
law, and when they dared desecrate the jail, try, 
sentence, and execute men in defiance of law, their 
blood boiled excitedly, and they swore that such things 
should not be. 

So Terry planned a campaign which should annihilate 


them, or send them slinking to their holes. The supreme 
court would issue a writ of habeas corpus for William 
Mulligan, then in the hands of the stranglers, which writ 
would of course be denied. The authority of the state 
being thus set at defiance, application for aid would be 
made to General Wool and also to Captain Farragut 
at Mare Island, who would surely not refuse it. 
Further than this, to aid in pressing the issue on 
General Wool, the militia should be enrolled and the 
governor should issue a proclamation declaring the city 
in a state of insurrection. There would then be ap- 
parently something more in the effort than the grati- 
fication of the personal views of the governor and 
the political spite of the judge; something more to 
justify the federal authorities in arming one part of 
the citizens of San Francisco to shoot down another 

All things having been properly arranged at Sacra- 
mento Terry went down to San Francisco the 30th of 
May to attend to the habeas corpus matter, while 
Johnson with his secretary of state stopped at 
Benicia, telegraphing Sherman to meet him there. 
Though the habeas corpus had not yet been served 
nor the proclamation issued, it was deemed advisable 
to see General Wool at once, that they might know 
what to depend upon. 

Mark now this interview and the result, and we 
shall see a performance somewhat similar to that 
which was acted at Turn Verein Hall and subse- 
quently. The governor and his secretary and general 
found Wool at his office writing. The state of affairs 
was discussed. Sherman agreed that if Wool would 
give him arms and ammunition out of the United 
States arsenal at Benicia, and if Farragut would give 
him a vessel, he would enroll volunteers, bring Wool s 
arms in Farragut's ship to San Francisco, arm his 
men, take possession of a thirty-two-pound-gun bat- 
tery then at the marine hospital on Rincon Point, 
order the Vigilance Committee to disperse, and arrest 


the leaders, or if submission was refused would open 
fire on the inhabitants. 

Sherman thought that Wool was struck by the 
beauty and perfection of the plan; it was simple and 
displayed well the martial traits of the new com- 
mander. But the old general was reticent. He did 
not think after all that San Francisco should be 
destroyed because her best citizens were earnestly 
endeavoring to cleanse the city of her moral and 
political impurities. General Wool talked with his 
visitors about their proclamation and their habeas 
corpus; next morning he inspected with them the 
arsenal where were four thousand muskets brought 
out in the Lexington round Cape Horn in 1846. 
Sherman pointed them out to General Wool and said 
that those would answer very well. 

From all that transpired on that occasion Sherman 
inferred that General Wool would furnish him the 
arms. The party then drove over to Vallejo, crossed 
to Mare Island, and calling on the commander stated 
their errand. Farragut replied that he had no author- 
ity to take part in civil broils, that he doubted ex- 
tremely the wisdom of their proposed step, and that 
he would lend them no assistance. The sloop John 
Adams, after certain needed repairs were made, might 
drop down abreast the city and there lie for moral 
effect, but nothing more. Sherman concluded he 
could seize one of the Pacific Mail Company's steam- 
ers and use it for his purpose. 

The governor's party then returned to Benicia, and 
in a second interview with Wool, Sherman asserts 
that Wool positively promised that in case the habeas 
corpus was served and refused, and the governor 
issued his proclamation ordering the insurgents to 
disperse, and failed, and they should then call out the 
militia, on his, Sherman's, requisition, approved by the 
governor, he, General Wool, would order the issue of 
the arms. General Wool as positively asserts that he 
never made such a promise. 


When we bear a person complain of being cheated 
at every turn, instinctively we avoid such an one lest 
he cheat us. When we hear a man accusing good 
men about him of dishonesty, we naturally conclude 
such an one is not very honest. Men who talk down 
the chastity of women are sure to be unchaste; and 
women who accuse their sisters of glaring faults we 
may be sure are most faulty in those respects them- 

Now is it not a little singular that Johnson and 
Sherman immediately after their interview with the 
executive committee, should charge them with false- 
hood; that immediately after their interview with 
General Wool they should charge him with falsehood ; 
that immediately any one who took part in, or sym- 
pathized with, the vigilant movement became ipso 
facto a villain, and that all journals that favored 
vigilance were ribald and mendacious? "Lord, Lord," 
with Falstaff cries Sherman, "how the world is 
given to lying! Coleman lies, Wool lies, everybody 

When on Saturday the 31st of May Deputy Sheriff 
Harrison presented himself at the door of head- 
quarters with a writ of habeas corpus which he wished 
to serve on William Mulligan, the Executive being in 
session at the time, Mr Dempster moved that the 
police in connection with the grand marshal have 
power and instructions to remove immediately the 
prisoners from the building for a few hours. The 
prisoners were disguised and removed. Mr Smiley 
then notified the sheriff's officer that he might search 
the premises. Mr Mulligan was not to be found. Mr 
Harrison, however, readily understanding affairs, re- 
turned the writ endorsed to the effect that he had been 
prevented from serving it by a body of armed men. 
Throughout the whole movement it was the earnest 
wish of the Committee to avoid collision with the 
authorities, or in any way to humble or bring discredit 
on law and good government. 


To this end on the 20th of May the following 
course had been adopted : 

"That a committee of three be appointed to wait on the governor of this 
state, and on the mayor, and assure them that this Committee have no desire 
or thought of interfering with the regular discharge of their duties, and only 
desire to take cognizance at present of outrageous cases of crime and rowdy- 
ism which the laws have been tardy in executing or cannot reach ; that we 
do not encroach on the regular execution of law or the maintenance of order, 
provided the laws be enforced or carried out, but we desire peace and order, 
and it is that consummation we are aiming at, and would be pleased to see all 
legally constituted authorities proceed in civil or criminal cases as though this 
committee were not in existence. We have not nor do we desire to encroach 
on the civil authorities whenever they are properly discharging their duties." 

Terry retired to Sacramento wrathful; and from 
Benicia Johnson returned to the capital and Sherman 
to San Francisco. 

In the journals of June 4th appeared the following 
general orders. First were given extracts of an act 
concerning the organization of the state militia passed 
April 25, 1855, signed and certified by J. W. Denver, 
secretary of state. Then came the following order 
from the governor and commander-in-chief to William 
T. Sherman, major-general commanding the second 
division of California militia: 

"Executive Department, Sacramento City, Cal., June 2, 1856. 
"Sir: Information having been received by me that an armed body of 
men is now organized in the city and county of San Francisco, in this state, 
iu violation of law, and have resisted the due execution of the law, especially 
by preventing the service of a writ of habeas corpus duly issued, and is threat- 
ening other acts of violence and rebellion against the constitution and laws of 
this state. You are therefore commanded to call upon such number as you 
may deem necessary of the enrolled militia, or those subject to military duty; 
also, upon all of the volunteer or independent companies of the military, 
within the military division under your command, to rendezvous at such time 
and place within the county ot San Francisco as you may deem necessary and 
proper to aid the civil authorities, especially the sheriff and his deputies of 
said county, in enforcing the laws and rendering obedience thereto, and with 
such forces as you may be able to command, to aid and assist the enforcement 
of the laws, and the service of such legal process as may be required of you 
by such officers of the law as may command your aid. In the organization 
and equipment of such militia force, you will be governed by the law and 
regulations now in force. 

' ' Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"J. Neely Johnson." 


Next was the general order of the commander of 
militia : 

" The officers commanding the volunteer and independent companies of this 
city will proceed forthwith to fill their companies to the highest standard, and 
will report in person the strength and names of the members of their companies 
to General W. C. Kibbe, adjutant and quartermaster general, at the recorder's 
court-room, city hall. The companies will hold themselves prepared to 
assemble at such places as may hereafter be indicated. All enrolled members 
of these companies are hereby commanded to report to their respective cap- 
tains or commanding officers, who will report the names of all who refuse to 
obey, with such evidence of their disobedience as will bring them within the 
provision of section two of the foregoing act of the legislature. All citizens 
of San Francisco County, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, 
not members of the regularly enrolled volunteer or fire companies of the city, 
or not otherwise exempt from military duty, are hereby commanded to enroll 
themselves into companies of from fifty to one hundred men, to elect from 
their own number a captain, one first lieutenant, two second lieutenants, four 
sergeants, and four corporals, and to agree on a place of rendezvous, in case 
their services are called for. The captain or other commanding officer will 
prepare a roll of the names of the members of his company and the place of 
rendezvous, and will deposit the same with Adjutant-general Kibbe, at the 
recorder's court-room, city hall. Parties refusing so to enroll themselves are 
brought within the provisions of article twenty of the act before named. 
Citizens so enrolling themselves for future call are requested not to suspend 
their usual business, only to hold themselves prepared for service in case of further 
orders. Should they be called into the service of the state, arms and ammu- 
nition will be provided for them. The major-general commanding takes this 
occasion to say that the troops to be organized under this call have nothing 
to do with the exciting issues of the past two weeks. The only question is, 
shall the laws of the state of California henceforth be sustained? All violence 
of act or language is to be deprecated, and no force or threats must be used 
without my orders. The good citizens of San Francisco should reflect that 
we all hold our lives and property by force of law, and that a forcible resist- 
ance of the law does not end with the case in point, but may rise up against 
ourselves in some other and less pleasing form, and may injure our reputation 
in other states, where the evils we complain of are not felt. Civil war, or the 
array of armed citizen against citizen, is too horrible in its consequences to be 
spoken of, and it is to be hoped that all good citizens will forthwith return 
to their business, and cease any display of force or resistance to the regular 

operations of our courts of law. 

"W. T. Sherman, Major-general." 

Then follows the proclamation of the governor: 

"Executive Department, Sacramento City, June 3, 18.56. 
"Whereas, satisfactory information has been received by me that combi- 
nations to resist the execution of legal process by force exist in the county of 
San Francisco, in this state, and that an unlawful organization, styling them- 



selves the Vigilance Committee, have resisted by force the execution of 
criminal process, and that the power of said county has been exhausted and 
has not been sufficient to enable the sheriff of said county to execute such 
process. Now, therefore, I, J. Neely Johnson, governor of the state of Cali- 
fornia, by virtue of the power vested in me by the constitution and laws 
thereof, do hereby declare said county of San Francisco in a state of insurrec- 
tion, and I hereby order and direct all of the volunteer militia companies of 
the county of San Francisco, also all persons subject to military duty within 
said county, to report themselves for duty immediately to Major-general Wm. 
T. Sherman, commanding second division California militia, to serve for such 
term in the performance of military duty under the command of said Sherman 
until disbanded from service by his orders. Also that all volunteer military 
companies now organized, or which may be organized within the third, fourth, 
and fifth military divisions of this state ; also all persons subject to military 
duty in said military divisions, do hold themselves in readiness to respond to 
and obey the orders of the governor of this state, or said Sherman, for the 
performance of military duty in such manner and at such time and place as 
may be directed by the governor of this state. I furthermore order and 
direct that all associations, combinations, or organizations whatsoever, existing 
in said county of San Francisco or elsewhere in this state, in opposition to or 
in violation of the laws thereof, more particularly an association known as the 
Vigilance Committee of San Francisco, do disband, and each and every in- 
dividual thereof yield obedience to the constitution and laws of the state, the 
writs and processes of the courts, and all legal orders of the officers of this 
state, and of the county of San Francisco. 

"J. Neeley Johnson." 

The governors casus belli rested on a false and 
•flimsy foundation. The proclamation was condemned 
by all, except the more rabid of the law party, as 
bellicose and dictatorial, and it tended only to es- 
tablish the Committee more firmly than ever in their 
determination. It forced them to prepare for self- 
defence, to strengthen their position, and to exercise 
if possible greater vigilance against surprise. It won 
for the Committee many friends throughout the in- 
terior, among men who saw that party and passion 
had taken the place of principle in the governor's 
breast, who saw that but for this ill-advised step there 
would have been but little further excitement or 
trouble. There was not the slightest necessity for 
interference. The courts were all in session ; neither 
business nor pleasure was interrupted; the wheels 
of government were running smoothly; the vigilants 

ARM ! ARM ! THEY CRY. 299 

were doing everything in the power of man to assist 
the law, often helping officers to ferret crime and 
leaving the criminal in the law's hands. And further, 
if it was not a serious political blunder, it was to say 
the least ill-advised and ill-opportune. A call at that 
time for the militia to invade San Francisco was like 
the summoning of spirits from the vasty deep; the 
governor might cry until his throat should split, there 
would be few to answer. 

The Committee would lay down their power the 
moment their work was done, and no attempted coer- 
cion would make them do it sooner. This the governor, 
judge, and general knew to be true, for of such they 
had been assured by men whom they could but be- 
lieve. But then it would look so meanly in preten- 
tious law and blustering military to slink back into 
place tamely permitting the people to execute a duty 
which they were unable to accomplish. No, they 
must have a cowardly fling at their benefactors if only 
as a manifestation of belief in the existence of their 
own courage. 

Little fear was entertained from this inconsistent 
action of the governor and the general of militia — 
inconsistent in two points; first, the governor had held 
back and given the Committee full sway for a fort- 
night, permitting them to become thoroughly organ- 
ized and firmly established before taking any steps to 
put them down, and secondly, in the governor's stating 
in his order that information had been received by 
him, etc., and the general's saying that the troops to 
be organized under his call had nothing to do with 
the exciting issues of the past two weeks. The 
people, however, were not frightened. There was 
little danger of civil war, of arraying one part of the 
people in open hostility to the other part. That this 
man was called governor and that man general did 
not make an army; that one cried blood 1 and the 
other damnation! did not annihilate the organized 
virtue and intelligence of San Francisco, which was 



fully prepared to wade through real blood and lay 
their lives if necessary upon the altar of outraged 
justice. If this governor and this general waited for 
the people to enroll themselves in their behalf, they 
would have long to wait. 

Here is the advice of the Sacramento Union, a 
conservative and influential journal: "It has been 
proclaimed that all persons liable to do military duty 
should hold themselves ready to march at the com- 
mand of the general-in-chief. Our advice to all such 
persons is to do as we intend to, remain at home and 
attend to our own business." 

It seems that these officials had yet to learn the 
rudiments of our government. It seems that they 
supposed that laws could be here enforced by armed 
hirelings against the will of a majority of the people; 
that American freemen, with arms in their hands, 
were to be intimidated by those whom they had 
clothed with office; that Californians were as sus- 
ceptible of despotism as Russian serfs; that because 
Louis Napoleon backed by a large standing army 
took the French by a coup d'etat, they could take 
the San Franciscans in like manner. 

" There is no sufficient cause to justify a resort to 
the military arm," says the editor of the Sacramento 
Union in his issue of June 5th. "There is no insur- 
rection in its true sense in San Francisco. The 
people have declared war against ballot-box stuffers, 
thieves, felons, and perjured villains; they ask to be 
permitted to send such cattle out of the community. 
Beyond that they have in no instance interfered or 
offered to obstruct the administration of the law. 
The courts are in session as usual, and can obtain any 
assistance needed to execute process, except against 
the class of hounds belonging to the secret gang the 
Committee are determined to root out. They have 
destroyed no property; they are in no sense mobites 
or insurrectionists. The people of San Francisco are 
battling for the right, for the moral, the good, the 


virtuous, against wrong, outrage, the immoral, the 
bad, and vicious; and we believe they will be sus- 
tained as they ought to be, by the pulpit, the press, 
and the people." 

" In all seriousness," writes the Globe's editor, the 
same date, "we ask if Governor Johnson really be- 
lieved the city of San Francisco to be in a state of 
insurrection; if he supposed for one instant that we, 
as citizens of the state, contemplated a nullification of 
its laws; that we had banded together, wasted time 
and money, and incurred all the responsibilities in- 
volved, for the sole purpose of opposing the ministers 
of the law in the performance of their sworn duties ? 
Does his excellency know anything? Or will he still 
persist in his know-nothing ideas of the present move- 
ment of the people of this city? Must we again in- 
form him that we are the real law and order party; 
that the people have not done anything but what the 
law should have done, and that they do not contem- 
plate doing anything further than the enforcement of 
the act entitled an act for the punishment of vagrants, 
in a somewhat modified but vastly improved form — 
ridding the country of them instead of keeping them 
confined in our local jail at public expense, pensioners 
instead of convicts?" 

"Could anything be nearer the climax of absurdity," 
asks the Bulletin, referring to Johnson and Sherman, 
"than their behavior has been? Their defence of 
their conduct is based entirely on technical legal 
grounds, and yet the documents they issue as the pre- 
liminaries to action, are lacking in the very essential 
which they claim is indispensable ! Their conduct is 
illegal, and yet they have the audacity to call on the 
public to aid them in sustaining law against an illegal 
body, the Vigilance Committee. Now the order of 
the major-general has no more binding effect as a 
legal document than the summons of the Vigilance 

" The proceedings of the Executive and his soldier- 


banker assistant are based on a lie, a lie which the 
thinking citizens of San Francisco at once detect and 
despise. There is no 'armed body' in San Francisco 
which is 'threatening acts of violence and rebellion 
against the constitution and laws of this state/ unless 
the armed body which proceeded to enroll itself yes- 
terday in pursuance to the 'general orders' may be 
considered as such. The city is quiet, the citizens are 
satisfied, and woe be to those who transform our 
streets into a battle-field. The work must go on, 
peaceably if possible, but it must be finished. No pen- 
and-ink artillery can frighten either the executive 
body of reformers or their supporters." 

In answer to the charge of feeble-mindedness and 
vacillation the governor replied that in the incipient 
stages of the movement he did not consider himself 
in possession of sufficient force to render action ef- 
fectual. This was a weak subterfuge. It was patent 
to the simplest mind that delay had not strengthened 
his position at all; and that if this was a sufficient 
excuse at the first, it was a still better one when he 
began to stir. Besides, such a contingency never 
should have been considered at any time. His duty 
was to act or not to act, to proclaim an insurrection 
or not so to proclaim. That duty done, if he lacked 
the power to enforce his mandates it was no fault of 

It seems never to have occurred to the governor 
and his general that nothing short of a large and 
standing army could effect their purpose. In spite of 
them the organization could exist, if not palpably then 
impalpably. The murderers taken could be hanged 
and the lesser criminals expatriated, or otherwise 
spirited away, while the law and order forces were 
marching on them, if necessary. The Committee 
could then have scattered to their homes leaving no- 
thing but the empty rooms for the soldiers to seize. 
But this the Committee never would have done. So 
strengthened, as they proceeded, had the opinion in 


them become, as to the correctness of their course, 
that now they would have fought to the death for 
the principle. Though their work were done and 
they were ready to relinquish their post, they would 
not do so under mandate of the law; they would not 
so acknowledge their course to have been an error. 
They claimed they possessed in themselves the right 
to do as they had done ; that right they should exer- 
cise whenever duty called it out, and for that opinion 
and principle they would fight. 



Do you not know me, Mr. Justice? 
Justice is blind, he knows nobody. 


There were yet in the good city of Saint Francis 
certain honored and esteemed men who held the peo- 
ple's interest above personal impulse or party spirit, 
who were neither of the vigilance committee nor yet 
of the law and order party, but who enjoyed the re- 
spect and confidence of both factions. 

And here I have an incident forgotten by General 
Sherman, both in his letter and in his Memoirs; and 
as it redounds to his credit in a greater degree than 
anything I find therein mentioned, I take the more 
pleasure in giving it. For the truth of my statement 
I have before me the records of the executive com- 
mittee, and the dictation of Mr Coleman. 

In the former I find written in the minutes of a 
special session held at four o'clock on Wednesday the 
4th of June, the following motion made by Mr Tru- 
ett and carried, " That Mr Crockett be admitted 
before this body, provided he can speak the sentiments 
of Major-general Sherman. Mr F. W. Page was 
appointed to wait upon Mr Crockett and accompany 
him to the executive committee rooms." The meet- 
ing then adjourned, and next day Mr Crockett ap- 
peared before the Committee and made propositions 
which will be given hereafter. Mr Crockett then re- 
tired to an adjoining room at the request of the Com- 
mittee and waited their reply. After some discussion 



a committee was appointed consisting of Dempster, 
Smiley, and Truett, to wait on Mr Crockett at his 
office that evening and there to communicate with 
Major-general Sherman. 

Hear now what Mr Coleman says: "About the 
same time" — he had been speaking of the proposi- 
tion of ex-Mayor Webb, and others hereinafter 
mentioned to found with the vigilance committee a 
new Pacific States empire — "General Sherman made 
overtures to us, through Judge Crockett, and other 
prominent highly respected citizens, to the effect that 
if the Committee would not resist the writ of habeas 
corpus, one great difficulty between the state author- 
ity and ourselves would be removed. We appointed 
a committee of conference upon this and other sub- 
jects, and reassured the general and the state author- 
ities of our desire to avoid any conflict that it was 
practicable to escape; that we most cheerfully ac- 
cepted the proposition to admit, accept, and allow to 
be served any regular writ of habeas corpus that 
should be issued by the regular courts ; that to us it 
had been the most embarrassing question we had had 
to meet, and that we had never refused the writ, 
although the service had been avoided, and it was laid 
at our door that we had, while the fact was that the 
officer having it in charge had retired after making 
a faint effort at service, whereas, energy and deter- 
mination on his part, as an officer, would probably 
have procured service. 

u We further told them that we would, as far as con- 
sistent with our undertaking and duties to ourselves, 
and the trust that had been charged to us, do every- 
thing to avoid not only seeming conflict with the 
officers of the law, but even with the fair, good opinion 
of any of our citizens. It was objected that our 
military was filling the streets, making unnecessary 
display, and exciting the fears of one portion of the 
community and the prejudice of the others. In answer 
to this we proposed and ordered that our troops should 

Pop. Teib., Vol. II. 20 


not parade the streets any further, except it be in an 
action of emergency and necessity, and under orders 
of the Executive ; and we went so far as to make every 
proposition we could, take every step we could toward 
conciliation and peace, and stated distinctly that what 
we wanted was not to increase our work nor the ap- 
pearance of it ; not to increase our importance nor the 
appearance of it, but that we be allowed as much as 
possible to be left alone until we could consummate 
what we had undertaken, and we were in honor bound 
to complete, and to disband. One committee of 
citizens kindly undertook to ask the governor of the 
state to withdraw his proclamation which ordered the 
Committee to disband, and we were invited to join in 
the request, which of course we could not accede to, 
though it would be most in harmony with our wishes, 
and contribute most largely to our ability to conclude 
our work, if the governor should do so, and remove 
one of the great irritating causes of the hour." 

After these several consultations of the Committee 
with Crockett and Sherman, Mr Crockett asked 
several gentlemen to unite with him in forming a 
conciliation committee for the purpose of further 
attempts at reconciliation between the people as 
represented by the Committee and the people as 
represented by the governor, the general, and the 
judge. These communicated with the governor and 
desired an interview, naming Benicia as a proper 
place, lying as it did midway between the metropolis 
and the capital. Accordingly on Saturday the 7th of 
June, the governor and his advisers, among whom 
were Douglass, secretary of state, Volney E. Howard, 
Terry, and McCorkle, came down as far as Benicia 
in the steamboat Antelope, and the citizens' deputation 
went up the same evening on the Bragdon. Sherman 
also was there, as well as Jones, of Palmer, Cook and 
Company, and E. D. Baker. 

The Sacramento party were first to arrive and take 
up their quarters at the hotel. Shortly afterward the 


San Francisco party entered the hotel and notified 
the governor of their readiness to wait on him. In 
a somewhat dictatorial and impertinent manner they 
were informed bj Terry and Howard that they could 
not be admitted to the governor's presence except on 
written application. Smothering for the good of the 
cause the feelings arising from what they deemed 
contemptible if not insulting conduct, they sent in 
the following communication: 

" Benicia, June 7, 1856. 
" To his Excellency, J. Neely Johnson, Governor of California: — 

1 ' Sie, : The undersigned, citizens of San Francisco, on their own behalf, 
and on behalf of a large portion of the people of that city, respectfully ask a 
personal interview with your excellency touching the present alarming crisis 
in its affair. 

"J. B. Crockett, E. W. Earl, F. W. Macondray, James V. Thornton, H. 
S. Foote, James Donahue, M. R. Roberts, John J. Williams, John Sime, 
Balie Peyton, E. W. P. Bissell." 

They were then permitted to enter the governor's 
presence. J. B. Crockett as chairman of the depu- 
tation informed the governor that he and his associates 
were in no wise connected with the Committee of 
Vigilance, but, actuated solely by a desire to prevent 
a collision, they had come in the general interests of 
the city. He could not speak definitely for the Com- 
mittee, but he felt authorized to say that the Commit- 
tee would do nothing to instigate a collision, that they 
would desist from further exhibition of armed forces 
in the street, and that hereafter they would yield 
obedience to all writs of habeas corpus. The deputa- 
tion, he said, had visited the Committee rooms before 
leaving the city, for the purpose of determining a 
settled plan, but time had failed them to complete it. 
Finally Mr Crockett urged the governor not to pre- 
cipitate the crisis, assuring him that the Committee 
would soon disband voluntarily. 

During the conference the governor, assuming an 
air of complacent bravado, sat with his feet elevated 
smoking a cigar. Terry sat with feet still higher and 
covered head, his hat drawn partly over his eyes* 


When Mr Crockett had finished, the governor stated 
that his answer would be given in writing. The 
deputation then withdrew, and shortly afterward the 
following communication was handed them : 

"Benicia, Cal., June 7, 1856. 
"Hon. John B. Crockett and others, committee from citizens of San Francisco: — ■ 
"Gentlemen: In reply to the verbal communication made to me this 
evening, in relation to the existing condition of affairs in the city of San 
Francisco, I have to say that the hope you have expressed that the unhappy 
difficulties of which you have made mention may terminate without blood- 
shed, fully accords with my own desire, and I can assure you that nothing 
shall be done on my part which shall not imperatively be rendered necessary 
to secure a compliance with the executive proclamation, issued by me on the 
third instant. By virtue of the constitution of this state, it is made my duty 
to enforce the execution of the laws. This duty I shall perform, and if un- 
happily a collision occurs, and injury to life or property result, the responsi- 
bility must rest on those who disregard the authority of the state. 
"Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"J. Neely Johnson." 

The Bragdon and the Antelope, which, had awaited at 
the Benicia wharf the conference of their distinguished 
freight, now received the parties on board, the former 
that of the governor returning to Sacramento, and the 
latter that of the San Francisco deputation which re- 
turned to the city. 

"In the eyes of all calm thinking citizens," com- 
ments the Sacramento Union on this conference, "the 
action of the executive at Benicia will place him de- 
cidedly in the wrong. The members of the committee 
of citizens unite in saying they were never before so 
formally and discourteously received on any occasion. 
When they appeared in the presence of his excellency 
and friends, they were permitted to stand during the 
interview." And thus the True Californian: "The 
governor was respectfully approached by able and 
conscientious gentlemen, not affiliated with the Com- 
mittee, nor bound in any way to acknowledge its 
power, on behalf of the peace-loving inhabitants of 
this city, who felt it a sacred duty to represent to him 
the true state of the public mind. They found him 
surrounded by the hottest and most heedless of all who 


have taken ground against the people, and met with a 
repulse at their hands, which must have stung them 
with mortification and shame." 

" These gentlemen," says Coleman, speaking of the 
conciliation committee, "with a large number of people 
w r aited on the governor at Benicia, represented the 
state of affairs, and as far as I understand it under- 
took to be mediators between the state authorities and 
the Committee, requesting the state authorities to de- 
sist from threatened forcible military action against 
the Committee, and promising their own good efforts 
and the cooperation of others with them in behalf of 
an early restoration to the normal condition of affairs, 
if this could be assured and accomplished. This com- 
mittee were provided with the pledges of our body that 
they would cease to increase their military establish- 
ment, cease to parade the streets and make military 
displays and demonstrations, allow full force to the 
writ of habeas corpus, do everything on their part re- 
quired towards the early restoration of peace, provided 
the state forces were disbanded, and we be allowed, 
undisturbed, as above indicated, to complete our work. 
All this effort on our part, all our overtures, advances, 
concessions were unfortunately misunderstood to mean 
weakness or timidity on our part, and it was thought 
a fitting time on the part of the governor and his ad- 
visers to make a more bold demonstration than ever, 
to decline every proposition, make no terms with us 
at all, and carry out the plan of intimidation, or, as they 
fancied it, conquering a peace, and ordering our sub- 
mission. Seeing the evident effect this had produced, 
regretting sincerely the mistake the governor and his 
advisers made, not only as to our views and wishes, 
not only as to our strength or weakness, but also what 
we regarded as a blind and unstatesmanlike policy on 
his part, and appreciating in the fullest degree our 
responsibilities, and all the risks and hazards and perils 
of our position, we determined that there was but one 
course left to us, and that was a calm, courageous, de- 


termined, unremitting effort to maintain our position 
and accomplish our work, by a vigorous prosecution, 
if need be a dignified silence, a determined effort in the 
direction of right, and a strict avoidance of wrongs 
towards every one. We therefore withdrew the 
proposition we had made through the committee of 
citizens to the governor and his authorities, and 
determined to meet the conflict of arms as manfully 
as we could, should it be precipitated upon us, and 
we went energetically to work to further fortify our 
military position, increasing our forces, doubling our 
vigilance, strengthening our position, and redoubling 
every effort and precaution." 

So indecent were Johnson and Terry in their con- 
duct toward Crockett and the conciliation committee, 
that even Sherman became ashamed of the company 
he was keeping; and no sooner had the governor 
finished his written answer to Crockett, which was 
pronounced by the general to be so scratched and 
amended to suit the views of various counsellors that 
it amounted to nothing, than Sherman sat down and 
wrote his resignation. It was immediately accepted, 
and Volney E. Howard, a lawyer then present, and 
once member of congress from Texas, was appointed 
to the place. Thus with a law-abiding judge, and a 
law-abiding general, the governor was prepared to 
"sweep the damned pork merchants into the Bay." 

On resigning his commission Sherman indited a 
communication, "To my friends in California," in 
which he stated that he was not an advocate of 
the Vigilance Committee, but that when he had re- 
ceived the order of the governor to organize the 
militia, he promised when a sufficient number were 
enlisted to equip and muster them into the service of 
the state. " I based my promise," said he, "of arming 
the enrolled militia, on a verbal assurance given to 
Governor Johnson by General Wool in my presence, 
to issue from the United States arsenal, on a proper 
requisition, such arms and munitions of war as the 


emergency might call for. It is now no longer a 
secret, that when the written requisition was made, 
General Wool had changed his mind, and had discov- 
ered that he had not the legal power to grant the 

The tenor of these words places General Wool in 
the position of having made a promise and failed in 
keeping it. This is not true. General Wool never 
wavered nor changed his mind. He promised arms 
whenever a proper requisition was made, whenever he 
was directed by the president to turn them over to 
the governor. Wool was convinced, all the time, that 
he had no right to grant the governor the use of 
United States arms without being so directed by the 
authorities at Washington. Volney E. Howard and 
E. D. Baker waited on Wool and endeavored to in- 
timidate him, threatening, in case he persisted in 
refusing the law and order party the use of United 
States arms, to report him at Washington. The eye 
of the old veteran flashed and his form rose perceptibly 
in stature. "I think, gentlemen, I know my duty, and 
in its performance dread no responsibility," he said, as 
he bowed them from the room. 

Further than this, it appears that Johnson became 
dissatisfied on account of Sherman's delays and ex- 
cuses. The governor was eager for war. His proc- 
lamation had no more effect on the people than a 
paper bullet. Sherman was ready enough to fire on 
the citizens, but he must have men and muskets. So 
they quarrelled, and Sherman felt bound to afford 
Johnson an opportunity "to select some representative 
here whose ideas were more consonant with his own." 

"Sherman has resigned his commission," says the 
Bulletin of June 9th, "General Wool has refused to 
grant the reactionists aid, and the enrolments which 
were to number myriads barely reach on paper the 
tenth part of the predictions of the law and murder 
press. The governor is still firm, but it is the firm- 
ness of the quadruped most noted for its stupidity." 


Johnson and Sherman manifested great surprise 
when some one informed them that if they expected 
arms and ammunition from General Wool they would 
be disappointed. Sherman immediately wrote Wool 
saying that any hesitation on his part would com- 
promise him, Sherman, as a man of truth and honor — 
which was indeed a matter of great moment to the 
w T orld, the cause in comparison being nothing — add- 
ing "that I did not believe we should ever need the 
arms, but only the promise of them, for the Commit- 
tee were letting down, and would soon disperse and 
submit to the law." This was not a true statement 
in three particulars. Sherman well knew that the 
Committee would fight if necessary, that they never 
were stronger, their enthusiam never was higher, and 
that their numbers and efficiency were daily and 
hourly increasing, and that the arms would be used, 
and on their use would depend their success. To this 
letter General Wool simply but firmly denied ever 
having made such a promise. The governor was very 
angry, denounced Wool as a "damned liar," whom he 
would never again recognize as an officer or a gentle- 

Johnson also wrote Wool, though he would neither 
see nor speak to him, nor even lodge under the same 
roof with him, so greatly had his understanding been 
offended. Says the governor to General Wool, under 
date of the 7th of June : 

"It is now manifest that the power of the military of this state is urgently 
and absolutely demanded for the suppression of such disregard of the consti- 
tution and laws, and for that object a large military force is now in course of 
organization, under my sanction and authority. It is a large force we will 
necessarily have to encounter ; and for the due protection and maintenance 
of the authority of the state, I now request of you a sufficient supply of arms, 
accoutrements, and munitions of war for the use of the state forces ; and I 
guarantee, as the executive of the state, that the same shall be returned or 
paid for. 

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"J. Neely Johnson, Governor of California. 

" Major-general John E. Wool, Commandiny Pacific Division, U. S. A. t 


"P. S.— On a former occasion, to wit, the 31st day of May, 1856, you 
promised me, on the happening of a certain contingency, indicated by your- 
self, which, from the foregoing communication, you will perceive has occurred, 
that you would furnish on my order, as the governor of the state, such arms 
as I wanted. I doubt not you will not hesitate in the present emergency to 
comply with the request now preferred ; and that the order I now make may 
be rendered more specific, I will ask that you furnish me with three thousand 
stand of muskets or rifles, fifty rounds of ammunition, two mortars, three 
hundred shells, and two guns of as large calibre as you have, with their am- 
munition and appliances. 

"J. Neely Johnson, Governor of California ." 

General Wool's reply to this letter simply stated 
that Governor Johnson was mistaken in the matter 
of promise and that he did not deem it judicious to 
comply with his request. As the general's reasons for 
his refusal are more fully set forth in a letter directed 
to Governor Johnson in answer to a charge of falsified 
promise preferred by the governor before the author- 
ities at Washington I insert it here. 

"Head-quarters, Department of the Pacific, \ 
Benicia, Cal., September 17, 185G. ]" 

"In your request, dated the 19th of June, to the president of the United 
States for aid and assistance in the enforcement of the laws of California ; and 
that he might the better understand the propriety of readily granting such re- 
quest, you beg leave to present a brief recital of events which have recently 
transpired and rendered necessary such application. 

1 ' In your recital of events, you say that ' on the 3d day of June I issued 
a proclamation declaring the county of San Francisco in a state of insurrection. 
To General Wool I had previously, in a personal interview, detailed the con- 
dition of affairs, of which matters he was fully informed otherwise. At such 
interviews he unhesitatingly promised me, on the representation made him 
that we were almost wholly destitute of arms, and of ammunition we had 
none, to furnish on my requisition, when we wanted them, such arms and am- 
munition as I desired. ' 

"That you should have made this declaration, that I 'unhesitatingly' 
promised you arms and ammunition — greatly surprised me ; for it is not pos- 
sible it should have escaped your recollection that, when you verbally applied to 
me, on our first interview, for arras and ammunition, at my lodgings, on the 
30th of May, I 'unhesitatingly' told you that I had no authority to furnish 
you with them ; that the authority in such cases rested with the president of 
the United States. See my letter addressed to you 9th of June. I also told 
you, at the time, that an officer for issuing arms, in a case somewhat analogous 
to the one presented by you, was dismissed the service by President Jackson. 


"Previous to which, however, you presented in detail the condition of 
affairs in San Francisco, when I remarked that you had lost the golden oppor- 
tunity of putting down the Vigilance Committee ; that it should have been 
resisted at the jail, which ought not to have been surrendered without resist- 
ance. You replied that it could not have been done at that time, for a large 
majority of the citizens of San Francisco were in favor of the Committee. 
You further said that Casey and Cora merited their fate, and if the prisoners 
then in custody of the Committee were sent away it would be a great blessing 
to the country ; and if the Committee would stop there, you would not inter- 
fere with its proceedings. You, however, being satisfied that such would not 
be the case, and that it intended to go on in its unlawful proceedings, had de- 
termined to arrest its further progress. Believing, from your own statement, 
that a large majority, not only of the citizens of San Francisco, but of the 
state, were in favor of the Vigilance Committee, I advised against too much 
precipitation ; and as you had waited so long, some ten or twelve days, with- 
out adopting any efficient measures to stay its proceedings, I said a few days' 
longer delay could do no harm. You said, however, the time for action had 
arrived, and that the Committee must either be put down or arrested in its 
unlawful course. Such was substantially the conversation which passed be- 
tween you and myself at our first interview. After the declaration made at 
that time, that I had not the authority to furnish you with arms — that the 
authority rested with the president — it appears to me passing strange, and it 
is beyond my comprehension, that you should have asserted in your commu- 
nication to the president that I unhesitatingly promised you arms and ammu- 
nition. But if such was the case how came Major-G-eneral Sherman, during 
your visit to Vallejo, to call your attention to the fact that I had not promised 
you arms etc. , and that you should obtain the promise from me before you left 
Benicia? Accordingly, as he states, whilst at the steamboat-landing you 
called me, with the general, aside, no one else being present, when, according 
to his statement, I promised to issue from the United States arsenal, on a 
proper requisition, such arms and munitions of war as the emergency might 
call for. There is a wide difference between your assertion and his as to the 
promise. It appears, however, from his statement, that the promise was not 
made unhesitatingly, but twenty-four hours after the first interview, and 
after you returned from Vallejo, and while on the steamboat wharf, where I 
went to take leave of you on your return to Sacramento ; and that the arms 
and ammunition were to be issued ' on a proper requisition,' and 'as the emer. 
gency might call for.' Whether I made the promise as asserted by yourself 
or Major-general Sherman, cannot materially affect the matter at issue. The 
question you had under consideration was of the highest importance — one 
which might no less involve the destruction of a city than the lives of many 
citizens, besides the welfare and prosperity of California. Under these cir- 
cumstances, I could not doubt, before commencing operations, you would ex- 
amine all the laws bearing on the question — those of the United States as well 
as this state. The object for which you desire to obtain arms, as you stated, 
was to maintain the majesty of the law, and to put down those who were 
violating it. Even if I had promised you arms, without reservation or quali- 
fication, would you have insisted upon my fulfilling the promise, if you dis- 


covered that it was in violation of law? I am unwilling to believe that you, 
the executive of the state, bound to see the laws faithfully executed, would 
violate them, and certainly not to urge it upon myself. As your object was 
to enforce respect and obedience to the laws of California, you certainly ought 
not to censure or complain of me because I would not comply with a verbal 
promise, of which I have not the slightest recollection, when such a compli- 
ance would be a gross violation of the laws of the United States. You may 
say that I ought to have known what the law was before making the promise. 
I did know it, and communicated it to you at our first interview, and there- 
fore it is that I cannot bring myself to believe that I could have made any 
promise incompatible with the law. If it was incumbent on me to know the 
law, it certainly was much more so on your part, in this particular case. If 
you had known the laws bearing on the question, I cannot believe that you 
would at the time have issued your proclamation, applied to me for arms, or 
appealed to the president for aid in enforcing the laws of California. For your 
proclamation of the 3d of June declares 'the county of San Francisco in a 
state of insurrection, ' and it is in exactly such a state of things that any officer 
under the president is prohibited by the law of Congress from issuing any 
arms or munitions of wal\ Your first official application for arms was made 
on the 4th, and your second on the 7th of June. Both were officially declined, 
the first on the 5th and the second on the 9th — when I officially informed you 
that the authority to comply with your request belonged exclusively, in such 
cases, to the president of the United States, of which I also informed you at 
our first interview, 30th May. 

"In conclusion, I would merely say, from a remark in your communication 
to the president, and the sayings of some of your special friends, that I was 
influenced by some of the Vigilance Committee, or their sympathizers, that 
yourself and suite, numbering four altogether, and Colonel Baker, and Volney 
E. Howard, are the only persons who called on me to consult, advise, or con- 
verse upon the subject of the contest waged between the Vigilance Committee 
and the law and order party. 

"I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"John E. Wool, Major-general. 

"To- His Excellency J. Neely Johnson, Governor of California, SacramentOy 

No one can read this manly and dignified letter of 
the veteran general without being satisfied of the in- 
tegrity of the writer and the truth of his words. The 
quiet rebuke of the governor's course is all the more 
effective in view of the absence of abusive epithets 
such as might not unreasonably be looked for in a 
military man upon whom the charge of failure to keep 
a promise had been laid. 

There are many happy wives to-day in California 
who may thank Wool and Farragut that they arc not 


widows; many sons and daughters who may thank 
these humane officers that they are not orphans. To 
them is due that rare reward, the honor of minding 
their own business. 

"No circumstances have transpired," says the Sacra- 
mento Union, " since the great moral movement com- 
menced in San Francisco, which have gone so far to con- 
vince us that a blood-thirsty, ferocious, if not demoniac 
disposition controlled the councils of the state, as those 
of secretly shipping arms to San Francisco, and applying 
to the general government for aid. These transac- 
tions go far to exhibit the fell spirit which guides the 
acts of the generals and officers of state. The first 
proves them capable of secretly furnishing the means 
to take the people by surprise, and of shooting all 
citizens of San Francisco in the streets, and in their 
own houses, unless they surrendered unconditionally 
to these new-fledged tyrants. These temporary offi- 
cials seem disposed to act as arbitrarily as if they 
were hereditary princes, despots of the first water, 
born to rule and ride over their subjects. They for- 
get that they only hold power for a day, and only as 
trustees and agents for the people. The people are 
the principals, and if their agents put on too many of 
the airs of despots, of petty tyrants, they may con- 
sider it necessary for their own protection to remove 
their agents and put others in their places." 

One should bear the classic tongue of Mr Dows to 
gain an idea of the feeling of the Committee to this 
day toward General Sherman. " Sherman was op- 
posed to it," says his dictation, "and talked like a 
damned fool in some communications that he has 
made since about what he did; but he had not the 
means and could not have done anything if he had 
tried, and would have found it a damned sight worse 
job than walking through Georgia. If he had at- 
tempted to do anything in opposition to the Commit- 
tee, we would have strung him up as we would a dog. 
Farragut was our friend, as far as he could be with 


propriety in his position, as an officer of the govern- 

That Sherman really intended to carry into execu- 
tion his plan of bombardment in case he had the 
power; that he was by nature so blood-thirsty and 
by education so fanatically cruel as to slaughter a city 
full of free intelligent citizens of the United States 
whose only crime was virtue, whose only misdeed was 
a pure unselfish effort to cleanse their political and 
social atmosphere of its immoralities, I could not my- 
self believe but for his own reiterated assertions, as- 
sertions in which he seems to take much military 
pride and personal satisfaction. Some of the best 
men of the vigilants came to me and remonstrated, 
he boasts, " saying that collision would surely result; 
that it would be terrible, etc. All I could say was 
for them to get out of the way. Remove your fort; 
cease your midnight councils; and prevent your armed 
bodies from patrolling the streets." Again, when 
Crockett and his party attempted conciliatory meas- 
ures: "I told them that our men were enrolling very 
fast, and that, when I deemed the right moment had 
come, the Vigilance Committee must disperse, else 
bloodshed and destruction of property would inevi- 
tably follow." 

Meanwhile, Judge Terry was putting forth his 
utmost exertion to stir up enmity toward the Com- 
mittee, and Olney was ordered to present a stronger 
defense as the Executive would hold him responsible 
not only for the safety of the prisoners but of the 
premises likewise. Round Fort Vigilance the streets 
were cleared for a distance of two blocks in. every di- 
rection. Six brass pieces were made ready. Within 
the breastwork of gunny bags were placed one hun- 
dred French musketeers, with two cannon pointing 
up Sacramento street and two pointing toward the 
direction of the moral-effect craft the John Adams. 
On the roof were swivels loaded with grape; the 
guard, both police and military, were constantly under 


arms, and the triangle was ready to bring out the 
entire force at a moment's notice. 

A proposition was made the Committee the 2d of 
June by ex-Mayor Webb and other influential men 
of San Francisco in view of the present state of 
things to call an extra session of the legislature. They 
were confident that body would have a majority in 
favor of vigilance, and control the apparently rash 
and inimical action of the governor. The Committee 
deemed the proposed action inexpedient; but whether 
taken or not the Committee could have nothing to do 
with it, the seventh article of their constitution pro- 
hibiting them the consideration of any political meas- 
ure whatever. 

The principle, assuredly paradoxical as applied by 
adherents to constitutional forms of secession, now 
began its manifestation on these shores. Southern 
discontents argued that division among the states 
was inevitable, and that as the Pacific Coast was 
separated from the Atlantic geographically, so it was 
destined shortly to be politically. Here was a spot 
designed by nature and circumstance for the founding 
of an independent empire, and accident had opened 
the way for its initiation. The first bold step toward 
separation had unconsciously been taken, and now for 
the Vigilance Committee to declare California's inde- 
pendence of the United States would be a grand be- 
ginning of glory. It would be a movement eminently 
popular with their opponents, who the moment their 
prejudices and interests demanded the downfall of law 
were ready to cry up the rights of the people as lust- 
ily as any. Then the Mulligans, and Sullivans, and 
Brannagans, and Bulgers they might strangle to their 
hearts' content; greater game than petty municipal 
office should hereafter be the object of their sacred 

That there were some in the Committee whose affec- 
tions were with state secession there can be no doubt ; 
but that the body as a whole, composed as it was of 


nine tenths northern and foreign non-political mer- 
chants and mechanics, favored separation from the 
government of their fathers, or ever dreamed of it, 
or ever would have entertained the proposal for 
a moment, no intelligent person ever imagined. 
"True," says Mr Coleman, in speaking upon this 
subject, "we were technically rebels, as we had nomi- 
nally resisted the law, and had taken it into our 
hands; but it was purely technical, for no more loyal 
citizens existed in the broad domain of the Union 
than in our ranks." 

Some three or four weeks after the organization of 
the association, the editor of the Bulletin notified the 
Executive that Balie Peyton, H. S. Foote, and others 
had offered an article for publication which they de- 
sired the Committee to endorse. Truett and Jessup 
were sent to look at it; they pronounced it revolu- 
tionary and wholly opposed to the views entertained 
by the Executive, so that it was not printed. These 
men professed great friendship for the Committee; in 
a confidential way they informed the vigilant delega- 
tion that they could now neither go back nor stand 
still, that unless they threw off the government en- 
tirely all their necks would be in the halter. Think 
of it, eight thousand San Franciscans hanging at 
once! And yet, strange to say, nobody was fright- 

In view of the foregoing, and that the people of the 
coast might know exactly where the Committee stood 
on these most vital questions of the age, the Exec- 
utive determined to issue an address setting forth the 
necessity which called the organization into existence, 
and its original and present determination to disband 
the moment that necessity ceased to exist. Further 
than this the Committee believed their labors now 
about at a close, and they would not the movement 
should be misunderstood, or the organization used 
by act or implication as part of or preliminary to any 
political scheme. This was right; it was the only thing 


to do. Yet an unanticipated evil immediately grew out 
of it, which was exciting the opposition to increased 
efforts, when they saw the association could not be 
brought under party influence. Though this in truth 
was no evil, as the sequel shows. Herewith I give 
the address which appeared in the journals of the 9th 
of June. It was written by Mr Dempster, Smiley, 
Hale, and Tillinghast acting as a committee, and 
compares favorably with any declaration of rights, 
or of independence, ever pronounced by an oppressed 
people : 


' ' The Committee of Vigilance, placed in the position they now occupy by 
the voice and countenance of the vast majority of their fellow-citizens, as 
executors of their will, desire to define the necessity which has forced this 
people into their present organization. 

"Great public emergencies demand prompt and vigorous remedies. The 
people, long suffering under an organized despotism which has invaded their 
liberties, squandered their property, usurped their offices of trust and emolu- 
ment, endangered their lives, prevented the expression of their will through 
the ballot-box, and corrupted the channels of justice, have now arisen in 
virtue of their inherent right and power. All political, religious, and sec- 
tional differences and issues have given way to the paramount necessity of a 
thorough and fundamental reform and purification of the social and political 
body. The voice of a whole people has demanded union and organization as 
the only means of making our laws effective, and regaining the rights of free 
speech, free vote, and public safety. For years they have patiently waited 
and striven, in a peaceable manner, and in accordance with the forms of law, 
to reform the abuses which have made our city a byword, fraud and violence 
have foiled every effort, and the laws to which the people looked for protec- 
tion, while distorted and rendered effete in practice, so as to shield the vile, 
have been used as a powerful engine to fasten upon us tyranny and misrule. 

"As republicans we looked to the ballot-box as our safeguard and sure 
remedy. But so effectually and so long was its voice smothered, the votes 
deposited in it by freemen so entirely outnumbered by ballots thrust in 
through fraud at midnight, or nullified by the false counts of judges and in- 
spectors of elections at noon-day, that many doubted whether the majority of 
the people were not utterly corrupt. Organized gangs of bad men, of all 
political parties, or who assumed any particular creed from mercenary and 
corrupt motives, have parcelled out our offices among themselves, or sold 
them to the highest bidders ; have provided themselves with convenient tools 
to obey their nod, as clerks, inspectors, and judges of election; have em- 
ployed bullies and professional fighters to destroy tally-lists by force and 
prevent peaceable citizens from ascertaining in a lawful manner the true 
number of votes polled at our elections ; and have used cunningly contrived 


ballot-boxes, with false sides and bottoms, so prepared that by means of a 
spring or slide, spurious tickets, concealed there previous to the election, 
could be mingled with genuine votes. Of all this we have the most irrefra- 
gable proofs. Felons from other lands and states, and unconvicted criminals 
equally as bad, have thus controlled public funds and property, and have often 
amassed sudden fortunes without having done an honest day's work with head 
or hands. Thus the fair inheritance of our city has been embezzled and 
squandered — our streets and wharves are in ruins, and the miserable entail- 
ment of an enormous debt will bequeath sorrow and poverty to another 
generation. The jury-box has been tampered with, and our jury trials have 
been made to shield the hundreds of murderers whose red hands have ce- 
mented this tyranny, and silenced with the bowie-knife and the pistol, not 
only the free voice of an indignant press, but the shuddering rebuke of the 
outraged citizen. 

"To our shame be it said that the inhabitants of distant lands already 
know that corrupt men in office, as well as gamblers, shoulder-strikers, 
and other vile tools of unscrupulous leaders, beat, maim, and shoot down 
with impunity, as well peaceable and unoffending citizens, as those earnest 
reformers who, at the known hazard of their lives, and with singleness 
of heart, have sought, in a lawful manner, to thwart schemes of public 
plunder or to awaken investigation. Embodied in the principles of re- 
publican governments are the truths that the majority should rule, and 
that when corrupt officials, who have fraudulently seized the reins of au- 
thority, designedly thwart the execution of the laws and avert punishment 
from the notoriously guilty, the power they usurp reverts back to the people 
from whom it was wrested. Realizing these truths, and confident that they 
were carrying out the will of the vast majority of the citizens of this county, 
the Committee of Vigilance, under a solemn sense of the responsibility that 
rested upon them, have calmly and dispassionately weighed the evidences 
before them, and decreed the death of some and the banishment of others 
who by their crimes and villainies had stained our fair land. With, those 
that were banished this comparatively moderate punishment was chosen, not 
because ignominious death was not deserved, but that the error, if any, 
might surely be upon the side of mercy to the criminal. There are others 
scarcely less guilty, against whom the same punishment has been decreed, but 
they have been allowed further time to arrange for their final departure, and 
with the hope that permission to depart voluntarily might induce repentance, 
and repentance amendment, they have been suffered to choose within certain 
limits their own time and method of going. 

" Thus far, and throughout their arduous duties, they have been, and will 
be guided by the most conscientious convictions of imperative duty ; and they 
earnestly hope that in endeavoring to mete out merciful justice to the guilty, 
their counsels may be so guided by that Power before whose tribunal we shall 
all stand, that in the vicissitudes of after life, amid the calm reflections of 
old age and in the clear view of dying conscience, there may be found nothing 
we would regret or wish to change. We have no friends to reward, no ene- 
mies to punish, no private ends to accomplish. Our single heartfelt aim is 

the public good ; the purging, from our community, of those abandoned char- 
Pop. Tkib., Vol. II. 21 


acters whose actions have been evil continually, and have finally forced upon 
us the efforts we are now making. We have no favoritism as a body, nor 
shall there be evinced, in any of our acts, either partiality for or prejudice 
against any race, sect, or party. While thus far we have not discovered on 
the part of our constituents any indications of lack of confidence, and have 
no reason to doubt that the great majority of the inhabitants of the county 
endorse our acts, and desire us to continue the work of weeding out the irre- 
claimable characters from the community, we have, with deep regret, seen 
that some of the state authorities have felt it their duty to organize a force to 
resist us. It is not impossible for us to realize, that not only those who have 
sought place with a view to public plunder, but also those gentlemen who, in 
accepting offices to which they were honestly elected, have sworn to support 
the laws of the state of California, find it difficult to reconcile their supposed 
duties with acquiescence in the acts of the Committee of Vigilance, since they 
do not reflect that perhaps more than three fourths of the people of the entire 
state sympathize with and endorse our efforts, and as that all law emanates 
from the people, so that, when the laws thus enacted are not executed, 
the power returns to the people, and is theirs whenever they may choose to 
exercise it. 

"These gentlemen would not have hesitated to acknowledge the self- 
evident truth, had the people chosen to make their present movement a 
complete revolution, recalled all the power they had delegated, and reissued it 
to new agents, under new forms. Now, because the people have not seen fit to 
resume all the powers they have confided to executive or legislative officers, 
it certainly does not follow that they cannot, in the exercise of their inherent 
sovereign power, withdraw from corrupt and unfaithful servants the authority 
they have used to thwart the ends of justice. Those officers whose mistaken 
sense of duty leads them to array themselves against the determined action of 
the people, whose servants they have become, may be respected, while their 
errors may be regretted ; but none can envy the future reflections of that man 
who, whether in the heat of malignant passion, or with the vain hope of pre- 
serving by violence a position obtained through fraud and bribery, seeks 
under the color of law to enlist the outcasts of society as a hireling soldiery 
in the service of the state, or urges criminals, by hopes of plunder, to con- 
tinue at the cost of civil war, the reign of ballot-box stuffers, suborners of 
witnesses, and tamperers with the jury-box. 

" The Committee of Vigilance believe that the people have intrusted to 
them the duty of gathering evidence, and, after due trial, expelling from the 
community those ruffians and assassins who have so long outraged the peace 
and good order of society, violated the ballot-box, overridden law, and 
thwarted justice. Beyond the duties incident to this, we do not desire to in- 
terfere with the details of government. We have spared and shall spare no 
effort to avoid bloodshed or civil war ; but undeterred by threats or opposing 
organizations, shall continue peaceably if we can, forcibly if we must, this 
work of reform, to which we have pledged our lives, our fortunes, and our 
sacred honor. Our labors have been arduous, our deliberations have been 
cautious, our determinations firm, our counsels prudent, our motives pure; 
and while regretting the imperious necessity which called us into action, we 


are anxious that this necessity should exist no longer ; and when our labors 
shall have been accomplished, when the community shall be freed from the 
evils it has so long endured ; when we have insured to our citizens an honest 
and vigorous protection of their rights, then the Committee of Vigilance will 
find great pleasure in resigning their power into the hands of the people, from 
whom it was received. 

" Published by order of the Committee. 

"No, 33, Secretary." 
[Seal of the Committee.] 




Gute Menschen konnen sich leichter in schlimme hineindenken, als diese 
^ ' Jean Paul Richter. 

The actual leader of the politico -ruffian element 
during the crisis of 1856, as well as of the more 
vulgar slung-shot and burglar element of 1851, was 
David C. Broderick, whose monument, raised by ad- 
miring sympathizers, stands to-day in perpetuam rei 
rnemoriam of nobody knows what. Others have been 
firemen, bullies, senators, and duellists; others have 
foolishly fought and have been slain for their folly. 
Piling marble upon lifeless bones never yet made noble 
the deeds of tyrant or demagogue. 

The 31st of May the grand marshal reported that 
David Broderick, Alexander Campbell, Austin Smith, 
and others of the law party had been detected exam- 
ining the Committee rooms in the rear of the vigilant 
premises from the windows of Mills and Vantine's 

The same day the National Guards held a meeting 
to express their sentiments respecting a call made on 
them to oppose the Vigilance Committee. The cap- 
tain affirmed that he was ready to obey the author- 
ities, but the members of the company to a man 
agreed that they would resign and join the Commit- 
tee sooner than oppose it. 

The position assumed by Sherman and others, mili- 
tary men and federal and state office-holders, was no 
expression of their true sentiments. Hirelings of the 
government, to be consistent, must support the gov- 



ernment. I am uncharitable enough to believe that 
there was little real honesty of opinion or purpose 
among them. Where interest has a voice the man 
himself knows not if he be honest. 

Nearly a fortnight had elapsed since the hanging 
of Casey and Cora before the law and order party 
made a pronounced demonstration. Then upon the 
2d of June under the shadow of the liberty-pole they 
met to raise the cry of persecution and bandy the 
state catch -words of liberty, constitution, habeas 
corpus, and trial by jury. There were many men of 
ability in the ranks of law and order. Men of ability 
need bread and butter as well as fools, and indeed it 
requires more ability to raise money by any vile in- 
direction than in the honest way. 

Colonel Baker was there and spoke well. The 
colonel always spoke well. He had a gift that way. 
Speaking was his business ; he made his living by it. 
Little difference it made to him what was to be 
spoken, he could speak it all the same. When he 
talked, Judas was Peter, and Peter, Judas. Cora 
liked to hear him, though ten thousand dollars was a 
good deal to pay for killing one man. But Belle 
Cora's purse was deep and Richardson's murderer 
held the strings. "See Cora's defender!" cried the 
crowd. "Ed. Baker, Cora, and ten thousand dollars ! 
Out of that, you old reprobate!" 

This Law and Murder mass-meeting, as the rabble 
christened it, was held on the plaza at two o'clock the 
day before mentioned. Although the executive com- 
mittee had given orders that the meeting should not, 
be molested, and had caused to be exposed placards 
bearing the inscriptions: "Members of the Vigilance 
Committee, order must be maintained," "Friends of 
the Vigilance Committee come out of the square," yet 
upon the ground the confusion was so great that but 
little was effected. Attempts to address the meeting 
were made by Alexander Campbell, James Wade, 
Calhoun Benham, Bronson, Baker, and others, but the 


crowds along Brenham place and on the house-tops 
by their shouts and ribald jests so interrupted them 
they were scarcely able to proceed. With the follow- 
ing resolution the meeting adjourned: 

"Resolved, That it is the sense of this meeting that the reign of law and 
order should be resumed in the city of San Francisco, and that a termination 
should be put to the present excitement, and that every free American citi- 
zen be remitted to those inalienable rights which a free constitution and 
equal laws assume to them." 

" I once thought," piteously declaimed Judge Camp- 
bell on this occasion, "that I was the free citizen of a 
free country, but recent occurrences have convinced 
me that I am a slave, a slave, gentlemen, more a slave 
than any on southern plantation, for they know their 
master, but I know not mine !" 

"Oh, yes yer do," a voice in heavy baritone was 
heard to say. "You know your masters as well as 
anybody — two of them were hung the other day." 

While Calhoun Benham was denouncing the gov- 
ernor and deploring the condition of the city which 
had been seized by a mob, robbed of its sacred rights 
and its liberties, stricken down by a band of conspira- 
tors, a large Colt's revolver in a belt round his waist 
was under his coat unwittingly displayed by him. 

" See there's a pretty law and order man !" cried one. 

"Yes/' exclaimed another; "he is violating the law 

" I carry this weapon," replied the speaker, "not as 
an instrument to overthrow law, but as one to uphold 
and protect law." 

I doubt if the orator, able though he was, realized 
the profoundness of his sophistry. He broke the law 
to uphold the law; of what more could their worst 
enemy have accused the Vigilance Committee? 

The storm of Monday was followed by a dead calm. 
Tuesday, the 3d of June, the day between the law 
and order demonstration on the plaza and the publica- 
tion of the general orders and proclamation, was re- 
markable for its prevailing stillness. 


" The right guaranteed in the writ of habeas corpus" 
the Herald regarded "as of ail the acts of that body 
the most indefensible in its committal, and the most 
dangerous and detrimental in its consequences. For 
centuries wherever the English language is spoken, 
the infringement of this right has been looked upon 
as the deadliest of all crimes that tyranny can perpet- 
uate against the liberties of a free people." And so 
the vengeance of offended heaven was to fall on San 
Francisco because the Vigilance Committee would 
not give Billy Mulligan to the sheriff. But I suppose 
this journal had readers who would have accepted 
such statements as true; most journals have believers 
in whatever they choose to print, no matter how non- 
sensical. On the face of it an assertion like this, "The 
suspension of this writ by the Committee of Vigilance 
is a mortal stab at the freedom of this people," is too 
false and absurd to merit notice except as a specimen 
of the morbid law and order literature of the time. 

The following burst of empty eloquence, a part of 
the same editorial, marks the malignant man of genius: 

' ' But the worst feature in this organized defiance of the ministers of the 
law is the admixture of an alien element in the ranks of the rebellious band. 
American citizens may bear a yoke imposed by Americans ; a detestation of 
bloodshed and a desire to avoid the horrors of an internecine war may make 
men tolerate many wrongs at the hands of their fellow-citizens ; but the whole 
spirit of our people, every instinct of their nature, every principle instilled in 
them in childhood revolts against the humiliation of wearing chains forged 
by men who owe no allegiance to the government, and who have no sympathy 
with the institutions of the land. Gentlemen of the Committee, in this you 
have made a fatal mistake. When on Saturday evening a sworn officer of the 
law was resisted in the performance of his duty and repulsed with bayonets 
from your portals, and when in anticipation of some danger your entire force 
was called out, your guard was doubled, your whole army was displayed for 
the purpose of overawing the citizens; the organs of your despotism next 
morning jDroclaimed to the world with approbatory mention that the French 
battalion had charge of the guns. They proclaimed to the nation the sad talo 
that a mandate from the highest officer in the state, the judge of the supreme 
court, was forcibly resisted with guns manned by aliens. We have all read 
how at the dawning of this great republic a vicious and tyrannical monarch, 
l»y a sordid bargain, employed an army of Hessian bayonets to crush out the 
freedom of a people struggling to independence. Gentlemen of the Commit- 



tee, has your action furnished no parallel for this great historical crime ? 
Have you not reproduced that act of turpitude of an inglorious despot, an act 
which, more than any other sin committed by George the Third against our 
people, has ever since rankled bitterly in the memories of the American nation ?'.' 

The editor who wrote thus, who filled his columns 
with rodomontade, with windy hibernicisms and fal- 
lacious analogies, feels at every line that he is on the 
wrong side. Compare the hired Hessians of the revo- 
lution with the Americanized men of France and Ger- 
many who paid for the privilege of joining the great 
San Francisco crusade against crime by contributions 
of time or money, as did indeed every member of the 
Committee. Gibberish ! 

The baptist clergyman, Mr Bryerly, touched the 
nerve of this issue between the people and the author- 
ities when he let fly from the pulpit the following, the 
Sunday after the shooting of King: 

"Terrible as our condition is and great as is the ex- 
citement, see to it so far as your acts or your influence 
are concerned, that you countenance neither directly 
nor indirectly any act above law or contrary to law 
until it is certain that its performance has become 
absolutely and beyond doubt indispensable to the 
securing of the ends of justice. If by legally con- 
stituted means the ends of right and justice can be 
reached and men attempt to reach them by other 
means and loss of life or other injury thereby results, 
God and the civilized world will hold the perpetrators 
responsible for these results. A most solemn respon- 
sibility rests upon you and those associated with you, 
and in the sacred names of God, justice, and humanity 
I charge you, neither countenance any act that shall 
peril life, nor in appearance even seem to set law at 
defiance, unless interests higher than all legal forms 
and a claim more imperative than your own existence 
shall make the act a necessity." Thus pondered every 
man of that executive committee before he subscribed 
his name, his honor, and his life to the cause. And 
their conclusion was right; interests higher than law 


and claims more imperative than life called aloud for 

The^ effect of the proclamation was to strengthen 
both sides. Opinion hitherto only pronounced, now 
took the form of action. Those who sympathized with 
that side joined the ranks of law and order; of the 
remainder of the community some, angry at the un- 
warrantable interference of the executive, enrolled 
themselves members of the Vigilance Committee. 
Others feeling driven by the proclamation to the 
adoption of some course, took sides, some joining one 
party and some the other. 

Says the Sacramento Union of June 4th upon the 
subject: "If by ordering out the militia of the state 
to assist Judge Terry to serve his writ of habeas corpus 
a collision follow between the military and the people 
in which the life of one good citizen is sacrificed, the 
state authorities will regret it as long as they live. 
More than this, their names will be execrated by the 
people, or we are greatly in fault. An attempt to 
force the people at the point of the bayonet cannot 
succeed. Ours is not a government founded upon 
force ; it rests upon public opinion and the will of the 

The night of the 4th passed quietly. Horsemen, 
solitary and in couples, made the rounds of the city; 
four men with bayonets guarded the door of the Com- 
mittee rooms and at short intervals the large guard 
within was relieved. 

The law and order party affected to rejoice greatly 
over the manner in which the call of the governor 
was answered. "A number of companies," writes the 
Herald's editor the 5th of June, "had made up their 
muster-roll before two o'clock this morning. A num- 
ber of others have nearly completed their organization. 
By to-night there will be fully three thousand men 
enrolled. The gallant and order-loving sons of San 
Joaquin, the mountain men of Sierra, of Yuba, of 
El Dorado, of Placer, and of Mariposa, are hastening 



joyously and cheerily to the defense of the constitu- 
tion. By Saturday night there will be in this city a 
force of ten thousand brave and loyal men." 

It was claimed that between fifteen and eighteen 
hundred men were enrolled on the side of the au- 
thorities on the 4th of June, though not more than 
sixty names were handed in to the quartermaster- 
general. At Benicia, when Johnson found that no 
arms could be obtained from General Wool, he threat- 
ened to bring down twenty thousand miners to destroy 
San Francisco; but Sherman suggested that perhaps 
the miners might take the opposite view of affairs. 

Now, said the men of authority jure divino, now we 
shall see what we shall see. Hitherto although the 
men of Belial have acted against the authorities of the 
city they have not persisted, being under the ban of 
the state executive. We shall see how this political 
excommunication sits upon them, how the members 
will act, knowing that every day they are living in 
open violation of the laws of their country and laying 
themselves liable to the same penalties which they 
are endeavoring to inflict on others. Henceforth there 
is no question as to the attitude of the Vigilance Com- 
mittee. Every act now, as an armed organization, is 
an act in open rebellion against the commonwealth. 

All blame for the consequences was, as a matter of 
course, thrown upon the Committee. "We can 
scarcely imagine any criminality so utterly fiendish," 
they cried with hands in holy horror uplifted, "as of 
malice aforethought, with all the deplorable con- 
sequences before their eyes, to involve this city in the 
frightful scenes of carnage and devastation, which 
must result from a perseverance in the present course 
of the Committee. We cannot believe that men in 
their proper senses, if indeed they be in their proper 
senses, can deliberately lend themselves to the per- 
petration of such a frightful crime. To dream that 
the} 7 can succeed is perfectly idle. We beg them to 
consider this, that the governor's proclamation once 


issued it is impossible for the state to recede. The 
entire force of the state must be called out to suppress 
the insurrection, and even if that should be insufficient 
the federal government is bound to lend its assistance. 
Are the members of the Committee aware what crime 
they are committing since the issuance of the gov- 
ernor's proclamation ? They are guilty of treason ; and 
for those found fighting with arms in their hands 
against the constituted authorities the punishment is 
death by the halter. Even the most sanguinary 
among the members have not, we presume, any ambi- 
tion that the crown of martyrdom shall descend upon 
their heads after that fashion." 

With all their legal lore, their pugilistic ground and 
lofty tumbling, their skill in blood-letting, and their 
chivalrous devotion to their sacred shadow, the law 
and order opposition was a series of blunders from 
beginning to end. How marked the contrast between 
the men and the principles involved, their plans, and 
the execution! One passionless, determined, efficient; 
the other petulant, wavering, weak. 

The following extract from a communication to the 
Bulletin of June Gth points to a phase of the move- 
ment unnoticed hitherto by journalists, namely, the 
fatal consequences of hesitation or surrender — although 
I do not agree with the writer if he means to assert 
that revolution was the duty or purpose of the Com- 
mittee. They may have placed themselves in the 
position and incurred the penalties of revolutionists, 
but to revolutionize the government was no part of 
their purpose. "The Executive of the Vigilance Com- 
mittee" says this writer, "have a great work before 
them ; it is in a revolution of the official power of the 
state. The right of revolution is an inherent right. 
We are in a condition of revolution; we have as a 
body placed our necks in the halter, and if we stop 
short of changing the administration of the laws from 
the hands of corrupt and inefficient men, then we vol- 
untarily place ourselves on untenable ground. The 


existing revolution is right or wrong. If right, it 
must be effective and complete ; if wrong, we are sub- 
jects of punishment. The question must be placed 
upon the broad ground of the right of revolution, and 
not stop short of a connection with cause and effect. 
We cannot recognize the power now in the hands of 
corrupt and inefficient men. If we do, then our own 
action being legally wrong, we are without moral 
power to sustain us. This conclusion is self-evident, 
and at a glance presents to the mind's eye the magni- 
tude of the questions involved in the existence of an 
imperium in imperio. The people provisionally, or the 
corrupt office-holder must rule. It is folly to attempt 
to dodge the question. We have arrived at that point 
of action and we must meet the question boldly as 
men and patriots." 

Courts of law were in bad repute in those clays. 
Venality and corruption sat upon the bench in the 
form of duelling, drinking, fist-fighting, and licentious 
judges. Where the people looked for justice they 
found too often jokes and jeers. It was not uncom- 
mon to see a judge appear upon the bench in a state 
of intoxication, and make no scruple to attack with 
fist, cane, or revolver any who offended him. Two 
prominent magistrates bore the significant sobriquets of 
Mammon and Gammon. The universal absence of re- 
straint and indifference to conventionalisms were as 
conspicuously apparent in the supreme court of the 
state as elsewhere. Justice Terry was bitterly opposed 
to the Vigilance Committee, and the Vigilance Com- 
mittee did not admire Justice Terry. On both sides 
was present a tantalizing fear engendering courage. 
It was unwise in Terry, one would think, to issue a 
writ of habeas corpus to be served on Mulligan. It 
was unwise in the governor, in the then excited state of 
feeling, to attempt to press matters to an issue by call- 
ing upon the militia to assist in serving the writ. It 
was unwise in General Kibbe, a state military officer, 
to demand the two cannon claimed by the state then in 


the possession of the Committee for the purpose of 
directing them against the people. All this was un- 
wise even if backed by sound policy, because these 
men had not the power to execute their threats, and 
the people knew it, knew that if the politicians per- 
sisted there would be blood spilt needlessly; and that 
would not be all, for if San Francisco was attacked 
such a whirlwind of excitement would be created 
throughout the state as would sweep every United 
States soldier into the sea. General Wool better un- 
derstood the position, pregnant to him as it was with 
delicacy and responsibility. 

Chief-justice Murray left Sacramento suddenly on 
the 11th of June, his friends saying that he had gone 
in search of a silver mine; others, that the publication 
of the Committee of Vigilance manifesto and the free 
comments of the press upon his manner of life hastened 
his departure. 

There was another of the court judges, in illustra- 
tion of whose character I will cite one incident wilich 
I find in a daily journal: 

" On the night of February 17, 1854, James P. 
Casey, William Lewis, James Turner, Martin Gal- 
lagher, and others entered the Mercantile Hotel, 
brutally beat the inmates, destroyed property, and com- 
mitted other depredations. The few police who inter- 
fered to preserve the peace were overpowered, roughly 
handled, and were obliged to seek reenforceraents from 
the marshal's office, and after a severe and desperate 
struggle they succeeded in safely housing this band 
of desporadoes in the station-house. On the same 
night, and before they had become familiar with their 
quarters, the prisoners were released from confine- 
ment by a writ from one of the judges of the supreme 
court, and after carousing with the same corrupt 
judge in the bar-room of the Union Hotel, and re- 
ceiving a public assurance from him *that his friends 
should not be punished so long as he had the power to 
protect them, they returned to renew their fiendish 



assault on the proprietors of the hotel. Next morn- 
ing, after a hurried and unlawful hearing before this 
same model judge, they were discharged from custody, 
and the mayor of this city was insulted when he ex- 
pressed his indignation at the shameless proceedings." 

All this was more shocking of course to northern 
men of sober lives and puritanical principles than to 
citizens from the south, who were more accustomed, 
not only to the easier conduct and looser lives of the 
male portion of the community, whether brothers or 
husbands, but to the tenets of their political faith, 
and the mainsprings of actions underlying their social 
strata. Many virtues these same southern people' 
possessed not found in so common a degree in the 
north, but representatives of the two sections had not 
long enough mingled here in California as yet to fully 
understand each other. 

The letters following give us a little insight into 
the character of Alexander Wells, a justice of the 
supreme court of the state of California. The first is 
addressed, "Hon. Judge McGowan, at Madame Du 
Bon Court's Fashionable Residence, Pike street, San 
Francisco." This was then the most disreputable 
quarter in the city. 

" San Jose, Sunday Morning, 5 a. m. 
"My Dear Old Ned: — 

"The matin bell of the convent is just ringing — I have two hours before 
the stage starts, and improve a portion of them to address you. French 
informed me that you and Vi. Turner were coming down here on Friday. I 
put some wine in cool, killed two of my fattest fowls, bought a watermelon 
that weighed nearly thirty pounds, had a good dinner prepared, drove out to 
Santa Clara to meet you, and lo, and behold — No McGowan or Turn Verein 
appeared. Yesterday again I drove down to Santa Clara to meet you, and 
although, like Manfred, I cried 'Appear ! Appear ! ' no appearance was entered. 

"And now, you rusty old broken-down, hack-horse, spavined, wind-galled 
politician — you infernal old schemer — you dreadful and to be dreaded shoulder- 
striker — you melter of wax (candles) — you stuffer of ballot-boxes — you, who 
reside at a French boarding-house of equivocal character — you luxurious dog 
who lives on the fat of the land, and never said gruel once — you ex-member 
of the judiciary department who exercised admiralty jurisdiction — I say 
unto you 'roll your bones,' for the fatted calf shall not be killed again for you 
or Vi. Turner, nary time, if I may be allowed to indulge in the classic lan- 
guage of Pike County. 


11 1 want to come to San Francisco but am afraid to meet our boss— How is 
he? Of course he chafes and worries, and 'sweats under the burthens of this 
weary life;' but I think that the prospect before him will brighten when the 
smoke of this last battle has cleared away. They say that the darkest hour 
of night is just before day. Our friend will succeed eventually. 

" Did we not do well in Santa Clara? Last year the whigs had 680 ma- 
jority, and we beat them this time on a majority of our candidates over COO. 
We should and could have elected the other assembly man (Senter), but his 
own township went against him by default. I drove down to his precinct 
early in the morning, and they told me it was alright ; but at night over forty 
votes in his neighborhood had not been polled. He made no effort himself, 
and as it was, was only beaten nineteen votes. A gallon of whiskey and a four- 
horse wagon would have secured them for him, and him for us. So it is — how 
slight is the thread upon which ha»gs the destiny of man ! 

" These Pike chaps won't vote till they get their drink. One of 'em said 
to me, ' I haint had my whiskey yet. ' 

"Kind regards to our mutual friend, and to all those who inquire about 
me in a friendly spirit. Ever yours truly, Alex. 

"P.S. Don't show this for Christ's sake! Amen." 

The next is marked confidential: 

"Auburn, Placer County, August 12, 1853. 
"Ned, My Dear Fellow. — 

"It is all right. The whole ticket will be elected by a large majority. 
Do not be surprised if I should run ahead of the ticket a long distance, and 
be not astonished if I receive 10,000 majority. The talk about disaffection is 
all nonsense; it is like the milk sickness in Ohio, when you get to a town or 
village, they will tell you ' we haven't got it here, but about ten miles off 
yonder they have it awful bad.' You get to the place 'off yonder' and they 
will tell you, ' we haven't it here, it's about ten miles further off,' and so it is 
as to the pretended disaffection. I have not been able to find any of it yet. 
My sincere belief is, that Bigler will run even with the ticket in every county 
except San Francisco. In El Dorado, Waldo will run far behind. 

"I spoke at Gold Hill last night and at Auburn the night before, to-night 
at Grass Valley, etc. I shall speak every night from this day until the 
22d. I shall visit Nevada, Yuba, Butte, Shasta and Klamath, before I return 
to San Francisco. 

" Now, my dear Ned, keep this to yourself, do not begin to brag, but pick 
up all the little bets you can get on Bigler's election even. It is the surest 
thing in the world. 

" Have you noticed that the San Joaquin Republican, a whig settler paper, 
has put up my name with Waldo's, and taken down Tod Robinson's? San 
Joaquin is a strong settler district, and it is a very populous county. Waldo 
turned up here yesterday and we corralled him. I have more good things to 
tell you when I return than ever you heard. Waldo is a B. B. F. 

" Oh ! oh ! Raggery, oh I 
What sball we do for poor Billy Waldo. 


"Waldo told me this morning that he was satisfied that I should beat Tod 
Robinson badly. Information for which I did not have much need. Try 
and make a good county and charter ticket for God's sake. 

" Show this to Welch. In haste, your old and faithful friend, 

"Alex. W . 

"Joe McCorkle sends his love." 

The supreme judge, full of chivalrous law and order, 
wishes to light a duel. 

"Mr Connor: — 

" Sir: Having been informed by yourself that you are personally respon- 
sible for the articles published in the Alta California, reflecting upon my 
action in a recent case, may I hope that your responsibility shall answer 
.unto me? And that you will authorize some friend on your behalf to meet 
some friend of mine to arrange the time and place where the misunderstand- 
ing can be properly explained or arranged. 

" I am, very respectfully, yours, 

"Alex Wells." 

Evidently Ned had asked the supreme judge for 
money, whereupon the latter grows jovial and face- 
tious : 

"My Dear Old Man: 

"I had the pleasure of receiving your note of yesterday. The next thing 
is, to set them all to work and make provision for a court-room and library. 
Rather than live in this bay horse town I will go to the one horse town. 
Here there is too great a PRESS-wre upon us. The Times and Transcript 
having skinned me on the habeas corpus, and pulled the wool over the eyes 
of certain friends of ours (as it is thought by the knowing ones on the other 
side), is now pitching into P. C. & Co. most unmercifully. Poor Joe has 
warm times. Well, as Meagher says, 'It is not always summer with the 
Kings ! ' Cook sailed yesterday. I trust our dinner won't be cold to-morrow 
in consequence thereof; but hope all is Wright. Is there any way to get 
even? Remind Wilkes that Purdy (St G., etc.) wants authority upon this 
parliamentary question: 'Can the Senate, while considering a Bill, dispose 
of the whole subject-matter by an indefinite postponement, when such Bill does 
not include the whole subject-matter?' They may postpone the bill, but not 
the matter. See Jefferson's Manual; Reports cf Discussions on Parliament- 
ary Law in House of Delegates of Virginia; Debates in Congress; Minutes of 
debate and decisions in English House of Commons. The position is sound. 
Who will deny it? or, rather, let me ask, Who will sustain it? If there is 
any one good parliamentary lawyer in either House he or they can demon- 
strate the correctness of this position. But you don't want law. The 
reason for it will show that a snap judgment upon a Bill cannot reach the 
whole subject-matter! Is there not an intelligent lawyer or speaker in the 
House? If there is let him show these points; which are unquestionably 


sound. I have suggested to Wilkes, Casserly, Hager, and Field. Probably 
Field would do best if the others are engaged so much as to be enabled to 
devote their whole time to it. Would to God that I were foot-loose and could 
take a hand in myself. Bat you remember Hood's lines: 
' When both legs were shot off, 
He then hud down his arms!' 

But do not be discouraged. It may be all right yet ! TRUE-itt is, we are 
in a Peck of trouble, and the Gruel is very thin, but with the help of the 
Lord, if we are all well Garrisoned, and no Noble Romans about, we may be 
enabled to Pierce the centre of the enemies' columns. 

" Don't, for mercy's sake, go and show this damn nonsense to any of your 

" Bless you, old man ! If I had any money to send to you by way of loan, 
to relieve you from the distresses of which you complain, believe me I would 
send it to you at once ; but I am bankrupt in purse and credit, and, alas ! in 
heart too ! 

" Sam Bell wrote to me to say that no appropriation had yet been made. 
Sam is a good fellow, but if any more such letters are sent, and I can't get 
any money, I shall cease my laborious efforts to accomplish myself in Litera- 
ture and 'Belle's Lettres.' Excuse all this. I am in a happy humor, and love 
to discourse in my sober moments with such pious men as yourself. 

" Wife and child all well. Myself in feeble health, but good spirits. 

"Alex. W ." 

The chief-justice of the supreme court himself hob- 
nobs with Ned: 

"New York, June 19, 1853. 
"Dear Ned: 

" I have rec'd your letters and have answered you, although you write as 

though you had not heard from me. I had intended to leave here to-morrow, 

but arrived too late to procure a ticket in the steamer ; which I regret, as I 

am very sick of the white settlements. My health has improved, and I am 

anxious to get back to God's country. You don't know how disgusted I am. 

I shall leave positively on the 5th. Bill is in Philadelphia at your wife's, and 

I shall call before my return. See Weller, Gwinn, Latham, and McDougall 

about your boy before they leave. They can do it. Don't neglect it; you 

owe it to him. My regards to all. Yours, 


The Vigilance Committee they said were guilty of 
treason, murder, insurrection, kidnapping, accessaries 
in murder, forcibly obstructing officers of the law, of 
misdemeanor, and liable to individuals for false im- 
prisonment. One would think it needless to reiterate 
so long a catalogue of crime, for if guilty of the first, 
as alleged, that were sufficient. 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 22 


On Friday the 6th of June matters assumed a 
more warlike aspect. The contending factions were 
both busily engaged all day in preparing for the 
threatened contest. Recruiting on both sides was 
active, but by far the greater number joined the 
vigilant ranks, which were now swelled to about six 
thousand fighting men. The law and order party 
claimed in the morning to have three thousand en- 
rolled, and that their numbers by evening would be 
increased to ten thousand; but on searching the facts 
in the case I am unable to find more than about six 
hundred men. Sherman himself claimed but eight 
hundred. Fort Vigilance, as the head-quarters on 
Sacramento street was now called, was strongly 
fortified and every precaution taken against sudden 
attack. A thirty-two pounder was moved up from 
North Point and planted in front of the premises, 
with its ugly-looking muzzle pointing up the street. 
Two cases of muskets, the property of the Wallace 
Guard, were found in the cellar of a saloon and seized 
by order of the Committee. In the evening the grand 
marshal assembled his forces for instructions and 
drill, and the seat of war presented a very animated 
appearance. Thousands of spectators gathered in the 
streets watching the preparations with extraordinary 
interest. No demonstrations, however, were made 
by the opposing party. A strong guard was detailed 
for night service, and quiet at length settled on the 

cit y- 

Just at this time Sam White, a gambler, shot Will- 
iam Flory, police or sheriff's officer at Sacramento; 
and a murder at Coloma, committed under aggravat- 
ing circumstances, was announced. Reports were flying 
over the city the afternoon of June 9th to the effect 
that committees of vigilance in these places had seized 
and hanged the criminals, and that they were ready 
at a moment's notice to march to the assistance of 
San Francisco. This together with the news from 
Washington of the villainous murder committed by 


Congressman Herbert, of whom more hereafter, con- 
tinued to keep excitement up to a feverish pitch. 
Although there was comparatively little surface 
demonstration and still less bloodshed there was an 
intense moral struggle going on, a mortal combat for 
the supremacy between good and evil. One or the 
other must be killed, and the Vigilance Committee 
were determined it should not be the former. 

Throughout the whole excitement and up to this 
time, there had been many citizens who, though favor- 
ing the Vigilance Committee, had never joined. On 
the 11th of June a public meeting was held at the 
auction-rooms of John Middleton on Montgomery 
street, for the purpose of taking steps to organize a 
number of independent companies, which should hold 
themselves in readiness to aid the Vigilance Com- 
mittee should circumstances require it. D. O. Shattuck 
took the chair, and E. M. Earle, W. A. Woodworth, 
L. Maynard, Abel Guy, Daniel Gibb, and others were 
nominated to draft resolutions. These resolutions con- 
demnatory of the governor's action and recommending 
the Committee to the confidence of the people were 
submitted to a large and enthusiastic meeting the 
following evening, and adopted. 

This association, though hybrid in its character, 
added strength to the vigilant party. Yet I can but 
feel that the action of these citizens would have been 
more generous had it been taken earlier and had it 
assumed a more beneficial shape. If one party was 
right and the other wrong, why not join the right 
party early and heartily? I see two reasons for this 
tardy and independent action. First, there were 
those, lawyers and officials, who felt prohibited by 
their oath of office against joining an insurrectionary 
movement, yet their scruples did not prevent their 
associating and saying : Though we are not insurrec- 
tionists, we will be if necessary; though we may not 
break our oath, yet we will if the governor persists. 
Secondly, there are always those, careful, conservative 



men, who not only like to be on the winning side, but 
pride themselves in having their names enrolled high 
and prominent on that side. It was by no means 
certain at the outset which would be the successful 
party. If General Wool, for example, had lent the 
governor his aid the consequences would have been 
most serious. The members of the Vigilance Com- 
mittee might be called upon to lay down their lives, 
might be subjected to harassing litigation, might be 
deprived of property and citizenship. In the eyes of 
the law they were guilty of treason, and if they failed 
they would be punished. By this time it was quite 
sure they would succeed. Right and might were with 
them. And that was just the sort of honor these 
conservatives coveted. Nor would I detract from them 
one iota of merited praise. Give them their penny 
though they came in at the eleventh hour; but let not 
their names be mentioned beside that noble band who 
threw into the cause themselves and all their posses- 
sions, boldly cut loose all means of retreat, and bore 
the burden and heat of the day. 

A great demonstration was made by the people of 
San Francisco in front of the Oriental Hotel on the 
14th of June. Several thousand were present and 
were addressed by a number of speakers. " The Vig- 
ilance Committee," they said, " was strong, but the 
people should support it." It would seem that it took 
these speakers just one month to find that out. " No 
half-measures must be pursued," they cried. What 
had been the measure of their measures hitherto? 
But I will not cavil. The people liked it, saw no 
Irishism about it, cheered lustily, and went home feel- 
ing, every man of them, a patriot. This was an infla- 
tion of the auction-room movement instituted three 
days previous. Harmless, but very safe. 

" No revolution other than a moral one," says the 
Sacramento Union of the 12th, "can be produced in 
this state, unless the commander-in-chief gives his 
order to fire upon the citizens of San Francisco. 


Should this fatal order be given such a storm of revo- 
lution would sweep over the state as never has been 
witnessed in these United States. In its irresistible 
progress it would not leave so much as a vestige of the 
present state government and state officers. If no 
order of that bloody character is issued, if the present 
military enrolment is discontinued, if the governor 
will suspend or revoke his proclamation as he may do 
legally and honorably — for it is always honorable to cor- 
rect an error — the waves of public commotion will sub- 
side and civil war with all its horrors will be avoided." 

To a peace committee of the citizens of Sacramento 
who waited on the governor the 13th of June with a 
petition signed by two thousand persons asking the 
governor to withdraw his proclamation, his excellency 
blandly gave the assurance that he would postpone the 
attack on the Vigilance Committee to the latest pos- 
sible moment. Considerate, very. " See our citizen 
soldiery," Johnson and Sherman might cry, " invisible 
in war, invincible in peace!" 

Then the good citizens of Sacramento attempted 
reconciliation between the state's offended majesty 
and the crime-fighters of San Francisco. After a 
long interview with the governor a deputation went 
down to the Bay on Sunday the 15th of June. They 
waited upon the executive committee and were enter- 
tained with ihe greatest respect, but no important 
results attended their efforts. The Sacramento Guard 
voluntarily disbanded rather than be ordered to help 
serve the writ of habeas corpus against the will of the 
San Franciscans. The people not alone of San Fran- 
cisco but of the entire state were upon one side; the 
governor and a few fire-eating and inflated officials 
were on the other. 

The men of order and of law complained bitterly 
of the invasion of their sacred household rights in 
the domiciliary visits which they accused the execu- 
tive committee of having instituted in their search 
for criminals. They had so little to complain of that 


they made the most of this alleged outrage. They 
were likewise in a morbid ill-humor from the success 
of the movement, their reason seemed befogged by 
the exhalations of passion and the lust of power, and 
as usual in advocates of a bad cause when beaten 
they made irony of legitimate argument by throwing 
dirt and calling hard names, mixed as a matter of 
course with more or less lies. Members of the Com- 
mittee were deeply dyed villains, traitors, despots, 
and enemies of public peace. Casey and Cora whom 
they murdered were saints beside them. They had 
much to say about the persecution and the prohibition 
of free speech. Hear the San Francisco Sun rant 
upon the subject. I give it only as a specimen of how 
insane a man can be when beaten and angry. I would 
first mention that the executive committee had before 
this passed and published a resolution to the effect 
that no restrictions whatever should be put upon the 
free expression of opinion either by persons or by the 
press. The press was absolutely free, and none knew 
this better than the press itself. How should the press 
have been permitted to continue its torrent of abuse 
for weeks when by the uplifting of their finger the 
executive committee could in one moment have hurled 
it and its editors into the bay ! Their own libertinism 
is the strongest testimony possible of their liberty. 
All the people did to call forth the bitter animosity 
of the political and chivalrous journals was the with- 
drawal of their advertisements by certain merchants, 
a thing one would think they had a right to do with- 
out calling down upon their heads such editorial scur- 
rility as this: 

' ' This is the freedom of the press in California ! Let us hear no word of 
it ! The press of Russia is as free at this moment as is the press of San Fran- 
cisco with this exception and this only : There, the treasonous fulminator of 
public murder, the open contemner of the laws of his country, would be con- 
signed to the knout ; while here, they indict editorials on outlawry in general, 
and the union of mob violence and political fanaticism in particular, unharmed 
and unmolested. With a ' committee of highly respectable and wealthy citi- 
zens ' at their back they fear no molestation, but can traduce the patriotic and 
vilify the institutions of their country to their hearts' content." 


No one knew better that this was not true than 
the man who wrote it. 

The same editorial turns and addresses to the Com- 
mittee the following fearful prophecies which seem to 
have been written with perfect freedom, indeed with 
more freedom than decency: 

"The brand of treason is upon you, and you can no more escape it than 
could Benedict Arnold in other days. As to the mercenary wretches who act 
as excusers through the press, the Bulletins that cry more blood ; the namby- 
pamby Altas that have wriggled and wriggled out, until they have wriggled 
into your patronage, the so-called Calif ornias that have fungus-like sprung 
from the putrefactions of the day, to fill the air with their noisome stench of 
treason, and the lesser fry of traitors of various vileness and calibre, they will 
have sunk beneath the indignation of reasserted right, of law, and of fealty 
to our common country. Their tory sheets may be preserved as specimens of 
the unpatriotic spirit of the times and as affording evidence of the trials and 
troubles through which the friends of their country are now passing." 

Sound logic, truly ; coolly and clearly put. He whom 
such will not convince is obdurate indeed. And this 
is a fair sample of the law and order editorials of the 
day. They were rank as murder, smelling to heaven. 

Both parties were loud in deploring the causes 
which led to this unhappy issue; both were active 
and eloquent in harrowing the horrors of civil war, 
and each threw all the blame upon the other. 

" Let them beware how they lay the city in ashes 
and. fill our streets with the dead bodies of our citi- 
zens," said one. 

"A fearful responsibility rests on their shoulders," 
sighed the other. 



If there's a hole in a' your coats, 
I rede ye tent it; 

A chiel's amang ye takin' notes, 

And, faith, he'll prent it. 


Scarcely was the Committee formed, when com- 
munications began to pour in from interior towns and 
delegations proffering sympathy and proposing alli- 
ance. Copies of the constitution were desired with 
authority to organize as branch or auxiliary associa- 
tions. It speedily became evident that the Com- 
mittee must soon decide whether it should be led 
beyond its original purpose and prepare to revolution- 
ize the state, if the authorities organized a too for- 
midable opposition, and after driving the existing 
officials from power to arrange for the election of 
their successors, who might perhaps be men of higher 
character or purer motives, or better able to secure 
the public welfare and administer justice. 

The leaders quickly found that in grasping the 
reins and mounting the seat of power they had as- 
sumed unexpected responsibilities, and that time and 
events were whirling their car along untried paths 
and toward perils the very magnitude of which 
kindled a desire to grapple with their possibilities. 

To all such advances the Committee returned a 
kind but firm refusal ; and the brevity of the discus- 
sions upon these momentous issues was creditable to 
their foresight and patriotism. While some few 



argued that in their novel situation it was unwise to 
refuse assistance which might soon prove vitally im- 
portant, and while others were dazzled by the pros- 
pective glory of emancipating a whole state from 
misrule, and laying better foundations for what their 
enthusiasm pictured as an empire destined to rank 
among earth's proudest, and while yet others felt 
perhaps some temptation toward a policy which, if 
successful, as seemed to them probable, might almost 
by a single effort relieve them from both the personal 
and the pecuniary peril which all felt to be menacing, 
the wiser ones if attainable, would be an indescribable 
misfortune, weakening the nation's reverence for the 
institutions it had established, and setting a precedent 
toward those forcible revolutions which had unsettled 
and enfeebled our sister republics. 

No, not revolution, but reform. Our government 
is God-given. If we were half as dutiful as our insti- 
tutions are excellent, we would be the happiest and 
wisest people on earth. There shall be no rending 
asunder where we most admire; it is not our purpose 
to destroy but to sustain. 

It required but one glimpse into the gulf over which 
these glittering phantoms had been hovering to con- 
vince the few who for an instant had been dazzled, 
that such ignes fatui could only be engendered by a 
principle of decay, and that they must continue their 
march in the comparatively narrow path of strictly 
local reform ; resolute, not to be lured by any prize or 
shaken by any danger. Let all who would, organize 
and declare war on crime ; but let each locality act for 
itself, and be responsible only to itself. Yet, while 
firmly avoiding entangling alliances, all might cooper- 
ate in sentiment and good-fellowship in joint prosecu- 
tion of a noble work. 

Two friends on the night of the 9th of July were 
sitting in the reading-room of the Rassette House 
discussing the doctrine of hell. Unable, as were not 



the early fathers, to arrive at an agreement as to 
the nature, locality, and dimensions of this ancient 
and mysterious institution, they fell to fighting about 
it, as many a man and many a nation have done in 
time past. The battle began with fists and ended with 
pocket-knife stabbing, so that one or the other of them 
was likely soon to go to hell and see for himself what 
sort of a country it was. At length they were parted, 
and shortly after the one who used the knife fell into 
the hands of the vigilance police, which was hell 
indeed, who took him to the Committee rooms, but 
after due consultation the Executive concluded it was 
a matter more befitting the court than themselves. 
Hence he was turned over to the regular police. It 
was chronic crime alone the Committee cared to touch ; 
cases upon which the ordinary medicine of law courts 
had no effect. Pugilistic electors, stabbing supreme 
judges, and political pistol-shooters, these were the 
game the vigilants hunted. 

As in the former Committee, thousands of letters 
of a personal character, charging persons with mis- 
demeanors, were received, written by men and women 
apparently under the impression that the Committee 
appeared in the role of some universal panacea, pain- 
killer, or patent medicine for the cure of every social 
evil. Even if accusations were both criminal and true 
it was no part of the Committee's intention to enter 
the arena of private quarrels, or to undertake in any 
wise to establish equity between men or to do any 
work which the courts could and would do. 

Another feature of the association was the con- 
sideration for propriety and appearance with which 
everything was done. The humblest of them all 
having voluntarily and with no hope of reward come 
forward and written down his name in the service of 
society, felt himself a patriot equally with the highest, 
felt that he was setting an example, and that he would 
do it well. Let it not be forgotten that the rank and 


file, those who promised obedience, were of the same 
stamp as their leaders, all honest, respectable men, 
and many of them as wealthy, cultivated, and able as 
any who sat on executive chairs. 

It appears that during the first few days of the 
organization, liquors and cigars were ordered in and 
used in common, upon the theory characteristic of 
California, that a community unable or unwilling to 
provide these luxuries for its preservers was not worth 
the preserving. The 23d of May, however, the Com- 
mittee thought better of it, or rather, they had not 
hitherto thought of it at all, for on that day they re- 
solved, "that the cigars and liquors used up to this time 
by the executive committee be paid for by equal sub- 
scription by ourselves, and that hereafter each member 
shall furnish himself with such luxuries should he 
require them ; so that this community cannot say that 
the Committee have spent their money uselessly." 

The Executive were no less stringent in regulating 
their own followers than in guarding the city from 
the depredations of villains. There were many in the 
community who sympathized too strongly with the 
Committee, whose zeal ate up their judgment, who 
hovered upon the verge of mobocracy and would have 
fallen into that anarchical pit but for the steady grasp 
of vigilance upon them. " There seemed to be a great 
fear on the part of bankers, merchants, and news- 
paper men of mobs," says Mr Man row, "and they 
sent frequently to the Committee, and we always sent 
word to them that if there was any anticipation of 
that kind we would send guards, and we frequently 
did so — posted guards to keep the people quiet. We 
had a large police force in our body and many de- 
tectives constantly on the watch. We knew all the 
time, through this force, what the law and order 
people and others on the outside were doing. 1 
remember that one of the detectives called me out 
one night and said that he had been to a meeting of 


the Broderick Engine Company, and they had passed 
a resolution to kill me on my way home. I knew at 
that stage of the game they would go after any one 
of the Committee. But they made no attack, and 
notwithstanding this resolution I rode up that night 
about twelve o'clock with my groom who came for me." 

Neither the friends nor the enemies of the Com- 
mittee supposed its work more than begun by the 
punishing of the assassins of Bichardson and King. 
Thinking men fully realized that it was necessary to 
break in pieces the organized rings which by fraud 
and violence had attained official position in order the 
more effectually to plunder the public — rings com- 
posed of political thieves, differing only from the 
more manly ordinary thieves in stealing according to 
law and in making the law fit thieving rather than 
quarrel with it. It was necessary to punish or drive 
away the brutal instruments by which these rings had 
defeated the frequent efforts at reform made by good 

Again on the 30th of May the board of delegates 
met to confirm or disapprove of what had been done. 
The testimony against Mulligan, Gallagher, Carr, 
Kearney, and others was read and the verdict of the 
Executive announced. The delegates signified their 
approbation. The case of Mr Edward Bulger was in 
like manner disposed of. The 2d of June the black 
list was taken up and John Crowe, Ira Cole, James 
Hennessey, J. W. Bagley, James Cusick, Terence 
Kelley, James Claughley, Jacob Betchit, William 
McGuire, Bobert Cushing, and Michael Brannigan, 
were ordered to leave the state. John Cooney was 
warned to reform his ways, for the eyes of the Com- 
mittee were upon him. 

The trial of Duane was begun the 3d of June and 
concluded next dav, resulting in a sentence of trans- 
portation. The following preamble and resolution 
are found upon the record: ''Whereas, the evidence 


brought us establishes conclusively that Charles P. 
Duane has for years been a disturber of the peace of 
this community by repeated assaults, often with deadly 
weapons, upon unoffending citizens, and by his inter- 
ference with our elections; resolved, that he be sen- 
tenced to leave this state in such a manner as shall 
hereafter be determined, and warned never to return 
under penalty of death." The case of Brace the 
murderer, then in jail, and whose term of imprison- 
ment expired the 5th of June, was referred to a 
committee. The black list was called up and conned 
every day. 

Meanwhile Olney and his captains were active 
drilling the military. There were daily excitements 
sufficient to keep alive their interest, sudden calls 
which brought the forces out upon the street in mar- 
tial order. 

In view of the impending collision with the state au- 
thorities, the committee on military affairs, at a meet- 
ing held the 9th of June, proposed a reorganization of 
their forces which should embody the entire associa- 
tion, on the following plan: There should be formed 
three infantry regiments, composed of two battalions 
of four companies each ; one battalion of artillery, one 
battalion of cavalry, and one French legion. The 
held officers to be for each regiment, one colonel, one 
lieutenant-colonel, and two majors; for the battalions 
of artillery and cavalry one major each ; for the French 
legion one colonel and one lieutenant-colonel. The 
officers to be elected, the colonels and lieutenant- 
colonels by the executive committee, and the majors 
by the respective battalions. All were to be kept in 
readiness to march at a moment's notice at the order 
of the grand marshal. Present quarters were pro- 
nounced extremely insecure, being open to attack from 
Front and California street sewers, Commercial street, 
the rear alley, and also being commanded from every 
hill in the city, besides being weak in defence from 


other causes. This committee then recommended im- 
mediate removal to more secure quarters, and suggested 
California street near Mason. No removal, however, 
was made, the executive trusting more in men than in 

There were some few accessions of horsemen to the 
vigilant guards on Tuesday the 10th of June. General 
drilling continued, but the feature of the day was the 
artillery practice on the street before the Committee 
rooms under the direction of F. D. Johns. The can- 
nons were collected from various sources, some of them 
being ship's guns clumsily fastened to running-gear 
with ropes and chains, but for purposes of defence 
they would do effectual service. All the guns were 
to-day discharged, cleaned, and reloaded, and the 
cannon made ready for instant service. In the even- 
ing between two and three thousand were in arms, and 
a stroke of the vigilance bell would have placed as 
many more by their side. During the afternoon young 
America took the field in the form of sixty little boys, 
who assembled on Stockton street, and with striped 
pantaloons and sticks for swords and guns, marched 
down to Sacramento street, drew up in line of battle 
in front of Fort Vigilance, and demanded of the Com- 
mittee that they should lay down their arms and dis- 
band or treat. Certain spectators, enjoying the sport, 
filled their pockets with nuts and candy, and in return 
the infant band offered to search for McGowan, or 
attack the law and order forces if permission was 
granted them. During the night rumors having 
reached the Committee of a threatened attack, a 
breastwork of sacks filled with sand was ordered 
thrown up in front of the rooms. Drays loaded with 
the sand-bags began to arrive about one o'clock in the 
morning of the 11th, and a fortification two hundred 
feet long, thirty feet wide, and five feet high, with 
embrasures at either end for cannon, was constructed. 
Behind this breastwork the artillery was placed in 
position so as to rake all approaches. The guns were 


well manned, and sentinels stationed at every outpost. 
The night, however, passed quietly. Thus far the law 
and order forces comprised thirteen companies of from 
fifty to seventy-five men each. No serious fears were 
entertained by the Committee, but they determined 
never for a moment to be off their guard! Indeed, the 
time was rapidly passing in which it were possible for 
the governor's proclamation to be sustained. The con- 
stantly increasing strength of the Vigilance Committee 
gave their opponents little hope. Loud calls were made 
for officials to resign. One, Hampton North, city 
marshal, responded. 

This same day the following report was handed the 
Executive by the committee on foreign affairs: "That 
the marshal has detailed from each company ten men 
who have their arms deposited at their respective 
places of residence, and who have orders in case of a 
general alarm to report to their commanding officer in 
two places, namely, in front of the Oriental Hotel, and 
in front of the Monumental Engine House." They 
suggested also that the members of the general com- 
mittee be notified that the signal of recognition recom- 
mended in case of attack was a white ribbon placed 
in the top button-hole of the left lapel of the coat, 
the rallying cry in case of difficulty the word 'vigil- 
ants!' They also reported a secret depository of arms 
established in the third story of Messrs Arrington's 
store, and also in the store of J. W. Brittan. A plan 
for the protection of the building was also proposed, 
all of which were adopted. 

Next meeting the Executive ordered all arms re- 
moved from head-quarters except five hundred mus- 
kets, fifty rifles, fifty shot-guns, and such cannon as 
could be used advantageously in case of attack, and 
that the remainder of the arms of the association be 
kept part in the hands of members and part in such 
private depositories as should be designated. This 
was to prevent the possibility of the entire capture 
of their arms in case Fort Vigilance was taken. Mr 



Smiley offered his store as a rallying-point of the 
executive committee in case they were cut off from 
head-quarters in the coming anticipated difficulty. 

While proclamations were thus being fulminated, 
and the military were being prepared to attempt the 
enforcement of the habeas corpus, the executive com- 
mittee were quietly shipping from the country the 
culprits the law so itched to grasp. 

A daring attempt was made to burn the Vigilance 
Committee building, between twelve and one o'clock 
Tuesday morning the 17th of June. Shavings placed 
in the rear of the Fulton Iron Works on Davis street 
between Sacramento and California streets were fired, 
but before the flames had made much progress they 
were discovered and extinguished by the vigilance 

The black list now occupied the chief attention of 
the Committee. The committee on evidence devoted 
their whole time to procuring testimony against odious 
and disreputable characters, which was sifted and ar- 
ranged so as to present each in his true light before 
the tribunal. The accused were then put upon trial 
and opportunities offered them for rebuttal. The 
matter was determined and placed before the board 
of delegates. Finally to the prisoner was disclosed 
the sentence of his judges, and if convicted, the time 
of his departure was named, within which time his 
affairs here were to be settled. From time to time, 
by steamer and sailing-vessel, as opportunity offered, 
many thus convicted were shipped out of the country, 
while others were warned, often under seal, that the 
ever watchful eye was on them. In all this the 
greatest care was taken that no injustice should be 
done; at the same time proof needed not to be strictly 
legal in order to carry conviction. 

I will cite the case of Cunningham as an example. 
Information convincing beyond peradventure was 
brought to the Committee that this man was bad, 
very bad, that he was a false coiner and a robber of the 


dead under outrageous circumstances. The district at- 
torney, who was asked to testify , declared that although 
lie knew him to be guilty he could not convict him 
under the statute, because to do so he must have one 
of the identical counterfeit coins issued by him; it 
was the old-fashioned slug, or fifty-dollar piece. The 
Committee held the case under examination until they 
were thoroughly satisfied that the man was guilty, and 
then they banished him from the country. 

This was the class of cases which the Committee 
made more particularly its own. New and legally 
provable cases they left to the law. More particularly 
did they decline taking cognizance of cases outside 
their locality, or what they determined as their juris- 
diction — instance the matter of the second mate of 
the steamer Golden Gate. A delegation of passengers 
the 15th of June waited on the Committee with the 
request to seize the mate and execute justice on him, 
but they peremptorily declined taking any action in 
the matter. The Committee referred the delegation 
to the United States Commissioner, saying if the com- 
missioner desired their aid they would give it him, 
but they would not otherwise interfere. 

Attention was next turned to improper men in 
office. At the meeting of June 15th a committee of 
rive was appointed to inquire into and report upon 
such county officers as should be invited to resign 
their positions; and also to report who and what 
power should fill those offices until next election, and 
whether appointments could be made satisfactory to 
the committee and to the community. A committee 
was also appointed to wait on the merchants with a 
petition for their signature to the president of the 
United States for the removal of United States Mar- 
shal McDuffie. 

Another exodus of criminals occurred on Friday, 
the 20th of June, which was likewise a day of purga- 
tion for San Francisco. It was in all respects a busy 

Pop. Tkib.. Vol. II. 23 


day within the walls of Fort Vigilance. Amidst the 
shipment of prisoners, new arrests, preparations for 
defence, examination into the conduct of city officials, 
and multitudinous other affairs, attention was drawn 
toward disbandment. 

Two days before a special committee had been ap- 
pointed to examine the business affairs of the associa- 
tion, and to report at what time it would be practicable 
for the general committee to adjourn. It was resolved 
by this committee and so reported to the Executive on 
the 20th that no new business be taken up after the 
24th instant unless in extreme cases; that the utmost 
diligence be used to close up all business, and to have 
all verdicts, notices to leave, and sentences executed 
before the 3d day of July; that on the 4th day of 
July a full parade of all troops and of all members 
of the Committee of Vigilance shall take place under 
the direction of the grand marshal in conjunction 
with the president and the military committee, who 
were charged with all the necessary arrangements; 
that the executive committee give notice on the 4th 
of July that on and after the 5th of July the general 
committee will adjourn and that the executive com- 
mittee and board of delegates continue to meet, and 
the general committee to hold themselves ready at 
all times to respond to the regular alarm-call of the 
Executive; that in adjourning the committee, they 
should give notice that the return of any persons who 
have received notice to leave or who have been sent 
out of the country by their orders should be sufficient 
cause for an immediate call for the assembling of the 
general committee for decisive action. This action 
was not kept secret; the notice of the 4th of July 
parade was given out formally and informally to the 
general body and to the community. 

The fact is the committee sincerely desired to avoid 
collision with the authorities. They were not intimi- 
dated by threats, as their subsequent action shows. 
They were never stronger than now, and they knew 


the opposition was not as strong as themselves. But 
as they deemed their work essentially finished they 
thought to hasten its close, rather than to prolong it 
unnecessarily in the face of the intense bitterness of 
feeling manifested by their opponents. 

This, however, was not to be. The history of the 
Vigilance Committee was not destined to close here. 
While the hopes of the Committee were freely and 
publicly expressed, that the opposition would recog- 
nize their moderation and respond to their efforts to 
avoid the threatened conflict of arms, the next day 
the Committee were advised that the governor and 
General Boker were on their way to the city, one 
from Sacramento and the other from Stockton, each 
with military preparations, and that they would 
parade in the streets of San Francisco on the day 
following. General Howard, successor to General 
Sherman, was receiving government munitions from 
Benicia, so report ran, and men were standing ready 
to receive and use them. "This was not peace, but 
war," says Mr Coleman, "which we were trying to 
avert." There was but one thing to do, and that was 
to intercept those arms and bring them to head-quar- 
ters, and this the Committee set themselves at once 
to do. 

Never had there arisen in any state an issue which 
aroused such bitter feelings in the breasts of the 
minority against the majority. From the first the 
cry of official incumbents and their party sympathizers 
was havoc, and let loose the dogs! They would 
butcher half the city if necessary to wreak their ven- 
geance on mercenary pork and flour sellers who had 
dared to call in question the ability and integrity of 
gentlemen of the politico-pistol school. Nor did their 
all-absorbing thirst for revenge cease with the dis- 
bandment of the Committee. It galled their arrogant 
blood, it intensified their chivalrous hate to see with 
what consummate skill and dignified self-possession 


these base-born canaille had so successfully achieved 
their noble purpose. For months afterward their 
journals rankled in their impotent rage. The national 
government, the state government, and the democratic 
party, they enlisted in their sympathy and against 
the Committee. Politicians and public menials they 
could command, but they were not the people. 

As one observes, commenting upon the course pur- 
sued by the Herald : " History is ransacked for illus- 
trations. Rome, France, Venice, the Holy Inquisition 
in their worst and bloodiest days, Draco, Robespierre 
were all innocent, and even Cerberus, the watch-dog 
of hell, is considered amiable when contrasted with 
the people of San Francisco." 

As a rule the Committee were prayed for from 
pulpits. But a southern divine, subsequently mobbed 
in his church and expatriated for indulging too freely 
his opposition to the north in its war for the union, 
went somewhat out of his way as some thought in 
publishing in the Philadelphia Presbyterian two and 
a half columns denunciatory of the Vigilance Com- 
mittee members, which organization included scarcely 
less than three fourths of his congregation. " In 
this elaborate epistle," says the Bulletin of Octo- 
ber 1st, "the Vigilance Committee of this city is 
attacked in a manner that in our opinion is highly 
unbecoming in a minister of the gospel. The writer 
gives as one of the reasons for publishing his letter 
in Philadelphia, that he wishes to avoid ' local preju- 
dices and momentary excitements,' having been 'told 
that I must pray for the Committee and preach in 
their behalf, and that if my sentiments against them 
were known I should lose my congregation.' Coming 
from one who claims to be impartial and unprejudiced 
and who affirms that his mission is to pour oil on the 
troubled w T aters, and not to create wrangling among 
his brethren, it must meet, as it merits, the severest 
condemnation of every Christian, or we have yet to 
learn in what Christianity consists." In answer to 


which last clause of the quotation it has been sug- 
gested to me that in this instance Christianity con- 
sisted in — first, love of notoriety; second, love of 
sinners, the pistol and bowie-knife chivalry being re- 
garded as chief; and lastly, love of formulas and 
fanatical dogmas. In this instance the zeal of the 
clergyman was rewarded by glorious martyrdom; he 
being hanged in effigy before his church the next 
Sunday and having the pleasure of a newspaper con- 
troversy for a few days thereafter, both of which he 
hugely enjoyed. 

There were feuds and bitter animosities between 
parties, between individuals, and between friends and 
brothers; hate rankled in the breast of multitudes. 
Fostered by national prejudices, by partisan pride, and 
by individual interest, the conflict on either side as- 
sumed an intensity seldom seen. There is no hate 
like the hate of a brother; there is no war like civil 
war; and these men, hundreds of them on both sides, 
were ready to spill the last drop of blood before they 
would yield one jot. 

But in the ever varying life and population of this 
most cosmopolitan of cities these infelicities were 
soon forgotten. In the after and more thoughtful 
consideration of the events and of the motives which 
engendered them, what appeared so strange to those 
on either side, what appeared so monstrous, so far 
removed from rectitude and good morals, was regarded 
with kinder and more charitable eyes, and the nobler 
hearted of both factions began to see some shadow of 
truth in the view taken by their opponents. 



Pin a dishclout to his tail. 


Besides these active preparations at home, and 
failing to move to his purpose either the military 
or naval commandants of United States forces on 
the Pacific Coast, Mr Johnson appeals to Wash- 

On the 19th of June, 1856, the governor wrote the 
president a full account of his troubles, and despatched 
his message by the hand of P. A. Thompson and F. 
Forman, who sailed by the steamer of the 20th 
instant. These gentlemen were to supplement the 
governor's appeal and furnish such detail as circum- 
stances and their powers of graphic description could 
command. Their duties were defined in their com- 
missions, that of Mr Thompson's reading as follows: 

" State of California, Executive Department, \ 
Sacramento, Cal., June 18, 1856. J 

" Sir : Yon are hereby deputed on behalf of the State of California to pro- 
ceed by the most rapid means of coveyance to the city of Washington, and 
make application to the president of the United States for the use and ser- 
vices of such arms and ammunition, together with the aid of the naval and 
military forces of the United States, as may be required by the executive of 
this state in the suppression of the existing insurrection in the city of San 
Francisco; and also to perform generally such duties as may be deemed 
proper and necessary in the prosecution of such mission. In the performance 
of this duty you will be aided by Colonel F. Forman of this city, who is ap- 
pointed by me to the performance of similar services. I will transmit by him 
the necessary papers relating to this subject. I regret to say the arrange- 
ments which it was believed could be perfected, whereby a sum of money 

I 358 J 


could be placed at your disposal for the expenses of the trip, have proved un- 
successful thus far, and reliance will have to be had on the faith and credit 
of the state for the repayment of your expenses, also for the value of the 
services to be rendered by both of you gentlemen. I will write you more fully 
my views to-morrow. 

" J. Neely Johnson, Governor of California. 
"Hon. R. Augustus Thompson, San Francisco, Gal." 

Although the governor's letter is somewhat lengthy 
and repeats much that has already been written, I 
give it in full, deeming it important that every side 
of this subject should be laid before the reader with 
equal fairness. As a matter of course due allowance 
must be made for the ex parte statements of a man 
brimful of passion and never over-scrupulous as to 
his facts. 

" Executive Department, \ 
Sacramento City, Cal., June 19, 1856. J" 

" Sir: In view of the existing condition of affairs in the city and county 
of San Francisco in this state, I am constrained to call upon the general 
government through the intervention of your excellency for aid and assistance 
in the enforcement of the laws of this state ; and that you may better under- 
stand the propriety of readily granting such requests, I would beg leave to 
present a brief recital of events which have recently transpired and rendered 
necessary such application. As early as the 16th of May last an organization 
styling themselves the Vigilance Committee was formed in that city, secret 
in its character and to the uninitiated its purposes unknown, except as their 
subsequent acts have developed themselves. Although the presumption is 
that the organization had its origin in the events connected with the shooting 
of Mr James King by Casey on the 14th of the same month, apprehensions 
were entertained from the incendiary appeals of the press and the public ex- 
citement that an attempt would be made to attack the jail where Casey was 
confined, rescue him from the officers of the law, and deal out summary pun- 
ishment to him ; in fact an effort was made to do so by a mob, prior to this 
organization, but was resisted successfully. In the mean time the mayor had 
called on the military forces of the city, numbering some ten companies, for 
assistance ; the sheriff did his utmost to obtain the aid of a posse capable of 
resisting such anticipated attack. It was found that the response in both 
cases was but limited ; not more than fifty or sixty of the military could be 
depended on ; companies disbanded, large numbers of them joined the Vigil- 
ance Committee, forcibly placed in the possession of that organization arms 
and accoutrements, including the only two pieces of artillery belonging to the 
state which had been issued to them as volunteer companies by the state, and 
not one in ten of those summoned by the sheriff would obey his call. It 
seemed as if a universal panic had seized upon the people, and the fear of this 
formidable organization impelled law-abiding and law-observing citizens gen- 



erally to shrink from the responsibility resting on them as citizens owing to 
the constitution and laws of the state. On the 17th of this month, when it 
was manifest that neither a military nor a citizen force could be obtained in 
defending the jail, an armed body, estimated at three or four thousand persons, 
marched to the jail and demanded the delivery of two prisoners, Casey and 
Cora. The sheriff was powerless, the few men he had about him would have 
constituted no impediment in the way of these superior numbers, and resist- 
ance was useless ; he was forced to give up the prisoners. A few days later 
this same body, from the windows of their place of meeting, hung the two 
men referred to. Furthermore they proceed to arrest various individuals, 
search the houses of many of the best citizens on the most frivolous and 
groundless pretext, establishing a system of espionage over the conversa- 
tion and movements of reputable citizens, male or female, wholly unknown 
to the laws or usuages of a republican form of government. At length for 
one of the parties arrested by order of this self-constituted tribunal, on appli- 
cation being made to one of the judges of our supreme court, he issued a writ 
of habeas corpus. The sheriff was prevented by the resistance of this armed 
body of men from serving it ; and a few days later the party for whom this 
writ was issued, in company with several other citizens forcibly transported 
beyond the state, by different modes of conveyance and to different places — 
report says China, Australia, and the Sandwich Islands. In the mean time 
one of the number they had arrested and whilst in their custody, learning his 
sentence of banishment from the country, rather than submit to it, committed 
suicide in the cell where they had confined him. On the 3d day of the pres- 
ent month I issued a proclamation, a copy of which I enclose in the form of a 
printed slip, declaring the county of San Francisco in a state of insurrection. 
To General Wool I had previously, in a personal interview, detailed the con- 
dition of affairs, of which matters he was fully informed otherwise. At such 
interview he unhesitatingly promised me, on the representation made him that 
we were almost wholly destitute of arms, and of ammunition we had none, to 
furnish on my requisition when we wanted them such arms and ammunition 
as we desired. Within one or two days after the issuance of my proclamation, 
of which I duly notified him, I made a recquisition on General Wool for cer- 
tain arms and ammunition to be furnished Major-general W. T. Sherman, in 
command of the state troops at San Francisco, but to my great surprise he 
refused, alleging that he had no authority so to do in any case. To show him 
that the necessities of the case were of such an urgent character as should 
induce a compliance with my request, I communicated with him again, a 
copy of which letter, dated June 7th, I herewith enclose. To this his reply 
was as before, a peremptory refusal to furnish any part of such requisition. 
In the mean time the Vigilance Committee continued to arm themselves with 
muskets, a large quantity of which they early procured; guns of various 
calibre, ranging from six to thirty-two pounders, numbering near or about 
thirty pieces; erected fortifications in the central business portion of the city; 
proceeded with the trial and conviction of various persons ; and now have in 
their custody several citizens, while others have been compelled to flee for 
protection and safety to remote parts of the state. 

" During all this, warlike demonstrations are proceeded with, members of 


their organization, on the streets and public assemblages, and through the 
columns controlled and directed by them, the most violent harangues and in- 
flammatory appeals are indulged in, both against the general and state 
governments, and at least one of their organs comes out boldly and defiantly 
against existing authority and calls upon the people to assemble and form a 
new government. The power and authority of the state is set at naught. 
These unlawful proceedings cannot be arrested, simply because we are desti- 
tute of arms and ammunition whereby to equip a force capable of coping with 
them, which, it is now said, numbers six or seven thousand with their sym- 
pathizers in large numbers outside. At most we have not muskets and rifles 
enough to arm six hundred men; ordnance and ammunition we have none. 
I would therefore most urgently ask that you transmit orders to the officer 
who is or may be commanding the Pacific division, to issue to the state author- 
ities on the requisition of the executive, such arms and ammunition as may 
be needed for the purpose of the insurrection; at least the number and quantity 
specified in the requisition I made on General Wool, as appears in a post- 
script of the enclosed copy of my communication to him of June 7th. 

"I would also urge the importance of transmitting such orders to the officer 
commanding this department to render such assistance in arms and ammuni- 
tion at any future period as may be required by the executive for the pur- 
pose of enforcing obedience to the constitution and laws, as it is feared the 
example afforded by the present organization may extend its influence to 
other localities, in all probability to renew the present one, even after dis- 
banding their forces. In conclusion I would add, without the aid which is 
now sought at the hands of the general government, the state authorities can 
no longer afford protection to its citizens or punish the lawless acts this body 
of men have been guilty of; and with impunity they may and doubtless will 
proceed with such acts of aggression and disobedience towards the government 
as will ultimately result in its entire destruction. I would beg leave to refer 
you to the Hon. R. Augustus Thompson, recently U. S. Land Commissioner 
for this state, and Colonel F. Forman, now the postmaster of the city, who 
are deputed by me to lay this communication before your excellency, for a 
more detailed and minute relation of these affairs than can conveniently be 
embodied in a written communication. Your earliest possible attention to 
this matter is extremely desirable. 

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"J. Neely Johnson, Governor of California. 

"His Excellency Franklin Pierce, President of the United States, Wash- 
ington, D. C" 

To this communication the president, through Sec- 
retary Marcy, made reply in these words: 

"Department of State, \ 

Washington, July 19, 1856. J 

"Sir: The president has received your communication of June 19th, rep- 
resenting that an illegal association in the city of San Francisco had over- 
powered by force public authority there, and requesting the aid of the United 


States to enable you to maintain the government and enforce the laws of the 
state. • The president has given to the subject the most careful consideration. 
He is deeply impressed by the anomalous condition and dangerous tendency 
of affairs in San Francisco, as set forth in your letter, and is prepared, when- 
ever exigency arises demanding and justifying his interposition, to render 
assistance to suppress insurrection against the government of a state, and 
maintain the supremacy of the laws in the mode and to the extent of the 
authority vested in him by the constitution and acts of Congress of the United 

" In the present case, serious doubts of his lawful power to proceed in the 
manner indicated by you having occurred to the president, he referred the 
question to the attorney-general for advisement, and the conclusions sub- 
mitted by that officer have, on full reflection, been decided by the president 
to constitute insuperable obstacles to the action now desired of the general 
government. The report of the attorney -general is enclosed for your informa- 
tion. The president will not allow himself to believe that the prevalence of 
rash counsels and lawless violence still continues in San Francisco. He con- 
fidently trusts that the citizens of California who have suffered themselves to 
be betrayed, by whatever inducements, into violations of the public peace of 
so dangerous a character, will already have resumed their obedience to the 
laws, and that hereafter, instead of assuming to act independently of the con- 
stituted authority, they will, as good citizens, cooperate with it in the earnest 
endeavor to secure a prompt, impartial, and vigorous administration of justice, 
in the only way in which the life, property, and rights of the people can be 
protected effectually, that is by faithful conformity with the constitution and 
laws of the state. 

" I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"W. L. Maecy. 

"His Excellency J. Neely Johnson, Governor of California." 

The spirit of Attorney-general Cushing's opinion 
is embodied in Mr Marcy's despatch. It is too long 
for insertion here. The attorney-general says there is 
no evidence "in what has thus occurred at San Fran- 
cisco that there has been committed or threatened 
any act of resistance or obstruction to the constitu- 
tion, laws, or official authority of the United States." 
He discusses the powers of the president, under the 
constitution, to introduce military force into a state, 
and considers that the present case does not justify 
interference either by calling out a militia force or in 
other respects acceding to the governor's request. 
Even had federal interference been invited through 
the legislature in due form, the statute authorized him 
only to employ United States forces, or to call out 


the militia of some other state, the law presuming the 
governor of a state always competent to call out his 
own militia. There were no conditions of pressing 
exigency, no deeds of outrage, no shock of battle. 
The trouble was in the regulations of confederation; 
no provision had been made for subduing the people 
of the state to the will of one man. The constitu- 
tional power of the state was the Vigilance Commit- 
tee. This power was not at the command of Mr 
Johnson. Although the president might have in his 
discretion the moral power, Mr Cushing did not think 
there existed sufficient legal excuse for him to grant 
the governor s request. 

Affairs, indeed, were in a singular condition when a 
governor of a state applies for military aid to be used 
against a majority of the people who elected him. 

The president appeared in no way excited over the 
condition of things. When asked by Senator Toombs 
what course he intended to pursue in reference to the 
requisition of the governor of California, he replied 
that he should take no action at present, that the 
legislature must first convene, and if they refused to 
act it would be the duty of the federal government to 
interfere. Furthermore, letters from responsible per- 
sons in California assured him that existing troubles 
would probably be all settled within thirty days. 

It will be seen by the perusal of these documents 
that the president wished just then to evade the issue; 
that he regarded or affected to regard the application 
as not in proper form, as it should have come through 
the legislature. He declines to interfere at this junc- 
ture, except to protect the men and property of the 
United States. With all his omissions and misrepre- 
sentations the case does not seem sufficiently strong to 
warrant the general government in interfering. 

The attitude assumed by the president and his 
party forcibly illustrates the unrighteous workings of 
the governmental system of this greatest of repub- 
lics. Pierce and his administration were opposed to 


the action of the Vigilance Committee, and I believe 
would have directed Wool to blow up the Sacramento- 
street building but for the fact that just then parties 
at Washington were organizing for a presidential 
campaign, and to suppress an insurrection at that 
time would have been impolitic. It was well for San 
Francisco at the moment, that the president of the 
United States was, as are nearly all politicians, more 
firmly wedded to party than to principle; but blush, 
oh! Americans, for your rulers, and seek not among 
them those who like this same much vilified Com- 
mittee of Vigilance unselfishly offer their lives, their 
property, their honor a sacrifice to the moral integrity 
of their city! When shall we have honest rulers, 
men who enter office not for purely selfish purposes, 
and who will not serve in office for their own advance- 
ment only and irrespective of the public good? So 
President Pierce hides his head under a transparent 
subterfuge and says he cannot suppress insurrection 
unless application for federal interference be made 
through the state legislature. 

" One thing is certain," argues an able law and 
order writer upon the present attitude of affairs, 
"the acts of the Vigilance Committee whether right 
or wrong on moral grounds can never be legitimatized 
except by successful revolution; and by a constitu- 
tional necessity such revolution can be effected only 
by the overthrow of the state government, and a vic- 
tory achieved on land over the power of the whole 
nation. That power has already been invoked. 
That a casus fcederis is presented by the papers that 
have gone forward, there can be no reasonable doubt, 
and what the action of the general government will 
be in view of its own precedents, can hardly be a 
matter of serious question. There are in fact but 
two courses; one is revolution terminating in a Pa- 
cific empire or in subjugation and its incidents. The 
other is for the Vigilance Committee to stop exactly 
where they now are and bide the consequences of all 


that is passed, trusting to the general judgment for im- 
munity from that legal responsibility which they think 
they have the right to claim. The consequences 
adverted to are less formidable to-day than they 
will be to-morrow, and to-morrow they will be less 
portentous than the day after. So far chastisement 
has been visited on those only who were guilty of 
crime known as such to the law of the land, and 
therefore every sentence that has been pronounced 
has been ratified by the verdict of the people." 

This specious line of argument may be answered in 
a word. The Vigilance Committee did not seek to 
legitimatize their proceedings, did not care whether 
the fruit of their action was called lawful or bastard. 
Born of necessity, though out of the legal forms of 
wedlock, the purpose was as pure as was the virgin's 
conception, and the offspring of their acts as holy as 
was her child. As to the impossibility of any other 
solution of the dilemma than one of the two men- 
tioned, I have only to point to the sequel. A 
straightforward honorable path, leading to the grand- 
est and most satisfactory results, was found and un- 
waveringly pursued by the executive committee, and 
it was neither of the inevitable paths prescribed by 
the law and order faction. 

Says the Nevada Journal of the 27th of June on 
the situation: 

" Upon the requisition of the governor of a state the president is bound 
to bring the force of the nation to suppress a revolt against the legal state 
authorities. Living as we do far removed from the power of the Union, it 
cannot be directed against us till the people have quite thoroughly purged 
themselves of the unwholesome causes of the complaint, and restored health 
for the present and some time in the future. 

" By proclamation a state of civil war actually exists. The people are 
opposed by authorities they have once delegated with power for a certain 
length of time which has not yet expired. But the governor and his adher- 
ents can claim nothing but the shadow of force. The constitution may be 
appealed to, but it furnishes them with neither men, arms, nor money. The 
records of the last gubernatorial canvass may be shown, the commission of 
the executive, his inaugural, and the recorded history of his many vetoes, 
proofs conclusive of the highest authority, but they avail nothing against the 
sovereign will of the people at this moment. The delegated voice of the 


state, so far as San Francisco is concerned, has been revoked for a time. A 
large proportion of the available arms in the country, except those belonging 
to the general government, are in the hands of the people. In point of num- 
bers and munitions of war, the governor is powerless compared with the Vig- 
ilance Committee and their supporters. He cannot do much damage if he 

"Under such circumstances, knowing that the sole design of the people 
of San Francisco is to obtain their rights as citizens and secure them for the 
future, without a desire to subvert the civil authority of the state, only so 
far as necessary for immediate self -protection, it is not difficult to see what 
the result of the affair at San Francisco will finally be. The president can 
move no number of men or arms sufficient to put down the people of this 
state in a shorter period than three months, and long ere that time will have 
expired peace and quietness will once more reign among us. The rascals 
who have so long contaminated the fountain of justice will have been extir- 
pated, and nothing will be left deserving the sword and bayonet when the 
United States troops arrive, should they arrive at all, which is extremely 

' ' With the restoration of civil authority a new era in the history of our 
state, young in years but old in vice, may be reckoned to commence. That 
standard of virtue known in older communities we hope will be emulated 
hereafter among our people. The ruffianism which has characterized the 
state, giving it the reputation of being the hell of the world, will we trust be 
known no longer. Give California but a fair and spotless name to which the 
best efforts of San Franciscans are fearlessly devoted, and with her mild cli- 
mate, unbounded and undeveloped wealth, and her ample fields for the display 
of energy and enterprise, immigrants will pour in upon the coast, making the 
western arm of the republic powerful and its people prosperous and happy. 
We trust that the effect of the Vigilance Committee will end in so great and 
desirable a blessing." 

How much better, how much wiser it would have 
been for lawyers and officials, so far as their duties of 
office would permit them, and the incendiary, denun- 
ciatory gubernatorial and military law and order ele- 
ment, to have heartily seconded the people in their 
effort to crush the viper villainy! Then the work 
would have been short, the result decisive, and both 
the political and business parties would have soon 
settled back into their former routine. Sheriffs and 
police officers might have hunted criminals side by 
side with the people, and on catching them, if the lat- 
ter wished to do the dirty work of hanging, and their 
numbers were such as to overpower the officials, so 
that they were not made responsible for the conse- 


quences, of what had they to complain? Neither 
governor nor judges need have formally sanctioned the 
illegal acts of the Vigilance Committee, but as long 
as they perceived that this was an organization of 
pure elements, sustained by a large majority of the 
people, and doing in a most cool and orderly way a 
most necessary work, would it not have been wise in 
them to have reined in their hot tempers, smothered 
their personal pride, and let the people alone for a 
time. True, it would not have been easy for men so 
constituted, so educated, so filled with the chivalrous 
idea, to do. But it would have been patriotic, it would 
have partaken of the highest, holiest patriotism; for 
true patriotism consists not in the advancement of self, 
but of the elevation and ennobling of one's country. 
The denunciatory policy adopted by law and order 
writers and orators when logical argumentation failed 
them was most damaging to their cause. Vitupera- 
tion never makes converts. Invective is the last re- 
sort of weak dialectics. Compare the famous incendiary 
Sacramento speech of General Howard and the fol- 
lowing not unfair specimen of the Herald's editorials 
with the calm, dignified, and logical address of the 
executive committee to the people, of the 9th of June. 
If the weakness of argument be in accordance with 
the intensity of abuse, then the lawless law men were 
truly in a bad way: 

" What the old prophets and perfectionists desired long but died without 
the sight," writes Mr Nugent the 7th of July, "it was to be the reward and 
precious boon of these latter-day saints of the Vigilance Committee and it3 
affiliates to behold. We were assured, as were the South Carolinians of 1S32, 
that the means to effect all this were simple, cheap, easy, and expeditious ; 
that no harm could come of it ; that it was a movement of the people, for tho 
benefit of the people, sanctioned and applauded by the people ; that those 
assuming this absolute power and despotic dominion over the laws, and over 
the lives, property, and liberty of the citizens, without — so tender was their 
regard for the people — even putting the dear people to the trouble of meeting, 
or acting or expressing in any intelligible or authentic shape their wishes ; 
that these directors and autocrats were good men and pure, and noble and in- 
corruptible ; indeed all the laudatory adjectives of the language were exhausted 
in their praise. True, no one knew even their names, except by vague guess 
and surmise; true, no one knew anything of their antecedents; true, no one 


had or could have any assurance from anything they had ever done, that men, 
unknown even in their own city, suddenly were inspired with all statesman- 
like and patriotic qualities. What of that? Were they not 'our best, purest, 
most respectable, and wealthiest citizens '? But in what they had ever shown 
a peculiar purity, or how it follows that wealth in California is irrefragable 
proof of virtue and respectability, we were not informed. With an amiable 
credulity, we took all that in trust. It was true that in this great reform 
movement members were enlisted whose very names were synonymous with 
everything that was odious and disgusting in fraud and crime. Bankers, 
whose spoil had been the hard-earned bread of the mechanic and the miner, 
the washerwoman and the daily laborer ; who had held out fraudulent assur- 
ances to the widow and the orphan, to the aged and infirm, and to the sick 
and disabled, to deposit the scanty provision which might support poverty in 
its night of want, or protect age in its feebleness and decrepitude. Merchants, 
whose raging lust for gold, as hot as Pizarro's and his crew, hazarded the lives 
of their fellow-citizens through the slow process of famine, by illegally fore- 
stalling the market and raising the price of the necessaries of life to unheard 
of rates ; and even then, if the tale may be believed, selling deteriorated and 
adulterated articles for sound and wholesome provisions ! And of that long 
series of mercantile crimes, of fraudulent invoices, of smuggling, of false ac- 
counts and settlements of consignees, of fraudulent bankruptcies, of all the 
long list of crimen falsi, forgeries and breaches of trust included ; of the long, 
black catalogue which has made San Francisco, more than its crimes of vio- 
lence, a scoffing and a byword, not only throughout the state, but through- 
out the world — how many representatives were not found in connection or 
sympathizing with this Vigilance Committee? And yet this par excellence 
mercantile diet can find no time and no subjects for the punishment and 
exposure of mercantile crimes ! Ah, no, not they ! Cheating, swindling, 
fraud, perjury, forgery, embezzlement, smuggling, beggary of thousands of 
poor mechanics and laborers and widows are nothing ; provided always that 
they are done in a commercial way and not in a political way ; but the man 
who shoots or stabs or stuffs a ballot-box must exclusively be the victim of 
punishment by these merchant princes. " 

Ay, there was the rub! It was most humiliating, 
most galling to lofty- minded men of learning and 
chivalry, to fire-eating men of law and bowie-knives, 
whose patriotism was merchandise, to see these men 
of merchandise display that true self-sacrificing patri- 
otism which in themselves existed only in name. What 
was Johnson's patriotism? Pride of position; petty 
tyranny; wounded self-love. What was McGowan's pa- 
triotism? Self-glorification; pompous display; blood- 
and-thunder greatness. What was Casey's patriotism ? 
Partisan jealousy; malignant passion; blood-thirsty 
revenge. What was Nugent's patriotism ? Sectional 


superciliousness; vindictive regrets in having embarked 
in a wrong course which would be more ruinous now 
to leave than to continue. Descending to lesser official 
minions, lawyers, judges, sheriffs, political scene- 
shifters and wire-pullers, and the myriads of legal 
leeches that prey upon the people, we find patriotism 
a byword, a byword loudly mouthed, while their 
hearts are hollow and their voices brassy. With them 
patriotism is political pap; a house to live in; bread 
and whiskey money. Compare such patriotism, in 
all candor compare it with the patriotism of Cole- 
man, of Dempster, of Truett, and all the others of 
that volunteer army of eight thousand and more de- 
voted men, who staked their lives and fortunes for 
the vindication of social morality and good citizen- 
ship. Was it glory they sought? No. They acted un- 
seen, unknown; their deeds were untrumpeted; their 
identity they sunk in their cause; their names even 
were converted into numerals. Was it the lust of 
power that called them into action? No. For they 
were already the sovereign power, and had they longed 
for office there were the regular and easier channels 
open to them. Was it position, occupation, money? 
No. Already they held positions esteemed by them 
as much higher than those of legislator and governor, 
as these latter esteemed theirs above those of mer- 
chant and mechanic. And as for occupation and 
money, they neglected better occupations than the 
state could offer them, and their own money they 
poured out like water, simply for the sake of serving; 
and with their gold they were ready to pour out their 
lives. I find that nothing but pure patriotism actu- 
ated them; but seek not such as this in elections, 
in legislative halls, in the jumping -jack gyrations 
of political mountebanks, or in the bladder -blown 
principles of party or polity. Patriotism lies in the 
hearts of the people, not upon the slippery tongues of 

Pop. Teib., Vol. II. 24 



Lo! with crooked judgments runs th'avenger stern 
Of oaths forsworn, and eke the murmuring voice 
Of Justice rudely dragged, where base men lead 
Thro' greed of gain, and olden rights misjudge 
With verdict perverse. She with mist enwrapt 
Follows, lamenting homes and haunts of men, 
To deal out ills to such as drive her forth, 
By custom of wrong judgment, from her seats. 


We enter now upon scenes yet more startling, where 
the Executive assume doubtful powers, and where the 
people in organized bands display a skill and a cour- 
age which overshadow even the achievement at the 
Broadway jail on the quiet Sunday preceding King's 
death. "On the 21st," says Mr Coleman, "we had 
precipitated upon us the most unexpected and the 
severest task which fell to our lot during the year." 

It was a circumstance deeply to be regretted, re- 
garded indeed by the Committee as a calamity, that 
a judge of the supreme bench should leave his duties 
and his seat at Sacramento, come to San Francisco, 
and go about the streets openly and violently de- 
nouncing the Committee and its sympathizers, using 
all his influence among his hot-headed friends to pre- 
cipitate a collision between peace-loving citizens. 

The fact is there were certain of these bloody- 
minded individuals who were determined the Com- 
mittee should not retire without a fight. Their anger 
was flaming for a fray. "The secret of the greater 
part of the opposition to the Vigilance Committee," 
says Mr Dempster, "was the bitter feeling on the part 



of the pro-slavery party, which had long controlled 
the state, and which, unable to manipulate the Vigi- 
lance Committee, looked with dread to its peaceable 
disbandment, as in that case its leaders would remain 
the future leaders of the people." 

It was to make of the Pacific States a slave empire 
that the chiefs of that party had proposed dismember- 
ment from the federal union, even while begging the 
aid of the federal authority against the only true 
federal supporters. Others sought to commit the vigi- 
lance party to a revolutionary policy, to that end 
writing articles for the public press which professed 
to embody the views of the Committee in regard to a 
change in state government, The law party, now well 
organized, strong in its compactness, and murderously 
determined, could not endure the thought of disband- 
ment until the Committee had perpetrated some act 
destructive of its influence. The influence which 
would flow from a series of attempts so remarkably 
free from failure was to be dreaded. 

As we have seen, rumors were rife inimical both to 
the Committee's peaceful continuance and peaceful re- 
tirement. The law party were hedging them round 
at home, and invoking federal thunderbolts from the 
other side of the continent. There was but one thing 
for the Committee to do, which was to intercept the 
arms said to be the state's quota, obtained surrepti- 
tiously and shipped from Benicia by Governor John- 
son to General Howard at San Francisco. The 
enemy must be met on his own ground ; and this they 
immediately set about doing. 

" I have correct information," writes James Hutton 
of the schooner Bianca to the Executive on Friday 
the 20th of June, "where the muskets are that the 
law and order party have stolen, and will volunteer 
to go in my schooner and try to bring the same to the 
Committee of Vigilance rooms." Captain Hutton 
was permitted to go with the Executive's benediction; 
and the director of police was ordered to detach men 



sufficient to seize the arms and bring them to head- 
quarters. They were found on board a schooner 
loaded with bricks, which was nearing the wharf. 
Captain Hutton ran alongside of her; the vigilants 
jumped on board, and without saying a word turned 
up a few layers of bricks and came upon twelve cases 
of rifles and six cases of ammunition,, which were 
taken without ceremony. 

The thanks of the Executive were tendered Captain 
Hutton with permission to embark in other adven- 
tures, but in those he was anticipated by others of 
the Committee eager for honors. The next day after 
Captain Hutton's success a detachment of twenty- 
two vigilants was sent by the Committee to intercept 
certain arms and munitions of war on their way to 
the city from Corte Madera, said to have been sent 
from Sacramento to the state-prison, there to be 
cleaned and put in order for the law party. The 
vigilants embarked in the sloop Malvina and proceeded 
to Corte Madera, where they overhauled the schooner 
Mariposa. Running the sloop alongside, the vigil- 
ants, whose cocked pistols kept the crew quiet, leaped 
on board, and on lifting the hatches found eleven cases 
of muskets and three boxes of pistols. Sam Bantam 
and the Benicia Boy, two notorious characters, were 
on board, but in view of the circumstances they had 
little to say. In less than ten minutes from the time 
the Malvina grappled the Mariposa, the weapons were 
transferred from the schooner to the sloop, the Mari- 
posa was cast loose, and the Malvina was on her way 
to San Francisco. About five o'clock the party landed 
at Clay street, where they were met by a large body 
of vigilant infantry who escorted them and their 
capture in triumph to the Committee rooms. 

The information of this shipment of arms was con- 
veyed to the Committee in the following letter: 

"Vallejo, June 20, 1856. 
"Gentlemen of the Vigilance Committee: — 

"I have just received some information which I deem it my duty to 
communicate to you by the Napa boat, which will be along in a few minutes. 


A boat or ship's launch arrived here last night or early this morning, with arms 
on board, supposed to have been taken from Benicia, either procured from the 
friends of the law and order party, or stolen from the United States arsenal 
there ; as they express a fear that Gen. Wool will get wind of it the latter is 
quite probable. They have also some state-prison convicts on board, and state 
their intention of going to Corte Madera to get the arms cleaned by the con- 
victs, and it is inferred they will take the arms from there to the law and 
order party in San Francisco. One of the party is a notorious fellow, known 
as the fighting boy of Benicia; a large, tall man by the name of Heenan. 

"The information was obtained from them when they came ashore to get 
their breakfast this morning at the Washington Hotel, the proprietor of which 
is in league with the law and order party. They were somewhat communica- 
tive, not knowing that any but their friends were present. Two men em- 
ployed at the hotel gave the information, and although it is somewhat vague, 
yet there is every reason to believe that there is something wrong going on. 
Mr Richardson, the stage-driver, has just gone or is about to go to Benicia 
to inform Gen. Wool of the facts. As the tide will not turn for three hours 
they cannot leave for that time. If a steamer could be had on the arrival of 
this, they might be overhauled in the bay before reaching the state-prison. 
The vessel is a sloop, her name I have not learned, and there is not time to 
gain more particulars before the boat leaves. 

" Yours, respectfully, C. E. Wetmore, Merchant. 

" P. S. — I refer to J. H. Coghill & Co. I gave the information in regard 
to Cusick." 

Again on this same eventful Friday information 
came to Marshal Doane that certain arms, the prop- 
erty of the state of California, directed to J. Neely 
Johnson, Sacramento, were known to be on board the 
schooner Julia, then on her way from the Sacramento 
River to San Francisco. The grand marshal gave 
immediate notice to the Executive, who authorized 
him to take such steps for their capture as he should 
deem expedient. This adventure was pregnant with 
momentous results. 

Calling to him the chief of the water police, the 
grand marshal said : 

" Have you a small vessel ready for immediate ser- 



" Yes; a sloop at the foot of this street." 

" Be ready to sail in half an hour." 

The marshal then summoned John L. Durkee, and 
gave instructions. 

" Detail twelve men for special duty." Within ten 


minutes Durkee announced himself ready. "At the 
foot of this street," said Doane, "you will find a small 
sloop manned and awaiting your order. Take it and 
diligently cruise the bay toward its northern end for a 
vessel supposed to have arms on board intended for 
the enemy ; when found, board her, and bring to these 
rooms such munitions of war as you may find." 

When James King of William was shot, John L. 
Durkee was a member of the city police. About two 
weeks after, he resigned his position and joined the 
vigilant police. The 1 6th of August he was appointed 
deputy director of police at a salary of twenty -five 
dollars a week. Mr Durkee was one of the most 
faithful and efficient officers on the roll of the Com- 
mittee. He was extremely quick at comprehension, 
and steady of execution. In a remarkable degree he 
possessed the faculty of success; whatever he under- 
took, if it was within the bound of the possibilities, he 
accomplished. Some time after the disbandment of 
the Committee he was made fire marshal of the city 
of San Francisco; and under his thorough and skillful 
management the service has been brought to a pro- 
ficiency second to none in America. The great re- 
sponsibility resting on him, and the high character he 
has ever sustained, he is wholly worthy of. Of his 
promptness in answering the call of duty, of his cool- 
ness and efficiency in times of danger, no less than of 
his high integrity and modesty of demeanor, I can 
bear grateful testimony; but for his skill and courage 
in extinguishing a dangerous fire which threatened my 
Library I should not now be writing his history. 

It was thought by some that the plan of sending 
into the bay vessels having a few muskets on board, 
and then accidentally, as it were, conveying notice of 
the fact to the vigilants, originated with the men 
of law, with the object of entrapping the Committee 
into a seizure wdiich would subject them to a charge 
of piracy under existing United States law, thereby 
forcing the issue which they so much longed for be- 


tween the Committee and the general government. 
But of this there was no proof; and if such was the 
case it did not frighten the Committee from the risk. 

Durkee immediately set sail, taking with him 
Charles E. Rand as his lieutenant. It was now 
drawing toward dusk, Friday evening. Cruising 
northward Durkee came to anchor in San Pablo 
Bay, wind and tide being against him. Presently he 
again set sail and overhauled several vessels, but 
found nothing answering the description of the one 
they sought. The search was kept up until nearly 
midnight. In the darkness it was with difficulty the 
vigilants could make their way around the shores and 

Finally through the black mist Durkee discovered 
an object close under Pueblo Point. It was a 
schooner lying at anchor; there was no light on 
board, and she might be deserted for any visible 
signs of life about her. Creeping noiselessly up, 
Durkee and his companions made fast to the dismal 
craft and silently boarded her. Captain and crew 
were all asleep. Their late potations had been more 
than usually liberal. Before they were aware of it 
half the vigilants were in the companion-way trans- 
ferring the guns and sabres over to their vessel, while 
the other half with cocked pistols kept guard over 
those on board. The schooner's name was the Julia. 
The arms and vessel were in charge of J. R. Maloney, 
commonly called Rube Maloney, who had chartered 
the craft for fifty dollars to carry the arms down. 
With him were John G. Philips and James Mc- 
Nabb. Not the slightest resistance was made to this 
action of the vigilants, and the arms, consisting of six 
cases containing one hundred and fifty muskets, to- 
gether with the three men as prisoners, were taken 
without delay to the city. 

Arrived in the morning at California-street wharf, 
Durkee despatched a messenger to the grand marshal, 
reporting his success and asking what disposition 



should be made of the prisoners. Maloney and 
Philips were notorious scoundrels. It was clear that 
the law party would claim that they had been sent 
by order of the governor to superintend the removal of 
the muskets from Benicia to San Francisco. After 
consulting with the Executive, Doane sent word to 
Durkee to let the men go. Though they were bad 
enough, there was no charge against them, and as 
they had relinquished the arms without opposition, 
the Committee had concluded to turn them loose. 

Maloney and Philips at once reported to their 
party what had befallen them. Then they went 
from one drinking -saloon to another, reviling the 
Committe, and swearing they would shoot on sight 
various persons, with other blatant threats such as 
delighted the men of law and order, now literally 
panting for blood. Of these proceedings the Execu- 
tive had due notice. It was evident that these mighty 
men needed a lesson; so at the one o'clock meeting 
on Saturday Mr Smiley moved that John G. Philips 
and James Rube Maloney be arrested immediately, 
which was ordered done. 

Selected for this mission was a member of the frater- 
nity named Sterling A. Hopkins, a native of Maine, 
but reared in Boston. He was an artesian well-borer, 
about thirty -three years of age, a man of great perti- 
nacity, good at obeying orders, and afraid or ashamed 
of nothing. Since its organization he had been an 
efficient member of the Committee, and had been sent 
on many missions of danger and importance. He 
had little delicacy as to the nature of his work; he 
would as cheerfully play the spy or hang a criminal 
as eat his supper. All he required was a master 
strong enough to uphold him. 

It was a small matter, the arrest of these persons, 
although they were desperate characters; so Hopkins 
thought, as he called to his assistance but three or four 
men and started off in search of Maloney. Palmer, 
Cook, and Company's bank, corner of Washington and 


Kearny streets, was then one of the chief rendezvous 
of political leaders. Thither Hopkins and his com- 
rades proceeded, and soon learned that the person 
they sought was in the second story of the building, 
in the office of the naval agent, Richard P. Ashe, a 
Texan and an active manager in the chivalry party, 
who was now surrounded by boon companions. 

Stationing his men outside the bank, Hopkins 
stepped upstairs and entered the apartment of the 
naval agent and approached Maloney for the purpose 
of arresting him, when Maloney and all present, 
among whom were Judge Terry, Dr Ashe, and Mr 
Bowie, drew and cocked their pistols, and pointed 
them at him. Hopkins was unarmed. He did not 
enter the room for the purpose of shooting any one ; 
neither did he desire to be shot. Accordingly he 
withdrew, descended the stairs, and instructing his 
men to keep a strict guard on the building, he hastened 
for assistance. 

It happened that Dr Beverly Cole was just then 
riding by. Hopkins borrowed from him his horse, 
and giving it the whip galloped down to the Com- 
mittee rooms and reported the situation. The chief 
of vigilant police ordered him to return immediately, 
keep strict watch, and he would send him reinforce- 
ments. Hastening back Hopkins found his foxes un- 
kennelled. As he rode up, Maloney, Terry, Ashe, 
McNabb, Bowie, and Mr Howe, all armed with double- 
barrelled shot-guns, were just turning the corner of the 
bank building from Washington street into Kearny. 
Hopkins threw himself from the horse and called on 
his men to follow. There were but four beside him- 
self, James Bovee, D. W. Barry, H. A. Russell, and 
Joseph Capprice. 

Up Kearny street went the game and into Jackson 
street, the hunters hard at their heels, Maloney, whom 
alone the vigilants were after, having the lead with his 
friends between him and his pursuers. Double-bar- 
relled shot-guns loaded with slugs are not wholly safe 


in the hands of passionate men ; and it was not pleas- 
ant to the vigilants whenever they approached too 
near, that the men of law and order should wheel and 
bring the muzzles of their guns on a level with the 
eyes of their pursuers. Yet thus they proceeded up 
Jackson street nearly to Dupont street. Hopkins 
then attempted to rush past Terry and Ashe, who 
were in the rear, for the purpose of seizing Maloney. 
Terry presented his gun and prevented Hopkins from 
passing. Hopkins grasped the gun ; those in front of 
Terry turned to his assistance and pressed Hopkins to 
the ground. 

At this juncture Ashe levelled his gun at Bovee's 
breast ready cocked with finger on trigger. But he 
hesitated. It was becoming dangerous to shoot men 
in the streets of San Francisco. 

" Are you. a friend?" at length he cried. 

" Yes," said Bovee, therein, I fear, telling a lie. 

He might have been a spiritual friend, but corpo- 
really his action ill accorded with his word, for imme- 
diately the answer was given he struck Ashe's gun 
aside, and presented a revolver at his head. 

" Don't shoot!" cried Ashe. 

"Drop your gun, then, if you please!" replied 

Still facing the enemy, Ashe slowly retired 
toward the armory of the Blues, a law and order en- 
campment corner of Jackson and Dupont streets, 
whither it appears the party were tending, and where 
drilling was vigorously going on preparatory to anni- 
hilating the Vigilance Committee. 

Meanwhile Bowe, who had been helping Terry and 
Ashe against Hopkins and Bovee, raised his gun upon 
Barry, who just then rushed up. Barry seized the 
muzzle in his left hand and with his right placed his 
revolver at the head of Rowe, who thereupon dropped 
his gun and made for the armory.- The accidental 
discharge of a pistol, but directed as Terry thought 
against himself, brought matters to a crisis. For on 


the instant, quick as a flash, Terry drew from its 
sheath a large bowie-knife and plunged it into the left 
side of Hopkins' neck, to the depth of about six 
inches. Hopkins staggered back and cried: "lam 
stabbed ! Take them, vigilants !" Terry, Maloney, and 
those of the party remaining fled and took refuge in 
the armory. Close behind them were Bovee and 
Barry, but the fugitives managed to gain admission, 
when the iron doors were slammed shut, and barred. 
The two vigilants then took their station at the en- 
trance to prevent egress or ingress and thus waited 
the arrival of assistance. 

Presently a pompous, portly man made his appear- 
ance at the armory door and demanded admittance. 
He was ordered to stand back. 

"Do you know who I am?" asked the pompous, 
portly man. 

" I don't care a damn who you are," was the plain 
though somewhat profane reply. 

" I am Major-general Yolney E. Howard," whis- 
pered the commander of the law and order forces. 
" Do you want to see this city laid in ashes?" 

" You cannot enter here." 

The pompous, portly man stood aside, and another 
applicant for admission appeared in hot haste at the 

" I am a lieutenant in Calhoun Benham's company, 
and was sent here to — " 

" I am a member of the Vigilance Committee and 
you cannot enter," said Barry. 

" What ! Have the Vigilance Committee possession 
of this building?" 


" The lieutenant turned, rolled his eyes over his left 
shoulder, and glided round the corner. 

" This came quickly to our ears," says Coleman, 
"and sounded like the explosion of a magazine. I 
saw instantly the magnitude of the new labor and 
the new responsibility. It was not only to vindicate 


the common law of punishment for crime, but we had 
a law specially provided for the protection of our 
people, that any violence done them should receive 
exemplary punishment. And to feel that the pre- 
siding judge of the supreme court of the state had 
voluntarily left his home at the capital and had placed 
himself in this most unfortunate position was an 
utterly unsatisfactory and undesirable denouement." 

The vigilance alarm now sounded, two or three 
quick taps, rest and repeat; and orders were at once 
issued for Terry's arrest. Immediately the streets 
were alive with men, many of them with their arms 
full of muskets and sabres, hurrying to head-quarters. 
Those who could quickly find their companies took 
their places; those who could not were ordered to 
fall in anywhere. Soon scores of vigilant squads 
were on the streets marching or running toward the 
armory of the Blues. Conspicuous among the vigil- 
ants was the agreed signal of the white badge in the 
button-hole of the left lapel of the coat. 

Merchants left their customers, clerks dropped their 
pens, and mechanics their tools. Draymen sprang 
from their seats, stripped their horses of the harness, 
all save the bridle, and mounting rode briskly away 
to the scene of action, leaving their loaded trucks 
standing in the street. 

Mr Dempster was in his store at the time, and 
when one of his clerks rushed into his office with the 
news, upon the instant he jumped into his buggy 
which was standing at the door, and although head- 
quarters were less than four blocks distant, and 
although he whipped his horse into a run, so dense 
was the crowd before he reached the building that he 
was unable to get within a block of it, and springing 
to the ground he left horse and vehicle unattended 
and untied in the middle of the street and forced his 
way on foot as best he could through the dense 
throng eagerly hastening thither; nor did he see his 
horse again until next day, when he found it had 


been safely stabled by some one unknown to him. 
On entering the building he found the men hastily, 
but in silence and without the least confusion, falling 
into line. 

"All right!" exclaimed Dempster, encouragingly. 
" Keep cool; take your time about it." 

"Ah, Mr Dempster," was the reply; "we have 
been long and anxiously waiting to make the clean 
sweep !" 

As one of the war committee Mr Dempster then 
hastened to the corner of Jackson and Dupont streets. 

Colonel Olney was lame at the time. During a 
certain arrest a day or two previous, while the police 
were conveying the prisoner to the committee rooms, 
there was a great rush of people, which it was deemed 
advisable should not crowd so closely on head-quarters 
as to hamper the movements of the men. Olney was 
ordered to throw a line of vigilants across Sacramento 
street, just above the corner of Front street, to stop 
the rush. He did so; but the multitude overran the 
whole of them. The colonel was knocked down and 
his ankle sprained. 

He was at his boarding-house on Stockton street 
when the alarm sounded next day, and one of his men 
appeared before him almost breathless, saying that 
Terry had killed Hopkins. Olney 's foot was so swollen 
that he could not get his boot on ; but seizing one be- 
longing to a large-footed boarder, he hobbled down 
stairs and out into the street; where he found himself 
in a crowd of excited people. 

Then what should he do ? He could hardly walk at 
all ; head-quarters were at least half a mile away, and 
the thought that his absence might mar that day's 
doings was unpleasant to entertain. There was not a 
moment to lose ; to get a horse in that neighborhood 
was impossible, and he could not walk. What was to 
be done? 

While thus speculating, every second seemingly an 
hour, his eyes fell on the wagon of a kerosene dealer who 


had driven up and stepped to the sidewalk just as the 
alarm sounded. In a moment Olney was in the driver's 
seat, and with reins and whip in hand was lashing the 
horse like a fury, toward the Committee rooms. The 
driver had barely time to scramble up beside him as 
the horse sprang forward, scattering the affrighted 
people to either side. One glance into the sternly set 
features of Olney's face satisfied the driver that ex- 
postulation would be in vain. Away they rattled 
down the street; the colonel whipped and the kero- 
sene flew. The empty cans danced out of the 
vehicle, and the full ones overturned and scattered 
their contents upon the cobble-stones. Presently the 
dealer mustered courage and said : 
"You are spilling all my kerosene." 
"Damn your kerosene," was the reply. Then re- 
membering that this poor pedler should not be made 
to suffer for the daring deeds of chivalry, the colonel 
added, "I will pay you for your kerosene." 

Arrived at head-quarters the colonel called for his 
horse, a magnificent white steed, and was lifted to its 
back. The horse alone was worth a hundred men that 
day. No sooner was he mounted than round him rallied 
the Citizens' Guard, the pride of the committee, and 
within twenty minutes they were off for the armory 
of the Blues. 

The marshal with a large force promptly occupied 
all the streets in the vicinity of the armory. The ren- 
dezvous of the state forces was surrounded almost in- 
stantly after the striking of the vigilance alarm, so 
that the escape of the inmates was impossible. Two 
pieces of artillery were planted before the building, 
ready loaded and with match lighted. A committee 
consisting of Dempster, Smiley, Truett, Tillinghast, 
Rogers, and Ward was appointed to proceed to the 
seat of action and advise with the marshal in the field. 
Excitement round the armory now roared explo- 
sively; the people were wild. The chivalry declared 
vehemently that they would die where they were 


rather than yield, and in the ranks of the organized 
vigilants anxiety was depicted on every face. For a 
moment the sky presaged a time of terror. But though 
at first the state forces so stoutly swore resistance, they 
soon saw how extremely futile any efforts of theirs 
would be. They saw failure, ay, they saw their cause 
doomed, the wiser of them, in the hurrying horsemen 
with drawn sabres, hurrying not confusedly but as 
under the all-seeing eye, and in the squads of infantry 
with glittering bayonets marching hither and thither, 
marching not without purpose, but as under the all- 
directing mind. 

Within the walls of their armory, now their prison, 
ebullient passion had settled into dark, malignant hate. 
They talked together now in quiet tones, though deeply 
muttered curses were not unmingled with their sober 
converse ; they talked as men with whom every uttered 
word had its meaning. From their windows they saw 
the surging mass below, and as by common consent 
bravado was laid aside. They now felt the few moments 
left them within those walls was the little point of time 
upon which hung their destinies. Terry did not know 
but that the man he struck was dead; and the furtive 
glances cast from the window at the angry multitude 
below left in his mind loose and unsubstantial the 
slender thread that held his life to earth. 

"This is very unfortunate, very unfortunate," said 
Terry, now beginning to realize the insensate folly of 
his proceedings, "but you shall not peril your lives 
for me. It is I they want, I will surrender to them." 

" There is nothing else to do," replied Ashe, "but first 
of all we must try to escape the fury of this mad crowd." 

Ashe was captain of company A, and commander 
of the armory. A loud ringing rap at the iron door 
now brought him to the window of the second story. 

" I demand instant surrender of these premises," 
exclaimed Grand Marshal Doane. 

" I will open the doors on condition our safety be 
guaranteed us," replied Ashe. 



" There is no condition about it," returned Doane, 
" open the doors or I will blow up the building." 

"Judge Terry is here and will make no effort to 
escape. If any of the executive committee are here 
I will send them a written proposal." 

The war committee then stepped forward, ready to 
hear what the commander of the state forces had to say. 
Mr Ashe retired from the window, but returned pres- 
ently, and passed out a note which read as follows : 

"San Francisco, June 21st, 1856. 
"Gentlemen of the Vigilance Committee: — 

"If the executive committee will give us protection from violence we 
will agree to surrender. 

"R. P. Ashe, Captain Company A. 
"J. Martin Reese, 1st Lieut. Co. B." 

The war committee then entered a German bakery 
situated next door to the armory, to write a reply. 
The proprietor was absent, but his wife, a hearty in- 
telligent woman with a lager-looking baby in her 
arms, granted the intruders the permission which they 
asked, to use her counter as a writing-table. 

" You need not be afraid," said Mr Dempster to 
her assuringly. 

" Indeed, sir," she exclaimed, with a smile of confi- 
dence, "I am not afraid of the Vigilance Committee." 

" But we may be obliged to fire upon the building," 
continued Mr Dempster. 

" You may fire and welcome," returned the woman, 
" only let me get the children out." There was really 
more danger than the woman supposed; but if all ap- 
prehensions of danger should pass unknown, as indeed 
much belonging to real danger does, nine tenths of 
the world's misery would be obliterated. 

The reply of the war committee then passed into 
the armory read as follows : 

" Corner of Dupont and Jackson Streets, ) 
San Francisco, June 21st, 1856. \ 

"R. P. Ashe and J. Martin Reese, commanding: — 

1 ' Gentlemen : We have to say in reply to your communication of this date 
that if Judge Terry, S. R. Maloney, and John B. Philips, together with the 


arms and ammunition in your possession, be surrendered to the charge of our 
body, we will give you and the building in which you now are protection 
from violence. Yours, 

"By order of the executive committee of which we are members. 

"No. 12, No. 13, No. 50, No. 645, No. 332. 

"An answer required in fifteen minutes, it being now ten minutes to four." 

To which answer was made : 

"San Francisco, June 21st. 
" Gentlemen of the Vigilance Committee: — 

" If you will agree to see that Judge Terry and Mr Maloney will be also 
protected, while in your hands, from violence from persons outside of your 
organization, then we will agree to surrender on the terms of your note just 
received. Respectfully, 

"R. P. Ashe, Capt. Co. A. 
"J. Martin Reese, Lieut. Co. B. 
"P. S. — Lieut. Philips is not with us." 

This was answered as follows : 

"June 21st, 1856. 
"i?. P. Ashe and J. Martin Reese, commanding: — 

"We agree to protect Judge Terry and S. R. Maloney from violence from 
parties outside of our organization, as proposed, and beg leave to remind you 
that the time proposed in our first note has already expired. 

"By order of the executive committee, of which we are members. 

"Nos. 12, 13, 50, 332, 645." 

Immediately upon receipt of this last communica- 
tion the doors of the armory were thrown open by 
those within, and a company of vigilants marched in. 
All present were disarmed. Terry and Maloney were 
taken charge of and the armory was quickly swept of 
its contents. Three hundred muskets and other muni- 
tions of war were carried out and placed on drays. 
Two carriages then drove up, in one of which was 
placed Maloney and in the other Terry. Both were 
attended by a strong escort, Olney forming round 
them with his Citizens' Guard, increased to a battal- 
ion. Then in triumph the Committee men, with 
their prisoners and plunder enclosed in a solid body 
of infantry and these again surrounded by cavalry, 
marched back to their rooms. The route taken was 
along Dupont street to Washington, down Washing- 
ton and through Kearny, Clay, and Montgomery 

Pop. Tbib., Vol. n. 25 



streets, to and down Sacramento street. The proces- 
sion was attended by a larger crowd even than that 
which honored Casey and Cora with their presence. 
Arrived at head-quarters, Terry and Maloney were 
conducted to separate cells. 

The prison portion of the vigilant premises, situ- 
ated in the most easterly of the three buildings, was 
fifty varas, or one hundred and thirty-seven and a 
half feet in depth. There were at times fifteen cells 
partitioned from the main hall, constructed of boards 
and closed from floor to ceiling, though but nine are 
represented in the cut previously given. All the per- 
manent cells were on the west side of the room. 
There was never more than one prisoner confined in 
each apartment, and at the door of every occupied 
cell stood constantly a man on guard. Terry's cell, 
the largest in the building, had two windows and was 
situated at the south-west corner of the room. It 
was not by any means secure, but the distinguished 
prisoner was most carefully guarded. All or nearly 
all the other cells were dark. 



The world, the flesh, and the devil. 

Prayer Book. 

Come we now to the crisis of the crusade. It was 
the moment when tidings of Terry's arrest reached 
the executive chamber. The three o'clock meeting of 
Saturday afternoon had been called to order by Mr 
Thompson, one of the vice-presidents, but when Hop- 
kins was stabbed John P. Manrow occupied the chair. 
It was now about half-past four. Little George Ward, 
the Hotspur of the association, being always on his 
feet, and hence not having to rise in addressing the 
meeting, offered the following resolution, which was 
adopted: "That the grand marshal be ordered to take 
possession of all arms and munitions of war that may 
be found in the hands of our opponents, or that may 
be likely to fall into their hands." 

Nothing could have been more opportune than this 
step at this juncture. That it was unpremeditated 
there can be no question, for the Terry affair was not 
only wholly unexpected, but was deeply regretted by 
the Committee, as well as by himself and his friends. 
A general fight would have entailed less danger to 
the law and order men than the falling of any of their 
number into the hands of the enemy. This motion 
of the little Hotspur displayed well-convoluted brains. 
Besides possessing pluck and quickness, Hotspur's 
head was tolerably clear. 

At all events, this motion and what followed from 
it broke the backbone of the chivalry. The vigilante 

V 387) 


were all eager for it. They were tired of the jeers and 
insulting braggadocio of their opponents; they longed 
for some determinate action. 

About the same time, which was shortly after four 
o'clock, Curtis writes from Jackson street to the ex- 
ecutive committee: "We have caged Terry, Ashe, 
Maloney, and a man who presented a loaded weapon 
at one of our police. Shall those who made resistance 
be brought to garrison? I have orders now only for 
Terry and Maloney." Curtis was directed to arrest 
those whom he had named. At the same time it was 
made a rule " in case of armed resistance to police 
while in the act of arresting any criminal, that said 
police have the power to arrest all such persons." 

There were other companies drilling at this time 
besides those commanded by Ashe and West, who 
held themselves under state orders. Calhoun Benham 
had a company; likewise John C. Hays, Biggs, Ryan, 
Monroe, and Regan all had companies which drilled 

While a portion of the vigilant forces stood guard 
over Maloney and his judicial protector at the Blues' 
armory, a cowp cVetat was executed by the others, 
which, for an army of such miscellaneous and recently 
organized material, displayed consummate generalship. 
This was the stroke, this the blow that laid low the 
agents of outraged law and of disorder. Simultane- 
ously, and almost before the men who executed the 
movement were aware of it, every important law and 
order encampment in the city was surrounded by the 
vigilant forces, their inmates made prisoners, and their 
arms and munitions of war seized and conveyed to 
the head-quarters of the Committee on Sacramento 
street. The open and violent collision with the. 
vigilance forces was the death-blow to the opposing 
party; and there is no question now that in the event 
of Hopkins' death a justice of the supreme court will 
be executed by the Vigilance Committee. This pre- 
sents nothing new in the popular tribunal principle, 


but if it happens it adds greatly to the cares of the 

And this is the way the thing was done. On re- 
ceiving instructions to that effect from the Executive, 
the marshal instantly detailed squads to scour the city 
in different directions in search of arms, and of men 
bearing arms against the Committee. The force was 
divided into four parties, which started simultaneously 
for suspicious places. As before stated, a strong de- 
tachment had been left to guard the remaining inmates 
of the Blues' armory, some sixteen in number, who 
were still held prisoners by the vigilants, and these 
were now ordered to head- quarters. 

The next most important rendezvous of the law 
and order forces was the armory on the north-east 
corner of Clay and Kearny streets, in the large brick 
building known as the Merchants' Exchange. Before 
this building Marshal Doane appeared with his forces. 

The work was not accomplished without resistance 
on the part of the law and order forces. At the first 
alarm members of the different companies rushed to 
their armories, but in most instances only to find them 
in the hands of the vigilants. Some gained admission 
before the seizure of their encampment, but many 
were repulsed at the door, and drifted purposeless and 
ungeneralled about the streets. 

When the column enclosing the Blues' armory cap- 
ture arrived at the Kearny-street armory on their 
way to the Committee rooms, the vigilant forces there 
stationed presented arms, and the main body halted. 
Detachments were then drawn from it and added to 
the guard surrounding the Kearny-street armory. 
These were so stationed as to insure the surrender of 
this law and order stronghold. Palmer, Cook, and 
Company's building was likewise placed under guard. 
The main body then moved on to Sacramento street. 
To the Exchange building cannon were then brought 
and planted, and matches lit. A formal demand was 
made for the surrender of the place. Six o'cl<>< 1 


was the hour, and the inmates were informed that 
their answer must be decisive, and quickly given. 
Within were portions of the Jackson Guard, the 
Union Rifles, and the Continentals, numbering to- 
gether about seventy -five men. General Howard had 
shortly before reviewed these troops, but he was not 
at present within the building. Colonel J. R. West, 
late United States senator from Louisiana, was now 
in command of the armory. He refused at first to 
surrender in absence of his superior officer, and asked 
for time. The Committee regretted they could not 
accommodate him in this respect; he could see the 
situation as well as any one; he might surrender the 
armory or take the consequences. Nothing was said 
by the officer in charge about a little note in his 
pocket, which read as follows: 

" To Col. West, or the officer in commar.d of the building known as the California 
Exchange: — 
"Sir: You are authorized to surrender the building under your com- 
mand, when there is no reasonable prospect of a reasonable defence. 

"Volney E. Howard, 
" Maj. Gen. 4^ L Division, Commanding in San- Francisco." 

West scanned thoughtfully his little company, then 
looked at the cannon and ran his practised eye along 
the vigilant lines which stretched far up and down 
the street, and over into the plaza, and was satisfied. 
" Captain O. B. Crary and myself," says Mr Dempster, 
" went into the hall. There was a great deal of ex- 
citement among the law and order men, weapons were 
brandished and we were threatened; only fear prevented 
an attack on us by some of them." After a few mo- 
ments of further conference West surrendered, and 
marched his men to the door one by one to deliver up 
their arms. As each passed out his gun and accoutre- 
ments, he marched back into the armory. The armory 
being thus emptied of its power for evil, the guns and 
ammunition were placed in wagons and taken to the 
Committee rooms. About two hundred and fifty stand 


of arms were thus secured from this armory. Marshal 
Doane then entered the armory with his aids, and in- 
formed the officers that they might retain their side- 
arms. In manner similar the armory at Madame 
Pique's Hall, corner of Sutter and Kearny streets, 
that of Calhoun Benham's company, near the corner 
of Montgomery and Pacific streets, and others were 
taken, making in all some two hundred prisoners and 
a thousand stand of arms, beside pistols, swords, and 

It was thorough work they made of it; a clean 
sweep. Fort Vigilance was crammed with arms and 
prisoners, and it taxed their commissary somewhat 
to provide for the capacious mouths. The friends of 
the prisoners came in scores to ascertain what the 
Committee were going to do with them. They were 
not serious offenders, nor was it the wish or intention 
of the Committee to hold them in durance. Their 
arrest and temporary confinement during the heat of 
action was deemed a wise precautionary measure. 
Some of them volunteered their parole; from some, 
testimony would be taken; all would probably be soon 
discharged. So the friends of chivalry were assured. 

Until about ten o'clock at night the inmates of the 
other several armories were held confined in their 
own strongholds by vigilant guards. They were then 
brought out two by two, many of them handcuffed 
in pairs, formed into a line in front of the exchange 
building, and surrounded by a guard of one thousand 
foot, and one hundred cavalry with drawn sabres dis- 
posed round the infantry. When all was ready they 
were marched down to the Committee rooms and 
there confined during the night. " It was a sad sight, a 
sad sight in a free republican city," groans the Herald's 
reporter. "Men marched through the streets as pris- 
oners of war whose only crime was fealty to the laws 
and constitution which they had sworn to uphold." 
Navy biscuits were given them to eat and the floor to 
sleep on. For this the Herald gives the "mercantile 


junta" due credit and adds: "We regret they did not 
•stretch their hospitality a little and have thrown in a 
small invoice of codfish." 

Says Smiley, who had been scouring the town at the 
head of a company and came in late in the night hot 
and tired: "After the last gang of men was brought 
in we went into the Committee room, and the question 
came up, 'What shall we do with them?' The bloody 
reds and communes were for hanging and quartering 
them. Some proposed lashing, others suggested keep- 
ing them on bread and water for thirty days. Truett 
and I took a more conservative stand. I said, 'Gen- 
tlemen, we are all too hot. Let us be manly in our 
victory. Let us go home and take a rest and think 
about it.' We went down at ten o'clock on Sunday to 
decide what to do. The proposition was made that 
they run the gauntlet, and be paraded through the 
town. I moved that they be forthwith discharged, 
with the admonition that if found in arms again 
against the Committee they would suffer the severest 
penalties. This motion passed. I went into the room 
where they were all handcuffed, about hash-time, with 
their tin cups, taking their meal. I called to the com- 
panies and told them to bring them into line. I 
ordered their handcuffs taken off; and said to them 
that I had been requested to discharge them, and to 
say that if they were found in arms again against the 
Committee they would be subjected to the severest 
penalties. They marched out two abreast, and away 
they went. I saved them from indignities, from in- 
sult, from imprisonment, and perhaps from the cart- 
whip ; but they gave me the blame of all they suffered ; 
and for a year or two afterward they gave me showers 
of brick-bats and insulting words, and to this day bear 
me a grudge." Thus with the exception of two, Cor- 
poral Tice and Lieutenant Kennovan, all were per- 
mitted to depart, and were even escorted as far as 
Battery street by a file of vigilants. 

"They looked like Falstaff's recruits," says Mr 


Parvvell, "the dirtiest, raggedest, most miserable look- 
ing dogs that ever were seen. We handcuffed them, 
two together, and marched them out and down to 
our head- quarters. There was a great crowd of people 
in the streets, and they hooted at our prisoners." 
And Mr Dows dictation reads: "There were two 
hundred of them, I think, hangers-on, loafers, poli- 
ticians, and all grades of fellows, a promiscuous and 
motley crowd. They were a harmless set of vaga- 
bonds." "We had a barrel of handcuffs," says Mr 
Watkins. And yet another: "Such a set of gallows- 
looking scoundrels were never collected in one crowd. 
Their faces alone would almost have convicted them 
of any crime with which they might be charged before 
an intelligent jury." 

But where was the gallant Howard? Where all 
this time was the jolly giant, the genia] fat man, the 
pompous portly general of all the chivalry forces, he 
who would lay the city in ashes, he who would sweep 
the damned pork-sellers into the bay? Where was 
the gentle Volney? 

Immediately after the caging of the chivalry we 
found him at the door of the armory where he did 
not gain admittance. His sensitive nature was some- 
what hurt at the abrupt manner of the man w T ho 
denied him access to his friends; and turning from 
the stern door-keeper more in sorrow than in anger, 
he crossed over to Washington street, and turned 
down toward the lower side of the plaza, thinking to 
drop in at the other Johnsonian armory and seek 
consolation from Colonel West. But alas ! these were 
evil times for great men. Volney knew he was a 
great man, and he took it for granted every one knew 
it. So he carried himself as one surcharged with 
greatness. It was his misfortune to be great, not his 
fault. He could not help it. He was born great. 

See, now, as he reaches Brenham place. A score; 
of vigilants on their way to the Blues' armory stop 


and regard him intently from the north side of Wash- 
ington street. Presently one cries : " There goes 
Terry!" and in an instant the rabble were after him. 
"Oh, the curse of being distinguished!" thought 
Howard. "Strange that blood and chivalrous bear- 
ing should be so quickly detected by base-born ple- 
beians; all learned and courteous gentlemen look alike 
to them. They might take me for a worse man than 
Terry, but that is a bad name just now upon the 
street." The general's powerful brain worked rapidly, 
but there was no time for further thought before the 
crowd was upon him, insisting that he was Terry, and 
that he must go to the vigilance head-quarters. 

It happened, at this moment, that Olney, at the 
head of his gallant company, was hurrying up Wash- 
ington street at double quick, and approached Bren- 
ham place just in time to hear the shout, " There goes 
Terry!" and to see the crowd rush after him. His 
first thought was that the notable justice had escaped. 
Turning to the left and leading his battalion into 
Brenham place, quick as thought he threw a file of 
men round, and enclosed the whole body of people 
with Howard in their midst. The movement was 
executed with an ease and rapidity which would have 
thrilled the heart of an old soldier. There was no 
hesitating, bungling, nor confusion. Bound that 
wrangling crowd they went, taking their place with 
military precision; and before the disputants were 
aware of it, they were completely fenced in. 

Howard was not happy. This was a phase of great- 
ness wdiich he did not relish. I blush to say it, but 
the fact is the general was afraid, was very badly 
frightened. Olney says he was frightened out of his 
wits; but Colonel Olney forgets that all great men do 
not have wits. As the Citizens' Guard closed around 
them the rabble rushed forward and seized the general 
by the collar. Then Olney rode up to the centre of 
the group, and Howard cried out: "Olney, do you 
want me?" 


" No, general," said Olney. " We are not after you 
at present." Then turning to the crowd Colonel 
Olney said, " That's not Terry; let him alone." Then, 
indeed, Howard was happy. " You never saw a man 
so rejoiced," said Olney. 

An hour alter we find the redoubtable general of 
all the chivalry forces standing on the corner of Clay 
and Front streets in a position prodesse quam conspici. 
There he stood at the vigilant outpost as near to 
head-quarters as he could get, while a messenger an- 
nounced to the Executive that the state commander-in- 
chief thus stood, desirous of parley. Although the 
action now taken by the Committee was quite ex- 
ceptional, yet in view of the facts that this man, 
fortunately for his enemies, did command all the state 
forces in California, and that it was impossible by 
reason of vigilant sentry to approach nearer head- 
quarters than he now stood, the Executive resolved, 
"that a committee of three be appointed to meet 
Volney E. Howard at his request." Consequently 
the president and two others met the general, and a 
short conference was held at the store of R. E. 
Brewster and Company. 

Howard was a good talker, particularly good for 
one who had nothing to say. Talking was his forte; 
he could talk better than he could fight, though this 
he did not know. On the present occasion he had 
merely to say that he desired to impress upon the 
minds of the gentlemen members of the executive 
committee that they were outlaws, that they were 
taking upon themselves unwarrantable responsibilities, 
and that he would surely put them down within sixty 
days, as he had sent to the general government for 
aid, and he would have it. He stated further that 
David S. Terry was in the hands of the city police, 
that he would be taken to jail, and would be protected 
by his party, in which last remark the general out- 
spoke himself. It was a fault in his otherwise match- 
less delivery, that he forgot entirely to pause at the 


penumbra of truth, but would carry his hearers as far 
beyond the boundary of light and shade as they cared 
to go. Further than this, Howard desired to appear 
before the Committee in a body. The president and 
gentlemen of the embassy informed Major-general 
Volney E. Howard that they would report his words 
and wishes to the Committee. But lest a greater 
evil should come upon them the Executive immediately 
passed a resolution "that no communication be had 
with Volney E. Howard except in writing, and that 
the committee appointed to wait on Howard notify 
him of this resolution." The said committee were 
likewise requested to pass the general beyond the 
vigilant lines. Since the Sherman-Johnson misun- 
derstanding the Committee were determined that 
there should be no further opportunity for prevarica- 
tion on the part of the opposition, but that all com- 
munications between the respective parties should be 
in writing. 

Now may we not indulge in a little godly boasting, 
in view of the behavior of officers and men that day? 
How orderly all were! How careful to make no 
arrest, or to indulge in no overt act without instruc- 
tions from head -quarters! During all that wild, 
tumultuous time the Executive sat in their chamber 
and directed every movement. Invisible, omnipotent, 
and omniscient, their powers and intelligence bordered 
on that of the deity. Their forces were absolutely at 
their command. Had they said slay, sweep the butch- 
ering, blood-thirsty men of law from the earth, it 
would have been done, so great was the confidence of 
the men in their leaders; so all had sworn. But calm, 
just, and benevolent were the councils of the Execu- 
tive that day. Midst all the mad excitement, never 
were they cooler, never were they more careful that 
every step should be free from mistake. They would 
do, if necessary die, but they would do and die for 
high and holy principles, for wise conduct and dis- 


criminating action, and not for such deeds as the one 
indulged in by the learned justice of the supreme 

And let the men be praised; those who labored 
hard, risked much, and could reap but comparatively 
little. There is a pleasure in bearing and directing 
power which we do not find in simple obedience. 
Many a general has sent other armies and his own to 
destruction merely for the fun of the thing. Many a 
multitude have rushed on destruction of their own 
accord merely for the fun of the thing. Such generals 
were cruel, and such men insane. But these shop- 
keepers, carpenters, and bricklayers, with wives and 
little ones, did not covet destruction for themselves, 
their families, or the city. They did not covet honor, 
profit, or revenge; they desired only that liberty and 
peace which would secure to their sons honesty, and 
to their daughters comely virtue. And this they were 
determined to have. I find in history no better or 
purer motives actuating men than these. If men 
must needs butcher men, I see no more reasonable 
excuse than this. And notwithstanding they were 
very warm on the subject, in head and heart, con- 
science and duty held an overwhelming restraint upon 
their passions, and they played the men that day, not 
the mob. Honor to these, the bone and sinew of San 
Francisco, I sa}^ ; honor to those noble-hearted, hard- 
muscled workingmen who staked their lives that day 
for virtue and fair morality! 

This day's deeds, by citizen soldiery scarcely six 
weeks organized, for order and discipline, for speed 
without confusion, for deep determination without 
passion or nervous excitement, exceed anything we 
find in history. It was a sight which those who wit- 
nessed never forgot. There were flashing eyes and 
firmly set lips, but there was no blanching. There 
was little talking; and for once the jokes and repartees 
so characteristic of Californian crowds were sunk in 
the solemnity of the occasion. These men could not 


forget what they were arming for. The result did 
not trouble them; if they could not win they could 
die. But there was manifest with them none of that 
appetite for blood and battering so apparent among 
the fire-eating chivalry. Principle, not passion, was 
the sentiment that swayed every vigilant breast and 
nerved every vigilant arm. "Of all the field days of 
the whole campaign," exclaims the president with just 
pride; "of all that partook of brilliant military evolu- 
tion and complete success, this day probably excelled." 
" I should like to enlarge," says Mr Dempster, " on 
the very great credit deserved by the rank and file of 
the Vigilance Committee, for the thorough discipline 
and good behavior displayed by them on the day the 
armories were taken. I should wish to enlarge on the 
cheerful sacrifice of their time by laboring men and 
the risks they took which did not, to such an extent 
at least, affect the more prominent members of the 

Turn now to the victim of this tragedy. As before 
recorded, when the blow of the lawless jurist fell on 
Hopkins' neck he cried, " I am stabbed ; take them, vig- 
ilants!" and staggered back still holding the supreme 
justice's musket which he had wrenched from him. 
Supported by his friends, he walked into the Penn- 
sylvania engine-house near by; physicians were sum- 
moned and the wounded man was made as comfortable 
as possible. As soon as the sad intelligence could be 
conveyed them, his wife, mother, sister, and brother 
came to him and lent such aid as only fond devotion 
can give. For several days his life hung fluttering 
between two worlds, the while chances of recovery 
were deemed against him. 

Dr Cole thus speaks of the case : " I entered the 
building, and there I found the wounded man Hop- 
kins, sitting on a chair bleeding profusely from the 
wound, and also from the mouth and nose, extremely 
pale and ensanguined, and immediately on my enter- 


ing he fell into the arms of those surrounding him in 
a state of syncope from loss of blood." After de- 
scribing an exceedingly dangerous operation the doctor 
goes on to say : " Yet it was successfully performed, 
the man being so far exhausted from loss of blood, 
however, before the commencement of the operation, 
that when the ligatures were about to be thrown 
around the vessel, he had become so weak as to induce 
one of the surgeons present to urge me to be as quick 
as possible, he having lost his pulse, and to all ap- 
pearance being in extremis." 

Hopkins was poor material, truth compels me to 
say, for a first-class martyr. His wife and mother 
were — women. The people had raised some thirty 
thousand dollars for King's family, and as the two 
near and dear ones sat and watched the night away, 
Dr Cole heard the mother remark to the wife, " If 
Stephen dies you will be a rich widow; the Vigilance 
Committee will look out for that." Hopkins also 
heard it; for turning his face toward them he ex- 
claimed, " Don't flatter yourselves, I am not going to 
die; unless," he added, sotto voce, " it were to see Terry 
hang." If the mother was mercenary, the wife was 
not, like Caesar's, above suspicion; and yet Hopkins 
was not as jealous as Othello about it. Captain Crary 
tells a story of him too indecent to print. All which 
argues in favor of the fairness of the Committee being 
as ready to deal with a high criminal as with a low 
one, and to right as promptly the wrongs of the mean- 
est of their servants, as their own. Probably never 
in the annals of the state has raged such intense ex- 
citement, both in city and in country, as on this Sat- 
urday and Sunday. 

A glance at the Herald's editorial the morning 
after the coup d'etat forces us to confess that it is 
the hollow hypocrisy of one who scruples at no 
deception to maintain a false position, who would 
shield crime and throw a veil of sophistry over polit- 
ical rottenness, hiding his ostrich head under a bush 


rather than look the evil which was his ruin in the 
f ace — I S ay the writer of this editorial appears wil- 
fully untruthful or insane. Yet I cannot altogether 
denounce Mr Nugent as one abandoned of truth and 
honor; rather let me think that he was honestly 
trying to bring himself to believe what he knew to be 

" The last extreme of ignominy which the poten- 
tates now usurping supreme dominion could put upon 
the officers of the laws, the representatives of all that 
remains to us of the constitution of our country, has 
been reached. The Hon. David S. Terry, of the su- 
preme court of California, has been arrested, and is 
now a close prisoner in the dungeons of the bastile. 
The cause of his arrest has been given elsewhere in 
our columns. He has been guilty of no crime." Oh 
shame, where is thy blush! "A sworn conservator of 
the public peace, he was unwilling to see a violation 
of that peace committed in his presence by an act of 
forcible abduction and kidnapping of a free citizen by 
the myrmidons of the present dynasty, who, not 
content with doing acts of lawless violence in our 
streets, must add the needless affront of perpetrating 
them in the very presence of the highest officers of 
the law; nay, more than this, must wantonly outrage 
the honor of the state and the self-respect of every 
good citizen by a violent and deadly assault with 
arms upon the person of a judge of the highest court 
of judicature in the state." 

It is worse than time wasted to show that logic 
so tangle-footed will not stand upon its legs; and the 
thick-strewn fallacies are so shallow that a child of 
ordinary intelligence could scarcely be deceived by 
them. One more paragraph and I will pass on. 

"We venture to assert that there is no jury in 
England or the United States which upon the evi- 
dence of this case of Judge Terry would not without 
leaving the box render a verdict of acquittal, and 
that this verdict would be received with acclamations 


by the people. No man would be more willing or 
anxious than Judge Terry to refer himself to the 
tribunals of his country and to a jury of his peers for 
trial, to stand or fall by their judgment." Of this I 
have not the slightest doubt. The truth will crop out 
in places under the editor's pen in spite of himself. 
"But no; this privilege which the constitution of the 
United States and of this state secures to him is 
denied, and the humiliating spectacle is presented to 
Californians, of their own high officer, selected by 
their free, unbridled suffrages, taken by violence and 
escorted by bayonets of alien soldiers to the walls of 
a dungeon, to be tried, and, perchance, convicted 
without the forms of substance, and in violation of 
every justice, right, or even decency." 

Sunday's sun rose bright upon the city. Glad 
hearts gathered in groups about the streets and talked 
of the events of yesterday. Worshippers quietly 
wended their way to church, and all was serene as 
eternal Sabbath. Let those whose breasts are on this 
day filled with grateful praise thank God for another 
bloodless victory. Let all the people praise Him. And 
let those noble men, those men of lofty principles and 
temperate practice, let them in his holy sanctuary 
praise God to-day for having given them grace calmly 
and righteously to perform their duties of yesterday 
under pressure of great excitement, and while in the 
possession of unlimited power. Great citizens of a 
great city, holding the fate of it in their fingers; and 
not a hair of the head hurt, even of the head of the 
monster crime which they had grappled ! 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 26 



False by degrees and exquisitely wrong. 


The evening of the day of his arrest, preparations 
were made for the trial of Justice Terry. That the 
Committee hoped to make quick work of it is evident 
from the fact that at this meeting a motion was made 
and carried : " That we proceed to the trial of David 
S. Terry at ten o'clock A M., June 2 2d, 1856, and 
that after the trial has commenced, no recess to exceed 
thirty minutes shall be taken unless for want of evi- 
dence." Not only was this rule shortly after rescinded, 
but the trial was several times postponed. The same 
rules were adopted to govern in this trial which ob- 
tained in the trial of Casey. It was further resolved, 
" that no vote of the executive committee inflicting 
the death penalty shall be binding unless passed by 
two thirds of those present, providing that the trial 
jury shall not be composed of less than twenty-six 
members or two thirds of this body." This was after- 
wards changed so that three fifths could convict. 

The committee on evidence was then directed to 
notify the distinguished prisoner that if he had any 
witnesses to be summoned, he should give their names 
in order to prepare for trial on the following day. 

Upon the loss of their arms in the emeute of the 
21st of June, the state rulers sent up another wail to 
the United States authorities for aid. Boutwell 
seemed to be their only sympathizer, and a pretext 
was now offered him, in the imprisonment of Ashe, 



United States naval agent, to bombard the city, which 
he was greatly desirous of doing. 

Sunday morning the executive committee received 
a letter from Captain Boutwell of the United States 
ship John Adams, desiring to know how long Mr 
Ashe would be detained by the Committee. The 
Committee replied that the time for his deliverance 
had not been determined upon ; that it was their de- 
sire to afford him all possible facilities for the per- 
formance of his official duties, and that they trusted 
these unavoidable circumstances would occasion no 
inconvenience to the commander of the Adams, nor 
delay the departure of his ship from this port. 

Ashe, being a federal officer, required delicate 
handling. That it was an outrage for a man in the 
employ of the general government to mix in the local 
affairs of the city, and to render himself obnoxious 
to the better sense of the best men, the Committee 
keenly felt. But their object was not war with the 
federal government; they merely wished to flush their 
political sewers and go about their business. This 
was necessary, and to accomplish it they would wage 
war in any direction if necessary, but they did not 
deem it necessary to involve themselves in difficulties 
with the United States government; and as Ashe 
had not been arrested for any crime, on receipt of the 
following communication it was resolved to discharge 
him, which was done the day after his arrest : 

" To the Executive Committee of Vigilance:— 

"I feel innocent of having committed any crime, and it is under the belief 
that you do not accuse me of any that I write to ask to be allowed to go on 
parole. If your body should allow me this favor I do promise, as a man of honor, 
strictly to comply, as far as being neutral in word and action while on parole. 
My official business must necessarily suffer while confined here. I will of 
course stand in readiness to obey your call. 

"Yours, with respect, ' R. P. Ashe, Captain of Co. A." 

It is somewhat singular that it seems never to have 
occurred to Ashe or 'Terry that their official business 
suffered while intermeddling with the local affairs of 


San Francisco, or until they were incarcerated for 
violent interference. After taking his testimony in 
the case of the people against Terry, Ashe was dis- 
charged. Lieutenant Haxton of the ship Adams was 
permitted to be present while Mr Ashe was giving 
his testimony. 

Subsequently Ashe begged to be released from his 
promise, complained of the hard -heartedn ess of the 
Committee, and requested a copy of his letter. Mr 
Ashe was informed that release from his promises to 
the Committee would not be granted him, and that 
his case would not be opened unless he surrendered 
himself a prisoner and so cancelled his parole. 

It was in the manner and style following that Vol- 
ney now spoke to the Committee: 

"Head-quarters, San Francisco, June 21, 1S56. 
" To William T. Coleman and others, styling themselves The Vigilance Committee: 

"Gentlemen: I learn that a person named Hopkins, claiming to act 
under your authority, a short time since visited the room of Judge Terry in 
this city, rushed upon him, and attempted to disarm him, and otherwise 
assaulted him. Judge Terry in self-defence was compelled to use a knife, 
with which he inflicted a severe, and, perhaps, a mortal wound. 

' ' From all the circumstances, as detailed to me, I have no doubt that 

should Hopkins unfortunately die, it would be a case of justifiable homicide. 

"I am informed that Judge Terry is now in the hands of the police, and 

that the house in which he is situated is surrounded by a large armed force 

under your orders. 

" I demand that the force be withdrawn and that Judge Terry be left in 
the custody of the officers of the law alone ; that if he be in your possession 
or power he be restored to the officers of the law ; and I pledge myself that 
he shall be held in safe custody to abide his trial and all legal proceedings. 

' ' This is the only course which will avoid an immediate collision of arms, 
involving the peace of the state. Volney E. Howard, 

"Maj. Gen. Fourth Division Commanding in San Francisco. 

"B. W. Leigh, Acting Aid-de-camp." 

Monday, the 23d of June, Mr A. P. Crittenden 
directed a letter to Terry which the Committee de- 
clined to deliver; likewise the same day Judge D. O. 
Shattuck addressed an appeal to the Committee on 
behalf of Terry. By order Judge Shattuck's mes- 
senger was informed that the Committee had no reply 


to make to his letter. Mr Crittenden was admitted to 
Terry's cell for half an hour the next day; likewise a 
delegation of citizens consisting of Balie Peyton, Ashe, 
Thornton, Perley, Lubbock, McAllister, and Benham. 
Letter from Judge Terry to the Committee : 

"San Francisco, June 24th. 
* ( To the Executive Committee of Vigilance: 

"Gentlemen: I desired to see Mr Crittenden for the purpose amongst 
other things of requesting him to say to you on my behalf, that I have a wife 
and child dependent on me for support; that my personal affairs are compli- 
cated and involved, and as I have never confided my business to others it can- 
not be readily understood and settled except by myself ; that if deprived of an 
opportunity of giving them my personal care for say two weeks, I believe no 
agent or admr. could or would save anything for my family, whilst I would be 
able in the above time to settle with all creditors and ensure to them a mod- 
est competence. 

" For the purpose of ensuring to my wife and boy a support in case by 
your verdict they were deprived of my protection, and also to give me an oppor- 
tunity of vindicating my fair name which is dearer far than life, I request 
that the charges against me be submitted to a legal tribunal in this city. The 
judges of the criminal courts here are, I believe, allowed by you to be honest 
in this case. You, by your power and influence over Scannell, can secure 
what you would consider an honest and intelligent jury, or if you distrust 
Scannell I will agree that the jury may be summoned by a person named by 
yourselves and for whose honesty you will vouch. I will interpose no delay 
except as above stated; will make no application for a change of venue or for 
bail, and will object to no juror because he is a member of your body or organiza- 
tion, for although at present the V. C. are naturally much incensed against me 
yet I will be well content after a few days give time for reflection to submit my 
cause to a jury composed of honest men though all may be members of the V. (J. 

"I will further agree that if death should ensue from the wound inflicted 
by me, I will at once resign my position, will make all the necessary arrange- 
ments, and if acquitted, will at once leave the state should you require it. 

" I make this request solely for the reason that I do not wish to leave my 
family dependent on the charity of others; for myself I have sufficient fortitude 
to endure without flinching any fate which providence may have in store for me. 

"If you do not grant the above request, I suggest that as to some of the 
specifications against me transpiring years since and at a distance, the wit- 
nesses are not forthcoming at this instant, but are near by in San Joaquin 
county, I desire time as to those charges (say two days), in which to pro- 
cure those witnesses, as well as the most respectable gentlemen of Stockton 
from all sections of the Union to refute the aspersions upon my character. 

"I submit the foregoing for your consideration. I am not personally 
acquainted with any of you, but am informed that your body is composed of 
men of honor. If so, you desire only to do justice, and I think no injustice 
can be done by pursuing the course I have indicated. 

"Respectfully, etc., D. S. Terry." 


The same day the sergeant-at-arms announced to 
the Executive that the deputy United States Mar- 
shal was at their outpost demanding admittance to 
the building. Mr Dempster waited on the marshal, 
and on his return reported that his demand was prob- 
ably for J. R. Maloney. The police and surveillance 
committees were then directed to remove Maloney, 
and such other prisoners as they might deem expe- 
dient, from the building, preparatory to the introduc- 
tion of the marshal. The marshal was then admitted. 
In his search for Maloney the marshal, accompanied 
by Mr Dempster, entered the cell of Terry, but Mr 
Dempster would not permit any conversation between 
the two. After an unavailing search the marshal re- 
tired, and Malonej" was brought back to his cell. At 
the morning meeting of the 25th it was ordered, 
"that in case any writ or subpoena issues from the 
United States court for Judge Terry, every effort to 
secrete him and thus avoid collision shall be resorted 
to, but in no case shall the said Terry be surrendered." 
The 2d of July the director of police informed the 
Executive that he expected every moment the sheriff 
of Contra Costa County with a writ of habeas corpus 
for the body of Louis Maloney. The director of 
police was instructed to put Mr Maloney out of the 
reach of the sheriff. 

In many ways Mr. Maloney was interceded for; 
instance the accompanying letter: 

"San Francisco, July 2, 1856. 

"At the request of Mr Maloney and his friends we beg leave to submit to 
you the following considerations, hoping that they may be of use to him in 
his present circumstances. We have known Mr Maloney many years, when 
a resident in the Atlantic States. Of the truth of the particular charges 
which may have been brought against him (they not having been made public) 
we of course are entirely ignorant. 

"During the many years we knew him upon the other side, no charge 
derogatory to his character as a gentleman came to our knowledge. 

' ' From our previous knowledge of Mr Maloney we should be blow to 
believe that he has by criminal practices forfeited his good name and character, 
and brought disgrace upon his respectable relations upon the other side, whose 


honor and good name are intimately bound up with his. We address you as 
a mere matter of justice to one many of us have known from boyhood, and 
with the belief that what we have written will be received in the spirit in 
which it is submitted and will receive at your hands the weight and consid- 
ation to which it is entitled. 

' ' With great respect, your obedient servants, 


"Thompson Campbell, 
"Thos. W. Sutherland, 
"W. W. French, 
"P. Bequette, 
"Walter M. Rockwell, 
"Jas. C. L. Wadsworth, 
"Wm. Bothwell, 
"Henry B. Truett. 
" To the Executive Committee of the Vigilance Committee of San Francisco.''* 

Three gentlemen of the executive committee were 
appointed to remain near the door and attend to such 
outside business as might be offered in order that the 
trial of Terry might not be interrupted. On Wednes- 
day John Sime informed the Committee that there 
certainly was an organized plan of attack upon the 
vigilance building to take place that night by men 
with side-arms. 

Whereupon at the next meeting Jules David offered 
the following resolution, which was adopted: 

" In view of the large number of prisoners now in this garrison, and of the 
danger of an attempt at rescue by our enemies ; therefore, resolved, that the 
marshal be directed to keep, until the trial of D. S. Terry is concluded, 
within these buildings a force of not less than seventy-five men, and to post 
sentries at the fol 1 owing points : Four men at the corner of Front and Sacra- 
mento streets ; two men at the corner of Battery and Sacramento streets ; 
four men at the corner of Commercial and Front streets; four men at the 
corner of Davis and Commercial streets ; four men at the corner of Davis and 
Sacramento streets ; two men at the corner of California and Davis ; four men 
at the corner of Front and California streets ; two men at the corner of Front 
and Battery streets ; two men in front of M. F. Truett's building, besides a 
strong guard inside of the sand-bags on Sacramento and Davis streets. Also to 
keep a picket of twenty-five armed men on the lower floor of this building, ready 
to be inarched at a moment's notice to any point where they may be needed. " 

For such troublous times, for purposes of defence, 
the vigilance quarters were weak, the Committee 
knew they were weak. They were chosen for their 


convenience of location, and intended only for tempo- 
rary use. Their cause was fortified in the hearts of 
the people, where alone their strength lay. Blow to 
atoms Fort Vigilance, seize their arms and ammuni- 
tion, raze to the ground every building in San Fran- 
cisco; all this does not affect the cause one whit; only 
a slaughter of the citizens will persuade them from 
renovating their city. Almost any spot would serve 
as a rendezvous. 

Every eifort was made to intimidate members of 
the Committee; numberless letters were written and 
messages sent to members of the Committee, con- 
taining threats against property and life. It was their 
determination if possible to capture the Executive, 
and either hold them as hostages, or dispose of them 
in some other way. Certain of the Committee were 
so sure that attempts at capture would be made, that 
on going home from the Committee rooms at night 
thev carried a cocked revolver in their hand. Others 
would not go home at all, but bivouacked at head- 
quarters. A body of Texans, they were told, were 
coming from the San Joaquin region to take them. 
They would attack them from the Bay, and so appre- 
hensive of it were they that they blocked all the 
sewers by which approach to head-quarters could be 
made. Their plan was said to be to carry in gunpowder 
through the sewers and blow up the buildings. 

It is said that for weeks during the trial a sharp- 
shooter lay hidden in the saloon on the north-east 
corner of Front and Sacramento streets, who in case 
Terry was hanged purposed with a rifle-ball to cut the 
rope. Whether this story is true or not it shows to 
what desperate straits their thoughts led them for his 

As his last resource, the governor on the 27th of 
June addresses a strong appeal to Captain Boutwell, 
concluding thus : 

"From the state of things now existing in San Francisco, and I may say 
in other portions of the state, I have no hesitation in saying that his life is iu 


imminent danger and peril from the lawless violence of said Vigilance Com- 
mittee, and it is wholly beyond the civil and military power of this state to 
protect him from such threatened violence, without the resort to means which 
would, in all probability, involve the state in civil war, a calamity greatly to 
be deprecated under all circumstances, and which I am most earnestly desirous 
shall be averted. 

"Wherefore, in the name and by authority of the power vested in me as 
governor of the state of California, I ask at your hands, and with the power 
and means under your command, the protection and security of the said David 
S. Terry from all violence or punishment by said Committee or any other 
power, except such punishment as may be inflicted on him in due course of 

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name, and caused 
to be affixed the [l. s.] State of Calif ornia, on the 27th day of June, 1856. 

"J. Neely Johnson." 

Judge Terry also appeals to Bout well, sending his 
letter by one of the friends which the Committee 
were lenient enough to admit to his presence. 

"San Francisco, Cal., June 28, 1856. 

"Sir : I desire to inform you that I am a native-born citizen of the United 
States, and one of the justices of the supreme court of the state of California, 
and that, on the 21st day of June instant, I was seized with force and violence 
by an armed body of men styling themselves the Vigilance Committee, and 
was conveyed by them to a fort which they had erected and formidably in- 
trenched with cannon in the heart of the city of San Francisco; and that, 
since that time, I have been held a prisoner in close custody, and guarded day 
and night by large bodies of armed men with muskets and bayonets, by order 
of the said Committee. I desire further to inform you that the said Committee 
is a powerful organization of men acting in open and armed rebellion against 
the lawful authorities of this state ; that they have resisted by force the exe- 
cution of the writ of habeas corpus, and have publicly declared, through their 
organs, that their will was the supreme law of the state. 

"The government of the state has already made ineffectual efforts to quell 
this rebellion, and the traitors, emboldened by success, have already hung two 
men and banished a great many others, and some of their members now openly 
threaten to seize the forts and arsenals of the United States, as well as the 
ships of war in port, and secede from the federal Union. 

"During my imprisonment I have suffered the indignity of being hand- 
cuffed by these rebels, my friends are denied all access to me, and all kinds of 
terrorism are resorted to to compel me to resign my office. I desire further 
to inform you that said Committee is now engaged in trying me as a crim- 
inal for attempting resistance to their authority, and also for an assault with 
intent to kill one of their members, whilst I acted solely in defence of my 
own life against their assaults on the public streets, and that I am in hourly 
danger of suffering an ignominious death at the hands of these traitors and 


' ' In this emergency I invoke the protection of the flag of my country. I 
call on you promptly to interfere, with all the powers at your disposal, to pro- 
tect my life from the impending peril. Let me remind you of the conduct of 
the noble and gallant Ingraham, when the life and liberty of a man only claim- 
ing to be an American citizen was concerned. From your high character, I 
flatter myself that this appeal will receive your early and favorable consider- 

" I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"David S. Terry, 
"Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of California.'''' 


In the supercillious tone of one born to command 
ain Boutwell now writes the Committee : 

"U. S. Ship 'John Adams,' \ 
San Francisco, Cal., June 28th, 1856. J 

"Gentlemen: You are either in open rebellion against the laws of your 
country, and in a state of war, or you are an association of American citizens 
combined together for the purpose of redressing an evil, real or imaginary, 
under a suspension of the laws of California. If you occupy the position as- 
signed to you by Judge Shattuck, one of your ablest judges, and one who 
sympathizes with those who wish to reform abuses under the law, I, as an 
officer of the United States, request that you will deal with Judge Terry as a 
prisoner of war, and place him on board my ship. But if you desire to oc- 
cupy the position of a party of citizens acting under a suspension of or against 
the law of California, you will, I think, on reflection, and from a desire to 
conform to the requirements of the constitution of your country, from a due 
regard to justice, and, above all, from a desire to avoid the shedding of 
American blood by American citizens, on American soil, surrender Judge 
Terry to the lawful authority of the state. You, gentlemen, I doubt not, are 
familiar with the case of Kostza. If the action of Captain Ingraham in inter- 
fering to save the life of Kostza, who was not an American citizen, met the 
approbation of his country, how much more necessary is it for me to use all 
the power at my command to save the life of a native-born American citizen, 
whose only offence is believed to be in his effort to carry out the law, obey 
the governor's proclamation, and in defence of his own life. The attack of 
one of the policemen of the Vigilance Committee, who perhaps would have 
killed the judge if the judge had not wounded his adversary, was clearly 
without the sanction of law. Gentlemen of the Committee, pause and reflect 
before you condemn to death, in secret, an American citizen, who is entitled 
to a public and impartial trial by a judge and jury recognized by the laws of 
his country. I trust you will appreciate my motives and consider my position. 
I most earnestly pray that some arrangement may be effected by which peace 
and quietude may be restored to the excited community. 

' ' I have the honor to be, very respectf ully , your obedient servant, 

"E. B. Boutwell, Commander. 

"To the Executive Committee of Vigilance.'" 


To this communication the captain of the Adams 
received the following reply : 

"Executive Committee Chambers, "I 

San Francisco, June 28th, 1856. J 
"Dear Sir: Your communication under even date with this, was re- 
ceived a short time since, and I am directed by the executive committee to 
state to you that its contents will receive our consideration. 
' ; I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"33, Secretary." 

After which Boutwell wrote the governor somewhat 
discouragingly : 

"U. S. Ship 'John Adams,' \ 
Off San Francisco, Cal., June 29, 1856. J" 

" Governor: I have had the honor to receive your communication of the 
27th inst. , and after giving it the consideration so important a document de- 
serves, I am sorry to be compelled to inform you that the unanimity with 
which the people of the city of San Francisco deprecate any interference on 
the part of the federal government with their affairs, would, I think, were I 
to interfere, do much injury, endanger the life of Judge Terry, and delay 
the settlement of the unhappy controversy now existing between the state 
government and a very large proportion of the citizens of the city of San Fran- 
cisco. I understand that the condition of Mr Hopkins is improving, and, in 
a few days more, he may be so far recovered as no longer to afford the 
Vigilance Committee any excuse for keeping the judge in custody. A civil 
war, the greatest of horrors, ought to be avoided, if possible, and any inter- 
ference of mine to obtain the person of Judge Terry, without the sanction of 
the Committee, may bring about one. I could destroy the city of San Fran- 
cisco with the guns of the John Adams, but, in the ruins, friends as well as 
others would suffer. If I could persuade the Committee to set Judge Terry 
at liberty, I should be most happy to do so. If I demand his release, and 
they fail to give him up, I must either batter the town down or render myself 
ridiculous in the eyes of the world, and incur the displeasure of my govern- 
ment, neither of which is consonant with my present feelings. If Hopkins 
dies, and the Committee condemn Judge Terry to death, I will make an ef- 
fort to save his life in such a manner as not to be offensive to my fellow- 
citizens. I have the honor to be your obedient servant, 

"E. B. Boutwell, Commander. 

"His Excellency J. Neely Johnson, Governor of the State of California." 

Boutwell, not satisfied with the somewhat curt reply 
of the Committee to his letter, on the 30th of June 
writes again reminding them of his communication of 
the 28th, and requesting an answer. The committee 
replied : "We have submitted the whole correspondence 
to your superior officer, Captain D. G. Farragut." 


It will be remembered that prior to the organization 
of the committee the Adams had been lying at an- 
chor at Sauzalito; and shortly after she came over 
and took her station at the foot of Sacramento street, 
where she menaced head-quarters, and whence her 
captain made no secret she would take great pleasure 
in shelling the town. 

Little attention was paid at first to this movement, 
as the Committee had no thoughts of quarrelling with 
the home government; when so unexpectedly they 
found among their lodgers a justice of the supreme 
court and a United States naval agent, and the com- 
mander of the Adams seemed every day to grow more- 
and more belligerent, the Committee deemed it prudent 
either to yield obedience or to prepare for an attack. 
As they never were stronger than now, and had never 
for a moment faltered, they did not hesitate a moment 
what course to adopt. 

J. D. Farwell was at this time chairman of the 
marine committee, and as such it devolved on him to 
afford protection from attack from the sea. Imme- 
diately Boutwell began to threaten, a meeting was held 
and the following course resolved on: The plan was 
to place in an old hulk lying convenient two hundred 
vigilant sharp-shooters, picked riflemen; and the 
moment Boutwell opened fire, to lay this vessel along- 
side his ship by means of two tugs, the riflemen to 
begin their shooting the moment they came within 
range, and as soon as they reached the Adams to 
jump on board, clear the deck, and take possession of 
the ship. The hulk was made ready to slip her cable 
and fasten to the tug-boats in an instant; the tugs 
were kept in readiness night and day with steam up, 
and the riflemen were waiting ready at a moment's 
notice at head-quarters, so that it was estimated that 
half an hour at farthest would be ample time in which 
to silence the Adams, should she open fire at any hour 
of the night or day. If by any possibility this plan 


should fail, floats were prepared with combustibles at- 
tached with chains to swing with the tide, and so drop 
down upon the Adams. 

Another plan was for the committee to take posses- 
sion of Alcatraz and other forts in the harbor, and 
bring their guns to bear upon the Adams in case 
her commander carried his threat into execution ; and 
the generally expressed opinion was that had such an 
attempt been made not a man would have been left 
alive on board the vessel, there being among the eight 
thousand vigilants then under arms, many men-of-war's 
men and naval officers accustomed to marine war 
matters, to firing cannon, boarding vessels, and who 
were not afraid to make the attempt; and as she un- 
questionably would have been attacked on all sides by 
steam-going craft, her chances of escape would have 
been small. 

The evil enthusiasm of Bout well brought the Com- 
mittee into communication with Farrasfut, who gave 
the Committee to understand that he disapproved of 
the action of Boutwell, and assured them that so long 
as they continued in the line at present pursued and 
indicated, while regretting the existing state of affairs, 
he would not molest them. Very properly he hoped 
they would terminate their work as speedily as pos- 
sible, which the Committee assured him they would 
be only too glad to do. 

Mr Coleman had long personal interviews both 
with Farragut and with Wool in which he explained 
to them the nature, origin, and purpose of the cam- 
paign, and in these interviews and explanations both 
officers expressed themselves well satisfied with the 
integrity of the Committee and the necessity of their 
course. Both deprecated the rash action of the oppo- 
sition, and regretted the necessity that impelled the 
Committee into unknown depths; as officers their 
positions could not be compromised, but as long as it 
lay in their power, and so far as their influence ex- 
tended, the federal government should remain neutral. 


The great point with these gentlemen was whether 
there was in the movement anything of a political, 
secession, or Pacific-empire nature, and when satisfied 
that there was nothing of this kind, no disloyalty 
lurking under the guise of patriotism, as is too often 
the case, they were content as to the rest, and so 
expressed themselves. 

The same day that Bout well's letter was received 
by the Committee, Farwell and one or two others 
were despatched to Mare Island to see Farragut. 
All the Steam Navigation Company's boats were at 
the order of the Committee. Farwell took the four 
o'clock up-boat for Benicia, and ordered the down- 
boat to wait for him there. Proceeding to Mare 
Island the vigilants found Farragut in bed, it being 
by this time about twelve o'clock at night. Bousing 
him the messengers made known their business. 
They were courteously received, and wine placed be- 
fore them. 

Farwell then explained the character and purposes 
of the vigilance association, and expressed the hope 
that it might not come in contact with the federal 

" Your navy agent arrayed himself against us with 
arms upon the streets," said Farwell, "and we have 
taken him. We do not want him, and if you think 
the service will suffer, we will let him go." 

" No, no," exclaimed Farragut, " I don't think the 
service will suffer." 

" Boutwell threatens to fire on us," continued Far- 
well, " and we hope you will interpose your authority 
to prevent it." 

"Boutwell shall hear from me," was the captain's 

Captain Farragut continued to express sympathy 
with the Committee, although he had but little to say 
about it. Farwell spoke never a word about his old 
hulk, his two hundred riflemen, and his float of com- 


Shortly after Boutwell received the following letter 
from Farragut: 

"Mare Island Navy Yard, July 1st, 1856. 

"Dear Sir: I yesterday received a communication from the Vigilance 
Committee enclosing a correspondence between yourself and the Committee, 
in relation to the release of Judge Terry, and requesting my interposition. 
Although I agree with you in the opinions therein expressed in relation to 
the constitutional points, I cannot agree that you have any right to interfere 
in this matter, and I so understood you to think when we parted. The con- 
stitution requires, before any interference on the part of the general govern- 
ment, that the legislature shall be convened, if possible, and, if it cannot 
be convened, then upon the application of the executive. Now, I have seen 
no reason why the legislature could not have been convened long since, yet it 
has not been done, nor has the governor taken any steps that I know of to 
call them together. 

1 ' In all cases within my knowledge the government of the United States 
has been very careful not to interfere with the domestic troubles of the 
states, when they were strictly domestic, and no collision was made with the 
laws of the United States, and they have always been studious in avoiding 
as much as possible a collision with state-right principles. The commenta- 
tors Kent and Story agree that the fact of the reference to the president of 
the United States by the legislature and executive of the state is the great 
guarantee of state rights. 

" I feel no disposition to interfere with your command, but so long as you 
are within the waters of my command, it becomes my duty to restrain you 
from doing anything to augment the very great excitement in this distracted 
community until we receive instructions from the government. All the facts 
of the case have been fully set before the government by both parties, and 
we must patiently await the result. 

"Very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

" D. G. Farragut, Commandant Mare Island. 

" Commander E. B. Boutwell, commanding U. S. ship John Adams, Cali- 

" P. S. — We must not act except in case of an overt act against the 
United States. Yours, "D. G. F." 

In answer to which Farragut received the folio w- 

U. S. Ship 'John Adams,' \ 
>, 1856. / 


Off San Francisco, Cal. , July 2, 
"My dear Sir: I have received your letter of the first instant, and as I 
do not wish to 'augment the very great excitement in this distressed com- 
munity' by my presence, I shall go to sea as soon as possible. I think it due 
to myself, however, to state, that I considered my ship, after I left the navy- 
yard on Mare Island, to be under the command of Commodore Mervine, or I 
should have consulted you in regard to the action I took to obtain the release 
of Judge Terry, and therefore did not mean to treat you with any disrespect; 


indeed, I would have done so anyhow if it had been convenient. It is true 
that we concurred at one time in the opinion that we ought to wait for orders 
from Washington before taking any part in the San Francisco troubles; but 
the fact of your having consented to serve on a committee to settle the contro- . 
versy between the state authorities of California and the Vigilance Committee, 
induced me to believe that your opinion on the subject had undergone a 
change. In regard to the interference of the federal officers, I am unable to 
discover any difference, so far as the doctrine of state right is concerned, 
between the position of the commander of the navy-yard at Mare Island, who 
acts, or consents to act, as a commissioner to settle the terms of peace, and 
the commander of the John Adams, who writes a letter to the Committee of 
Vigilance, asking that the life of an American citizen may not be taken in 
haste, and that he may be dealt with according to the laws of his country. I 
am a state-rights man myself, and therefore do not believe that it is any part 
of the creed to overturn the laws of the state, hang men without a trial by 
jury, and imprison a judge of the supreme court. Independent of all this, 
they, the committee, have interfered with the federal government in arresting 
the navy agent of this port, without legal authority, and in violation of the 
dearest rights guaranteed by the constitution of the United States to every 

' ' In conclusion, sir, I must inform you that I have been applied to by the 
governor of the state, Judge Terry the prisoner himself, the collector of the 
port, the United States marshal of this district, and appealed to by the dis- 
tressed wife of the judge, to interfere in this unhappy controversy between 
a portion of the people of San Francisco on the one side, and the state on the 
other; and what I have done has been dictated by humanity, a conscientioua 
discharge of my duty, and I am prepared to meet the consequences. 

" I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, 

"E. B. Boutwell, Commander.'''' 

No notice was taken of this somewhat impertinent 
epistle by Farragut, except that portion of it threat- 
ening to put to sea, to which reply was made as 
follows : 

"Mare Island Navy Yard, July 3d, 1856. 
" Commander E. B. Boutwell, Commanding U. S. ship ' 'John Adams:' 
" Sib,: You will remain where you are, until further orders from me. 
' ' Your obedient servant, 

"D. G. Farragut, Commandant Mare Island." 

Up to the time of the arrest of the naval agent 
Ashe, Farragut had sympathized with the efforts of 
the Vigilance Committee. But Ashe was a federal 
official, and his person, under whatsoever circum- 
stances placed, must be regarded as sacred by federal 
commanders. No one had any respect for the gover- 


nor. Farragut does not seem to have been specially 
pleased with Johnson, Sherman, and Terry, and with 
their attempt to draw General Wool into their 
quarrels. He had respect for the reformers, whom 
he believed to be engaged in a good woik until they 
touched one of his little federal idols. They might 
defy the governor, and hang any one who was not of 
his fold. It made quite a difference as to the right 
of the matter, whether the person charged with bad 
behavior was a servant of the state of California or of 
the United States. 

The 30th of June Farragut briefly reviewed the 
situation in a letter to Dobbin, secretary of the navy, 
stating matters in the main correctly. Although 
written nine days after the affray, nothing is said of 
the arrest of Terry, Ashe, and "our old naval store- 
keeper Maloney." But soon afterward, nothing having 
intervened to alter the situation, Farragut's mind 
seems to have undergone a change. Evidently he had 
made up his mind, as some years later was the case 
with regard to fighting for or against his countrymen, 
that in case of a conflict, right or wrong, he must be 
found on the side of the strongest, which unquestion- 
ably would be that of the federal authorities. There- 
fore when he again wrote Dobbin the 2d of July, his 
tone in speaking of the Vigilance Committee had 
somewhat changed, and his statements were not all 
of them correct. The correspondence that followed 
between Farragut, Dobbin, and Boutwell becomes, 
lengthy and tiresome, and as it involves neither in- 
formation nor principle I will for the most part pass it 
by. The statement regarding the capture of the 
chivalry that "the Vigilance Committee claim it to 
be a successful revolution" was not true; and the in- 
timations that Ashe and others were released on 
account of the action or attitude assumed by the 
Mare Island commander were equally erroneous, 11 te 
Committee acting, in fact, without greatly concerning 
themselves about him. The discharge of Ashe was 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 27 


wholly voluntary on the part of the Committee, the 
letter from Farragut requesting them to do so not 
being received until after the naval agent had been 
set at liberty. 

By the 17th of July the government party "are 
unable to resist the grossest outrages and excesses 
committed by the vigilance party." By August fears 
were pretended lest the "associated mobites, styling 
themselves a vigilance committee," should steal some 
four millions of government money then in San Fran- 
cisco. Farragut well knew that he was misrepresent- 
ing the Committee and their acts when he wrote his 
government: "These people have been running riot, 
and setting all law and the constitution at defiance, 
and I did not know at what moment they would seize 
the money at the branch mint. The history of nearly 
all revolutionary movements shows such to be the re- 
sult the moment the canaille get the upper hand." 
Farwell, and Case, and Coleman, Farragut had seen 
and corresponded with on the subject. He knew 
them, their past lives and their present purpose. 
Does he really believe that they, with Tillinghast, 
Seligman, Brittan, Goddard, Hale, Meyer, Tubbs, 
Wallace, Titcomb, Rogers, Osgood, Hutchins, and the 
rest, will fill their pockets at the mint, or permit 
others to do so? Are they fair and manly words 
which place such men as Selby, Flint, Baker, Pearce, 
Vail, Hubbell, Grisar, Taylor, Badger, Sheppard, 
Webb, David, with half the other respectable mer- 
chants, and bankers, and mechanics of San Francisco, 
in the category of canaille ? 



On which side you please; I hear you. 


Egoism and patriotism are close akin, the one being 
for one's self and the other for one's country. Both 
are of divers phases, and may be admirable or detest- 
able. There is little apart from selfishness in gods or 
men; but there are some species of selfishness which 
are less unlovely than others; indeed, there is a s< 
ishness so refined as to be taken for the most exalted 
self-denial. Love and self-sacrifice are one form of 
egoism; hate and the sacrifice of others are another 

There have been instances where men have appar- 
ently loved their country more than themselves ; that 
is, where they would forego wealth, power, fame, if 
thereby they could the more fully benefit their country. 
But with most men it is found far easier to sacrifice 
others to their country than themselves. Whatever 
we or our country may be, we must uphold that right 
or wrong, and that is self-respect and patriotism. 
The patriotism of an opponent is a patriotism which 
has not one redeeming trait, being a subterfuge, a 
trade, a means of self-exaltation. 

The egoism and patriotism of David S. Terry 
not of this base order. He did not love himself to 
the hatred of all other men; he had a host of friends, 
for almost any one of whom lie would risk his I 
He did not love himself so far as to desire 
premest blessings and benefits for himself, the next 



best for his friends, and for his enemies none at all. 
Whatever may be said with regard to his enemies, he 
always had friends whom, so far as lay in his power, 
he preferred in honor and profit to his own interests. 
Elsewhere he preferred himself. 

Nor were his egoism and patriotism of the highest 
order. His loves and hates were tensely strung, so 
as to subordinate reason and the nobler instincts of 
the mind wherever were touched the objects of his 
solicitude. In the presence of his friends his self- 
regard blazed into a fiery tenderness for them; and 
this love he lavished on all born beneath his native 
skies, on all who saw as he saw, who entertained the 
same ideas of manhood, and translated honor and 
nobility of nature out of the same vehement lexicon. 

Turning to the history of Texas, we find no men on 
earth more brave, high-spirited, and chivalrous than 
those who fought out, first secession from Mexico, and 
then independence, and a proper place in the great re- 
public. There was everything about the conditions 
and environment, political and material, of the early 
settlers in Texas from the United States to make 
them strong lovers of country. Houston, Austin, and 
the rest were not always right, but they were gener- 
ally so, and were always found battling for what they 
deemed the best interests of a new and independent 
commonwealth. And this was not so very long ago; 
and there was not a Texan living in 1856 on whose 
character the early exploits of their countrymen were 
not visibly stamped. Look at Jack Hays, the Texan 
Ranger ; brilliant, fiery, fearless, but not more fearless 
and fiery then Terry, who likewise possessed marked 
talents as a jurist. Many old Californians will re- 
member Colonel Gift, a jovial southerner, skilled in 
blasphemy, the very counterpart of the psalm-singing 
Yankee. Hays was a prominent politician as well as 
warrior ; Terry's physical courage was in no way be- 
hind his mental ability. It was remarkable, the in- 
tensity of his nature in every direction; hence it is no 


wonder that when the bent of such a mind took a cer- 
tain direction, right or wrong, on any given proposi- 
tion, it would follow that line to the end, though 
destruction and death stood in the way. 

We can easily understand how, to these chivalrous 
southerners, the northern men of merchandise, with 
their prim and puritanical ways, were at times exceed- 
ingly distasteful. Besides the prejudices of class and 
country, the question of slavery was then at its hot- 
test, and entered into most of the measures of the day, 
permitting few permanent friendships between persons 
from the two different sections. Like the chivalry of 
Spain, and the upper class of all countries where en- 
forced labor is common, the southern gentleman looked 
clown upon work, even shop-keeping being placed by 
him in that category. He might own lands and ne- 
groes, raise cotton, tobacco, and hogs; but to manu- 
facture cloth from the cotton, to peddle out the tobacco, 
or cut up and smoke the swine — those were occupations 
more befitting the white trash, whether of the south 
or north. Thus we see how differently such men must 
ever be regarded by those who view them from differ- 
ent standpoints. 

He w as not sordid ; he could not love gold strongly ; 
while so fully absorbed by one passion, it was impos- 
sible for him hospitably to entertain all the other pas- 
sions. His intellect was subtile as well as broad and 
solid, yet its subtility was tinctured by the same preju- 
dice which discolored all other objects. He was a kind 
husband, a good father, and an honest man. Pie was 
mbued with a chivalrous sense of honor, but in his 
mind chivalry and honor were in their nature, as from 
a northern standpoint, misconstrued. The essential 
and fundamental qualities of both in the eyes of the 
bacon-venders were lacking. Chivalry, they claimed, 
he placed before humanity, and honor before justice. 
His nature was more than ordinarily fine, but his mind 
had been early deflected by environment. Take at 
that day a southern man with southern principles, 


place him in antagonism with northern men and north- 
ern principles, let him have withal a love of slavery, 
of feuclalistic force and mortal arbitrament in the de- 
termining of differences, surround him with an atmos- 
phere of flaming love of self, of kindred, friends, and 
country, of strong dislike toward things foreign, es- 
pecially if encountered in opposition to preconceived 
notions of manliness and honorable bearing ; cast such 
a character loose in California in the days of the In- 
ferno, give it boon companions, flatterers ; give it po- 
sition, influence, generous wine, and fair women — and 
you have a strong partisan, a man of honor and integ- 
rity among sympathizing friends; while among enemies 
it was impossible to foresee what at any moment might 
happen. It is a character glaring with inconsistencies 
and contradictions, a character which must needs 
gratify all its own law-breaking propensities, but denies 
under the statute any such right to others. 

There must have been much that was good in Judge 
Terry to have made him so many warm friends. But 
we must remember that at that time he was the cham- 
pion of a party, the representative of a powerful clique, 
whose instincts were, like his, displaying themselves 
by like exploits. Ashe and Terry in 1846 had been 
privates in Bellew's company of mounted rangers, 
under the command of Hays, of Taylor's division. 
"I know," says Ashe in his testimony at the trial, 
" that as a soldier and a patriot he has not his superior, 
and that as a citizen his characteristics are a love of 
equity, and a warm, kind, generous heart." He was 
proud and haughty in the presence of strangers. In 
the Blues' armory, just previous to his surrender, when 
Ashe assured him of his friendship, pledging himself 
to stand by him and fight it out, it is said that Terry 
burst into tears, and said: "No; I hate to surrender 
to a mob, but I have acted only in self-defence." 

As one among a thousand who had a clear opinion 
on the subject, I may mention Edward F. Northam. 
Mr Northam was a native of Newport, Rhode Island. 


His father was active as one of the merchants and 
ship-owners of that town when it ranked but third in 
importance among American ports. Naturally, when 
Mr Northam came to California he engaged in busi- 
ness, and when crime got the upper hand, he was 
active in putting it down. " Talk about the legality 
of the acts of the Vigilance Committee," says Mr 
Northam ; " was the Declaration of Independence a 
legal document? Were Luther's theses orthodox? 
How many of the great reforms, reformations, and 
revolutions of the world which have delivered man- 
kind from the power of evil have been legal 1 " 

Of one of the judges of the high court of California, 
the Nevada Journal of the 1 1th of July writes : 

"Foremost among the evils brought to light by the researches of the Vigil- 
ance Committee, is one which the community appears to have lost sight of in 
the hot pursuit of election frauds and kindred iniquities. An evil, too, the 
magnitude of which would hardly be appreciated at first glance, but which 
goes more directly to the foundation of society than any of those offences 
which have called down the just indignation of the people. We refer to the 
charge of favoritism as urged against our highest judiciary. 

"In this tribunal and its integrity, the public look for those enunciations 
of law and declarations of principles in which society originated, by which 
rights are maintained and wrongs redressed. In these, the precedents estab- 
lished by past wisdom, we have the guiding star for the jurist of the present, 
and that certainty of the law which best secures the safety of citizens. 

"But when the expounder of this law, raised as he of necessity must be 
from the people, carries upon the bench the prejudices of the man; whenever 
justice stoops to recognize either in favor or enmity to the advocate, or 
weighs in the scales aught but law, there is danger for the people and shame 
for the bench. 

"Thus perverted, we can easily imagine such a state of affairs, and equal- 
ly foresee its disastrous results. We can fancy a judge, surrounded by syco- 
phants and flatterers, playing the wet-nurse to scores of legal bantlings, whose 
only merit is their slavish subservience, and whose fulsome adulations are 
the food of their idol. And rewarded by the fostering care of the bench we 
can picture these men crawling from beneath that ermine, which, adding 
authority to ignorance, and concealing neither, is itself disgraced. We can 
fancy these legal parasites, playing before the world upon those weaknesses 
which intimacy has revealed or confidence acknowledged, while real merit 
and ability stand distanced in the race where personal considerations out- 
weigh justice. We can see precedent distorted or disregarded, in order to 
raise some pygmy or crush some man, from enmity to its advocate, and 
wrong exultingly vindicated from a sickly fondness for its apologist. 

"Where such a state of affairs exists we can see no end to the mischief 
which must follow in its train. If justice cannot maintain itself upon its own 


high merits, it must be purchased through its familiar, and its suitor must 
approach the bench as do the subjects of eastern despotism the throne of the 
monarch, through some effeminate eunuch who ministers to the pleasures and 
pampers the folly of the tyrant. By the side of this monster curse lesser 
evils dwindle away. An imbecile executive we can endure. Senseless legis- 
lation can be remedied. But when, to the ignorance of the framers of our 
laws, we add corruption in its expounders and pets in its practice, the main 
pillar in our governmental fabric is rotten, the rights and security of the citi- 
zen are lost, and the state totters upon the verge of ruin." 

Mrs Terry was in Sacramento at the time of her 
husband's arrest. As soon as she learned of the un- 
fortunate affray she came to San Francisco, and pro- 
ceeded to the Committee rooms. She was at once 
admitted and treated with every courtesy. She was 
of a courage no less proud and fiery than that of her 
husband. Efforts had been made to induce the justice 
to resign his seat upon the supreme bench, and Hop- 
kins' pulse had much to do with his in the matter. 
When Hopkins was low Terry would resign; when 
Hopkins was up Terry would "see the pork-sellers 
damned first." Sitting one day in her husband's cell, 
she said to him: "Judge Terry, I would rather see 
you hanged from one of those windows than to know 
you were compelled to resign your official position I" 

A letter from Mrs Terry addressed to the public 
appeared in the Herald of July 2d. In it she com- 
plains of having been refused access to the room of 
her husband, and of the privilege of writing him pri- 
vately. The reason she assigns I will allow her to 
state in her own words: "I may mistake, but I be- 
lieve I am denied the happiness of seeing my husband, 
that my feelings may be so agonized that I shall be 
willing to entreat him to resign the office to which 
the voice of his fellow-citizens called him. I cannot 
tempt him to dishonor. I know my husband too well 
to suppose that any influence would induce him to 
betray a trust confided to his care. He may err in 
his zeal in defending that trust, but he cannot be 
coerced into resigning it. At the same time I know 
him well enough to believe that if a majority of the 


people of California desire to recall the trust with 
which they have honored him, he will yield a prompt 
acquiescence to such a wish, provided it be expressed 
in a way sufficiently clear to satisfy reasonable men 
that it is the will of the majority of the whole people." 

The fact is, Mrs Terry was treated by the Com- 
mittee as a lady and as an afflicted wife, with the ut- 
most politeness, and with the kindest consideration. 
For a time she was permitted to visit and remain 
with her husband as much as she pleased, but free 
and continued ingress and egress were deemed unsafe 
by the Committee, in view of the determined char- 
acter of the man, and the constant efforts of his 
friends to effect his escape. Her insinuation that 
the Committee sought by adding unnecessarily to her 
sufferings, to effect the resignation of her husband, 
we may excuse. The Committee, however, were not 
desirous of forcing his resignation in any way. In the 
first place, once liberated he could claim that such an 
act under coercion was illegal, anc so retain his seat; 
and in the second place, the} r could treat him as they 
did other captives if they thought fit — hang him if his 
victim died, and banish him from the country if he 
lived. I fail to see that it was a matter of much con- 
sequence to them whether he resigned or not. 

During the whole period of his confinement Judge 
Terry was treated with every courtesy and fairness 
by the Committee. All reasonable requests were 
granted. The day after his arrest Judge Thornton 
and Mr Crittenden were permitted to see and converse 
with him for a few minutes in the presence of Messrs 
Arrington and Truett of the Committee; Mrs Terry 
was admitted without escort beyond his door. He 
was regarded as a high state prisoner; his late official 
position was never for a moment forgotten; neither 
was the duty of the Executive to themselves and to 
the people. The prisoner was permitted to see his 
friends and family until after trial began, and until 
after threats to rescue him were freely bandied, and 


from that time the Committee deemed it incumbent 
on them to deny even Mrs Terry access to his cell. 
The person of Mr Terry was searched by the police 
after the visits of Mrs Terry, that no weapons or 
other implements might be left in his hands. 

" It is said," remarks the A Ita of June 25th, " that 
Terry is greatly affected by the position he now 
occupies, and deeply regrets the causes that led to his 
incarceration. The narrow compass of his dungeon, 
and the close proximity of a number of armed soldiers, 
are not calculated to give one of his proud, spirited 
feeling very agreeable sensations. His confinement 
will furnish him an opportunity for mature reflection 
upon his unjustifiable course for the last month, and 
doubtless will cause him to regret the unwise step he 
has taken. Great stress is placed upon the fact that 
he may have been assaulted first by Mr Hopkins be- 
fore he gave the deadly blow to his victim, and for 
this reason his friends claim that he is guiltless. It 
should be remembered that his offence does not con- 
sist merely in the attack upon Mr Hopkins, but he 
is justly censured and properly held responsible not 
only for the blood of Hopkins, but his continued and 
uncalled for warfare upon the Committee, the issuance 
of the worthless but mischief-making proclamation, 
as well as the illegal writ of habeas corpus, and the 
collection of arms in our midst, to be used against 
those who oppose his will. These acts, as well as his 
continual presence in this city, ready to encourage and 
bring on a collision between the parties, are charge- 
able to him, and for which he will be held responsible. 
It was rumored last evening and generally believed 
by his friends, that Judge Terry would in all prob- 
ability tender his resignation as associate justice of 
the supreme court, during the night. We trust this 
rumor is not without some foundation, as it must be 
evident to all that he can never exercise the functions 
of his office again to the satisfaction of the people of 
the state. He has already forfeited his moral right 


to the office, and the sooner he lays aside the judicial 
robes the better it will be. It cannot be supposed, 
however, that this step can have any influence upon 
the action of those who now hold him in custody. 
He will be tried upon the merits or demerits of his 
criminal conduct, regardless of any and all official 
honors. It was also said that his friends had pledged 
that if released now, he would leave the state volun- 
tarily; but little credence could be given to this 

" The difficulty at San Francisco is approaching a 
crisis," says the Nevada Journal of June 27th. 
"From gentlemen who have just returned from the 
bay, we learn that the Vigilance Committee are sorely 
tried. Their moral courage and integrity are put to 
the fullest test. It is undeniable that the outside 
pressure is almost overwhelming. The passions of 
the crowd are excited and demand blood to appease 
them. The life of Judge Terry is represented as 
hanging by a single hair. Outsiders are clamorous 
for his execution. If the Vigilance Committee stand 
up against the storm which now beats around them, 
and deal out impartial justice, unawed by the official 
station of their prisoner, or the danger from an infuri- 
ated populace, they will become the heroes of the day. 
Thus far, all is well. In them the people have un- 
limited confidence. They must not prove false to the 
trust reposed in them. The good sense and modera- 
tion of the whole state is invoked in this emergency. 
San Francisco rests upon a mine to which Governor 
Johnson and his demoniac crew are anxious to apply the 
torch. Why cannot some of the presses of the unhappy 
city be more mild, more rational, and more soothing in 
their appeals to an excited populace ? They arc adding 
vim to the whirlwind instead of tempering the elements. 
Moderation on both sides would soon restore order to 
its wonted channels once again, which is a consumma- 
tion devoutly to be wished. The public mind has been 
feverish long enough and needs repose." 


Had Hopkins been king of America he could not 
have been better attended. For upon his living or 
dying hinged much; more than the life of Terry 
hinged upon it, for that were not much. The Vigil- 
ance Committee, from the assumption of doubtful 
powers, might have been led into excesses, and so 
brought to shipwreck. Broderick would have remained 
longer in the flesh had Hopkins died. But Terry did 
not want him to die, nor Terry's friends, neither did 
the Committee, nor yet Hopkins, though Hopkins 
for a consideration would have remitted Terry's pun- 
ishment, and Hopkins' wife and mother for a consid- 
eration, peradventure, would not mourn their lives 
away had Hopkins died. Better to be a rich widow 
than a poor wife. 

A Committee was appointed to take charge of the 
invalid that he should not die. The house of the 
Pennsylvania Engine Company, number twelve, was 
furnished fit for royalty. The carriages were taken 
out, beds and carpets spread, and all the comforts and 
conveniences of the sick-room arranged. The street 
was closed, the sidewalk muffled, and guards marched 
solemnly to and fro. But however careful the vigil- 
ants were of Hopkins' life, the men of law and order 
were infinitely more so. Says Dr Cole, who had entire 
charge not' only of the case but of the premises and 
the officers in attendance: "So great was the interest 
felt in Judge Terry's fate by his friends in every part of 
the state, that I was hourly in receipt of telegrams from 
medical men and laymen from every quarter, particu- 
larly from Stockton, inquiring as to Hopkins' condition, 
and the probable result of the case; and I know that 
there was an organization brought into existence after 
the stabbing of Hopkins, composed of the friends of 
Judge Terry who were sworn in the event of Hop- 
kins' death to take my life, under the conviction that 
I was the employe of the Vigilance Committee, and 
that in order to establish a precedent and principle 
from the Committee's standpoint I would sacrifice 


the life of Hopkins." Instead of the Committee de- 
siring Hopkins' death, Cole goes on to say: "I was 
daily visited by the several members of the execu- 
tive committee, and on every interview with them 
the greatest possible anxiety was expressed in that 
direction, each seeming to recognize the magnitude 
and importance of a result which it was desirable by 
every possible means to avert." 

Dr Cole was called before the Executive for his 
opinion upon the condition of Hopkins. He informed 
the Committee that the wound would have proved 
fatal in five minutes but for the operation, and that 
the critical period would be from the third day to the 
twelfth day. 

The law and order men seemed fully to realize the 
importance of Hopkins' recovery. "I will give you 
ten thousand dollars to save that man's life," said a 
friend of Terry's to Dr Cole on one occasion, while 
the invalid was beginning to convalesce. During 
Hopkins' illness a bulletin of his condition was posted 
daily, round which eagerly crowded alike friends and 

The uncertainty of Hopkins' recovery, the efforts 
of Terry's friends, and pressing duties of the Exec- 
utive greatly retarded the trial. Both sides seemed 
backward about bringing it to a termination. The 
Committee did not wish to hang or banish the justice 
of the supreme court, and the justice did not wish to 
be hanged or banished. It was a business distasteful 
to both sides. 

The 5th of July the American Theatre Company 
tendered Hopkins a benefit while upon his sick-bed. 
About the coolest incident of this trial was his ap- 
pearance in person before the Executive on the 5th 
of August, asking an interview with Terry for the 
purpose of arranging the whole matter on a money 
basis ! It is unnecessary to say that the application 
of Mr Hopkins was denied. Subsequently he applied 
to the Committee for relief. 


Judge D. O. Shattuck of the superior court, a pure 
and upright man, whose integrity neither party called 
in question, thus sums up a lengthy argument in the case 
of Judge Terry, published in the journals of June 27th: 

"If my reasoning is correct it has demonstrated two things: first, that in 
the case of the death of Hopkins, which God in his mercy prevent, Judge 
Terry is not guilty of murder, for the blow was not struck feloniously and 
with malice aforethought ; secondly, that we are in a state of war, that there 
was a legal armed force organized against the Committee, that a portion of 
that legal armed organization, with which Judge Terry was at that time law- 
fully acting, was set upon by a squad of the forces of the Committee, and in 
that collision of forces the blow was struck, and therefore if death, it is con- 
sidered as the fate of war, and not individual crime." 

This is by far the fairest opinion delivered in the 
extenuation of Terry's guilt. Judge Shattuck was an 
able jurist, and honest in every word he said, yet it 
seems to me he begs the whole question. The Vigil- 
ance Committee was organized for the very purpose 
of setting aside such legal technicalities as "feloniously 
struck " and " malice aforethought." Perhaps Terry 
did not mean to kill Hopkins. It is difficult to say 
what he meant to do. But without a legal opinion 
from a learned judge, any of us may know that if 
Judge Terry had been exceedingly anxious to save 
Hopkins' life he would have kept that knife out of 
his neck. It was for this, I say, that the Vigilance 
Committee organized, to prevent men of violence from 
shielding themselves under the broad covering of legal 

As for the other excuse, that the country was in a 
state of war, in the ordinary meaning of the term, it 
was not true. In one sense there was war between the 
community and crime, there was no war between the 
people and the state. The proposition is a fallacy 
on the face of it. Johnsons proclamation, unless it 
were technically in accordance with such legal shifts 
and subterfuges as this Committee do not recognize, 
does not make war. If the authorities would attend 
to their own affairs, and let the people in their sover- 


eign authority exercise their sovereign will as they 
had the right to do in their work of exterminating 
crime, there would have been no trouble. The people 
were the master, and not Johnson. The only logical 
deduction from Judge Shattuck's line of argument 
would be that the people of San Francisco — and in- 
deed you may say of California, for nine tenths of the 
people of the state were on that side — had declared 
war against themselves, were in open revolt against 
themselves, and were fighting themselves, which rea- 
soning is simply reductio ad absurdwm. It would 
seem that a jurist can no more follow a train of rea- 
soning without marshalling to his support statutes, 
forms, and constitutions, than a religionist can let fly 
his thoughts unhampered by creeds and written reve- 

Judge Shattuck's paper on the whole is a singular 
document. Being lengthy, and the salient points 
already given, it is not necessary here to reproduce it. 
It was only one out of hundreds by able jurists and 
writers who took up their pens as champions for one 
side or the other. This of Judge Shattuck's com- 
manded more attention than almost any other, not 
that it was the most able, but from the general re- 
spect entertained for the author. Judge Shattuck 
was known to be an honest man, was known to be 
incapable of uttering other than his candid views, and 
was known to be no hot-headed partisan. His ob- 
ject was to throw oil upon the troubled waters, to 
calm the public mind, and to save Terry's life in case 
Hopkins died. And so far its tone was most excellent, 
though his law and logic would not stand the test of 
close scrutiny. His assumption of war and the meet- 
ing of Hopkins and Terry as two combatants was 
simply ridiculous. Hopkins was told to arrest a man, 
and not to kill one. 

At the Saturday evening session, June 28th, Mr 
Dempster made the following motion, which was 
carried: "That the secretary be and is hereby in- 


structed to detail five members from this Committee 
each night, beginning with the first names entered 
upon our roll and continuing regularly as there 
written, to remain in our quarters all night, and that 
the members so named if present shall remain them- 
selves or procure substitutes. Also, that the secretary- 
shall put upon the bulletin-board the names of mem- 
bers to be thus detailed as far in advance as possible. 
Also, that any member who shall neglect to remain 
all night when his turn comes, without seeing that a 
substitute takes his place, shall be considered guilty 
of gross neglect, and subject to such punishment as 
may be awarded hereafter." W. T. Coleman, C. J. 
Dempster, A. L. Tubbs, M. F. Truett, and N. O. 
Arrington were detailed for duty at the Committee 
rooms, under this order, the first night. 

The 28th of June the Herald comments on the 
affairs of the day before in its usual strain. "The city 
is still in a state of siege," it says. "Fort Gunnybags 
still frowns defiance upon the liberty of the people. 
Our streets are daily and nightly filled with armed 
men, who, associated with mercenary troops and con- 
demned muskets, cast a gloomy shadow upon the 
light of liberty. The cap of Gessler has been erected 
on a "Vigilance Committee pole, and we must all bow 
down to it and shout lustily, 'Long live the Inquisi- 
tion.' Business has been to a great extent paralyzed; 
the social relations have been severed; there is no 
good feeling extant; the worst passions have been 
aroused and the masses see nothing but red." 

What will be done with Judge Terry? was now 
the absorbing question. Day after day the law and 
order journals published columns of affidavits which 
made the sanguinary jurist a much abused man and a 
hero. He was not only innocent of crime, but he was 
to be honored for his action. In defence of the law he 
drew his dagger; in defence of himself he plunged it 
into an assailant. Public opinion, however, was little 
influenced by all this, and the popular will seemed 


to demand that even-handed justice should be dealt 
this man equally with his less intelligent tools. 

The friends of Judge Terry did everything in their 
power to procure his release. Howard importuned 
Coleman and stumped the interior, the Herald and 
the Sun editors raved like men in delirium, Johnson 
threatened to pour the forces of the federal govern- 
ment into San Francisco Bay inside of ninety days, 
and the lawyer outlaws would pluralize each life of 
the whole eight thousand that the penalty of every 
crime in the long catalogue which they had made 
might be visited upon them. 

Pop. Tkib., Vol. II. 28 



He hath resisted law, 
And therefore law shall scorn him further trial 
Than the severity of the public power, 
Which he so sets at naught. 


It was a severe ordeal for prisoners when brought 
before the grim tribunal and put on trial for their 
lives. Trepidation invariably broke them down. Far 
more imposing than any ordinary court of justice it 
struck terror into the hearts of the guilty. The ac- 
cused brought thither for trial could but feel himself 
cut oif from all those means of escape offered him by 
kind indulgent law. Terry, master of court hirelings 
and court machinery, could not but here feel him- 
self in the presence of his masters. He was over- 
powered by a sense of the power in whose presence 
he stood. It was so different from anything he had 
ever before seen or thought of. It was an awful 
reality. These men were now no damned mob, but 
the undamned power of the Almighty upon those 
who fell into their hands, and a certain respect for 
them arose in his mind. Bravado was of no avail 
here. He was humble everywhere, and in his cell 
he wept a few proud tears. When brought within 
the Executive chamber by the sergeant-at-arms, he 
faltered for a moment only. All eyes were on him, 
and they seemed all -searching like those of omni- 
science. He felt his soul laid bare as on the judgment- 
day. But quickly recovering himself he approached 
his seat with a firm step and dignified mien, and ad- 


dressing the president said: "I recognize your au- 
thority, and am ready to proceed with the trial." 

For all that Terry came to his trial in a very 
nervous state of mind. He could not but feel, as 
he would say, that he had been indiscreet. He 
had damaged the cause he sought to aid, had given 
his enemies a victory, and had placed his person in 
their power. But more than this, he now was made 
to fear those whom before he had only hated ; he was 
now made to feel the strength of those whom before 
he had despised. Caged by the mob, as he termed 
the populace who surrounded the Blues' armory, he 
burst into tears; brought before a tribunal of just 
men he was cowed. The lion's heart of the learned 
judge sank within him; as viewed by him, these men 
of vigilance were desperate characters, with whom 
hanging was easy, while the law was no impediment 
to any course their fancy might dictate. At first he 
seemed suspicious that he would not be fairly dealt 
with. His mind could scarcely conceive of a com- 
pany of money-makers actuated by love of right alone, 
or a company of pork-sellers inspired by a love of jus- 
tice which lifted them above the reach of any other 
impulse or appetite. 

But as the trial progressed, he found that they 
could be fair; that in sitting in judgment upon their 
archenemy their love of justice was even then greater 
than the triumph of revenge. His keen mind sharp- 
ened by the sense of danger very soon saw the fair- 
ness of the rulings in which the prisoner was given 
the benefit of every doubt and the universal desire to 
gain the simple truth unbiassed by party or circum- 
stance. All the witnesses he could name were sent 
for from different parts of the state, the expenses of 
some of whom were paid by the Committee. From the 
beginning to the end he had the benefit of his expe- 
rience in conducting his case, and at the conclusion of 
the testimony pleaded his own case and made a writ- 
ten statement. Nothing could h^v^ Keen fairer. 


From the first he saw that the Committee were in 
earnest, and as a rule his conduct was respectful. 
Once or twice the tribunal found it necessary to call 
him to order. 

On the 23d of June Judge Terry wrote the Com- 
mittee appealing for delay in his trial, which appeal 
the Committee refused to consider. They also re- 
ceived a letter from Ashe requesting permission to 
publish a card, the tendency of which would be to 
place his friend Terry right before the community; 
whereupon Mr Smile} 7 " moved that the writer "be in- 
formed that any publication by him in relation to the 
acts of the Committee of Vigilance would be es- 
teemed a forfeiture of his parole." 

Miers F. Truett was appointed counsel for Terry, 
with permission of free access to his cell, and power 
to summon witnesses. It was then ordered that the 
trial be postponed till Wednesday, the 25th, at one 
o'clock, at which time it was again postponed, and so 
continued for two days more. Meanwhile Mr Thomas 
J. L. Smiley, who had been appointed attorney for 
the prosecution, was busy in collecting evidence. No 
member, even of the executive committee, was per- 
mitted to see or to speak to the prisoner privately ex- 
cept by special permission. 

Specific charges were then preferred. First, David 
S. Terry was charged with resisting by violence the 
officers of the Committee of Vigilance while in the 
discharge of duty. Second, with committing an 
assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill Ster- 
ling A. Hopkins, a police officer of the Committee of 
Vigilance on the 21st day of June, 1856. Third, with 
divers breaches of the peace and attack on citizens — 
on Mr Evans of Stockton; on Mr Broadhouse while 
in the court-house at Stockton; on Mr King, at the 
charter election in Stockton; on J. H. Purdy in the 
city of San Francisco, in resisting a writ of habeas 
corpus, by which William Roach escaped from the 
custody of the law, and the infant heirs of the San- 


chez family were defrauded of their rights. These 
all in the year 1853. 

In none of the cases had there been trial or punish- 
ment. Offences enumerated in the third charge were 
regarded by the Executive as secondary in importance 
to the assault on Hopkins; but the Committee con- 
sidered they had the right to take cognizance of all 
recent offences committed by their prisoner, particu- 
larly of his resistance of the writ of habeas corpus for 
fraudulent purposes, when he had raised such a hue and 
cry over the alleged resistance by the Committee, for 
praiseworthy purposes, of a writ issued by him. 

On Friday the 27th, at a quarter to eleven, the 
prisoner David S. Terry, charged with the murder or 
attempted murder of Sterling A.Hopkins, was brought 
before the Executive sitting as a jury, President 
Coleman in the chair, and placed on trial. The follow- 
ing order was pursued: First, statements of prosecu- 
tion; second, evidence for prosecution; third, statements 
of defence ; fourth, evidence for defence ; fifth, speech 
of counsel for defence ; sixth, speech of prisoner if he 
desire it; seventh, closing speech of prosecuting at- 
torney. Mr Smiley read the charge, and the prisoner 
was then asked if he was guilty or not guilty. The 
prisoner refused to plead until assured that there was 
no outside pressure bearing upon the Committee. 
Upon receiving such assurance he said, "I am not 
guilty of any crime whatever." At ten minutes be- 
fore eleven Mr Smiley began his opening address, 
closing at five minutes past eleven, concluding it in 
these words: "Gentlemen of the Committee, in try- 
ing Judge Terry you try yourselves; in sitting here 
in judgment on his acts, you sit in judgment on your 
own; if he be innocent you are guilty, if he escape 
punishment you should be punished." 

The defence was based chiefly on an assured right 
as a sworn officer of the law to resist the acts of a 
lawless body. In the matter of Hopkins he claimed 
to have acted in self-defence. 


Testimony was then taken, forty witnesses being 
examined for the prosecution and about eighty for 
the defence. It was ordered that the evidence of 
Hopkins under oath should be taken in writing by 
Doctor Cole and a clerk, to be obtained by a series 
of questions mutually agreed upon by the respective 
counsel for the prosecution and the defence, and that 
such testimony attested by Doctor Cole should be 
received as evidence. Orders were issued to refuse 
all persons, of whatever class, admittance to the pres- 
ence of Hopkins. 

The trial was now continued from day to day, with 
sessions morning and evening, from thirty to forty 
members of the Executive being in attendance. 

While Terry's trial was going on in the Committee 
rooms the law and order journals were publishing all 
the evidence they could collect in his favor and in- 
diting editorials in his behalf. 

Singular was their line of argument. Terry as su- 
preme justice was in the path of duty in defending 
Maloney from arrest, said they. In answer they 
were told that the office of judge was to try crim- 
inals, not to prosecute or defend them, and Terry, as 
the member of the supreme state tribunal who would 
probably be called upon to decide those legal issues 
which would grow out of the conflict, should have re- 
mained at home, kept his mind in condition to weigh 
out justice evenly to both parties, and not have de- 
scended from the bench and mingled in the fray like 
any layman. Terry acted purely in self-defence, they 
said. I hardly see how this could be when Hopkins 
was not seeking Terry, when Hopkins was striving 
to avoid Terry and lay hold upon another. And when 
Terry levelled his gun at him Hopkins only grasped 
it and made no effort to kill his assailant. It might 
be regarded as equivalent to self-defence, in the light 
of protecting or defending a friend in danger, a friend 
being more to one than one's self. 

It was a long, laborious business, this trial, weari- 


sonic in its details and unsatisfactory in its results. 
"Terry was an unexpected, unwelcome, and undesired 
tenant of our quarters," remarks Coleman, "thrust 
upon us with all the weight of his office, all the em- 
barrassment of his case which Hopkins' protracted 
illness and life gave it, all the renewed and concen- 
trated opposition of our antagonists, revived and in- 
creased by the addition of many of his personal friends, 
and by his official position." 

The general verdict of the community was, if Hop- 
kins died Terry should be hanged, if Hopkins lived 
Terry should be banished. 

In Terry the Vigilance Committee had their largest 
elephant, unwieldy, expensive, and in every way un- 
desirable. As long as Hopkins lay at the point of 
death, or in a critical condition, their way was com- 
paratively clear; but when, as the trial dragged its 
weary length, he began to recover, and in time was 
up and about the streets, now more than ever were 
the Executive nonplussed. They had hoped to dis- 
band soon and to rest from their responsibilities; they 
had hoped soon to be able to devote their days to 
their business and their nights to their families; but 
upon them in an evil moment had dropped this great 
and unexpected burden, which complicated their posi- 
tion and increased their labors and liabilities fourfold. 

During this period Terry and his friends were very 
humble. To deliver him from durance they would 
promise anything; he should resign his position, leave 
the state, and give no more trouble. The wives of 
members of the executive committee were called upon 
by ladies, evidently acting in concert, who, under 
cover of friendly visit, would enlarge on the equity of 
Terry's case. Social efforts of every kind were re- 
peatedly undertaken to work on the minds of the 
Executive who were his judges. " Day after day," 
says Mr Dempster, "gentlemen used to come into my 
office, as they went to those of others, some of whom 
were friends, some mere passing acquaintances, and 


even others whom I then met for the first time, and 
either at once began to speak of Terry or by degrees 
led the conversation to that point. I have never 
known or heard of a case where a man's friends worked 
so hard in his behalf. My most intimate associate at 
the time, a merchant whose place of business was next 
my own, a man in whose integrity and desire for the 
public good I had implicit faith, brought several gen- 
tlemen to see me asking a discussion on the subject. 
And they presented their views very forcibly. I lis- 
tened with attention; but becoming wearied by the 
increasing efforts to argue the matter out of court, as 
it were — for I considered it was not the proper place — r 
I was determined to put an end, at once and forever, 
to these repeated concerted attempts. So that finally 
I said to them, that during my whole life I had been 
an admirer of strictly impartial justice, that I believed 
that no human being existed who did not admire this, 
to my mind, the most revered attribute of the deity. 
I had joined the Vigilance Committee from a firm 
conviction that even-handed justice should be meted 
out to all men. We had punished weak men of little 
power and without friends, and the same justice 
should be done to Judge Terry, the more so because 
of his powerful friends and almost universal influence. 
I concluded by saying that should Hopkins die', and 
were every other member of the Vigilance Committee 
to fail to do justice, I would myself inflict upon Judge 
Terry the penalty which I considered would be his 
due, and this even though I knew that such a moment 
would also be my last. After that I was troubled no 

" Every effort, every device, artifice, pretext, per- 
suasion, and power of his friends, old and new," says 
Coleman, "was brought to bear at once on every sep- 
arate individual member of the Committee, on every 
part of its organization that they thought could be 
reached by influence social, moral, religious, political 
public, private, sectional, general, and every other 


kind; and when they found the Executive firm and 
unwavering, the delegates even more so, because not 
inclined, or feeling impelled to show the courtesy, in- 
dulgence, and forbearance which the former body did, 
where indulgence was expected, the leaders in this 
movement then tried to sow dissension and to create 
divisions in every part of the organization that they 
could, and it may well be conceived how much trouble 
could thus be given to us by strong, zealous, numerous 
influential people who under the circumstances deemed 
any expedient, any policy, any tactics or effort justi- 

"It was a spar on his part for time," as Smiley puts 
it, "and for any influence on earth that could be 
brought to bear, a spar on his part in the beginning 
for every concession to save his life, especially while 
Hopkins lay at the point of death." All the ordinary 
facts which might have been taken for granted were 
vigorously fought. The first attempt to arrest Malo- 
ney in Terry's presence; Terry's running up Kearny 
street to Jackson, and to Bartlett's alley; Hopkins' 
seizure of his weapon and Terry's stabbing him — the 
whole of these details were fought inch by inch; when 
all the time the truth was clearly apparent that Terry 
left his judicial seat at Sacramento and came to San 
Francisco for the express purpose of precipitating a 
bloody issue in a local quarrel, and mingling in a street 
affray, to shield a tool of his party he interposed him- 
self between him and Hopkins; the latter then en- 
deavored to thrust Terry aside, and Terry stabbed 

"That the cause for the organization of the Vigil- 
ance Committee was just and sufficient," says the 
Nevada Journal of the 4th of July, "the popular 
voice of the people has decided. That Casey and 
Cora richly deserved their ignoble fate, few have the 
hardihood to deny. Had the Vigilance Committee 
accomplished but this act of retributive justice the 
whole state would have applauded the deed, as the 


whole state did. Few would have been found to de- 
plore, and few to denounce the precedent set for 
coming time; the masses, though they might regret 
the necessity for setting at naught the forms of law, 
would have rejoiced that vice by some process, illicit 
though it might be, had at last found its punishment. 

"The act of banishing a score of individuals at one 
time is more questionable, because the crimes of each 
are not so apparent to the people, and because by con- 
demning so many there was a reasonable possibility 
that one innocent man might suffer with the guilty. 
Still the notorious reputation of the expatriated and 
their associations, from which their characters became 
established, was convincing proof to every one not 
wed irrevocably to law however much violated, or 
order though a misnomer for anarchy, that they were 
unfit to mingle in a community whose moral sense 
they had outraged, and whose laws they had defied. 
Though the banishment of these men w r as, as we have 
said before, a more questionable act than the execu- 
tion of the murderers, whose guilt was open and 
deniable by none, the people were glad that the state 
was purged of such dishonorable characters. 

"Again when he who should wear ermine unsoiled 
committed the faux pas of folly and indiscretion of 
going to San Francisco, leaving the seat of justice to 
mingle and take part in grave proceedings, upon 
which he would doubtless be called to pass judgment 
in his official capacity; and when, worse than all, in 
attempting to perform impossibilities he sheathed a 
dagger in the flesh of an officer performing duties in 
accordance with popular authority, and was taken 
into custody by the same authority, public sentiment 
condemned the judge and demanded justice from its 
acknowledged dispensers. An ex parte statement of 
the unfortunate affair flashed across the wires, and 
the mountains echoed back the voice of the excited 
multitude in San Francisco, for redress and retribu- 
tion. But another and counter statement has gone 


forth which is entitled to some consideration. Keep- 
ing in view the excitement of the times, both versions 
of the story should, perhaps, be taken with allowance, 
for the mediums through which the two parties saw 
the tragedy were liable to distortion and coloring. 
At all events the evidence which has been brought to 
light is conflicting and unsatisfactory. The Vigilance 
Committee arose to vindicate the majesty of violated 
law, and to ensure its future observance, and we de- 
mand of any gentleman versed in the law of evidence, 
if enough has been furnished the public to convict 
David S. Terry by the law, in whose sacred defence 
the Vigilance Committee stand, of a capital crime. 
It is far from us to plead the high official station of 
the prisoner as an interposer for mercy in his behalf. 
It cannot extenuate a crime. All the people ask is 
impartial justice, meted out inflexibly alike to the 
high and the low. They do not desire nor will they 
sanction the enforcement of the bloody code of Draco. 
The time for lex talionis has passed away. If the im- 
prisoned officer had done a deed worthy of death in 
the eyes of the enlightened nations, let him suffer like 
any malefactor. But the tumultuous murmurings and 
demands without, like the winds of yore around the 
cave of iEolus, should not swerve the executive com- 
mittee one hair from the line of justice as defined by 
the statutes whose purity and efficiency they are con- 
stituted to restore." 

The fourth of July passed quietly. In the enjoy- 
ment of their national anniversary the citizens of San 
Francisco felt that they were indeed free and inde- 
pendent; felt that their city was free from the misrule 
of political demagogues, was purged of moral disease 
which had so lately threatened death, and that they 
were men, fit descendants of those sires of the great 
Revolution who eighty years before had in like man- 
ner struggled for the right and conquered a peace. 
There was a desire on the part of some for a grand 
military display by the Vigilance Committee, but 


with their usual good sense and moderation the Ex- 
ecutive objected. Theirs was no organization for vain 
or triumphant ostentation, but for solemn duty, which 
once performed they would gladly retire, and rest 
for their reward in the consciousness of their recti- 
tude rather than in plaudits and public praise. 

Several persons now attempted an adjustment of 
the difficulties between the governor and the Com- 
mittee, and Terry was asked to lend his aid by re- 
signing. When it was thought Hopkins would die 
Terry would gladly have resigned, and have left the 
state, had he been permitted to do so, but now that 
Hopkins was improving Terry stoutly swore that he 
would never leave the Committee rooms unless as 
justice of the supreme court. 

Overtures were made by deputations of citizens, to 
which courteous attention was given. In one of these, 
headed by Judge Munson, negotiations proceeded so 
far as to protocol the adjustment of difficulties upon 
the following basis: The Committee should consider 
the objects for which they had organized as accom- 
plished, first, when the two justices of the supreme 
court, Murray and Terry, should have resigned, and 
have departed the state; secondly, when all the officers 
of San Francisco county should have vacated their po- 
sitions; thirdly, when all the prisoners in the posses- 
sion of the Committee, and such characters as they 
desired to expel, had left the state never to return; 
and, fourthly, it should not be deemed a breach of 
faith, but a duty, to enforce sentence on any banished 
criminal who should return. These terms were not 
accepted; indeed, they were scarcely practicable, and 
were only another way of replying to the numerous 
overtures made to them in effect, that it was impos- 
sible for them to do otherwise than to conclude their 
work as originally determined. 

Upon the failure of all efforts at reconciliation 
threats of rescue were renewed, which tended only to 
increased vigilance on the part of the Committee. The 


night before his trial began Terry was removed to 
another cell, and the password was changed. 

The 10th of July the condition of Mr Hopkins was 
more critical. Says the Bulletin next day: "The 
friends of the supreme judge who have counselled 
him to the unwise, arrogant course he has taken 
during the past few days may now cease their self- 
gratulating utterances, and will probably recede from 
the insolent attitude they have taken. We have no 
wish to renew popular excitement on this subject; but 
it is our duty to repeat what we have heretofore said, 
that if Hopkins dies Terry must meet the" conse- 
quences, whatever they may be. 

There were all sorts of opinions entertained and ex- 
pressed, both within and without the Committee. 
Some believed him as much to blame as if his knife 
had pierced the police captain's heart, though evi- 
dently it was not the intention of the judge to go 
quite so far. Others did not censure him for cutting 
Hopkins, but for stepping from his judicial bench to 
interfere in purely local affairs. Others blamed him 
not at all, taking up the old line of argument that it 
was done in self-defence, and even in the line of duty 
as a peace-officer. 

Loud calls were now made by the people for the 
governor to resign, and also to withdraw his procla- 
mation. If ever the necessity existed for issuing it, 
that necessity had long since passed. The popular 
party had achieved a signal triumph ; the army of the 
opposition had melted into air. The city was quiet 
and orderly, the functions of government were un- 
trammelled by insurrectionists, if any such ever ex- 
isted. "No one anticipates civil war now," they 
argued. "Where then is the necessity for the pro- 
clamation and the action taken under it? Have not 
facts clearly shown that both were unnecessary, both 
fruitless, save in increasing the debt of the state? 
Why, then, is not that absurd manifesto withdrawn? 
Why will the executive persist in maintaining his 


shameful position? Let him retrace his steps, let him 
withdraw his proclamation, let him manifest his grati- 
tude that his folly has not occasioned civil war, and 
for the rest of his term of office, if he will persist in 
retaining office contrary to the wish of those who 
elected him, let him so conduct himself as in a measure 
to redeem the reputation he once enjoyed." 

A grand mass meeting was held in front of Mont- 
gomery block the evening of July 13th, for the purpose 
of calling forth public sentiment as to the necessity of 
an immediate resignation of all the then existing city 
and county officers. These officers were illegally elected, 
the people said, many of them were guilty of infamous 
practices, and none of them enjoyed the confidence of 
the community. The executive committee of vigilance 
had instituted an investigation into the affairs of the 
respective municipal offices, and a lengthy report of 
the result appeared in the journals of the day. 

They examined the financial system of the muni- 
cipality, and ascertained that the city had been ex- 
travagant, living far beyond its means. The county 
was burdened with a debt of half a million of dollars, 
and warrants depreciated to less than half their par 
value. This was chargeable to the board of super- 
visors. They found that the county had been grossly 
swindled; corruption was rank and everywhere exist- 
ent in and about the city hall. 

It was therefore resolved that written requests to 
resign should be directed to Judge Freelon, Mayor 
Van Ness, Sheriff Scannell, District Attorney Byrne, 
County Clerk Hayes, Recorder Kohler, Treasurer 
Woods, Assessor Stillman, Surveyor Gardner, Coro- 
ner Kent, School Superintendent Pelton, and Justices 
Ryan, Chamberlain, and Castree. This was done; 
and the answers from the officials were in almost 
every instance a positive refusal to resign. An ad- 
journed meeting hinted at a resort to force to drive 
them from office. " Let the Vigilance Committee 
shut the doors of the city hall and take the keys," 


suggested one. "We are eight thousand devoted 
men; we can keep the old rookery hermetically sealed, 
and we will do it!" Popular sovereignty and the 
people as the source of all power were the doctrines 
held by that assemblage; and the refusal of the offi- 
cials to resign in obedience to the popular demand, 
which resignation in their opinion would have had a 
powerful tendency toward the establishment of tran- 
quillity, was deplored. 

I cannot but regard this action as injudicious and 
hurtful to the popular cause. It was hardly to be 
supposed that these officials would resign; to do so 
would be a tacit acknowledgment on their part of the 
justice of the popular demand. And to take a step 
which was sure to result in humiliating defeat could 
only bring into contempt the actors and weaken their 

Although there were many members of the Vigil- 
ance Committee prominent in this demonstration, it 
was not a Vigilance Committee movement. It bears 
no impress of that sound judgment, that calm and 
dignified discrimination, and that swift and terrible 
action when once the determination to act was formed, 
that characterized all the doings of the executive 
committee. Far too wise were they to risk prestige 
in making demands where they had not the power to 
enforce obedience. 

The never failing bugbear of habeas corpus was as 
a matter of course resorted to. In almost every in- 
stance the Committee was informed that a writ was 
to be served before the officer came with it. For 
example, the record of 21st July states that "Mr 
George R. Ward made a verbal statement of a con- 
versation had with a gentleman of this city in relation 
to a writ of habeas corpus which he said would be 
issued this evening." The chair then appointed Messrs 
Dempster and Farwell a committee to obtain legal ad- 
vice in relation to the writ of habeas corpus. A com- 
mittee of three, Dowg, Burns, and Coddard, was then 


appointed to take proper measures to secrete the 
prisoner Terry, in case the service of a writ of habeas 
corpus should be attempted. 

In a letter to B. W. Leigh dated Sacramento, July 
16th, 1856, General Howard discloses the plan of the 
law and order faction concerning Terry. "I agree 
with you," he says, " that the safest course is to apply 
for a writ of habeas corpus ad testificandum for Terry. 
He will be a necessary witness in the case of Durkee, 
as he knows all about the requisition by the governor." 
Durkee had been arrested for piracy, a full account 
of which will be given hereafter. The cunning Howard I 
Has he forgotten the "non-come-at-ibus" return upon 
the writ for Maloney, who also was wanted for a 
witness in the Durkee case \ Here is the story : 

" My friend," said a Paul Pry of the gubernatorial 
order to a member of the Vigilance Committee one 
day, "I do not wish to be inquisitive, nor would I 
for the world get you into trouble, but I confess to a 
strong desire to know how you stow away prisoners 
so that when a habeas corpus comes no shadow of 
them can be found." 

"Well," replied the vigilant, "I hardly think I 
should tell you; but will you promise secrecy?" 

" Most profound." 

" Know then that when the Executive scent a ser- 
vice they raise the false bottom and side slide of the 
patent ballot-box, clap these men in one after another, 
and make a return on the writ of habeas corpus, of 
non-come-at-ibus in ballot-box-ibus !" 



Es ist nichts schrecklicher als eine thatige Unwissenheit. 


Early in July Governor Johnson so far conquered 
his pride as to make overtures of reconciliation to the 
executive committee, although the manner of it was 
not as manly as might have been. It happened in 
this wise: His request to General Wool for United 
States aid had been refused; his proclamation had 
been treated with indifference by some and with con- 
tempt by others; his chief of militia had been out- 
generalled, his force ignominiously defeated, stripped 
of their arms, and made prisoners without having 
struck a blow ; his friend and counsellor was in the 
hands of the Committee, and he himself was power- 
less, governor by sufferance only, and his name a re- 
proach and byword throughout the state. The posi- 
tion was by no means a pleasant one ; but he deserved 
little sympathy, for it was petty pride that caused 
him to strike such an attitude, and sullen obstinacy 
that prevented him from retiring from it. He was 
actuated by no lofty motive, cared little for the lives 
and property of the citizens, and still less for the wel- 
fare of the state. 

In the editorial of the Sacramento Unions issue of 
June 27th appeared the following comment on Gov- 
ernor Johnson's course: "Finding, after a trial of 
nearly a month, that the intelligent people of the 
state, including nineteen twentieths of his personal 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 29 ( 449 J 


and political friends, have taken a different view of 
his official duty upon the point of issuing the proclama- 
tion, it seems to us that he might revoke that docu- 
ment with the approval of nine tenths of the people 
of the state, and without any violation of conscien- 
tious views of duty, or loss of official or personal 
character. Had that document been revoked two 
weeks ago, we are confident that J. Neely Johnson 
would have immediately commanded again the respect 
and full confidence of the people of the state. A 
proper course now may produce a like result. But 
that course must be divested entirely of military 
threats and displays, or it cannot prove acceptable to 
the people. By a fair, just, and magnanimous policy 
on both sides this San Francisco difficulty may be 
adjusted honorably and satisfactorily to all parties in 
two days. To effect this, however, there must be 
concessions on each side. There must be no stubborn 
adherence to individual opinions, no further war upon 
abstractions and technicalities, no warring of preju- 
dices and passions around the board. A few men 
with cool heads can settle the difficulty in a day." 

A lengthy editorial upon the subject of conciliation 
appeared in the same journal on the following morn- 
ing, in which the governor was urged to take imme- 
diate steps for settling the difficulty amicably. "Our 
desire to have this unnatural controversy closed by 
compromise," says the editor, "does not arise from 
any anxiety for the Vigilance Committee. They are 
too strongly organized in San Francisco, and too 
firmly sustained by the great heart of the people, to 
be disturbed by any force that can be brought against 
them from any quarter so long as they keep right on 
their side. Our anxiety is for the state officers them- 
selves. A fierce conflict between them and the people 
would seal their fate as officers; and should the lives 
of a half-dozen good men be sacrificed by their orders, 
the state would soon be found too small to hold 
them. But all danger of a hostile collision can be 


and should be placed beyond human contingency by 
the act of the executive. Were we in his position we 
should not hesitate to visit San Francisco, and say 
plainly to those citizens what we were willing to do 
to produce again peace and harmony. We should ex- 
pect to make honorable and magnanimous concessions 
to the spirit of liberty which has exhibited itself in 
San Francisco, and we should expect to be met in the 
same catholic and generous spirit by the Committee. 
We should propose to revoke the military order to 
General Sherman, to modify by another document 
the military and insurrection portion of the proclama- 
tion, and, upon such conditions as might be agreed 
upon, declare a general amnesty for the past acts of 
the Committee." 

Following up the subject with the same earnestness 
on Monday, the 30th of June, the same writer con- 
tinues and thus exhorts the powers on Sacramento 
street : 

"The Vigilance Committee are in a position of such strength, possess 
power undisputed in San Francisco, that they are in a situation to offer gener- 
ous concessions and liberal terms to the state, without subjecting themselves 
to the suspicion of being influenced by their fears, or by any motive save that 
of giving peace and quiet to the community which they have purified morally 
by their acts. While the least uncertainty existed as to their position, they 
exhibited consummate wisdom in every movement. Possessed now of power 
almost unlimited let them have a care that it does not so intoxicate them as 
to lead to acts which will be pronounced blunders. Their power was volun- 
tarily conferred in a day; it may voluntarily be withdrawn in a night. If 
Hopkins fortunately lives, the case of Judge Terry can be disposed of in ac- 
cordance with the demands of justice, and without embarrassing the Commit- 
tee. If death follows the wound inflicted by the judge, to save his life will be 
difficult if not impossible. Hence the reason why we urged the executive to 
go to the bay on Saturday and close the matter at once and before a fatal ter- 
mination could follow in the case of Hopkins. But some of his friends thought 
he had better not go. It was suggested that so great was the excitement that 
he might be uncourteously treated in the streets, an idea that never entered 
our mind. We do not believe that the governor would have been sub- 
jected to insult; our opinion of the citizens of San Francisco leads us to think 

Balancing thus the pride and the interest of both 
sides with no little skill and calmness, this writer 


urges the governor to advance, speaks of the impossi- 
bility of any other method of settling the difficulty, 
touches upon the uncertain tenure by which he and 
his party hold offices, the jeopardy of his friend's life, 
and finally pricks him on with a gentle intimation of 
cowardice, while on the other hand he pats the Vigil- 
ance Committee on the back, reminds them of the 
uncertainty of human events, and advises them to 
treat the governor kindly. It was well intended, well 
executed, but it would not work; Johnson lacked the 
manliness to be governed by such advice, yet it could 
but influence him. He saw the truth of it, yet he 
had not the courage to follow it. Some action, how- 
ever, he deemed necessary, so he adopted a middle 
course, usually the covert of weak and vacillating 
minds. Calling to him his father-in-law, Colonel 
James C. Zabriskie, he requested him to go down to 
San Francisco and endeavor if possible to adjust the 
difficulties between the Vigilance Committee and the 
authorities. He authorized him to make the fol- 
lowing proposal, namely, that if the Committee would 
deliver Terry to the courts for trial, place in the gov- 
ernor's possession the state arms, and disband, he, 
Johnson, would advise the authorities of San Fran- 
cisco not to prosecute any member of the Vigilance 
Committee for offences alleged to have been com- 
mitted, and should any be thus convicted he would 
grant them unconditional pardon. The utmost se- 
crecy was to be maintained, as in case of refusal on 
the part of the Committee to comply with the gover- 
nor's proposal, the governor would not have it appear 
that any advance toward a reconciliation had been 
made by him. This was the 2d of July. Colonel 
Zabriskie accepted the commission and associated 
with him James Allen and C. B. Zabriskie of San 
Francisco, and the game opened. The high commis- 
sion first addressed a letter to Judge Terry, dated 
International Hotel, San Francisco, July 3d, 1856, in 
which they made known their authority from the 


governor to treat with the Committee, and assuring 
him that he could materially contribute to their 

Alluding to the communication of Mrs Terry to 
the public in which she expresses the belief that if a 
majority of the people desired her husband's resig- 
nation he would grant it, they took it for granted 
that he approved of that proposition, and asked in 
what form such an expression of popular will would 
be acceptable to him. It will easily be perceived 
that Mrs Terry had been instigated to the expression 
of such belief either by her husband or his friends in 
order to keep the subject agitated and call out pro- 
posals — mostly, it would seem, for the gratification of 
spurning them. Terry had no intention of resigning. 
He well knew that it would make little or no differ- 
ence with the Committee in the disposition of his case. 
It was hanging or exile the Committee were thinking 
of, either of which would terminate his career as 
associate justice without any action on his part. Yet 
the opportunity of a refusal to resign was an intense 
satisfaction to him. Nor could the insinuation of 
Mrs Terry do any harm ; for in the first place, he, the 
judge, might disclaim any knowledge or authoriza- 
tion of it, and in the next place he well knew that 
any such expression of public opinion as she had al- 
luded to was simply impracticable. It was all done for 
effect. And the bait took. In answer to the nun- 
cios' question, How can the wish of the people be 
ascertained in relation to your commission? Terry 
evasively replied that being deprived of the privilege 
of seeing his friends he was not prepared to indicate 
any manner in which the sense of the people could 
be taken. If some of his friends might be permitted 
to see him, doubtless a satisfactory determination 
might be arrived at. " Upon one thing I am, how- 
ever, resolved," he says in conclusion, "that I will 
not resign my office while held in durance. If I 
leave this building alive I leave it as justice of the 


supreme court of the state, and no power on earth 
shall change the resolution." 

The next thing for the ambassadors to do was to 
find the friend that Judge Terry desired to see wdiom 
the committee would admit to his presence. Mr A. 
P. Crittenden, a man of rare ability, united with mild 
manners and a truly chivalrous sense of honor, was 
finally selected, whom the Committee granted access 
to Terry's cell. The correspondence thus far was 
placed in Mr Crittenden's hands and the utmost se- 
crecy enjoined. Crittenden then held an interview 
with Terry and shortly returned Zabriskie the follow- 
ing reply to the question, how the will of the people 
was to be ascertained: "Let the offences charged 
against me," said Terry, " be submitted to a public 
trial before an impartial jury, as speedily as may be. 
If I am found guilty of any offence whatever I will 
at once resign." As I have before remarked, there 
would be little danger to the high official in this, as 
Judge Terry's friends were the court party. Once 
in their hands, with twelve men of their selection on 
the jury bench, and there would be little doubt how 
the case would go. This was to leave it to the 
people ! 

As a matter of course the Executive would listen to 
no proposal which this commission was enabled to 
make, either from Johnson or Terry, and the govern- 
or's overtures resulted in failure. But the affair did 
not end here. Colonel Zabriskie was sensitively 
anxious to have the whole matter kept quiet. 
Judge Terry, on the other hand, would rather it were 
known that he had been asked to resign and would 
not. At Judge Terry's request, the written reply to 
the letter of Allen and the Zabriskies which was 
given Mr Crittenden appeared in the Sun of the 8th 
of July. This made the commissioners angry, and a 
newspaper controversy between them and Mr Critten- 
den followed. Worse was yet to come. The governor, 
seeing that his commissioners had failed, that his over- 


tures were made public, and his friends quarrelling 
among themselves as to who was in fault for the pub- 
licity of the proceedings, determined so far as he was 
concerned to cut loose from the complication by ignor- 
ing the whole matter. Governor Johnson now came 
out in the public journals flatly denying ever having 
authorized Allen and the Zabriskies so to treat. This 
naturally made the nuncios very indignant. To John- 
son's face they denounced his dastardly conduct and 
made the most solemn asseverations as to the truth of 
their statements. And the people believed them. 

I will conclude this incident, significant as it is of 
the character of the law and order leaders, with the 
following comment of the Calif ornia American : "We 
have read with astonishment the reply of Governor 
Johnson to the explanation of Colonel Zabriskie and 
General Allen. After having conferred the authority 
claimed by those gentlemen upon two distinct com- 
mittees or agencies previously appointed by the 
governor, he now repudiates the authority of like 
character claimed by those gentlemen and which no 
honest man can doubt the governor conferred upon 

The Nevada Journal of the 18th of July gives the 
following : 

"A Question of Veracity. — The papers below contain a card from Colonel 
J. C. Zabriskie, the facts of which are corroborated by a statement of General 
James Allen, in which Governor Johnson is shown up in no very enviable 
light. If there is no mistake or misunderstanding between the governor and 
the gentlemen before mentioned, the case is an awkward one for the executive. 
The facts in brief are substantially these: Colonel Zabriskie and General 
Allen were empowered by the governor, according to their statement, which 
is entitled to every credence, to proceed to San Francisco and treat with the 
Vigilance Committee for the liberation of Terry, and settle as fully as possible 
the existing difficulties between the people and the authorities. The basis on 
which the negotiations were to be conducted was, the Committee should de- 
liver Terry over to the civil authorities, return the arms of the state, and dis- 
band. In consideration of which the governor would recommend the passage 
of a general amnesty act by the next legislature, and use his influence and 
the power in him vested to prevent the punishment of any member of the 
Vigilance Committee for acts committed under the authority of such Com- 


"Messrs Zabriskieand Allen proceeded to San Francisco on their mission, 
but were unsuccessful in consequence of the intractable disposition of Terry 

" The Sun published the authority under which Zabriskie and Allen were 
acting, which induced the editor of the Express, published at Marysville, to 
personally interrogate the governor, who was on a visit to that place, as to 
whether the two gentlemen named were acting on their own responsibility or 
his. The reply was, they were acting on their own. About the same time 
the governor addressed a note to Zabriskie and Allen, demanding the contra- 
diction of the report in circulation, that he had vested them with powers to 
settle the difficulties in San Francisco. This called out a rejoinder, in which 
it was explicitly and emphatically declared that the two gentlemen were em- 
powered by the governor to settle the difficulties named. Another note was 
addressed to the governor by General Allen and Colonel Zabriskie, demanding 
that he should put a stop to the dirty innuendoes in circulation concerning 
them, by publishing forthwith an explicit statement of the power he conferred 
upon them as his agents, and threatened that unless he did so, they would. 
To this, as well as to several previous notes, Governor Johnson made no reply. 

"In justice to himself Colonel Zabriskie has been compelled to make the 
facts public, though the step is a painful one to the man and the father. The 
governor repudiates the authority he conferred upon his agents, or rather 
denies having invested them with any power to treat with the Vigilance Com- 
mittee at all. Colonel Zabriskie and General Allen are willing to qualify in 
the most solemn manner to the truth of their statements, and thus the matter, 
at this writing, stands. The governor had made himself sufficiently ridiculous 
before, but the latest developments make him perfectly contemptible." 

No true history of this movement can long leave 
hidden so important a personage as the governor's 
gentle general, Volney. Before he danced in full 
armor as one of the Salii priests to the governor's 
Mars, Howard had borne the reputation of a talented 
lawyer and a good citizen. More active in this in- 
stance than Sherman, he was less efficient, indeed 
harmless, and take him all in all, he was a man after 
the governor's own heart. He now seemed deter- 
mined, if it lay in his power, to drive the issue to a 
swift determination. He would stir up the cities of 
the interior, if possible, to subjugate the bay city. 
He would save Terry's life and heal Johnson's 
wounded honor. He would save the state, save the 
union, save humanity. This would surely be com- 
mendable action, which the people would praise and 
posterity apotheosize. After the collision of Satur- 


day in which he endeavored unsuccessfully to play a 
conspicuous part, he left by way of Napa for Sacra- 
mento, where he arrived Monday night. Immediately 
posters informed the citizens of Sacramento that they 
would be addressed by General Howard at half-past 
eight in front of the Orleans Hotel. At the ap- 
pointed hour a large crowd collected about the place. 

Howard mounted the stand, and, so far as the con- 
tinued interruptions would permit him, made a most 
inflammatory speech. " Fellow-citizens," he said, "we 
are in the midst of a revolution, we are in the midst 
of a conflict, and we must never cease the struggle 
in behalf of the right, or we go out of the union. 
Every act committed by the Vigilance Committee is 
a stain and an insult upon the state. What is the 
case? One of the most illustrious citizens of the 
state, one who has been elevated to one of the highest 
and most important positions within the gift of the 
people, a man of unimpeachable and unblemished 
character, one whom the people delighted to honor, 
has been ruthlessly seized and thrust into a dungeon 
by a set of men styling themselves the Vigilance 
Committee. He has been assaulted in the streets in 
attempting to execute the right of every citizen, and 
thrust ignominiously into a loathsome, dark dungeon. " 

"Who is he? Whom do you mean?" cried the 

"He is a man known to you all," said the speaker; 
"he is Judge Terry." 

"Let him stay at home! What business has a 
judge to mix himself up in street rows?" exclaimed 
the impudent crowd amidst great confusion. 

Drawing a paper from his pocket Howard said: 
"I take one thing for granted, that you are willing to 
hear the truth; that there is in this crowd no man so 
cowardly or so mean that he is not willing to hear the 

"What paper is that?" 

"This paper is conducted by a man you may de- 


nounce and pretend to despise," continued the speaker, 
"a man of unquestionable courage, and one whom in 
your hearts you must respect — John Nugent of the 

Loud laughter, deafening shouts, hooting and clap- 
ping of hands followed amidst cries of "Give us an 
impartial paper! Read from the Union!" 

"Fools and cowards may laugh at it, but honest 
men — " Here the speaker was interrupted by a storm 
of shouts and laughter. 

"I know that a few men have been hired and 
especially delegated to come here to interrupt — " 

"They are nine tenths of Sacramento!" 

Finally exasperated beyond endurance Howard 
shouted, "You are a set of vile cowards!" And a 
general battle of blackguardism, dirt-throwing, and 
epithet -hurling between the speaker and the crowd 
set in. A singular method, one would think, by which 
a wise man would attempt to make converts; as wise 
as that adopted by the learned supreme justice, who 
attempted to crush a community organized for the 
prevention of crime by stabbing one of its members. 

Commenting upon this meeting the Union says: 
"Mr Howard instead of arousing any enthusiam for 
the cause of despotic rule and the butchery of the 
people, which he advocated, succeeded most effectu- 
ally in bringing the law and order party lower in the 
estimation of good men than before, and completely 
floored Major-general Yolney E. Howard in their 
eyes. He did have a reputation as a man of talents 
before he made that speech; he did succeed in con- 
vincing those who heard him, that he was not half 
equal to his reputation. 

"These Texas men appear to think that the free 
men of this state can be driven like Indians on the 
western border of that state, at the point of a few 
hundred bayonets. They thought at first that five 
hundred men would be as many as they would need. 
They flattered themselves that the ' shop-keepers' of 


San Francisco would not fight, that they would run 
if a handful of brave men presented themselves before 
them. These San Francisco men did not belong to a 
fighting stock, because they were peaceably attending 
to their own business, did not walk the streets with 
pistol and bowie-knife on their person, and had not 
killed nor shot their man in a street fight. Upon 
this point Judge Terry and General Howard have 
probably changed their minds since one was captured 
by the Committee and the other had his little army 
and their arms taken before his very eyes, while he 
deemed that duty or prudence required him to beat a 
retreat from the city." True. And like the explo- 
sive force in gunpowder as compared with the cracking 
of thorns under a pot, quiet men are as a rule the 
most dangerous element when aroused; and often the 
slowest to enter a fight are likewise the slowest to 
leave it. 

" Could a gentleman or a man of honor be persuaded 
to have uttered such a tissue of lies, misrepresentations, 
and slanders as came from this infamous libeller at the 
meeting on Monday night!" exclaims a journalist. 
" Howard's billingsgate language towards the mem- 
bers of the Committee, more especially his slander 
that the noble -hearted Frenchmen who with other 
adopted and alien citizens have ventured their all in 
support of the common cause are convicts, is an in- 
famous lie; and he knows it." 

From Sacramento General Howard proceeded to 
Placerville, but finding the public pulse beating low 
for law and order in that quarter, he left, without at- 
tempting an address, for Coloma. Even there he 
failed to obtain a hearing. 

Says the Nevada Journal: " Volney E. Howard, a 
San Franciscan, has been selected by our governor to 
take command of the thousands whose brave hearts 
are stirred by his belligerent proclamation, coming from 
the counties of Sierra, Nevada, Placer, El Dorado, 
Amador, and Sacramento. It is quite likely in any 


decent emergency, the people of the district had just 
as lieve be commanded by a resident general, but as 
it is, it is a matter of congratulation to us that there 
is a scarcity of the timber in this division out of which 
such commanders are made. Williams, he that shot 
Bourland, an unarmed man, and he knew him to be so 
at the time, has been dubbed brigadier-general for the 
emergency. He will make a good subject to command 
the second brigade. Law and order is most beauti- 
fully exemplified in him, and will be most signally 
enforced by his commands." 

" The ill success of the trip of V. E. Howard into 
the interior in search of recruits for the law and 
murder army," says the Bulletin of July 24th, " has 
quite discomfited the leaders in the movement against 
the people's interests, and places the military chieftain 
who indited a bombastic letter to Governor Johnson, 
after his defeat in this city, in a most ridiculous posi- 
tion. The workers in this scheme of iniquity are, 
however, indefatigable. They have printed a circular 
addressed to persons living in the interior, a copy of 
which, found folded in one of the unscrupulous sheets 
devoted to law and murder, has been handed us. Over 
it is written, 'To be signed by all who approve/ We 
do not apprehend that the number of signatures ob- 
tained has yet reached a very alarming figure. What 
a mass of bombast! We are informed that General 
Volney E. Howard is a guest of General Estell at the 
state-prison, where they both properly belong. He 
made a speech of three hours, to about twenty 
hearers, at San Rafael, on Tuesday last." 

But what could Howard say against the Vigilance 
Committee? Listen to him, and remember that hith- 
erto this man had enjoyed a reputation not only for 
common sense and common honesty, but for ability and 
respectability. "I say," he exclaimed vehemently, 
amidst great laughter and hissing, "because Casey 
killed King they hung Cora. Now, fellow-citizens, 
when Cain killed Abel, did the Almighty kill Cain? 


No, he put a mark upon him and sent him away. 
But this Vigilance Committee is greater and wiser 
than the Almighty. They know more and know 
better how to punish. Ah, fellow-citizens, the time 
is at hand, the time is at hand when these green-gro- 
cers, these venders of sour flour and corned pork will 
have to look to their necks! They are already quar- 
relling among themselves, and I should not be sur- 
prised any day that they had broken out into deadly 
strife and killed a thousand men! Has not this de- 
testable organization set father, son, brothers, rela- 
tives all against each other? Has it not stopped all 
business ? Go down to the city now and see. If the 
streets were not made of rotten plank, the grass would 
be growing in thum. Before three weeks the failures 
will astonish you all, for they must come, and soon. 
Now, they want the officers to resign; and for what? 
That they can deal their places out to some of their 
own gang. Yes, they begin to fear for their necks. 
They begin to think about disbanding, and with the 
present officers in power they know it won't do. Now, 
if they can get the officers out, and their own party 
in, they can disband with safety; for they know they 
are just as bad and just as likely to be hanged by the 
laws as Casey and Cora were by them. They talk 
of holding out till election time. You see, then, that 
the whole thing is turned into a great political ma- 
chine, by which they intend to control the elections, 
and get in their own party. The spoils of the officers 
will help to remunerate them for their losses in at- 
tending to the Committee business. The spoils of 
office will be a fat morsel for those sour-flour dealers, 
w^ho have lost their all by some flour monopoly specu- 
lation. They must be paid in some way, and there is 
no other way left them. Now, gentlemen, why have 
they not struck at the root of the evils they talk 
about? They have sent off a few of the poor tools, 
but they dare not put their finger on the great, the 
moneyed men. They dare not touch them. Shame! 


Shame on them! Now, there is David S. Terry. 
What has he done to be treated in the manner he is 
treated? I say, nothing. I have known him since 
he was a boy, and he is above reproach. The man 
Hopkins they prate so much about, with a scratch on 
his neck, I say a mere scratch, made by Terry it is 
true, but it is also true that he had a right to do it, a 
right to defend himself. For this he is incarcerated 
in a dungeon, without even being allowed the con- 
soling presence of his dear wife. Did the annals of 
history ever show such cruelty, such revenge? Why, 
the French revolution was nothing to it!" 

These words were hardly worthy of General How- 
ard, who, pleasantry aside, possessed a warm heart and 
a good head. But many heads on both sides were 
turned during these exciting times — more exciting 
than were found in many localities, throughout the 
civil war which followed. 

The day of the attempted insurrectionary meeting 
before the Orleans Hotel, a pronunciamiento addressed 
to Governor Johnson by Howard against the San 
Francisco Vigilance Committee appeared in the col- 
umns of the State Journal. This document reviews 
the affairs of the last fortnight, since which time 
Howard had been in command of Johnson's forces, in 
the same spirit of candor, sound logic, and truthful- 
ness which characterized most of the affirmations of 
the law and order cabal. Lest I should fail to do him 
justice I will permit General Howard to plead the 
cause of his party and denounce his opponents, so far 
as I have the space to spare, in his own words. It 
may be remarked en passant that there is a remark- 
able similarity in all the law and order literature of 
the period. What it lacked in reason it made up in 
roaring, and if veracity were wanting vehemence and 
vituperation were not. The reader will readily detect 
minor misrepresentations from wilful mendacity; for 
it was utterly impossible for men on either side, with 
passions at fever heat, at all times to control their 


tongue, and present only sound, logical arguments in 
temperate language. Strange how differently men 
of equal intelligence and ability regard the same mat- 
ter ! 

After reviewing the events of the previous Satur- 
day, at which time he made an unsuccessful attempt 
through Mr Coleman to obtain the release of Terry, 
he recites the crimes of the Committee in the follow- 
ing words: "The circumstances connected w T ith this 
movement are such as to leave no doubt in my mind 
that the insurgents aim at nothing less than an entire 
overthow of the state government and secession from 
the federal union." 

So utterly absurd, so far removed from the thought 
of any member of the Committee, was this idea, that 
I deem it words wasted to refute it. I would only 
say that this accusation was persistently promulgated 
by law and order journals and speakers, day after day, 
until one would think that they in reality began to 
believe it, but I cannot so outrage their understanding 
as to give them credit for sincerity. The business 
men of San Francisco secede from the union because 
certain human vermin infest their streets! 

To proceed: "If it had been their purpose to dis- 
band in a short period, they would not have com- 
mitted piracy by robbing a vessel of a small quantity 
of arms upon the bay. They would not subsequently 
have levied actual war upon the state by surrounding 
the armories by a large military force and seizing the 
state arms and making prisoners of the men guarding 
them, especially as they knew that your orders were 
that I should act on the defensive, and that I had no 
power or means to pursue any other line of conduct. 
It must be obvious to all men of discernment, that 
this lawless association has proceeded from one crime 
and outrage to another until they have arrived at the 
conclusion that there is no safety for their leaders but 
in revolution and a separate government on the Pa- 
cific. They have committed treason, murder, piracy, 


and the felony of kidnapping. They have violently 
and with force of arms trodden down the authority of 
the executive and judiciary. They have at the point 
of the bayonet resisted the execution of the writ of 
habeas corpus, for ages justly considered the bulwark 
of personal liberty. They have assembled around the 
jail of the county of San Francisco large numbers of 
armed men and planted a cannon against the front, 
and thus compelled the surrender of two persons 
therein detained in the custody of the law, whom 
they have since put to death without legal trial or 
the forms of judicial proceedings. They have with- 
out a warrant or any other process of law, forcibly 
searched the houses of honest and peaceable citizens 
at the dead hour of night, outraging families and ter- 
rifying defenceless females. For nearly six weeks 
they have trampled down by an armed military des- 
potism in San Francisco every constitutional right 
secured to the citizens by magna charta and the bill 
of rights. They have robbed us of the heritage 
earned for us by the labors and sufferings of the sages 
and patriots of 1776. They have erected in the heart 
of the commercial metropolis a fortification filled with 
armed men to overawe the citizens and the civil au- 
thorities. By day and by night they paraded in the 
streets large bodies of armed men, and San Francisco 
presents continually the appearance of a city in the 
possession of a foreign foe. And it is so, practically. 
It is well known that the Vigilance Committee have 
armed and hired a large body of foreign mercenaries 
to shoot down the officers and citizens of the state in 
discharge of the duties cast upon them by the laws 
and their oath of office." 

After a column or so in this strain he assumes a 
loftier tone. "What right," he exclaims, "have such 
men to kidnap one of the judges of the supreme court, 
a gentleman who is the soul of honor and truth? How 
dare these traitors thrust Dr Ashe into their dungeon, 
erected at the expense of their creditors, a gentleman 


who had committed no offence, and upon whose integ- 
rity the mildew of calumny has never for a moment 
rested? Are the people of California descendants of 
men who can guard liberty with their swords, or some 
bastard race reduced to slavery on the shores of the 
Pacific by shopkeepers and merchants'? When shall 
we all be sold in market to pay their debts in New 
York and Boston?" 

Pop. Trib., Vol. II. 30 



It was therefore of little immediate consequence that man should stand 
upright in token of his dominion. 


Guilty, and the prisoner to be discharged! Such 
is the paradoxical verdict. Guilty; and discharged! 
That is as the people first hear it. Terry at large ! 
Free! Discharged by his judges who found him 
guilty. Nonsense! No wonder men smile incredu- 
lously when first they hear of it. Oh, no! Before 
they can be made to believe that of the executive 
committee, the people's pride and city's honor, the 
morning sun must first project black rays against the 
vaulted blue. No, indeed ! These men are not traitors ; 
they are not cowards, nor venal venders of public 
morality. Never would they yield to threats, nor sell 
justice at a price. 

And yet it is true. These judges in whom but 
yesterday all placed such unbounded confidence, by 
whom these weeks past all good citizens have stood 
and beside whom they were ready to die, themselves 
pronounce him guilty; and then as if in the shame- 
ful execution of some dastardly conspiracy they sur- 
reptitiously discharge their too illustrious prisoner, in 
the opaque early morning, even guarding him from 
popular vengeance in his escape. 'Tis too outrageously 

Such wr.s the feeling on all sides among the vigilant 
ranks and among the people, everywhere except among 
the opposition, who of course were jubilant. Some 



were sick; others were angrily sore about it. Nor 
did they hesitate to curse the Executive as men of 
milk and water, as frightened foolish cowards. News- 
papers cursed them. Those who had contributed their 
thousands to support the movement cursed them. He 
who had played the common soldier through the long 
night watches, who had neglected his business and 
family, and had drilled and marched and confronted 
danger for nothing on earth but his inherent love of 
truth and virtue — he cursed them. Indeed, never 
were good men so blasphemed in California. 

The people were sorely disappointed; their hearts 
sank within them. All was lost. They would not 
give a copper for the cause after that. Honor was 
gone ; prestige was gone ; all the hanging and banish- 
ment hitherto had been done in vain. Then how well 
it sounded. Brave, honorable men; hang your little 
Caseys and Coras, banish your Sullivans and your 
Mulligans, but the judge of the supreme court, 
let him go. Bah! Talk no more of justice or in- 

This man had left his seat in the highest legal 
tribunal of the state, had left the capital, the city of 
his residence, had come to San Francisco for the ex- 
press purpose of precipitating a bloody collision be- 
tween the Committee and the state authorities, and 
had so forgotten himself and the dignity of his high 
office as to mingle in a street affray, in a matter about 
which it was far from his duty to concern himself, 
and finally to resort to the use of a deadly weapon 
upon a man who was seeking to do him no harm. 
And this, all as the part of a general plan, in which 
the weak Johnson and the mighty Howard were con- 

And yet he could neither be hanged nor banished. 
It was, indeed, exasperating. 

Says one of the people's organs on the subject: 
" Had Hopkins been murdered by one of Terry's or 
Howard's misguided ignorant tools, and the Commit- 


tee had merely banished him the country, we would 
not have murmured. But we look on Judge Terry 
in a different light. He is a man of education, of 
position, and wealth. He should have known better. 
Nothing but an unbridled passion and a wicked am- 
bition for political advancement governed both How- 
ard and Terry in this affair." 

And thus another : " The critical period has arrived 
for the general body of the Vigilance Committee 
to act. The self-constituted executive body of that 
committee have managed, or rather mismanaged its 
affairs in the most scandalous manner, especially of 
late. The only remedy that now remains is for the 
betrayed members of the body to reorganize them- 
selves and elect an executive body of tried men, fewer 
in number, but with stout hearts and clean hands — 
men who understand what an historical crisis is." 

The trial closed at eleven o'clock Tuesday evening, 
the 2 2d of July, having lasted twenty-five days; but 
when we consider that sessions were held every day 
including Sundays, and that nearly every day there 
were two sessions, we may leave out the few days in 
which this case was not brought up and still have 
equivalent to two full months of ordinary court pro- 
ceedings expended upon this trial. 

In closing, Judge Terry pleaded his own cause, and 
Mr Smiley spoke for the people. The following oath 
was then taken by each member of the executive 
committee : " We hereby pledge our sacred honor to 
God and ourselves, never to divulge the votes taken 
in our verdicts rendered in the trial of David S. 
Terry to any living being outside this room. So help 
us God." 

It was agreed that three fifths of the number of 
votes cast should be required to convict. On the 
first count of the indictment, that of resisting an of- 
ficer of the Committee while in the discharge of his 
duty, the prisoner was found guilty. On the second 
count, that of assaulting Sterling A. Hopkins with a 


deadly weapon, with intent to kill, the prisoner was 
found, by the executive committee, guilty of the assault 
only; the delegates, however, as we shall see, made 
him guilty of the entire charge. On the third count, 
that of an attack on Evans, the prisoner was found 
not guilty by the executive committee. The board 
of delegates dismissed this charge. All the other 
charges, except the seventh, on which he was found 
guilty, were dismissed by the executive committee. 

On all the charges but the second the Executive 
had no difficulty in arriving at a decision. The vote 
on this charge was postponed till next day, the 23d, 
when it was ordered that if after the third ballot no 
verdict was found a committee of conference should bo 
appointed to determine some plan of amicable settle- 
ment. The vote was then taken ; when the prisoner was 
found guilty of the assault only. This did not at all 
suit the board of delegates who found him guilty of 
the entire charge. The matter of punishment was made 
the special order for 12 o'clock on Thursday the 24th. 
The grand marshal was directed to call together the 
board of delegates for Friday at eleven o'clock. 

Thus of every important charge the prisoner was 
found guilty, nevertheless it was determined to pass 
upon him the following sentence : " That David S. 
Terry having been 'convicted after a full, fair, and im- 
partial trial, of certain charges before the Committee 
of Vigilance, and the usual punishment in their power 
to inflict not being applicable in the present instance; 
Therefore be it declared the decision of the Commit- 
tee of Vigilance, that the said David S. Terry be dis- 
charged from custody; and also, Resolved, that in the 
opinion of the Committee of Vigilance the interests 
of the state imperatively demand that the said David 
S. Terry should resign his position as judge of the 
supreme court. Resolved, that this resolution be read 
to David S. Terry, and he forthwith be discharged 
from the custody of the Committee of Vigilance on 
this being ratified by the board of delegates." 


The board of delegates met pursuant to the call of 
the grand marshal, Friday morning, the 25th of July, 
at eleven o'clock. By invitation Mr Coleman occu- 
pied the chair. At the calling of the roll one hundred 
members answered to their names. After disposing 
of certain miscellaneous business the case of Terry 
was brought up and the evidence on both sides was 
read; also Terry's statement in his own defence, and 
finally the verdict of the Executive. 

A motion was then made and lost that the dele- 
gates concur in the verdict of the Executive, followed 
by a motion which carried, that the board of dele- 
gates take a vote on each count of the indictment and 
verdict of the executive committee separately. The 
verdict of guilty on the first count was confirmed by 
a vote of ninety-five ayes to two noes. The verdict 
of guilty was found on the second charge by a vote of 
eighty-eight ayes to eight noes, the words in the find- 
ing "of the assault" being stricken out. The action 
of the Executive on the other counts was confirmed; 
all except the one charging an assault on J. H. Purdy, 
which was expunged. 

Several meetings of the delegates now took place, 
in which the case of Terry was not brought up. 
Meanwhile the utmost persuasion on the part of those 
in favor of sustaining the Executive verdict failed to 
induce the board to acquiesce. Finally, at a meeting 
held the evening of the 31st of July, ninety-two being 
present, out of which number seventy-nine only were 
allowed to vote, the remainder not having heard the 
testimony read, the case of Terry was again brought 
up, when it was resolved, the Executive concurring, 
that he "be banished from this state on the shortest 
possible notice, under the usual penalty." The whole 
matter was then referred back to the executive com- 
mittee, with the request that the Executive should 
meet the board of delegates, and the two bodies 
should act in joint convention until the vexed ques- 
tion should be settled. 


The 5th of August the delegates called on the Ex- 
ecutive in a body to learn their views in respect to the 
case of Terry. The members of the Executive having 
expressed their views, the board of delegates voted 
upon a motion to reconsider the sentence, which was 
lost. Next day by a vote of forty-four to thirty-six 
the delegates concurred in the sentence of the Execu- 
tive; and on the 7th of August, at a meeting held at 
two o'clock on the morning of that day, the Executive 
resolved that the sentence of Terry be read to him, and 
that he be forthwith discharged, which was done at 
fifteen minutes past two. 

"There was a dead-lock in the Committee," says 
Crary. " We cast some forty ballots before the board 
of delegates were called into session again. I think 
there were but thirty-four votes cast throughout the 
day; seventeen to seventeen all the time." 

The delegates were brought to acquiescence only by 
influential members going from one to another, and 
explaining the dilemma and satisfying them that there 
was nothing else to be done under the circumstances. 
"He was bigger game than we calculated to bag," 
said Smiley; "after he was found guilty there was 
still a fight for time, to endeavor to get the executive 
committee to re-examine the case, or to retract their 

" Why the executive committee came to the conclu- 
sion that they could not banish him, I do not know," 
says the soldier Olney, more accustomed to obey than 
to question. " I only know I was in a terrible state 
of excitement that night when I received the order to 
liberate him. It was the only time during the whole 
reign of the Committee that there was anything like 
expression of feeling against any act of the Com- 
mittee. But in this case a large number had gathered ; 
the building was crammed. They got together on 
the lower floor, and there was a good deal of excited 
talk, and it seemed as if there would be resistance to 


the order to liberate him, and a good deal of strong 
language was used." 

Men of influence in the Committee, prominent 
among whom were Colonel Olney and Judge Blake, 
mounted platforms and attempted to soothe the angry 
assemblage ; and such was the confidence of the mem- 
bers in their officers, such their abhorrence of any- 
thing like disruption in the ending of their hitherto 
harmonious work, that although they were fearfully 
and angrily excited they could but yield obedience. 
Though they hated the verdict, they revered the 
judges. Finally they calmed; and afterward all were 
ready to acknowledge the wisdom which governed 
the Executive. 

Mr Coleman's explanation presents the matter in a 
very clear light: "Here was a disagreement or differ- 
ence between the decisions of the Executive and the 
delegates, which was embarrassing. The Executive 
felt that it were better that their conclusion should 
be maintained and carried out; but the spirit of the 
whole organization was that of harmony and unity of 
action, and the Executive did not want a divergence 
on this most important case. The fact was that 
Hopkins had recovered, and any severe penalty on 
Terry was impossible. It was felt by the Executive 
that his long incarceration and trial, which had weighed 
heavily upon him, was a severe punishment, and suffi- 
cient to well-nigh compensate for his ill-advised in- 
terference with our affairs. But the masses of the 
people were still enraged against him, and not in- 
clined to lessen any former conceived measure of 
punishment or penalty; and in this the delegates 
shared largely although submitting to and acknowl- 
edging the force of the views and action of the Execu- 
tive. The common sentiment and demand with the 
community and the body of the committee was for 
exportation or banishment, but they did not realize 
what the Executive had fully considered, namely, 
that Hopkins having recovered, no case stood against 


Terry similar to those against the other people whom 
we had executed or banished, and justifying a like 
course with him. Next, while the Committee ad- 
hered rigidly to the execution of even-handed justice 
withal, it would not have been even-handed, everything 
considered, to have banished Terry with the other 
characters. Again, justice being satisfied, it were' 
bad policy, because the common sentiment of impar- 
tial and disinterested people would be in his favor, 
and would strengthen the claims and the efforts of 
his friends, who would surely have insisted upon and 
aided in his return to the country, and there would 
have been created thereby perhaps an increased, cer- 
tainly a continued active opposition to the edicts of 
banishment of the Committee, and Terry once re- 
turned would be an excuse for others to follow; and 
the shield extended over him would have extended 
over others. Under these circumstances we could 
but let Terry's case rest, waiting what might be de- 
veloped in his behalf or otherwise, waiting the effect 
of time, and hoping that a full agreement of opinion 
would soon be arrived at or other solution present it- 

After this well-nigh forced sanction of the delegates 
the Executive were determined to get rid of their too 
powerful prisoner before they slept, if it were possible. 
To accomplish this lacked one vote, and as Prink 
affirms, "they got up Captain Aaron Burns out of 
his bed to make up this deficiency, and that enabled 
them to pass the resolution by which Terry was 

Mr Truett's dictation runs as follows: "A quorum 
of the Executive was obtained, as there was danger 
of Terry's being attacked, as we thought, by members 
of the Committee, and we thought it best to discharge 
him as soon as possible." He was taken through a 
store opening on Front street, and thence up Cali- 
fornia street to Dupont, where his friend Perley lived. 


After Truett had taken Terry to Perley's house, 
he went home and to bed, and having been up for 
many nights with the burden of Terry's life and many 
other responsibilities on his hands, he was soon asleep. 
Half an hour afterward he was roused by Bluxome. 

" There are a thousand men now hunting for Terry," 
he said. 

"This will not do," Truett replied. "We have 
acquitted the man and we must protect him." 

With Bluxome was Hossefross and a squad of men. 
Hastening over to Perley's house, where were wine 
and rejoicing in honor of his deliverance, Bluxome 
acquainted Terry of his danger. His reception was 
none of the most cordial, although his mission was 
pure charity. With generous hospitality he offered 
the hunted man his private apartments, saying, " They 
will not hunt you there." But the supreme judge had 
had enough of '33, Secretary,' and declined. 

Presently Truett made his appearance, and to his 
able and brave defender Terry said, "I will be guided 
wholly by you." 

" The best thing you can do, then," said Truett, "is 
to make your way down to the wharf, take a white- 
hall boat, and get aboard the United States sloop of 
war John Adams." 

Terry assented, and gladly availed himself of the 
vigilant escort waiting Truett's orders without. "We 
all thought it best to have no crowd with us at all," 
says Truett's dictation, "and that a portion of his 
friends should go down on Kearny street, so as not to 
have too many together, and others should go in 
another direction. Terry and myself went down 
Dupont street to Broadway, and down Broadway 
to the water front, where a boat obtained by his 
friends was in readiness. Having got in he was put 
aboard the sloop of war, as arranged." It was at a 
quarter before two on the morning of the 7th of 
August, after a confinement of some seven weeks, 
that Terry was set at liberty. The afternoon of the 


same day, in company with about one hundred men 
of law, he took passage on board the steamboat Helen 
Hensley for up the river. 

The tidings of Terry's release fell upon the fever- 
stricken community like a chill. " There were three 
thousand men about the building, terribly excited," 
says Crary. Nothing of the trial from the beginning 
until now was known by the people, and now they 
were very angry; every phase of mingled ire and dis- 
gust was apparent on the faces which met that morn- 
ing. Some were sorrowfully disappointed; others 
swearfully rampant. Their late idol, the Vigilance 
Committee, the people now cursed as traitors, weak and 
treacherous sycophants, who strangle smilingly friend- 
less criminals, but who dare not touch the august Ter- 
ry's garment's hem. As Frink puts it, "there was the 
devil to pay. It nearly broke up the Committee. 
Coleman came in and said he knew nothing about it, 
and calmed them as well as he could." 

Indeed, to the manner of Terry's discharge Mr 
Coleman takes exception in language stronger than I 
have often heard him use. Speaking of the eleven 
brought together for the express purpose of liberating 
Terry, of which number Coleman was not one, his 
dictation says: "They took advantage of a provision 
in the rules of the Committee which allowed about a 
dozen members of the Executive to act as a quorum 
by night in cases of danger or emergency requiring 
immediate action, and proceeded accordingly." 

" My own plan," continues the president, "and that 
of some others, which I had freely expressed, was 
that upon the concurrence of the board of delegates 
in the sentence of the Executive, Terry should be 
formally discharged in broad daylight, in the presence 
of the whole Committee assembled for the occasion, 
and escorted by the military from his place of impris- 
onment, which proceeding would have boon more in 
accordance with the character and dignity of the 


Committee than that actually pursued b y the minority 
of the Executive." 

In truth it was a trying moment and displays in 
a greater degree than any other incident of the cru- 
sade the rare self-control of the leaders and the strong 
and ruling principle which could hold as in a vise 
disrupting passion pervading the whole association. 

Let us follow Mr Coleman a little further: "It was 
a matter of intense surprise to the president and the 
other members of the Executive and of the great 
body of the whole Committee the next morning, to 
learn what was on everybody's lips, that Terry had 
been clandestinely allowed to escape. Excitement was 
intense; rage, mortification, invective were the features 
of the hour. How? Why? Wherefore? By whom? 
were the questions everywhere resounding. The 
answers were, We cannot understand it. We left the 
delegates in convention, the vice-president of the 
Executive in the chair. We supposed that this action 
if any, would be reported to the Executive. A demand 
was made on all sides for explanations, for reparation, 
for punishment of the guilty ones, if they were guilty. 
The great body of the Committee were of course in 
utter ignorance of these several proceedings which 
had led to this result and were incensed and outraged 
at what they considered treachery and cowardice. 
The main floor of the Committee room was crowded, 
and an impromptu organization was called for, for ex- 
planation, and as some expressed it for further action. 
All the seeds of dissension or of dissatisfaction that 
had been sown by our enemies during the Terry trial 
seemed at this moment to be ripening, and prompt and 
proper action vras evidently needed. The president 
called the Executive together and an explanation was 
asked of the members who the ni<rirt before had dis- 
charged Terry and who by this hour were well known, 
which they gave; and after all was said and all that 
could be was done the final answer resolved itself that it 
was very ill advised, very hasty, very unfortunate, very 


undignified, not in good taste, nor becoming the Vig- 
ilance Committee. These members and others were 
requested to address the body of the meeting below, 
explain proceedings, and if possible satisfy the body 
of our members and restore quiet. They were accord- 
ingly addressed by a number of gentlemen, and every 
effort w^as made, and assurances were given that the 
Executive in full session approved of what was done. 
But while many were satisfied the majority would not 
be, and they called for the president, and sent deputa- 
tions to him asking him to address them and to give 
his assurance of approval of what had been done. 
The president responded, and assured them that what 
had been done did not meet his approval and could 
not, for while what was done was technically right in 
substance, it was palpably wrong in manner and form ; 
and while we must abide by it, it was one of the few 
prominent things in the whole course of our labors 
that caused him deep regret. While we could not ap- 
prove we had to abide by what was done." 

Indeed, taking it all in all, it was of very little con- 
sequence how the judge was discharged. Secretly 
and by night was the quickest, quietest way; openlj r 
and by day would have displayed the discipline of the 
troops at the best advantage, provided their obedience 
proved equal to the emergency. The verdict, the 
discharge, the assertion and acknowledgment that 
though guilty of serious charges the Committee could 
not punish him, after all their professions of fairness 
and of power, were certainly nothing to be proud of 
nor to make special parade about. 

Actuated by the highest motives that restrain and 
govern society, the executive committee were to be 
swayed by no mortal man, by no mortal passion, by 
no journalistic enforcement. Thomas King, of the 
Bulletin, as is frequently the case with journalists 
who heartily espouse a cause and argue for days and 
months on one side of a subject, was very bitter. 
"The first false step," he writes over his editorial of 


August 7th. " It is with feelings of mingled indig- 
nation and regret that we are compelled to announce 
to our readers that the executive committee of vigil- 
ance have seen fit to let loose upon our community the 
rowdy Judge D. S. Terry in the farce of trying whom 
this body has been for some time engaged. We are 
in possession of none of the reasons which impelled 
these individuals to this course of conduct, except 
such as may be gained from general rumor. The ex- 
ecutive committee have taken action which we cannot 
speak of as other than criminal and weak. They 
have failed in their pledges to the people to act with- 
out fear or favor. They have checked the reform 
movement, perhaps killed it. They have infused new 
spirit into the rowdies and personal responsibility men, 
against whom they have seemed hitherto to be in op- 
position. They have set at naught the general com- 
mittee and the people. They have acted not only 
without the consent of those from whom they derive 
all the power they possess, but in direct opposition to 
their ascertained will. They no longer represent the 
feeling of our community. Let them not complain if 
in any danger which may hereafter threaten them, 
that support which has hitherto been so cheerfully 
awarded, shall be found wanting." 

And so this journalist goes on for a column or so, 
and the next day as much more and the day after, 
heaping up the most scurrilous abuse upon the men 
who but yesterday were gods. To say the least it 
was in very bad taste. As long as the executive com- 
mittee fed well the fire of Mr King's passions, or 
as long as hanging and banishing were lively, all 
their actions were highly praised. Here these men 
for the past six weeks had been sitting as judges, had 
been engaged in the weightiest matters incident to 
tribunals of justice, had been listening to arguments 
and weighing evidence, endeavoring to lay aside all 
passion, and judge as became men filled with a sense 
of their awful responsibility. And now the tempo- 


rary editor of the paper sets up his individual opinion 
or passion, whichever it may have been, against the 
mature judgment of the entire executive committee. 
Now he not only threatens to drive them from power, 
but to withdraw from them the protection of the 
general committee, and leave them to the mercy of 
their enemies. But such a threat had little influence 
with such men. 

Practically the case of Terry came up before the 
Committee in this way : First, should the same qual- 
ity and degree of punishment be dealt this man, in so 
far as he should be found guilty, as to an ordinary 
offender, and without fear of the consequences? Es- 
sentially, yes. Yet the popular element in the Com- 
mittee would have banished him. Many wanted him 
hanged. But the matter must be regarded calmly and 
from all sides. By its own code the verdict of the 
tribunal did not justify extreme measures. The only 
penalty then remaining which the Committee were 
accustomed to inflict was that of banishment. Without 
doubt his position was the chief obstacle to this sen- 
tence. Had he been a poor and ignorant man, a less 
exalted personage, friendless, or whose friends were 
men of no influence, the judge would unquestionably 
have been unceremoniously sent abroad. It would 
seem that the fiat justitia mat cxlum of their seal had 
become a mockery. 

The whole attitude of affairs, however, must be 
taken into account. The San Francisco executive 
committee of vigilance was not a mob, acting through 
impulse alone; otherwise the honorable justice would 
have been more harshly dealt with, for the masses 
were against him. They were a body of intelligent 
and responsible men, who, though acting in secret, 
were known to many. Though superior to law, they 
had not law on their side. Instead of being aided by 
the law in performance of their praiseworthy duties, 
they were hampered by men who in the name of law 


threw every possible obstacle in their path. Now 
without subjecting themselves to a just charge of fear 
or favor, one may easily perceive how certain acts 
could be performed by the Committee with compara- 
tive safety, while certain other acts, which ought like- 
wise, if possible, to be performed, might be attended 
with too great danger to the commonwealth. They 
would exercise a wise discretion. With unbounded 
power execution was easy. Moderation, restriction, 
self-control, these alone were difficult. 

That the Committee were afraid of Terry or of his 
friends so far as retaliation w T as concerned, I do not 
for a moment believe. Power was on their side; and 
had they been governed by passion alone, the very 
fact of his being a judge of the supreme court would 
have only intensified their desire to punish him. But 
might not the banishment of Terry make it appear, 
more particularly in the eyes of the authorities at 
Washington, that the protestations of the Committee 
against any thought of usurping political authority were 
somewhat unsubstantial ? The government might 
wink at the hanging of a Sing Sing convict, when the 
banishment of a state judge would bring about its ears 
such a din as would give it rest never more. More- 
over, to banish Terry would be an expensive luxury. 
To send him to Honolulu or Panama would be idle, for 
he was a determined character, with a large political 
party behind him, and he would immediately be back 
again and in the hands of his friends. To make his 
banishment effectual it would be necessary to place 
him on some island unknown to his friends, and from 
which he could not escape. I do not see how the Com- 
mittee could have adopted any other course without 
subjecting themselves to the charge of foolhardiness 
and lack of judgment. 

Let the attitude assumed by these men be here 
noted. Like the action taken by Lincoln and Seward 
in the Mason and Slidell affair, it was for the moment 
unpopular, bringing upon the devoted heads of the 


Committee anathemas, the curses of friends and the 
jubilant sneers of enemies. Yet to-day, who shall say 
they were not right? Who shall refuse their names a 
place among the greatest names of this great nation? 
Mark the connection. These gentlemen of the exec- 
utive committee, these green-grocers, stale flour sellers, 
salt pork and codfish dealers were charged by their 
opponents as arrogating unlawful authority. The 
work they were doing, everybody admitted was a 
good one, but, said the law and order men, look out 
for the reaction, beware of mobocracy, of drunkenness 
in the exercise of power. 

In due time all of the public journals which had 
hitherto been upon the side of vigilance came to 
acknowledge the wisdom and justice of the tribunal. 
The Bulletin, always the foremost in the cause, was 
the last to give in. Indeed, it seemed as if, in mem- 
ory of the offence, ever since the slaying of his brother, 
Thomas King's heart had grown more and more bitter, 
until the most extreme measures in every instance 
alone would satisfy him. In the affairs of the tribu- 
nal, and presently in local government and municipal 
affairs, he assumed too nearly the tone of a dictator, 
as though his misfortunes gave him superior rights, 
and that the people should hear him for his wrongs, 
if for no other cause. But the wrongs of Thomas 
King were no greater than those that befell many a 
better man who made less noise about them. James 
King was fortunate enough to have a real grievance. 
He was a good man, and in the main was on the side 
of truth and honesty. He had been badly treated, 
and he saw that the community were being badly 
treated by bad men. He seized the opportunity to 
chastise with one blow his own enemies and the ene- 
mies of the commonwealth. He did well; laid down 
his life in the cause; and the people praised him. 
Thomas King was not a great man, nor a particularly 
good one. He was endured for some time on his 
brothers account, but after a while the people got 

Pop. Teib., Vol. II. 31 


tired of his continued and bitter abuse, and the Bulle- 
tin fell into better hands. It has always remained on 
the side of the people and the people's party, what- 
ever those terms might chance to signify. The Bulle- 
tin has an origin and history of which it may well be 

It was not long after the discharge of Judge Terry 
that a journalist of pronounced vigilance proclivities 
writes: " The first dissatisfaction has calmed down, 
and now all seem content to bear the executive com- 
mittee out to the end. The first dissensionists are 
prepared to give up their personal opinions for the 
common good." No higher proof of the wisdom of 
the executive committee could be given than this 
admission on the part of one who within a fortnight 
had been unable to find in the vocabulary of his invec- 
tive words of condemnation sufficiently strong for the 
betrayers of public trust who had liberated Terry. 

The prompt punishment of those who pervert the 
law is what law should do, but what it never has 
done in this country. Of all others, lawyers and 
judges have trampled upon law with the greatest im- 
punity. Next to the hungry, the ignorant, the openly 
or professionally vile, politicians are the greatest curse 
to a community, and our politics and government are 
much too closely allied. 

Had the Committee purposed political advantage 
to themselves, had they been prepared to overthrow 
the government, had they meant revolution, their 
case would have been plain. But as it was, this de- 
termined judge was too large game for the calibre of 
their intentions. They admitted it. They could not 
pass the assault unnoticed; the populace would have 
laid violent hands on him else. Had Hopkins died, 
hanging would have been easy. As it was, Terry had 
done nothing which by their own law warranted the 
Committee in taking his life. It was a standing rule 
with them to punish capitally only for murder, to 
punish no more severely than the law would punish 


if properly administered. If the tribunal erred, it 
was always on the side of leniency, in this matter 
following the example of the law, as may well be 
imagined, with a thousand unpunished murderers in 
the country. Had they hanged all who really de- 
served it, their hands would indeed have been full. 

The only other method of punishment open to them 
was exile, which in this case was simply impracticable. 
At best banishment, as practised by them, was very 
much of a farce. A penniless vagabond they could 
ship hence, and so get rid of him. But this was a far 
different case. Terry might have been sent away, but 
he would have returned. Put him on a lone island 
and place a guard over him, his friends would have 
scoured the remotest corner of the Pacific to find him, 
and then would have hounded the government until 
he had been liberated. Banishment in this case was 
impracticable, impossible. There was then but one 
thing left for the Committee to do; in that straight- 
forward, honest, manly way which characterized all 
their words and acts they said: "We have tried this 
man. He is guilty. He deserves punishment, but 
we are not the proper power to inflict it. He should 
resign his position. Our duty draws us no further 
in this direction; greatly against our sense of justice, 
but forced by necessity, we discharge him." 

As the river steamer which bore him hence passed 
the Adams a salute was fired by Captain Bout well, an 
act which brought upon his head the curses of the 
vigilants and the smiling approbation of their oppo- 
nents. Immediately after his discharge Terry took 
his seat on the supreme bench beside his old colleague, 
now also returned to his neglected duties, and de- 
cisions were soon rolling out of the mill as lively and 
of as fine a quality as ever over the signatures of that 
famous pair: 

Murray, C. J. 
Terry, J. 

Nothing could prove more conclusively the strength 


of the organization than the agitation of a question 
abounding in such manifold fierce antagonisms. It is 
the constant strain that breaks the strong man's 
strength more surely than the heavy blow. So subtile 
had been the spells cast by the charmers that many 
of the Committee were tainted; many openly avowed 
the opinion that Terry did right in striking Hopkins, 
and that he did not deserve punishment. There is 
something extremely fascinating in the chivalrous 
courtesy of the southerner; something extremely 
winning in his soft, plausible speech, more particularly 
when placed beside the coarser honesty of the New 
Englander, and this influence began to permeate the 
body of reformers like a poison. There was no greater 
trial in the whole campaign than holding steadily to 
their work under such circumstances, while battling at 
every step these counteracting influences. The fibre 
and tenacity of the association were nowhere so 
manifest as throughout the Terry trial. 

" Public sentiment had applauded the acts of the Vigilance Committee up 
to the time of Terry's liberation," says the Nevada Journal of the 15th of 
August, 1856, "and with the exception of a wild and blood-thirsty few who 
had set their hearts on the execution of Terry, and steeled them against the 
palliating circumstances of his case, there is a general feeling of acquiescence 
in the magnanimous disposition of the distinguished prisoner by the Com- 
mittee. The general features of the evidence against Terry were published 
long ago, and we early took the ground that if such was all and the only evi- 
dence against him he was not worthy the doom an excited populace had de- 
signed for him. And before we gave a blind sanction to all the acts of the 
Vigilance Committee, or gave them a carte blanche for ourselves, we desired 
to be fully satisfied that the members of the Committee were men of iron 
nerve, and able to withstand the heavy outside pressure at the expense of 
justice. The people have already pronounced their approbation of the pre- 
vious acts of the Vigilance Committee, and hereafter, if not wholly now, will 
they admire and appreciate the justice and moderation which set Terry at lib- 
erty. The executive committee have displayed more moral heroism in this 
last act in braving the will of thousands of their friends, than by the perform- 
ance of any previous deeds, however responsible, or good and beneficial to 
society they might be. It could be desired that the friends of Terry were 
blessed with a modicum of that magnanimity and moderation which has so 
signally characterized the Vigilance Committee in restoring to freedom the 
distinguished prisoner of the latter and the valued associate of the former. 
It is in exceeding bad taste to get up a triumphal procession like the one 


at Sacramento, make speeches, and glorify the triumph of law and order. 
Had the friends of Judge Terry been sufficiently numerous, or gifted with 
oratory sufficient to revolutionize public opinion, or had they the courage to 
take Fort Vigilance by storm and set their friends at liberty, it might be ap- 
propriate to celebrate their victory with an ovation. But when they owe the 
liberation of a friend to the justice, moderation, and magnanimity of a foe, it 
is well to rejoice for the good fortune of the friend, not to exult over it as a 
triumph over enemies. Judge Terry was paraded through the streets of Sac- 
ramento to the tunes of 'Hail to the Chief,' and 'See the Conquering Hero 
Comes!' Such an exhibition is trifling, puerile, contemptible. But Terry's 
friends have never displayed, during the whole time of his confinement, the 
smallest appreciable quantity of good sense, and it could hardly be expected on 
this occasion." 

A pamphlet of seventy -five pages containing the trial 
of D. S. Terry before the Committee of Vigilance on 
seven distinct charges was issued from the press the 
2d of September. It was copyrighted by Charles L. 
Case, a member of the executive committee. 

It may well be imagined that there was great re- 
joicing over the discharge of Terry, and many were 
the base motives attributed to the executive committee 
by both friends and enemies. Hear the Herald: "He 
was so just a man that even they, all cankered with 
revengeful prejudice as were their minds, could find 
no offence in him, and so discharged him. The most 
vindictive and purblind bigotry, perjury the most un- 
blushing, slander the most venomous, every dirty arti- 
fice that grovelling meanness could invent to his 
prejudice, espionage the most villainous and contempt- 
ible, and all the varied means and appliances of a 
most extensive and unscrupulous power were em- 
ployed to crush him. The release of Judge Terry is 
properly regarded as a great triumph over mob-law. 
The act performed by the Vigilance Committee yester- 
day morning is the virtual signature of their death- 
warrant." How beautiful, and, above all, how true ! 
Some are indeed hard to please. If Mr Nugent spends 
so much of the vituperative part of his dictionary in 
cursing the Committee for releasing Terry, what 
would he have done for words had they hanged him? 
Mr Nugent was hardly satisfied. He would have 


been better pleased to have seen the Committee en- 
tangle themselves to their destruction. 

The lady friends of law and order presented the 
bloody-minded supreme justice a silver pitcher with 
the following inscription: "Hon. D. S. Terry, from 
the ladies of San Francisco, who admire his courage, 
honor his patriotism, and take the highest pride in 
his heroic resistance to tyranny. August 26, 1856." 

What would the world be if our wives and sisters 
and daughters did not think as we thought, did not 
believe in us, did not regard even our dastardly deeds 
as heroic actions? God bless their warm hearts and 
credulous heads; who would have them otherwise I 



Bestemmiavano Iddio, e i lor parenti, 
L'umana spezie, il luogo, il tempo, e' il seme 
Di lor semenza, e di lor nascimenti. 

Dell Inferno. 

So absorbed, during the month of July, was the 
public mind in the momentous affairs of Mr Jus- 
tice Terry, that the arrest, trial, and execution of 
two little murderers passed comparatively unnoticed. 
It was after Terry's trial and before his discharge, 
while the difficulties of agreeing upon a verdict were 
pending between the Executive and the delegates, 
that this tragedy was performed. It was done in close 
proximity to the ears and eyes of the Texan judge, 
and as his own fate then lay in restless uncertainty in 
the same hands, the play was not a particularly 
pleasing one to him. 

And now that the writer of this history has placed 
the great prime-minister of disorderly law back upon 
his bench, there once more to deal high and holy jus- 
tice, as in days past, let the mind of the reader, in 
common with the excited thoughts of the populace 
and the strained nerves of the Executive, descend to 
the narration of the more plain and «asy cases of com- 
mon strangulation. Work must not accumulate at 
Executive head-quarters, though presidents frown, 
governors swear, and judges interfere. 

Mr Philander Brace was sitting in Barry and Pat 
ten's saloon, on Montgomery street, on a Thursday 
afternoon in June. A newspaper was in his hand 
and a back window near; alternate glances were cast 



at one and the other. Evidently Philander's medita- 
tions were of a mixed quality; his visions partook of 
the character both of a Milton and a Dante. His 
heaven was the polls, the supervisor's precincts, and 
law courts, intermingled with a little crib-cracking, 
drinking and gambling comforts, and now and then a 
play in which he took the part of chief tragedian. His 
hell was Fort Vigilance on Sacramento street. Deep 
in his abstractions at twenty minutes before three, he 
felt his arms lifted and gently locked each in another 
arm. Turning his eyes first to one side and then to 
the other, gradually a realization of his position dawned 
upon him. "Behold the emissaries of Satan!" he 
thought. "Hell is here; myself am hell!" Quietly 
he arose and walked away, like Mary's lamb between 
two butchers, and soon was assigned a room in the 
Vigilance Committee building. 

The Committee were preparing for the trial of 
Brace when Terry precipitated his unwelcome presence 
upon them. At their meeting of the 21st of June 
it was resolved that when he was tried it should be 
for the crime of murder, and that the same rules of 
trial should be observed in the case of the People versus 
Brace, as governed in the trials of Cora and Casey. 
At the Executive meeting of Tuesday evening, the 
24th of June, T. Thompson was appointed prosecuting 
attorney in the case of the People versus Brace, charged 
with murder, and H. M. Hale attorney for the defence. 
It was ordered that the trial of Brace should be taken 
up immediately after the trial of Terry, and that 
meanwhile all the necessary preparations should be 
made for the said trial. 

As soon as it became apparent that the trial of 
Terry was destined to be prolonged, the Committee 
determined to dispose of Brace immediately. His 
trial was therefore made the special order for Wed- 
nesday evening the 25th of June at eight o'clock. 
Again the trial was delayed, and resumed the lGth of 
July, at which time the following charges were pre- 


ferred: first, robbery of one Willet South wick the 
year previous; secondly, shooting and robbing of a 
Mr Scharff; thirdly, murder of Joseph B. West in 
June, 1855. To all these charges Mr Brace pleaded 
not guilty. 

The certainty of punishment, I have said, rather 
than its quality is the fear of felons. One would think 
that in San Francisco on the 24th of July, 1856, this 
maxim would hold good if ever. With eight thou- 
sand armed citizens standing ready for the arrest, with 
the fate of Casey and Cora so fresh in the minds of 
evil-doers, with a judge of the supreme court of the 
state at that moment in the hands of the Vigilance 
Committee undergoing trial for his life, it would seem 
that he must, indeed, be a bold villain to attempt 
murder with such surroundings. Yet such a villain 
there was. And the Committee of Vigilance should 
surely require no further apology for its existence; a 
disinterested man would certainly desire no more con- 
clusive evidence of its absolute necessity to the life 
and welfare of society than that men so hardened in 
criminality yet roamed at large; that human hyenas 
of so reckless and blood-thirsty character still stood 
about the streets unchained. 

Andrew Bandall, physician, residing in Marin county, 
a native of Ohio, a man respected, beloved, and having 
a family dependent upon him for support, owed cer- 
tain money to Joseph Hetherington, an Englishman 
from Carlisle, an infamous character who had com- 
mitted many crimes, among others that of the murder 
of Dr Baldwin in 1853. The first year after his 
arrival in California in 1849, Hetherington drove a 
cart, but this was too honest and tame an occupation. 
He liked three-card monte better, and by this game 
won large sums of money during the years 1850 and 
1851. He was the associate of Whittaker and Mc- 
Kenzie of '51 vigilance notoriety, and in their com- 
pany committed many crimes; but being a slippery 


scoundrel, to whom, in common with all such, the law 
was exceedingly kind, he escaped unpunished. 

Randall's property was in real estate, and he could 
not pay his creditor. Hetherington insulted him on 
every occasion, and swore he would have the money 
or his life. Randall armed himself and went about 
his business. On the day before mentioned, the 24th 
of July, Randall entered the St Nicholas Hotel and 
stepped up to the office and registered his name. The 
clerk then handed him some letters, while reading 
which, Hetherington unobserved came in and stepping 
up to Randall seized him by his long flowing beard, 
jerking him some five feet from his position, and ex- 
claimed with a horrible oath, "I've got you now!" 

Randall attempted to draw his weapon, but Heth- 
erington was too quick for him. Hetherington's first 
fire, however, did not bring Randall down, and the 
latter by this time managed to get out his pistol and 
return Hetherington's shot. Then they both fired 
again, almost simultaneously; after which Randall ran 
round into the office and endeavored to shield himself 
behind the counter. Hetherington then approached 
him, reached over the counter, and deliberately dis- 
charged a ball into his head, inflicting a wound which 
was at once pronounced fatal. This was about half- 
past three o'clock on Thursday. Saturday morning at 
nine o'clock Randall died. 

Soon after the fatal shot was fired Hetherington 
was arrested by a policeman, who started with him for 
the station-house. 

" Not so, Mr Officer," murmured the crowd; "that 
sort of thing is stale in San Francisco." 

Scarcely had the policeman stepped into the street 
from the door of the hotel when a detachment of 
vigilants came up. 

"Allow me to relieve you," said the officer in com- 
mand to the policeman, taking Hetherington by the 

Without a word the policeman gave up his prisoner 


and melted into the crowd. Indeed the law, with all 
its limbs and branches, was becoming mannerly. It 
was only such as the imbecile governor, the bombastic 
general, and the bloody justice of the supreme court 
that were yet refractory. 

Hetherington was taken to vigilance head-quarters 
and thrust into a cell, heavily ironed. All eyes were 
now turned to the executive committee. With one 
accord the people demanded immediate action. " Hang 
him!" was the deeply muttered verdict, "and now. 
There is no question as to his guilt. Let him promptly 
pay the penalty of this most brutal act." Likewise 
they questioned earnestly, What would be done with 
Terry? "If the Vigilance Committee once set Terry 
at liberty," cries one, " and he takes his seat with the 
immaculate Judge Murray on the supreme bench; 
and if Johnson, the weak and imbecile governor, 
remain in the chair of state, with the chivalrous 
Howard, chief military commander, whose will the 
Committee be, and where will the citizens find them- 
selves twelve months from now? It is folly to talk. 
The Committee have only one of two courses to pur- 
sue, namely, to make Terry resign and leave the state, 
or to hang him forthwith. The people are not going 
to be longer ruled by that quality of domination 
hitherto administered by certain state and county 

But the executive committee were not to be has- 
tened, or swerved from what they deemed a dignified 
and deliberate course, any more by the zeal of their 
friends, than they were to be deterred from executing 
what they conceived to be their duty by their ene- 
mies. Hetherington should not be hastened angrily 
into eternity. Terry, supreme judge though he was, 
should have as fair a trial as the courts could give 
him, ay, infinitely fairer. 

Hetherington was brought before the Committee 
for trial at ten minutes to nine on the morning of 
Saturday, the 26th of July, the second day after the 


murder. To the charge, read to him by Jules David, 
he pleaded not guilty, saying that he killed Randall, 
but that it was done to save his own life. Nearly the 
entire day was occupied in the examination of wit- 
nesses, and the trial was continued the next day. 
Smiley was attorney for the defence, and to this day 
Smiley believes in Hetherington's innocence. There 
were honesty and sincerity for you, certainly, when a 
criminal of the deepest dye so worked upon the com- 
mon-sense and judgment of these hard-headed tribunal 
men as invariably to make whosoever advocated their 
cause believe in their innocence, or at least believe 
that they were justified in committing the crime 
charged upon them. 

At three o'clock of the same day, Sunday, the 27th, 
Brace was brought in for trial and the indictment 
read by Mr David. The prisoner at first pleaded 
guilty, but afterwards changed his plea, saying he was 
present at the time of the killing of West, but did no 

At half-past five the same afternoon, Hetherington's 
case was resumed. The testimony finished, a state- 
ment made by the prisoner was read by Mr Smiley, 
who opened for the plaintiff, after which Mr David 
closed the case for the prosecution. The prisoner was 
found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. Next day, 
Monday, the trial of Brace was concluded and a 
verdict of guilty rendered. On the same evening 
the delegates met and concurred in the action of 
the Executive in both cases. The delegates recom- 
mended that the prisoners, Hetherington and Brace, 
should be executed the following day, Tuesday, the 
29th, between the hours of three and six o'clock in the 

It was past midnight before the testimony on both 
sides had been read before the delegates and their 
concurrence expressed. The prisoner, Brace, was now 
brought before the delegates, Mr Coleman presiding. 

" Philander Brace, stand up. Have you aught to 


say why sentence of death should not be pronounced 
against you?" asked the president. 

"No," said Brace, "except that I am innocent." 

"You have been found guilty by the Committee 
of Vigilance of the crime of aiding and abetting in the 
murder of J. B. West on Sunday, June 3, 1855, and 
you are now sentenced by the Committee of Vigilance 
to be hanged by the neck until you are dead, and this 
sentence will be carried into effect at or about four 
o'clock p. M. of this day, Tuesday. And may the Lord 
have mercy on your soul." 

" Is that all, ?" asked Brace sneeringly. 

" That is all," replied the president. 

" Then I am ready," said Brace. 

Joseph Hetherington was then sent for and brought 
before the delegates by the director of police. 

"Have you anything to say why sentence of death 
should not be passed upon you for the murder of Dr 
Randall?" asked the president. 

"I don't know that I have at present," Hethering- 
ton replied. He then asked, "Shall I have the privi- 
lege of seeing my attorney?" 

"Yes," replied the president, who also asked him, 
"Do you wish to see a minister?" 

"I wish to see a minister," said Hetherington, "but 
I would rather see H. H. Haight first." 

The poor fellow was then sentenced, and remanded 
to his cell. 

Mr Truett's law and order brother objected to 
further strangulations on his premises, although he 
by no means objected to the revenue derived from 
their use for vigilant or any other purposes. Davis 
street, between Commercial and Sacramento streets, 
was selected as a site for the execution. 

By noon on the 29th of July, it was generally 
known about town that two men at least were to be 
executed by the Vigilance Committee that day. A 
scaffold was erected on Davis street, between Sacra- 


mento and Commercial, and the entire vigilance force 
was under arms. Impelled by a morbid love of the 
horrible, by three o'clock an immense concourse had 
assembled, filling the streets, balconies, windows, and 
roofs for four or five squares round. Infantry com- 
panies were marched out and posted at various points 
commanding every avenue of approach to the Com- 
mittee building. Beyond these the cavalry were 
stationed. Loaded brass cannon were placed at every 
corner of the square, and the gunners stood by with 
torches ready lighted. Thus the military surrounded 
the entire block within which was situated the Vigil- 
ance Committee building. The scaffold rose in a 
dense square of soldiers four or five deep. It con- 
sisted of a platform eight feet square, elevated ten 
feet above the street on four heavy posts, and reached 
by steps on the east side. Heavy upright posts on 
the north and south sides of the platform supported a 
cross-tie seven and a half feet above the platform. 
Fastened to the cross-tie .were two noosed ropes. 
Nearly all the platform was a trap, fastened in po- 
sition by a rope, which on being cut let fall the trap. 
All the while this engine was building, the vigilant 
forces were manoeuvring about the vicinity, marching 
and countermarching, all under Marshal Doane, with 
aids-de-camp riding hither and thither. 

About half-past five, everything being in readiness, 
the prisoners were brought out and placed each in a 
separate closed carriage, although they had to be 
taken only round the corner. A procession was then 
formed in front of the Committee rooms, consisting 
of the executive committee, a company of pistolmen 
formed by delegates from each company of the gen- 
eral committee, and the prisoners, with their guards, 
in carriages. The executive committee took their 
position to the north of the scaffold, and the pistol- 
men surrounded it. 

One of the carriages then drove up to the scaffold 
stairs, and out of it stepped an intelligent, fine- 


looking man about twenty-one years of age, dressed 
in black coat, dark vest, checked cassimere pants, and 
Panama hat. That was Brace. He was a man of 
talent and education. His arms were tied behind at 
the elbows; his hands were in his pantaloons-pockets; 
his eyes were nearly closed; and every muscle of his 
pale excited face seemed stretched to its utmost ten- 
sion in the desperate effort of the young man to 
nerve himself up for a death of bravado. He was 
led up the steps by the guard and placed on the south 
side of the scaffold. From the other carriage Heth- 
erington was taken and placed beside him, both facing 
the west. Hetherington was a tall man, dressed 
in black, with a sunburned, full-whiskered face, 
earnest and serious. His head was covered with a 
straw hat, and his arms were bound like those of the 
other. There were on the platform the executioner, 
in black muslin robe and cap, and several other per- 
sons. The culprits' legs were bound, their collars 
removed, and the noose put round their necks. Heth- 
erington was docile and respectful; Brace twisted his 
mouth as the executioner put the rope round his 
neck, and threw into his face a soul-full of scornful 
hate. The two criminals then shook hands with each 
other and with several standing near them. 

The executioner then stepped back, holding ready 
in his hand the white caps which should shut this 
world forever from their vision. Now, unfortu- 
nates! behold for the last time earth with its sea of 
upturned faces, and sky with its silver-lined clouds 
rolling in illimitable blue; drink in the last draught 
of life-giving air, for soon that rope will close all 
avenues of breath; let lips and tongues now speak, 
for a few moments hence they will be stiff and black. 
Ah, thou ugly monster, death, what a mysterious 
thing thou art! Every one of that gaping multitude 
has soon to die, the best and the worst, and they all 
well know it, and yet because these rig]) toons man- 
killers — always righteous, always sure of heaven, for 


so their spiritual physicians tell them provided they 
can adapt their tongue to certain mummery — because 
they have to die a few days sooner than those before 
them they think it hard, very hard. Why, most of 
the fifteen thousand gathered there are at this writing 
dead, and yet how many of their names, by reason of 
their good or evil deeds, are enrolled in the immortal 
pages of history ! How many of them have had their 
last acts noted, their last words recorded, and handed 
down to remotest generations ! 

But let us hear what they have to say while they can 
speak. And first the new-born angel Hetherington. 
"Gentlemen, you may think I am a hardened sin- 
ner," said he, "but I appear before you mild, uncon- 
cerned, and pleased. I know that in a few minutes I 
must meet my maker. To the best of my knowledge 
I have not lived one day that I w T as not ready to meet 
my maker that night. Do not think I am boasting. 
Such is not my case. The reverend Bishop Kip has 
been with me all day, or nearly all day. Have you 
that all down V 9 he now asked of the reporters. 

" Oh, go on! go on!" here broke in the other crimi- 
nal, evidently throwing his whole vitality into his 
nerves that they might not fail him now. " Say what 
you have to say! Here am I, Brace, murdered by 
the Vigilance Committee, so and so, like a — " 

"I am not