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The Vigilance Committee of 1856 by James O'Meara
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The Vigilance Committee of '56.



By a Pioneer California Journalist
[James O'Meara]




Many accounts of the Vigilance Committee of San Francisco have been
published, but all of them, so far as I have seen, were from the pen of
members of that organization, or else from persons who favored it. As a
consequence their accounts of it were either partial, to a greater or
less degree, or imperfect otherwise; and much has been omitted as well
as misstated and misrepresented otherwise. I was not a member of the
Vigilance Committee, nor was I a member of the opposing organization,
known as the Law and Order body, of which General Sherman was the head
and Volney E. Howard next in rank. I have never been in favor of mob or
lynch-law in any form, and, therefore, had neither sympathy with nor
disposition to join the Vigilance Committee. And while I was earnestly
in support of Law and Order, I did not feel that I could better subserve
that cause by joining the organization formed at that time, for the
avowed purpose of maintaining the one and enforcing the other. I had
many friends on each side, and I also knew many in each organization who
were unworthy of fellowship in any good or honorable cause or
association; and some of these bore prominent rank in each organization.
As was said of the Regulators of Texas, who directed their energies
chiefly against horse thieves and robbers, that some of the worst and
most guilty of them hastened to join the band, in order to save