Page:Notes and Queries - Series 10 - Volume 12.djvu/166

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134


NOTES AND QUERIES. [io s. xri. AUG. u, im


Though this is the earliest known instance of the term " Lynch' s law," it is a fair guess (though a guess only) that the term had been in use during at least a portion of the twenty-five years that had elapsed since the occurrence of the cases mentioned by Judge Roane. But however that may be, Wirt's foot-note leaves no doubt as to the meaning -of " Lynch 's law."

Let us now turn to the case of Lynchy in Ireland in 1816. Lynchy had neither committed a crime or offence nor was accused of so doing. On the contrary, he had been instrumental in bringing to justice three malefactors who were convicted of burglary, and " suffered death accordingly." In revenge for the part taken by Lynchy and his son-in-law Rooney, upon whose testimony the malefactors were executed, " a body of men, supposed to amount to forty, and well mounted, rode up to his dwelling, which they surrounded ; and, without a single compunction at the indiscriminate destruction in which they were about to involve so many, they set fire to this unfortunate man's house, and destroyed, in this diabolical deed, not only Lynchy and his son-in-law Rooney, but his wife, two children, two servant maids, and two young men ! ' '

In short, the killing of Lynchy and others was a case of simple murder, and not a case of lynch law at all.

2. As previously stated and as shown above, the original term was not " lynch law," but " Lynch' s law." The term " Lynch's law " could have been, and pre- sumably was, derived from the name Lynch, but it could hardly have been derived from the name Lynchy.

In the paper on ' The Term Lynch Law,' after mentioning the terms " regulator," " moderator," " club law," " gag law," and " mob law," all of which were employed in this country, I added this foot-note :

" In addition to these terms for summary modes of punishment, there are others which have long been used in the British Isles, but which are unknown in this country ; as, Cupar justice, Halifax law, Jeddard justice, Lydford law, Stafford law."

When, in my previous reply, I stated that the practice of lynch law arose in this country, I used the word "practice" advisedly. Cases of lynch law have doubtless occurred in all countries, but they have been sporadic cases merely. In this country, however, lynch law became a practice at least as early as the last decade of the eighteenth century. Between 1820 and 1830 writers regarded the practice of lynch

law as on the wane, and likely soon to dis-

appear altogether before advancing civiliza-


tion. But in the next decade came the anti-slavery agitation ; the practice revived, and spread throughout the country ; the punishments became more and more severe, finally including death ; negroes then first became victims ; and at the present day the practice of lynch law is not only the most serious blot on American civilization, but presents a problem with which no other civilized country is confronted.

So far as Charles Lynch is concerned, there is proof that in 1780 he illegally fined and imprisoned certain Tories. Had Charles Lynch been the only person who resorted to illegal acts in dealing with Tories, there might be strong presumptive evidence that to his connexion with such illegal acts we owe the term " lynch law." But the fact is that many others were equally con- cerned in such illegal acts. In 1777 " the Governor and Council, and others," were indemnified by the Virginia legislature " for removing and confining Suspected Persons during the late publick danger." In 1779 "William Campbell, Walter Crockett, and others " were indemnified for illegal acts committed 'in suppressing a late conspiracy." In 1782 "William Preston, Robert Adams, junior, James Callaway, and Charles Lynch, and other faithful citizens " were indemnified for measures (taken in suppressing a conspiracy in 1780) not " strictly warranted by law, although justifiable from the imminence of the danger." In 1784 all persons were indemnified who committed " any insult or injury against the person of a certain Joseph Williamson " on 10 Oct., 1783, " which was previous to the ratification of the definitive treaty between Great Britain and America." It is seen, then, not only that Charles Lynch was one of many who resorted to illegal proceedings, but that it was not he who "set the first example" of such proceedings.

What is needed is new evidence in regard to lynch law in this country previous to 1817. It is useless to refer to James Lynch, Mayor of Galway in 1493, whose son is said to have been executed in that year ; or to Stephen Lynch, who was sent to Jamaica in 1688 ; or to the Lynchy who was murdered in 1816 for these cases have nothing to do with lynch law. Finally, it is possible indeed probable that Judge Roane's remi- niscences of Henry, though not published until 1817, were written several years earlier. The Preface to Wirt's book is dated " Rich- mond, Virginia, Sept. 5th, 1817." In it he says that " it was in the summer of 1805