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Lynching Beyond DixieAmerican Mob Violence Outside the South$
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Michael J. Pfeifer

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037467

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037467.001.0001

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The Popular Sources of Political Authority in 1856 San Francisco

The Popular Sources of Political Authority in 1856 San Francisco

Lynching, Vigilance, and the Difference between Politics and Constitutionalism

(p.54) 2 The Popular Sources of Political Authority in 1856 San Francisco
Lynching Beyond Dixie

Christopher Waldrep

University of Illinois Press

This chapter traces the ideological formation surrounding a central moment in the history of American lynching, the San Francisco Vigilance Committee of 1856. The San Francisco vigilantes helped to craft highly influential arguments about the relationship between the people and the law that would be adopted by subsequent generations of lynchers in the West, Midwest, and South. The chapter follows the historical context in which the San Francisco vigilantes and their opponents articulated their respective understandings of constitutionalism. It argues that the numbers supporting the San Francisco vigilantes were a transient political majority, acting in defiance of constitutional principle, and thus it cannot be said that their lynchings were socially positive or antidemocratic.

Keywords:   American lynching, San Francisco Vigilante Committee, lynchers, San Francisco vigilantes, constitutionalism, political majority, antidemocracy

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