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Study Notes

Attempts to Combat Lawlessness

Level:
GCSE
Board:
Edexcel

Last updated 24 Oct 2017

The Sheriff

If a territory had a population of more than 5,000 people they could elect a sheriff. Sheriffs were responsible for tax collection, law enforcement, and for employing their own officers. This was a difficult job for several reasons. Some of the territories were huge making it difficult to police effectively, especially at a time where the fastest mode of travel was by horseback. For example, Kansas was 200,000km2. Law enforcement officers were poorly paid which made it was difficult to attract honest, hard-working people to the job. Finally, sheriffs had no official legal training and often favoured their friends, thus causing disputes.

The Sheriff

If a territory had a population of more than 5,000 people they could elect a sheriff. Sheriffs were responsible for tax collection, law enforcement, and for employing their own officers. This was a difficult job for several reasons. Some of the territories were huge making it difficult to police effectively, especially at a time where the fastest mode of travel was by horseback. For example, Kansas was 200,000km2. Law enforcement officers were poorly paid which made it was difficult to attract honest, hard-working people to the job. Finally, sheriffs had no official legal training and often favoured their friends, thus causing disputes.

 

Vigilante Committees

A Vigilante committee was a group of ordinary people who took the law into their own hands. They worked together to identify suspects, hold a trial and then punish them if they were found guilty. Criminals were often hanged which served as a deterrent to other citizens. Often these trials were not fair, with the suspect being deemed guilty before they were even captured.

 

 

Racist Crimes 

Racist attacks were rife in the American West, especially in the mining camps where there were lots of Chinese migrants. Plains Indian’s who lived near the mining towns also suffered from racist attacks. They were poorly dealt with because the state government was as racist as the citizens. There was even a law in California, which stated Chinese miners should be taxed more than white miners. 

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