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gnated as lynch law is as old as human society. It is older
any form of organized government. In primitive times it 10 Outlaw it; and although long outlawed, it has never been
itself the law and it took ages of development and restraint stroyed and has never been wholly banished. Now and then it emerges from its concealment, its outlawry is for the time forgotten, and under its sway the people, in fury and frenzy, deal directly with the supposed criminal, scorning all form and all procedure. That such is the truth all good men deplore, but no wise man will forget. The mob spirit, including lynching, has no geographical limita
Whole nations may for a long period be free from its debasing influence. England, prior to the World War, was instanced as a conspicuous example. England, with an AngloSaxon, homogeneous population, stolid and well poised, with fixed stations in life, always free, densely populated, so that its citizens were constantly under the eye and in the very presence of its law officers, for two centuries secure from serious internal dissension and for a century saved from the corrupton of serious foreign wars, has been happily free from the aroused spirit of the mob.
It is too much to hope that, even in staid England, such dormant spirit may not, as a result of the mighty upheaval of the recent war, have a terrible awakening. Indeed, it is even now awaking from its century sleep. That it has lain dormant so long is not at all conclusive that it has ceased to exist
“ In that nook-shotten isle of Albion."
as in the past.
The lynching spirit exists in England because men live there, and she will be thrice blessed if it sleeps as quietly in the future
On the contrary, America—East, West, North and Southbas, in all its history, been the breeding ground for mobs, racial, political, labor, religious—mobs great and small. Abraham Lincoln, in an address at Springfield, January 27, 1837, moved thereto by tragedies in Mississippi and Missouri, said of mobs and their atrocities:
“Accounts of outrages committed by mobs form the everyday news of the times. They have pervaded the country from New England to Louisiana ; they are neither peculiar to the eternal
snows of the former nor the burning sands of the latter; they are not the creature of climate, neither are they confined to the slaveholding or the non-slaveholding states. Alike they spring up among the pleasure-hunting masters of southern slaves, and the order-loving citizens of the land of steady habits. Whatever then their cause may be, it is common to the whole country.”
It necessarily takes no great crisis to organize a mob. The sudden, unexpected, impassioned appeal to class, racial or religious prejudice may at any time furnish the electric spark that will explode the mob magazine.
The American people are an ebullient, volatile people, likely to boil over or blow up, often without rhyme or reason. planation is plainly apparent. Our population is hopelessly, inextricably heterogeneous. Approximately ten millions are of African descent, a little over 50 years removed from the ignorance and dependence of slavery, the poise and self-control of many of whom are even now near zero and whose ethnic characteristics, mental and moral traits, exaggerated by a sudden licentious freedom, marvelously excite to race prejudice, discord and riot.
A large and dangerous percentage of our white citizens have, without social, political or educational preparation, hastily gathered here from the four corners of the earth. They have taken asylum here with no conception or appreciation of our system of government. They had but lately escaped from the tyranny and oppression of laws in whose making they had no part, and it is a tedious process to make them believe that wise and just laws can be made and safely obeyed, and that liberty is self-restraint and not license. They have just fled from class obstructions and restricted fields of labor, with the expectation that they will enjoy, in their new homes, social license and unmolested freedom of labor. It has been and will be difficult to convince such newcomers that they cannot labor when they will, how they will and for what they will, and that they can justly kill or destroy to keep their places or to keep anyone else out if, for any reason, they discard them.
America herself has boasted that she is the asylum for the governmental vagarist and heretic, no matter what their creed or lack of creed. She has been a very Cave of Adullam, to which
have gathered "everyone that was in distress, and everyone that was in debt, and everyone that was discontented.” To be the world's melting pot may be a nation's glory, but it has its terrible burdens. The social reaction in so great a melting pot will surely manifest itself in social storms and earthquakes.
Serious internal dissensions do not make for law and order. The American citizen has been largely denied that poise and self-restraint that have their growth in long eras of profound internal peace. The Revolutionary War was not only a war with England, but was also an internecine conflict between Americans themselves.
elves. The slavery storm arose before the charge of Tory ceased to be the acme of shame and hate, culminating in the Civil War. The white citizens of military age spent four years in its death grapple, with all its attendant confusion and demoralization.
The very privileges of the thoughtless American have a tendency to beguile him into lynching. He makes the laws, he elects the judges, governors and sheriffs. He, in common with his neighbors, sits upon the jury. He is very sure that the whole machinery of government is his, and he is half suspicious that he is himself the government. What reason, therefore, in the case of well known or clearly proven criminals, is there why he and his neighbors may not dispense with the form of procedure that they themselves have made and with the services of judges, governors and sheriffs whom they have elected, and themselves dispense justice speedily and by direct rather than by indirect and circuitous methods ? From the beginning the whole subject was in his hands. He could have made the law other than it is and just as he would. Since guilt is clear, why can he not, quoad hoc, dispense with these forms made by himself? Why can he not break down all forms and himself directly apply the law? While such logic is monstrous, the excited moh unconsciously accepts it and acts upon it, forgetting that such logic will destroy all law and lead to anarchy and certain ruin.
Lynching is also encouraged by the preralent political heresies - let the people have what they want, let the majority rule,“ vox populi vox Dei." With their nauseating nostrums the shyster
and demagogue have' poisoned an incredible number of the honest but unthinking. The mob readily persuades itself that it is the people and that it is entitled to its way. It is for the time the majority, at least in temporary power and brute force, and it is entitled to rule. It imagines itself to be the voice of the people, and hence its voice is the voice of God.
The legal faddist and reformer have done more than their share in keeping alive and strengthening the mob spirit generally. and the lynching spirit especially. The foundations of the temple cannot be undermined and at the same time the temple itself be preserved in its full strength and beauty. No more can constitutions and the eternal, universal foundations of the law be assailed and discounted without marring their beauty and grace, without lessening their grasp upon the will and obedience of the people, and without weakening their loins and shortening their
Just so far as the legal iconoclasts have, by their chatter and scribbling, reached and misled the thoughtless and unwary, just so far have dutiful respect and docile obedience to the law been shattered; just so far has the mob been strengthened and emboldened; just so far has the jurisdiction of Judge Lynch been enlarged.
If the Constitution were builded upon an insecure foundation and false legal architectural lines, or if it could not stand the strain or attrition of government in action, why should it further appeal to the imagination or reason of the people? Why should it further withhold their hands or restrain their wills? In statecraft as well as in commerce, sailors will not knowingly continue service in a rotten ship. If the fundamentals were vagaries, founded on injustice and unrighteousness, for the purpose of protecting the strong and oppressing the weak, to secure the continued reign of one class and the service of another, then the whole superstructure, by the combined efforts of both classes, ought to be destroyed, by the one in shame and by the other in hate; and that, too, although in its place, for the time being, the mob may make the law and Judge Lynch execute it.
If the Constitution ought to be suddenly changed whenever and wherever it restrains an impatient, excited and impassioned majority, could such a barrier ever stand between the majority and its purpose? How could it ever shield the helpless minority ? Why should not the majority go straight to its purpose, without any intervening halts or barriers? Why is not every step taken between the birth of its purpose and its realization but so much useless lost motion ?
If the judgments of the courts are so devoid of inherent strength and sacredness that they may be rightfully recalled by the will of the majority, then why trouble the courts to give birth to so many sickly, spineless things? If the judgment of the majority is the ultima thule, why the time and trouble expended in formal, useless lawsuits? Why not at once the imperial will of the mob rule? Why any appeal to Pilate? Why not let the cry, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”. be the beginning and Mount Calvary the end ?
No faddist or reformer wishes the culmination of such a calamity; but they forgot, in their wild zeal and frenzy, that when they destroy every beacon and compass of the past, there are left nothing but the storm and the night.
Neither in the past nor now does the jurisdiction of Judge Lynch extend only to rape cases. As might be expected, the Indians were the first victims in America. Prior to the Civil War, summary execution of negroes was quite unusual. Judge Lynch's victims were, for the most part, white men. The negro was scarcely ever lynched except in cases of conspiracy or insurrection. Until 1850 negroes, even when they killed their masters, mistresses or overseers, were turned over to the law.
Hanging by vigilance committees in California and other Western states for crimes against life and property and for political corruption was, in early days, too common to excite comment.
During the Civil War, and immediately thereafter, the lynching spirit at least in the South was temporarily dormant; yet such lynchings as occurred were almost wholly for other causes
It is not to be gainsaid that originally rape had little influence in establishing lynch courts and enforcing lynch law. The first power such courts exercised was the punishment of other