There are accounts from all throughout the history of the United States that show vigilantes at work. Although vigilantes are often looked at as a threat to civilized society there is another deeper meaning that I want to get at. Normally vigilantes showed up when the crime was so heinous and barbaric that normal people’s outrage could not be contained. There were some lynchings that were racially motivated but most were American’s taking out the proverbial garbage.
Here are several cases of lynching that were a direct result of community outrage. The first instance is the case of Nease and John Gillespie, Henry Lee, George Irwin and Jack Dillingham. These five black men were convicted of the ax murder of a local white family that they had worked for. The details of the crime were quite gruesome and after being convicted the five men were abducted by a crowd that was estimated in the thousands. The vigilantes publicly executed these men by hanging.
Another case was that of Roy Eastman. Eastman was a wealthy white man who murdered his wife and stepson. When word of the murders got out, a group of over a hundred men entered the jail and dragged Eastman out into the street. He was hung from the Main Street Bridge where a crowd of 500 or more witnessed his execution.
These stories go on and on in American history and if we were to examine all of them it would be quite a long column. The point I am making with these two is that, in my research, I found that these lynching were motivated by the crime not the race. Lynching received a bad name for many reasons, one of which being that there were some lynchings that were motivated strictly by race.
While I will stop short of saying it is okay to take the law into your own hands and murder accused persons, I will say that what is frightening is that as communities and as a nation we have lost a sense of moral outrage and righteous anger.
The reason that a lot of these people in history were lynched by mobs was because people in the town could not believe the level of evil associated in certain crimes and they knew that it was not something they wanted to perpetuate in their community. However, in today’s newer and gentler, more politically correct society we have to find reasons for why these people are not to blame for these Godless crimes they commit.