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Vigilance (Committees) May 15, 2011

Posted by bobv451 in ideas, New Mexico, sci-fi, westerns, Wild West, writing.
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San Francisco history has fascinated me for a long time (as has New Orleans–fabulous towns with vivid backgrounds rooted in, mostly, things illegal, immoral and definitely fattening). Today is an anniversary of sorts. On May 15, 1856 the citizens of SF organized a Committee of Vigilance to combat the crime, undoubtedly pouring out of the Barbary Coast. But the city itself was hardly pure as the wind-driven snow.

Eight thousand members of the C of V. But it disbanded in a few months. I suspect part of the reason was the attempt to clean up politics, which will always get a lot of push back (current crop of problems here in NM might have its such a solution in frontier justice–a judge claims he had to pay weekly extortion to a campaign moneyraiser for the former governor. Another pay-to-play allegation about another judge has surfaced, too. The best justice money can buy. Or elect.)

A fascinating vigilance committee excursion is James King of William in Stanton A. Coblentz’s Villains and Vigilantes

And yes, this is the same Coblentz as was active in sf and wrote such classics as Into Plutonian Depths. with the type of pulp cover I so admire and which John Jos. Miller has been writing about over at Cheese Magnet.

SF conjured up several vigilante groups to keep the peace. I can only wonder if taking a page out of history and dealing with lawlessness now isn’t going to happen in the near future. The past is prologue, after all. And that’s the stuff of science fiction.

by Stanton A. Coblentz

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