A Violent Birth: Disorder, Crime, and Law Enforcement, 1849–1890

Roger D. McGrath

in Taming the Elephant

Published by University of California Press

Published in print April 2003 | ISBN: 9780520234116
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936485 | DOI:
A Violent Birth: Disorder, Crime, and Law Enforcement, 1849–1890

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This chapter challenges several prevailing conceptions about crime, violence, and law enforcement in California's early governmental period. It shows that Joaquín Murieta was just a brutal bandit from Mexico and that he was prone to assault easy victims. The Feliz-Murieta gang alone murdered more than a dozen Chinese, several whites, one black, and at least three Mexicans. If the bandidos were the scourge of rural California, then the Hounds were the scourge of the city. The fighting men of California were willing combatants, but they rarely attacked the innocent. While murder sometimes brought a death penalty at the hands of vigilantes, lesser crimes usually got the culprit sentenced to jail. If Sam Chung was Bodie Chinatown's most notorious badman, then Black Bart was California's most notorious and most romantic outlaw. The code of the West made the mining camps of California stages for deadly tests of will, skill, and honor.

Keywords: crime; violence; law enforcement; California; Joaquín Murieta; Feliz-Murieta gang; Sam Chung; Black Bart; bandidos; Hounds

Chapter.  20392 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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