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Law And Order In The West
Newly occupied land on the West was known as Federal Territory (Because it was owned
by the US government) this land was administrated by a governor, three judges and a
When the population reached 5000+, it became known as a territory which then had locally
elected sheriffs which dealt with local crime. The newer territories were known to be
In mining towns, miners set up miner's courts, which dealt with matters such as disputed
claims etc but were powerless against gang violence, robbery and murder. In may areas
In many towns, local citizens were part of vigilante groups. They dealt with people who
they suspected of crime but this often turned out wrong.
When a territory had a population of 60,000+, it became a state. Each state had its own
laws, government and finances, although there was still a US marshal with
responsibility for criminals who broke federal laws. Slowly, helped by improved
communications (for instance the telegraph), law and order was established.
Famous lawmen include Pat Garrett whom shot Billy The Kid and Wyatt Earp, one of key
figures at the gunfight of the O.K. Coral which took place in Tombstone, Arizona 26th of
1) Distance- Difficult to cover the large areas and isolated communities of the West.
2) Poverty and Harsh Conditions- People were prepared to resort to desperate measures.
3) More men than women- No calming influence; prostitution.
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Racism and clashes of culture- Differences of language and culture led to there being
little sense of a united community.
5) Violence- Everyone carried guns, and sorted out problems by using violence.
6) Land and gold claims- Arguments over land ownership; greed, gamblers, criminals.
7) Cattle barons- Fear of reprisal; 'respectable' citizens were scared to speak out; juries
could be bribed and were often biased.
8) Poor judicial system- Judges often had poor knowledge of law; courts often gave unfair
verdicts; lack of convictions.…read more