American West - Problems with law and order

  • Created by: IzzyCobb
  • Created on: 30-10-20 15:17

Main Factors of Lawlessness in the West

Lawlessness did not mean that there were no laws in the west, but that law enforcement was stretched too thin to make sure the law was being obeyed and that law-breakers were punished.

  • New Crimes - claim jumping
  • Social Factors - alcohol, gambling and prostitution
  • Mass Settlement - meant rapid population increases
  • Law Enforcement - not enough
  • Mining Camps  - were a target for criminals
  • Racial Tension - from immigration
  • Isolated Communities

Main cause was such a rapid rise in population that existing law enforcement could not cope.

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Common Issues

Common Issues

  • Mining camps were usually isolated in the mountains, a long way from the reach of the law
  • Mining camps were almost all-male, and violence wasw fuelled by alcohol, bad luck at card games and fights over woman.
  • Prejudice against the chinese imnigrants and other racism increased crime
  • Outlaws and conmen targeted miners who did make money, and swindled those who failed to strike it lucky
  • New crimes: Claim jumping was when one man took over a promising claim made by someone else. Miners' courts were sometimes set up to help settle claims.
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Impacts of The Civil War

The american civil war had a significant impact on lawlessness in the west because:

  • Young men from the defeated southen states often resented the victorious US govenment and its laws
  • Large numbers of young men had been traumatised by the experience of the war and found it hard to fit in to 'regular' society
  • Wounded civil war soldiers: the the war and found it hard to fit back in to 'regular' society
  • The war devaststed the south's economy, leaaving many without jobs.
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Impact of the Railroad

The new towns created by the railroads in the west were known as 'hell on wheels' 

  • They often grew very quickly and had no local law enforcement
  • some were 'cow tow towns', where cowboys, who had just been paid after weeks driving cattle, enjoyed drinking, dancing and fighting.
  • 'Hell on wheels' towns were notoriouis for gambling, heavy drinking and prostitution.
  • Train replaced stagecoaches for transporting valuables. This made them a target for train robberies.
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Takling Lawlessness

The railroads and the electric telograph improved communication between law officers, leading to an overall incease in federal government influences. However, new settlements were still mainly left to deal with lawlessness themselves, by electing sheriffs and town constables.

  • Cow towns often passed laws banning firearms
  • sheriffs and marshals enforced these laws by force of personality (and often with there fists)
  • Gangs of outlas were sometimes too powerful to control and intimidate whole communities into supporting them. 
  • The Pinkertons were a powerful a private detective company. Banks, Railroad and stagecoach companies employed Pinkerton detectives to track down robbers and thieves, as well as to provide general advice and protection.

The Reno gang  was first train robbers in the american west. Made up of 4 brothers stole over $100,000 in several train robberies. Would pay people in order to commit crimes. Pinkertons failed to catch them. Vigilance commity court them and Renio gang was lynched (public hanging and execution)

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