The final address of the vigilantes

The final address of the Committee of Vigilance was adopted in sections on August 26, 1856 and published in the newspapers the following day. It read like an open letter from the executive committee to the general body of the vigilantes and began by setting forth the condition of affairs before the committee formed where the ballot box had been dishonored, the law perverted, justice prostituted, government corrupted, life rendered unsafe for the public and the right of free speech and the guardianship of a free press attended with peril. These necessitated extra-legal and extra-judicial measures that had to be protected by an armed militia drawn from the bosom of the people. It was the last resort of a long suffering and insulted community, but only those rights constitutionally inherent in the people had been invoked. In all proceedings there had been an effort to err on the side of clemency.

Cora and Casey executed

Cora and Casey executed

The vigilantes would now lay down their arms without having shed a single drop of a citizen’s blood even though the committee’s opponents sought to embroil them in a fraternal civil war. By these issues they delayed adjournment and prolonged the service of all committee members. The organization would remain but without the need of active service or the desire to ever again assemble, but the executive committee will stay vigilant and preserve the discretion and privilege of reassembling if the need arises. The address concluded, “The people have found they are not powerless under the rule of crime. Mighty has been the demonstration of the mind and voice of an awakened public in the moral conflict. Let this moral power, vast and terrible when fully aroused, complete the work your hands have begun. Let not the good work flag. Remember that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Providence has guided you in doubt and danger, and brought your labors to a successful result. May you ever adhere to the true principals of vigilance, sustaining the laws when rightly administered, the government when faithful to the people, and the supremacy of the people as the source of both government and law.

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