Vigilantes influence 1856 SF elections

Ephraim Willard Burr SFM

Mayor Ephraim Willard Burr

In the election of November 1856 the People’s Party, the successor to the spirit and principles of the Committee of Vigilance, brought a whole new era into San Francisco and to some extent the state of California starting with a new mayor, Ephraim Willard Burr. With a goal of an honest and economical municipal government without selfish interest their candidates had been selected for honesty and integrity above all. Politics, nationality or religion was not important. It made no difference if a man came from the north or the south, whether he was a Democrat or Republican, a protestant, Catholic or Jew, all that mattered was that he had the ability to do the job and could be trusted. While it can’t always be said that the very best men were selected in every case, in general the city offices were well filled by those elected from the People’s Party.

San Francisco, 1856

San Francisco 1856

An astonishing change for the better took place as soon as the new administration took office. Should there ever be a doubt as to how an autonomous city or state can secure good government the experience of this election showed it to be completely in the hands of the people. While it had been difficult to get them into a situation where they would unite to elect a good and honest administration and cast aside all other objections, when that decision was reached the results were sure. It was plain, however, that it was not the upheaval of the vigilance committee that caused this beneficial rule and good government, but the earnest determination of the people to that end. The same result should follow whenever a community demands it no matter whether that determination is brought about by violent or peaceful means and providing only that the citizens be active, unyielding and unswayed by any consideration except the public good.

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