San Franciscans rally in support of vigilantes

While the Committee of Vigilance prepared for whatever might be in store for it, the citizens who had been so shabbily treated by the governor at Benicia did not stay idle. Partly to justify their own actions and partly to convince the governor and his councilors of the true feelings of the community in regards to the vigilantes they called a meeting of the people for noon on Saturday, June fourteenth in the open space in front of the Oriental Hotel. Immediately arrangements were made on both sides. The day became a sort of holiday as almost everyone turned out into the streets and little or no business was done. Long before the appointed hour the area was awash with people, all the rooftops and windows crowded with onlookers. It was estimated that at least fifteen thousand were there, and many were ladies who filled the parlors and windows of the Oriental Hotel.

Portsmouth Square, San Francisco 1856

Portsmouth Square 1856

At twelve o’clock promptly the meeting began. Bailie Peyton was called to the chair and a number of vice-presidents and secretaries from the most important and influential people in San Francisco were appointed. Mr. Peyton then clearly set forth that the object of the meeting was to be an endorsement of the actions of the vigilance committee and to make an earnest request on the part of the people to the governor to withdraw his proclamation. Bailie said that the committee must be sustained or it must be put down and if it were to be put down it would need to be at the point of a bayonet. Any attempt of that type would be bloody and all should wish to prevent such a calamity. The small band of men opposing the vigilance committee held that there was no need for the organization or for a revolution of the government. Peyton frankly took issue with these men and declared that there was no other remedy to redress the wrongs the city of San Francisco had suffered for years.


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