The Vigilance Committee meets again

The night of the slaying, as details of the murder of Marshal William Richardson became known to the people of San Francisco, the excitement of the population increased. The public, already stirred by the fraud and corruption denounced regularly in the Evening Bulletin, was incensed by the senselessness of the crime. While it was well known the killer of Richardson was a man of terrible character, common knowledge also accepted that no amount of money or influence would be spared to save Charles Cora from the rope that was his just reward. Few had confidence that city officials would deliver a fair or honest trial. Many people talked openly of lynching the culprit and cries for the re-formation of the Vigilance Committee were heard.

Van Buren fire engine of Engine Co. #4

Then, later that night came the startling clang of the bell from California Engine Company Number Four that had so often called the committee together. Many of the old members gathered at the Oriental Hotel on Market and Battery Streets. But here better council prevailed. There was no violence or even an offer of it. Sam Brannan, one of the wealthiest men in town and a leader of the 1851 committee, gave an exciting speech that seemed to suggest lynching Cora but when charged with advocating violence he allowed that he only wanted the people to take what preparations they could to insure that the law, as it regarded the trial of Charles Cora, be properly carried out. This became the substance of a series of resolutions adopted by this impromptu and unofficial first meeting of the members of what would become a reemergence of the Committee of Vigilance.

Sam Brannan


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