The vigilante constitution

At an evening session that same Sunday of May 25th, when a resolution passed the committee to arrest Billy Mulligan and five others on the black list, Clancy J. Dempster, chairman of the committee on by-laws and known as the Thomas Jefferson of the vigilance committee, announced the draft of a constitution for the committee. After it was read and some slight amendments made it was adopted. In the preamble the constitution stated that under the existing law there was no security for either life or property anywhere in San Francisco. Ballot boxes had been stolen, swapped with others or stuffed with votes not polled, thereby negating the will of the people. Since no other method was left, the citizens whose names were attached had united to maintain peace and the good order of society, to preserve life and property and to insure that future votes would reflect the will of the majority. They bound themselves to maintain order and sustain the law, and no thief, burglar, incendiary, assassin, ballot box stuffer, or other disturber of the peace should escape just punishment.

San Francisco vigilante constitution

Vigilante constitution

The document went on to say that all actions should be embraced from a code of by-laws, that the discussions of the committee should be free from the consideration of any and all sects, classes or sectional divisions in the community and that every class of ordinary citizens of whatever sect, party or nativity could become members of the committee and that the decision of the majority would be binding on all. The only exception was that it would take a two-thirds vote by the whole body present to bind a criminal over for a death sentence. “And so believing ourselves to be executioners to the will of the majority of citizens,” ended the document, “we do pledge our sacred honor to defend and sustain each other in carrying out the determined action of this committee at the hazard of our lives and our fortunes.”




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