Thursday, December 4, 2008

Lynching or Hanging

Was the "Great Hanging at Gainesville" a Hanging or Lynching??

A lynching is when a few people (often a vigilance committee) decide the punishment for another person or persons. It is an execution (usually by hanging) without the due process of law, often under the pretext of service to justice, race or tradition.
The victim of the lynching may or may not have committed a crime. The ringleaders or social elite would rile up a crowd or vigilance committee, who would then feel justified because of the assumed guilt of the victim. The leaders and members of the vigilante committee would often serve as prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. The issue of the victim's guilt was secondary to the passions and objectives of the accusers. Measures taken by vigilance committees often resorted to hasty injustice and were at best extralegal . In early Texas, it was often considered a form "frontier justice" and was more common in areas where there was not an established legal system.

A hanging follows due process under the Rule of Law. It involves a trial in a legal court of law with a judge and jury. It has many rules of evidence. The defense gets to face the accusers. The accused is assumed innocent until proven guilty in a legal court of law.

The Handbook of Texas Online states this:"The stresses of the Civil War, such as racism, regional loyalties, political factionalism, economic tension, and the growth of the abolition movement, inured people to violence in a way that seemed to make lynching increasingly easy to contemplate. War-generated tensions produced the greatest mass lynching in the history of the state, the Great Hanging at Gainesville, when vigilantes hanged forty-one suspected Unionists during a thirteen-day period in October 1862. "

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I suspect it has been purposely misnamed to give it some degree of legitimacy. It would be more correct considering the facts to call it the "Great lynching in Gainesville, Cooke County, Texas in 1862. However, the results will remain the same.