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Taming the ElephantPolitics, Government, and Law in Pioneer California$
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John Burns, Vivian Louie, and Roberto Suro

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520234116

Published to California Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520234116.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 01 August 2021

A Violent Birth: Disorder, Crime, and Law Enforcement, 1849–1890

A Violent Birth: Disorder, Crime, and Law Enforcement, 1849–1890

(p.27) 2 A Violent Birth: Disorder, Crime, and Law Enforcement, 1849–1890
Taming the Elephant

Roger D. McGrath

University of California Press

This chapter challenges several prevailing conceptions about crime, violence, and law enforcement in California's early governmental period. It shows that Joaquín Murieta was just a brutal bandit from Mexico and that he was prone to assault easy victims. The Feliz-Murieta gang alone murdered more than a dozen Chinese, several whites, one black, and at least three Mexicans. If the bandidos were the scourge of rural California, then the Hounds were the scourge of the city. The fighting men of California were willing combatants, but they rarely attacked the innocent. While murder sometimes brought a death penalty at the hands of vigilantes, lesser crimes usually got the culprit sentenced to jail. If Sam Chung was Bodie Chinatown's most notorious badman, then Black Bart was California's most notorious and most romantic outlaw. The code of the West made the mining camps of California stages for deadly tests of will, skill, and honor.

Keywords:   crime, violence, law enforcement, California, Joaquín Murieta, Feliz-Murieta gang, Sam Chung, Black Bart, bandidos, Hounds

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