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Law and Order in the "Wild west"

Arrow Image My year 10 essay on American Law and Order in the "Wild west" (again heavily edited)

Year 10 History courseware “Law and Order”
By Wolfmankurd(Don\'t want you funky people knowing my name)

1) Look at source A.
What can you learn from this source about the Mormon settlement at Salt Lake City?

In source A, an engraving made in 1873 of Salt Lake City, we can see the unusual layout of Salt Lake, which is circular with a central focal point, often taken up by a Mormon church. Surrounding this central point there are rows of houses followed by farms and the working class. This gives us an insight into the mentality of the Mormon community. The centrality of the church shows us the Mormons focus on religion in there life and more importantly society. Their dedication to God acts as a uniting factor thus organising the Mormons to any cause, creating a sort of community sprit.
Another point to be considered is the size Salt Lake City has grown to in only thirty years. This tells us that not only were there a lot of Mormons that wanted to move to Salt Lake City, but that the Mormons were very efficient and organised in the building of Salt Lake and the transportation of people. This was not only as a result of their community spirit mentioned above, but also as a result of their leadership by Brigham Young preceded by Joseph Smith.
The reliability of this source can be questioned as to whether this is a piece of Mormon propaganda and the artist has exaggerated the engraving to increase the popularity of Salt lake. This limits the use of this source.

2) Read source B.
Use this source and your knowledge to explain why there were difficulties as those described here in living in early mining towns.

I believe the fundamental cause of the violence and problems in early mining towns lies in this quote: \"With his trusty rifle protect his own\". The problem was the people of the West felt there was a lack of security due to the absences of officials, even though \"the respectable citizens\" out numbered the \"desperadoes\" the unorganised population of respectable citizen were confronted by an organised foe, the result of this was that the people of the West abided by their own rules, the so called \"Code of the West\".
The reliability of the source is also questionable, it is heavily biased by the fact that the writer wanted to make the book interesting, and the tone of the language is very negative as he uses adjectives such as \"Dark\" in the title. This suggests that the conditions discussed maybe exaggerated to make the west seem even worse that it was, the word dark gives an impression of evil or dangerous situations.

3) Read source C
Use this source and your own knowledge to explain what other problems there were in mining towns apart from law and order.

Many of the new towns had problems with sanitation because they were vastly over populated for their size. This lead to diseases like Typhoid spreading amongst the miners. This was made worse by the fact that many miners lived in small, cramped \"cabins\". Also the diet of mainly beans and bread contributed to the problem.
During this time \"The women were particularly kind, leaving there own work to care for those you were ill”. The mention of women indicates that there were families in the towns and not just miners looking for gold this, tells us that the towns were developing very fast but the institutions were not.

4) Study sources D, E and F.
How useful are sources D, E and F for finding out about problems in law and order in the West.

Sources D, E and F are reasonably useful sources although all have their clear limitations. For instance, source D shows an artists impression of a raid made by the James-Younger gang, it seems to show the towns people being overpowered by the gang when in actual fact the raid was a failure. However, this is an impression and it may be just that the artist felt that in the end the bandits are winning, may be not this raid but generally overall throughout the country.
Source E Also has its faults. It is a note pinned to the dead body of a hanged accused murderer by the committee of vigilantes. Clearly the purpose of the notice to warn other potential law breakers, the fact that it is publicly displayed emphasise this. The main fault of this source is that it does not tell us whether or not it worked or how wide spread the action was. However the fact that this action has being taken shows that the people are acting out against the criminals, this useful aspect of the source.
Source F is a piece of text by Mark Twain, a very famous writer, he describes Virginia City as a very highly developed city, this has obvious problems. The first of which is the fact that no date is present so we do not now how old the town is. Secondly, this is by a journalist and is from a newspaper this means that probably it is exaggerated to suit the customer. Although it does tell us a rough outline of the development of Virginia City. This is a use for the source.

5) Study sources B, D and E
Use source B and D to explain the statement made in Source E.

Source B and D are both highlight the problems the vigilantes tried to correct in source E. This brutal and drastic measure is justified by sources B and D. Source B tells just how dangerous the West was. This is obvious as the title is \"Dark Days in Bannak\". He also uses is the term \"Trusty rifle\" this explains the mentality in the West this shows us that they believed that they could only trust themselves and their guns.
Source D also seems to justify Source E. Source D shows a raid in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1876. Whether or not it succeeded is not relative the fact that it occurred is reason enough for the action taken in source E, however he fact that it did not succeed means that the vigilantes were successful and this is contry to source G.

6) Study all the sources
Source G blames the early settlers for the lawlessness to early western towns. Use all the sources and your own knowledge to explain whether you think this a fair comment.
William J McConnell criticises the first settlers of Idaho and the West for not taking an interest in \"public good” but spending \"their energies” “making money\"
To see whether this state meant is true we must first analyse the other sources and source G itself.
The first noticeable aspect of this source is the fact McConnell is probably against the current Governor or authority which runs Idaho and would be very critical of present or past management of the state. Also McConnell later became governor which means he may have little experience of early town development so his comment may be just to become popular by following public opinion. This is another fault with the source.
Although there are sources which agree with McConnell Such as source B an extract of \"Dark Days in Bannak\" which clearly says \"respectable citizens\" did not know each other and \"who to trust\" although the roughs were organised This source has a source too , it is from a book and so is probable exaggerated to encourage reading of it. We know it is probably exaggerated because of its title \"Dark Days\". It would not make much sense in naming it \"dark Days in Bannak\" describing how wonderful Bannak is or was. This affects the reliability.
However, there are other sources which agree with McConnell for example source D. this is a pictorial account of a raid carried out by the James younger gang, it implies complete chaos and overall feeling that the gang is out of control. This is very misleading as in actual fact the gang lost two members and many others were wounded, the gang did not succeed in robbing the bank. It is an artist’s impression of events and it seems that the artist was biased towards a position of considering the west as a lawless place.
Another source which tells us just how difficult the west is source E this is a notice pinned to the body of a hanged man. This shows that there were problems, but it also shows that some form of justice however primitive was still present. The notice was pined by a group known as the \'committee of vigilantes\'. However this source does not indicate the prevalence of \"lynching\" type activities or there success.
In 1864 Granville Stuart describes Virginia City, he says that the living conditions are bad and that disease such as typhoid are rife. However it also tells us that other element s in the community such as the women came together to co-operate this is not mentioned by McConnell. McConnell specifically leaves out the success achieved by groups such as the ones mentioned in source C ( Some people were very ill but there were no deaths).
However Source C does also suggest that that the cabins made by the \"miners were not well kept\" Lending some support to McConnells conclusions concerning these early western settlements. Such as the fact that they lacked hospitals and sanitation (E.g. Sewers).
Source F contradicts Source G. It describes Virginia as the liveliest town with City engineers, Fire chiefs, a police chief, a city Marshall and a police force. This is written by Mark Twain a very famous and respected journalist. As a journalist he may have exaggerated his account of the town and its environs. The source also lacks a date making it hard to judge on his comment that the town is the liveliest town for its \"Age”. Also some would say it does not make a difference how Virginia started out as long as it is alright now.
Source A is an engraving of Salt Lake City, 30 years after its founding. It shows a wonderfully organised, large yet beautiful city. McConnell states the city of Idaho could have been just as fabulous if its inhabitants had not \"directed there energies\" to \"making money\". This source is also problematic as it depicts a single Mormon city, this means that it does not prove that all cities established along Mormons will be this great. The source may also be an exaggeration as we cannot be sure of the accuracy of this engraving of the Utah capital it is not very reliable. So although the source is in line with McConnell\'s comments we cannot be sure of its reliability.

To conclude, I think McConnell was too harsh on the early settlers. He seems to have judged them by the rough and ready laws that were often adopted by Vigilantes in these outposts of the USA, without looking at the external causes of the problems he recounts. His quip regarding the “quick buck” culture is also unfounded as the U.S was soon to grow in to the world’s first capitalist super power, powered by a “Quick buck”, money orientated culture.

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