Through the early days of the gold rush, the pioneer miners had been forced to establish and type their personal laws. Up in the mining camps there had been no courts, and a lot of of the soldiers who had been sent to retain the peace in California in the earliest days following the US took possession of the land, basically deserted their ranks and headed for the gold fields to seek their fortune. A consideration of the straightforward processes and laws they established with the rapid acting justice they distributed tends to make for an exciting contrast with the plodding, bloated, political and exorbitantly costly justice program we operate currently.
The mining laws of the California gold fields, as was the case in all the numerous diggings all through the mining area, had been produced at official group meetings of the miners held for that certain objective. Since of this the needs did differ considerably from district to district. In contrast to so a lot of modern day laws, they had been not developed by hungry lawyers looking for to pad their wallets, and had been usually quite couple of and straightforward. These simple requirements defined how a lot of feet of ground 1 man was entitled to hold in a ravine how substantially up on the bank, and in the bed of the creek how a lot of of these claims he could hold at a time and how extended he could absent himself from his claim devoid of forfeiting it. This was the case due to the fact a man was anticipated to function his claim every single day. If he left the region permanently, his claims had been viewed as abandoned. In a lot of places, a digging tool like a choose, left in the hole was all that was important to safe ones spot against other claimants. The guidelines also declared what was important to be completed in taking up and securing a claim which, for want of water, or from any other bring about, could not be worked at the time. They also supplied for numerous unique contingencies incidental to the peculiar nature of these diggings. Every miner had 1 vote and acted as his personal legislator. It was a plain and straightforward democracy unequalled due to the fact the days of the Athenian Greeks.
Of course, like all laws and regulations, at occasions they necessary some revision and amendment, to suit the progress and modifications of the occasions. In these instances, any important meetings had been held on particular Sunday afternoons especially set aside for legislative purposes. The miners generally met in front of the common shop, normally reaching numbers of a number of hundred. The most respected man in the camp was usually chosen to preside more than the meeting. If a chair and table had been handy they had been employed, but if there was a lack of the right furnishings, he could possibly stand upon an empty pork-barrel or climb up into the back of a wagon, which gave him a commanding position searching down on the crowd. A different respected man with the important literary abilities of reading and writing was appointed secretary, and he would spot his writing supplies on some flat surface alongside of the chairman. The chairman then, addressing the crowd, would then usually clarify the object for which the meeting had been referred to as. He would open the floor to hear any gentleman who had any remarks to provide on the subject at hand. Sooner or later an individual would propose a certain amendment of the law relating to a particular description of claim, expressing the point in a quite neat and certain speech. After his motion was duly seconded, the opportunity was provided for any opposition to make its case and supply additional discussion. In time the matter was place to a vote. If the chairman declared the modify carried by the ayes, the secretary would create it all down, and it became the law of that district. Generally two or 3 other acts had been viewed as and voted upon, and when the enterprise was concluded, a vote of thanks to the chairman was passed for his supervision of the meeting. The meeting was then officially declared to be dissolved, and the crowd accordingly dribbled into the nearest bar, exactly where the legislators, in modest detachments, pledged achievement to every single other with whiskey as quickly as the storekeeper could pour the drinks. Even though the legislature was in session, nevertheless, every little thing was carried out with a significant demeanor and the utmost formality.
When the miners could not come to any settlement of some dispute amongst themselves, they would leave the selection to a jury of miners. When a miner’s court was to be held, a formal notice was accordingly sent to all the prospectors inside two or 3 miles up and down the creek, requesting them to assemble at the claim in query on a particular afternoon. Even though a miner calculates an hour lost as so substantially revenue out of his pocket, it was frequent that most of the residents would turn out as they had been all interested in supporting the laws of the area. The two opposing parties then, obtaining tossed up a coin for the 1st choose, would decide on a quantity of jurymen every single from the assembled crowd.
Then the jury would generally sit themselves all collectively in an exalted position on a heap of stones and dirt (as was frequent on the claims from the standard operations of digging). 1 of the plaintiffs, who had been selected as spokesman for his celebration, would then make a speech, calling a number of witnesses to prove his statements, and citing the recognized laws of the diggings in help of his claims. The defendants would stick to in the very same manner, creating the most of their version of the case. Through this time, the common public, sitting in groups on the diverse heaps of stones piled up amongst the holes with which the ground was honeycombed, would smoke their pipes and watch the proceedings. Immediately after the plaintiff and defendant had every single had their turn to say all they had to say about the matter, the miner’s jury would examine the state of the ground which was in dispute. They would then contact some extra witnesses to give additional information and facts, which is substantially diverse from our modern day procedures in which a jury may perhaps ask no concerns. After all the information and facts was viewed as, these pioneers would place their shaggy heads collectively for a couple of minutes, and pronounce their selection.
It is difficult to fault the straightforward wisdom and simple justice of the pioneer miners. Their techniques established a fair, democratic and just way of handling the law devoid of the formality, expense and endless delays of the systems that we have now. In time, the standard trappings of civilization came to the hills and the prospector’s laws had been completed away with. I am not so certain that the modifications which came with “civilization” had been any sort of an improvement.