William Lynch

William Lynch
  • Born: Abt 1742, Pittsylvania County, Virginia
  • Married 04 Jan 1785, Halifax County, Virginia, to Anne Moon
  • Died: 15 Jul 1820, Pendelton District, South Carolina

    Notes for William Lynch:
    Captain Lynch was a Revolutionary War Soldier in Virginia. He is buried on what is presently the Table Rock golf course in Pickens, Pickens County, South Carolina as this was part of his property.
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    Will of William Lynch
    State of South Carolina, Pendleton District}
    In the name of God Amen I William Lynch of the State and district aforesaid being weak in body but of Sound and perfect mind and memory do make and Publish this my last will and Testament in manner and form following (that is to Say) principally and first of all i give and Recommend my Soul into the hand of the almighty God that gives it and my body to the Earth to be buried in Decent Christian burial at the Discretion of my Executors. I do lend to my wife ANNA LYNCH during her life or widowhood all my household and kitchen furniture & plantation workingtools the Stock of Cattle hogs and Sheap and five head of horses one Mare named Snip another named Duck another named dove and one horse named Prince one mare nemaed fan with all the Corn and fodder and wheat and all the Crop of Tobacco which was made last Year and the waggon and gears and my plantation or tract of land which I Give and Devise unto my Youngest son JOHN LYNCH..............
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    Captain Lynch is credited with the term "lynch laws" and "lynching"

    Backcountry Order Ways: The Border Idea of Order as Lex Talionis

    Within this comity, personal relations between backsettlers were often brutally direct. The mother of President Jackson prepared her son for this world with some very strong advice. "Andrew," said she, "never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own, nor sue anybody for slander, assault and battery. Always settle them cases yourself."
    That folk saying was a classical expression of backcountry attitudes toward order, which differed very much from other regions of British America. In the absence of any strong sense of order as unity, hierarchy, or social peace, backsettlers shared an idea of order as a system of retributive justice. The prevailing principle was lex talionis, the rule of retaliation. It held that a good man must seek to do right in the world, but when wrong was done to him he must punish the wrongdoer himself by an act of retribution that restored order and justice in the world.

    This backcountry idea of order rested upon an exceptionally strong sense of self- sovereignty. Something of the same principle had also existed in tidewater Virginia, where the gentry were fond of quoting the old English cliche that every man's home was his castle. But the people of the backcountry went a step farther. A North Carolina proverb declared that "every man should be sheriff on his own hearth." That folk saying had been brought to the backcountry from the borderlands of North Britain, where it existed in almost the same words: "Every man is a sheriff on his own hearth." This idea implied not only individual autonomy, but autarchy. Further, it narrowly circumscribed the role of government, for if every man were sheriff on his own hearth. then there was not very much work for a county sheriff to do, except to patrol the roads that lay in between.

    The same ideas also appeared in the ordering institutions of the backcountry. There were official sheriffs and constables through out that region, but the heaviest work of order-keeping was done by ad hoc groups of self-appointed agents who called themselve' regulators in the eighteenth century, vigilantes in the nineteenth, and nightriders in the twentieth. This was not a transitional phenomenon unless one wishes to think of a transition five centuries long. Nor was it the reflexive product of a frontier environment, for other frontiers experienced little or none of it. It rose instead from a tradition of retributive folk justice which had been carried from the British borderlands to the American backcountry.

    During the eighteenth century the back settlements suffered much from "banditti" whose depredations were punished by the summary justice of these self-styled "regulators." When, for example, one robber gang grew so bold that it tried to steal the horses of an entire congregation as they sat in church, the backcountry rose spontaneously. In retaliation' a "posse" of regulators reported it had "pursued the rogues, broke up their gangs, burnt the dwellings of all their harborers and abetters whipped 'em and drove the idle, vicious and profligate out of the province, men and women without distinction."149 Conflicts between bandits and "regulators" continued on the southwestern frontier for many generations. But it was not characteristic of the frontier itself. Nothing quite like it occurred on most parts of the northern frontier in New England or in the upper northwest.

    Vigilante movements began in the southern backcountry during the 1760s. Their legitimacy rested upon a doctrine called "Lynch's law," which probably took its name from Captain William Lynch (1742-1820), of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, and later Pendleton District, South Carolina. Captain Lynch was a backcountry settler of border descent. "Lynch's Law" began as a formal agreement among his neighbors:

    Whereas, many of the inhabitants of Pittsylvania have sustained great and intolerable losses by a set of lawless men .. . we will inflict such corporal punishment on him or them, as to us shall seem adequate to the crime committed or the damage sustained.

    Lynch's law was swift and violent. Its victims were often flogged and sometimes killed without much attention to due process, or even to the evidence. One backcountry gravestone read: "George Johnson, Hanged by Mistake."

    This system of justice captured the two vital principles of backcountry order ways the idea that order was a system of retributive violence and that each individual was the guardian of his own interests in that respect. Even sheriffs in the backcountry shared the same ideal of retributive violence, and often took the law into their own hands. Alabama's Tombigbee County, for example, had five justices of the peace in 1810, of whom three were themselves fugitives. Two were wanted on charges of murder, and a third for helping an accused murderer break jail."

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