The original Lynch Law of Virginia
Charles Lynch was born in 1736 at an estate known as Chestnut Hill on the banks of the James River in Virginia, a place at which his elder brother would later establish the town of Lynchburg. The terms “lynching” and “lynch law” are derived from his name.
Following the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, the danger associated with life at the frontier greatly lessened and a flood of newcomers began to appear in Bedford County. Lynch’s position as a landowner and leading citizen was by this time well-established. His farming of tobacco and raising of cattle had made him a wealthy man, the possessor of property and African slaves.
Lynch served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and the Convention from 1769 until 1778, when he became a militia colonel. After the Revolution, he served in the Virginia Senate from 1784 to 1789.
In several incidents in 1780, Lynch and several other militia officers and justices of the peace rounded up suspects who were thought to be a part of a Loyalist uprising in southwestern Virginia. The suspects were given a summary trial at an informal court; sentences handed down included whipping, property seizure, coerced pledges of allegiance, and conscription into the military. Lynch’s extralegal actions were retroactively legitimized by the Virginia General Assembly in 1782.
“Lynch’s Law”, referring to organized but unauthorized punishment of criminals, became a common phrase, as was used by Charles Lynch to describe his actions as early as 1782. The Oxford English Dictionary, however, notes that “The origin of the expression has not been determined.” Variations of the term, such as “lynch law”, “judge lynch” and “lynching”, were standard entries in American and British English dictionaries by the 1850s. In 1811, a man named Captain William Lynch claimed that the phrase, by then famous, actually came from a 1780 compact signed by him and his neighbors in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, to uphold their own brand of law independent of legal authority. The obscurity of the Pittsylvania County compact compared to the well-known actions of Charles Lynch casts doubt on it being the source of the phrase.
All the black folk and ancestors who were hung by ropes and all the city, county, lynchings public events and execution that took place some of the last words our ancestors heard was Lynch that niqqer , this mans name is origin right here in Virginia and to think his elder brother is how Lynchburg Virginia got its name!
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