VA-L30 Origin of Lynch Law


During the Revolutionary War, loyalists in the Virginia backcountry periodically conspired against the Revolutionary authorities. Colonels Charles Lynch, James Callaway, and other militia officers and county justices formed extralegal courts to punish them, which were "not strictly warranted by law." "Lynch's Law," of lynching, as such punishment has been called, did not at first include hanging. According to local tradition, accused loyalists were tied to a large black walnut tree here at Lynch's home, Green Level, and whipped, not hanged. In contrast to the lynchings that began the next century, legally appointed officials meted out "Lynch's Law" mostly with fines and jail terms. Later, the Virginia General Assembly passed acts protecting Lynch and his associates from prosecution for their activities.

Department of Historic Resources, 1997

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