"Lynch Law"; excerpt from Governor Philip W. McKinney's Address to the General Assembly (December 6, 1893)

Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1893)Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1893)

In "Lynch Law," an excerpt from his final address to the General Assembly, dated December 6, 1893, Governor Philip W. McKinney speaks out for the first time against lynching. In Roanoke, seven members of a white lynch mob had recently been killed in clashes with authorities; a black suspect was later hanged.


lynch law.

Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1893)

After the close of the war our State courts were superseded by the military, and our regular officers were removed, and there was a great looseness in the enforcement of the penal laws. A large proportion of our population were suddenly made citizens, and were turned loose without their accustomed restrains, ignorant and reckless, uncultivated in their morals, regardless of the rights of others, with no respect for society and regardless of law. It therefore became necessary that the people should protect themselves. There was a nameless offence sometimes perpetrated upon defenceless females, for which nothing, in public opinion, could atone, but the death of the perpetrator. Throughout the State and the south, and all through the country, as far as I know, the offender, whoever he

Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Virginia (1893)

— page 47 —

might be, forfeited his life, and whenever taken and identified was immediately lynched. The outrage was too great to trust to the delays and uncertainties of the courts; it was deemed best to apply and quick and certain remedy, the only safe protection for society. This met with the acquiescence of all classes of people, and I can recall no prosecution which was instituted against those who were guilty. This dangerous resort to a terrible remedy can only be excused under such circumstances as those through which the country was then passing, and now that the crisis is over and our courts are again in the hands of our citizens, the good people should no longer give way to these moments of excitement, occasioned by outrageous infractions of the law, but await calmly the result of a fair trial for its vindication, and the infliction of the merited punishment. The recent experience at Roanoke is a fearful example of the dangers of mob law. Lynching is an expedient which has been often appealed to as a remedy, but it has never proven a preventative. The vengeance of the people has been visited upon ruffians, time and again, but it has failed to deter others because the infliction is so speedy as to deprive justice of its terror to evildoers, which a trial and the solemnities of the death sentence, and the tragic execution, serve to strike into the hearts of all. I would appeal to the people to await a trial of all offenders, by the duly constituted courts. This is the safest and is the best because it is the law.


"An act about the casuall killing of slaves" (1669) Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Charles Lynch (August 1, 1780) "From the Vicksburg Register," The Floridian (July 25, 1835) Virginia Mob, New-York Spectator (August 20, 1835) "Horrible Tragedy," Raleigh Register and North-Carolina Gazette (May 24, 1836) "The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions" by Abraham Lincoln (January 27, 1837) "The Execution Yesterday," Richmond Daily Dispatch (October 22, 1864) Depositions for the Claim of Benjamin Summers (February 6, 1872) "Page Wallace's Crime," Richmond Dispatch (February 3, 1880) "Lynch Law, Again," Richmond Dispatch (February 19, 1880) "Lynched!," Staunton Spectator (October 3, 1882) "Coalition Rule in Danville" (October 1883) "The Danville Riot," Richmond Dispatch (November 4, 1883) "The Negro and the Criminal Law"; chapter 6 of The Plantation Negro as Freeman by Philip Alexander Bruce (1889) "They Hanged Him," Richmond Dispatch (November 9, 1889) "The Clifton Forge Tragedy," Roanoke Times (October 20, 1891) Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases by Ida B. Wells (1892) "Brutal Attempt of a Negro," Roanoke Times (February 10, 1892) "The Police Force Wakes Up," Roanoke Times (February 11, 1892) "Judge Lynch!," Roanoke Times (February 12, 1892) "Viewed by a Thousand People," Roanoke Times (February 13, 1892) "Richlands' Lynching," Clinch Valley News (February 3, 1893) "Lynch Law and Barbarism," Richmond Dispatch (August 3, 1893) "Peace and Quiet," Roanoke Times (September 22, 1893) "Rev. Dr. Hatcher's Surprising Assertions," Richmond Planet (June 23, 1894) "Hanged by a Mob," Alexandria Gazette (April 23, 1897) "The Lynchers Were Convicted," Richmond Planet (July 8, 1899) "Judge Lynch and His Victims," Richmond Planet (January 18, 1902) "The Lynching of Negroes"; chapter 4 of The Negro: The Southerner's Problem by Thomas Nelson Page (1904) U.S. Senate Resolution 39 (June 13, 2005)

APA Citation:
McKinney, Philip. "Lynch Law"; excerpt from Governor Philip W. McKinney's Address to the General Assembly (December 6, 1893). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
McKinney, Philip. ""Lynch Law"; excerpt from Governor Philip W. McKinney's Address to the General Assembly (December 6, 1893)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 15 Apr. 2024
Last updated: 2020, December 07
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