The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982 Page: 20
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
as constructive and necessary supplements to the regular course of
justice. In turning to vigilantism in the mid-185os the leaders of Austin
drew on a long-standing American tradition. Here, as elsewhere, the
frontier setting presented serious problems of law enforcement. Rapid
settlement, primitive police systems, and disorderly behavior by mi-
nority groups combined to threaten what conservatives saw as the
fundamental virtues of civilization. Without a highly developed sense
of due process, frontier elites-including leaders of the legal profes-
sion, wealthy citizens, government officials, and others with high status
-formed these "conservative mobs" to assert their control over so-
From the point of view of this elite group, vigilantism in Austin
must have seemed quite successful. Although this form of policing
failed to force slaves into the desired mold of obsequiousness, it purged
a supposedly disruptive force in eliminating the Hispanic group and
quelled a suspected insurrection. Slaves in Austin assumed and, for
the most part, maintained greater liberties than existed in rural en-
vironments, but vigilantism helped preserve the institution of slavery
from a more complete disintegration, if only by attacking scapegoats
and exorcising deep-seated fears. Moreover, when the vigilance com-
mittees accomplished their most pressing tasks, they returned power to
the legally established authorities. In the last few years of the ante-
bellum period, municipal and county government in Austin safe-
guarded order, security, and property without the aid of its vigilante
arm. With the waning of the frontier, vigilantism also passed, or at
least lay dormant, awaiting some other vital impulse to bring it to life
33Brown, Strazn of Violence, 95-133, 144-79.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982, periodical, 1981/1982; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/m1/40/: accessed May 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.