Saturday, July 23, 2005

Due process in 1845

I've just read The Oregon Trail : An American Saga (Knopf 2004) by David Dary.

One group that hit the trail in 1845 adopted the following as their criminal law:

"Anyone guilty of willful murder shall be punished by death and shall not be forced into trial before three days.
Anyone guilty of manslaughter shall be delivered to the authorities in Oregon.
Any one guilty of Rape or attempt at it shall receive thirty nine lashes for three successive days --
Any one guilty of open adultery, or fornication shall receive 39 lashes on their bare back.
Any one guilty of Larceny shall be fined double the amount, and receive 39 lashes on his bare back.
Any one guilty of indecent language shall be fined at the discretion of the Ex. Counsel.
Every Dog found running about Camp at large shall be shot at the discretion of the Capt. --"

There was at least one Southwest Virginia reference in the book, which reported that a fellow named Joseph Meek from Washington County drove a wagon to Oregon in 1840. About Meek was written Joe Meek, the Merry Mountain Man a Biography by Stanley Vestal. It says here that Vestal described Meek as "the Davy Crockett of our Great Northwest, bold, adventurous, humorous, a first-class trapper, pioneer, peace officer, and frontier politician. More, he was the wittiest, saltiest, most shameless wag and jester that ever wore moccasins in the Rockies -- a tall, happy-go-lucky Virginian, lover of practical jokes, tall tales, Jacksonian democracy, and Indian women." That description kind of makes you want to read Vestal's book about Meek.

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