LAW AND ORDER




Law and order was very important at the time of the gold rush. Since there was no government, miners had to make their own law. First, they held a meeting at a certain mining camp and then elected someone to be like a judge. They would also elect officers. At the meeting the miners would make up laws and enforce laws.

All miners had to stake a claim. Since laws were made miners had to follow these rules to stake their claim. If a miner staked a piece of land with a lot of gold the miner could get 100 acres of land. If the soil had very little gold in the ground the miner got 1000 acres of land. Most claims had a river or creek on the miner's claim. The miner was not allowed to dam up the river because every miner had a right to the water.

Life was not perfect for the miners because some miners broke the law. Some miners did terrible crimes, but for every crime there was a punishment. If a miner stole, even a slice of butter, the miner would be charged a large fine. One judge cared more about money than the crime a miner committed. A miner was robbed of $110 dollars. When the judge asked the robber for the money the robber said he didn't have the money. The judge asked the victim to pay the fine! But there were even worse crimes than stealing, such as murder. If you murdered someone you would be hung!

Some miners were prejudiced. So if you were not white you might be badly treated just like some of these people: Chinese people were forced to mine for gold in places were miners did not want to mine or were miners had already mined. Mexicans were beaten and robbed. They also had to pay very high taxes. It was not fair to these people to be treated this way just because of their language and tone of skin.

I think that today's system of law and order is better than back in the gold rush days. If someone murdered someone else today, they would go to a trial and be examined. If you are guilty the judge will decide your sentence. If you are innocent they will let you go, not just hang you from a tree!