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Lynch Law

Mob-law, law administered by private persons. According to Webster, the word lynch refers to a Mr. James Lynch, a farmer, of Piedmont, in Virginia. The tale is that, as Piedmont, on the frontier, was seven miles from any law court, the neighbours, in 1686, selected James Lynch, a man of good judgment and great impartiality, to pass sentence on offenders for the nonce. His judgments were so judicious that he acquired the name of Judge Lynch, and this sort of law went by the name of Lynch law. In confirmation of this story, we are told there was a James Lynch Fitz-Stephen, who was warden of Galway in 1526; and in the capacity of warden he passed sentence of death on his own son for murder. (See Burlaw.)

“George was lynched, as he deserved.” —Emerson English Traits, chap. ix

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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