San Mateo County Genealogical Society's Blog featuring society events, projects, meeting notes and other items of relevance to genealogists.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

NARA: Criminal Case Files 2

Part II  Civil Rights
By Martha Wallace and Cath Trindle




The violation of an individual's civil rights is one of the crimes tried in US Federal Court.  Among the cases heard in San Francisco in the late 1800s are those of John Jackson, tax collector for Trinity County, and Thomas Stapleton (Thomas Breeze) tax collector for El Dorado County.  The indictments were for demanding, exacting, and collecting a Foreign Miners Tax of $4 


Sacramento Transcript, 
Volume 2, Number 132
29 March 1851
In 1850 the first California state legislature passed the first Foreign Miners Tax Law, levying a twenty dollars per month tax on each foreigner engaged in mining. A revolt resulted and it was repealed in 1851. The Foreign Miners Tax Law was reenacted in 1852. By 1853 the Foreign Miner's Tax stated in Section 6, "The amount to be paid for each license shall be at the rate of four dollars per month, and said license shall in no case be transferable."  

Collections of the tax in 1850 amounted to more than $26,000 and between 1850 and 1870 provided more than 1/2 of the tax revenue for the state. Controversy over the tax was immediate. The Daily Alta California article, "Murders & Robberies", claims that the law caused an increase in crime in the gold country.  In fact, the tax was rigidly enforced against Mexicans and Chileans to encourage them to leave the gold region which in some cases prompted revenge.

By the 1870s the law was mainly enforced against the Chinese miners. The case against Sheriff John Jackson was instigated by the complaint of Ah Koo, who also claimed to be a citizen.

Sheriff John Jackson was found guilty. However, as the The Daily Alta California reported in  The Sentence of Sheriff Jackson on 26 Mar 1871 the judge, stating that although he was guilty he was acting under the color of the law,  only fined him $20. He also implied that the case could be immediately appealed to a higher court so the legality of the law could be determined.
 
In the second case, the complainants claimed they should not have pay this tax, as the tax was not collected from white miners (implying white "foreign" miners.) On 15 Dec 1873 the case was ordered nolle prosequi (will no longer prosecute.)

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Daily Alta California, Volume 28, 

Number 9420, 20 January 1876  

Just a few years later in 1876 another set of civil rights cases was heard.  Both cases were against Thomas Maguire, the proprietor of a San Francisco theater.

Charles Green and George M Taylor and purchased theater tickets bur were not allowed to enter the theater and be seated in the seats they had purchased.  They claimed this was a violation of their civil rights.

The case of Charles Green was heard and a jury determined that Maguire was not guilty.  The judge in this case had excluded testimony that the doorkeeper had acted on orders of Maguire. The jury therefore found that the doorkeeper had acted on his own authority and therefore Maguire was not responsible.

The case of George M Taylor was ordered nolle prosequi on 16 Jul 1877.  The book  Children of Fire: A History of African Americans by Thomas C. Holt discusses how the second case involving George Taylor helped to gut the Civil Rights Act of 1875.




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