Why were towns in the West often violent and lawlessness places? Essay

As I have shown in question 1 there were many problems with the newly set up towns in the west. One of the main problems with these towns was the violence that took place. In this essay I will suggest the reasons why these towns were such violent places.

The west was full of lawlessness due to the fact that it was a huge area. The west was a vast area and transport was very slow it was difficult to enforce law and order, so if somebody had committed a crime it would be almost impossible to catch them this was one of the reasons why criminals went to the west and also the houses were scattered everywhere and anywhere so the criminals wouldn’t have to be near too many people, communication was also very hard the only way you could communicate was personal contact with one another.

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The government could not afford to provide every place with law enforcement because law enforcement was too expensive, there was a shortage of law enforcement officers and the government did not provide money to employ or train new ones. The government could only provide law and order to the states. You needed 60000 people in your town before you could apply to become a state which meant that many towns were no where near obtaining law and order enforcement, this meant that many mining towns and cow towns were established.

One of the main problems was the social factors this was because when gold was first discovered in the West, in 1848, this encouraged a huge group of people started migrating towards the West in the hunt for gold. This caused a lot of violence in the West as different ethnic groups such as the blacks, Chinese, Europeans, Indians, and Mexicans were forced to live together, this also lead to many racism problems. Fights broke out and many mining towns banned Mexicans and Chinese and many Indians were simply slaughtered. This was a problem because lots of racial attacks would break out and many of the people would be killed or slaughtered. After the civil war thousands of soldiers, confederates and unionists, were demobilised, many people on both sides were unable or unwilling to forgive or forget what had happened, and would often react violently.

The economic factors, was a huge problem which often encouraged the violence in the west also. Many people had come to the west in an attempt to make money, whether this was through mining for gold, cattle ranching, hunting or farming people living in the west were there for a purpose. This caused many potential sources of conflict between the different economic groups. This eventually caused a war, the Johnson’s county war, this was a battle between small farmers and large, wealthy ranches in the Powder River Country that culminated in a lengthy shootout between local farmers, a band of hired killers, and a sheriff’s posse, eventually requiring the intervention of the U.S. Cavalry on the orders of the President of the United States. This was how bad the economic problems had got.

Another of the problems were the vigilantes this was because as miners set up their own courts to deal with crime or disputes. Vigilante groups often lynched people and operated above the law. Sometimes even the sheriffs were criminals, like Henry Plummer of Bannack. The law and order was also a problem because of the gambling, drinking and prostitution were rife. Many were murdered as claims were stolen (claim-jumping). There were no courts or police to prevent crime.

I conclude that towns in the west were often violent and lawless places, the main reasons of that is the social factors, the economic factors, the government and the vigilantes.


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