This US slang term meaning to summarily execute someone by hanging comes from a Captain William Lynch (1742-1820) of Pittsylvania, Virginia. In 1780, Lynch led a group of vigilantes, combating crime in the Pittsylvania region. Lynch’s preferred punishment was flogging, and the early uses of the term lynch law did not imply hanging. Lynch law first appears in the writings of an Andrew Ellicott from 1811:
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Captain Lynch just mentioned was the author of the Lynch laws so well known and so frequently carried into effect some years ago in the southern States in violation of every principle of justice and jurisprudence.
Copyright 1997-2014, by David Wilton