Lynch, Charles

Lynch, Charles,

1736–96, American Revolutionary soldier, b. near the site of Lynchburg, Va. A member (1767–76) of the Virginia house of burgesses, he took a prominent part in the preparations for war. When a Tory conspiracy was discovered (1780) in Bedford co., where he had been a justice of the peace from 1774, Lynch, a zealous patriot, presided over an extralegal court that meted out summary punishment to the Loyalists. From this action is said to come the origin of the term "lynch law." Lynch clearly exceeded his authority, but he was later exonerated by the state legislature. He led a volunteer regiment at the battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781.
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Lynch, Charles

(1736–96) soldier, judge; born in Bedford County, Va. A well-to-do landowner, he became a justice of the peace in 1766 and later served in the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he campaigned for independence. He commanded volunteers under Nathanael Greene during the American Revolution. Lynch had a reputation for high-handedness and extralegality in dealing with Tories, especially during the early years of the Revolution, but a legislative investigation concluded (1782) that he acted out of military necessity. (The claim that the word "lynch"—to punish an alleged criminal without due process of law—comes from his name is dubious.)
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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