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A vigilance committee was a group of private citizens who took it apon themselves to administer law and order or exercise power through violence in places where they considered the governmental structures or actions inadequate. A Vigilance Committee was a form of vigilantism (often just a more structured kind of lynch mob). The term is commonly associated with the frontier areas of the American West, where throughout the mid-19th century groups targeted and attacked cattle rustlers. individuals at gold mining claims, held kangaroo courts; beating, killing, or exiling those believed to have violated their preferred norms (sometimes on a thin pretext of such, motivated by personal or mercenary gain). As non-state organizations, no functioning checks or safeguards ("due process") existed to protect against the use of excessive force from the committees. In the years before the Civil War, some committees worked to free enslaved people and transport them to freedom.