Lynch Law, as commonly used in America, the practice of punishing men for alleged crimes and offences by private and unauthorized persons, without a trial according to due forms of law. The practice has more or less prevailed in times of popular excitement, and especially in newly settled regions before the power of the civil government had been established. According to some authorities, the term was derived from a Virginia farmer named Lynch, who having caught a thief, instead of delivering him to the law, tied him to a tree and flogged him with his own hands. Another account says that "in 1087-'8 one Lynch was sent to America to suppress piracy; but as the laws were not administered with much vigor in the colonies, owing to the difficulty of adhering to the usual forms of law in the newly established territories, it is presumed that this Judge Lynch was empowered to proceed summarily against pirates, and thus gave rise to the term." Still another account, which seems to rest upon no good authority, connects the term with Mr. Lynch, the founder of Lynchburg, Va. But it can be traced to a much earlier date in Ireland. In 1493 James Fitzstephens Lynch was mayor and warden of Galway. He traded largely to Spain, and sent his son thither to purchase a cargo of wine.

The young man squandered the money intrusted to him for this purpose, but succeeded in running in debt for a cargo to a Spaniard, by whose nephew he was accompanied on the return voyage to Ireland, where the money was to be paid. Young Lynch, to conceal his defalcation, caused the Spaniard to be thrown overboard, and was received at home with great honor, as having conducted a most successful business operation. But a sailor on his deathbed revealed to the mayor of Galway the crime which his son had committed. The young man was tried before his own father, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged. His family and others undertook to prevent the execution; and the father, finding that the sentence could not be carried into effect in the usual way, conducted his son up a winding stairway to a window overlooking the public street, with his own hands fastened the halter attached to his neck to a staple in the wall, and acted as executioner. In the council books of Galway there is said to be a minute that "James Lynch, mayor of Galway, hanged his own son out of the window for defrauding and killing strangers, without martial or common law, to show a good example to posterity."