|just after the easy pickings...|
But mining was of no interest to Stuart - he was just after the easy pickings offered by crime. He dabbled in real estate swindling, gambling and petty theft, but found that none of these paid well. Finally he formed a gang of former convicts which successfully pulled off full-scale robberies - until the vigilante squads caught up with them.
Australians were not welcome in San Francisco, largely because of their reputation for lawlessness. When Stuart killed a sheriff while making a getaway from a 'job' in nearby Sacramento, California's state capital, he brought the full force of the self-appointed custodians of law and order upon him.
Stuart was 'tried' before a kangaroo court of 400 American vigilantes and found guilty of robbery and murder on 11 June 1851. The automatic sentence was death.
All through his trial Stuart had remained stoic. The verdict was inevitable, but the realisation did not strike home until he saw the gallows where he was to be lynched. Then he began kicking and screaming all the way up the platform. Twenty minutes after being launched into space James Stuart was dead.
His was a fate that later befell other members of his gang of Australian outlaws. The vigilantes were determined to clean up the town of San Francisco at all costs, and they eventually succeeded in bringing to an end the crime rampage which had temporarily given Australia a bad name.