Michael LaPointe’s monthly column, Dice Roll, focuses on the art of the gamble, one famous gambler at a time.
“Murder! murder most foul and dastardly has been committed in our streets, and the blood of the victim crieth aloud for vengeance.”
Even regular readers of the Daily Evening Bulletin had never seen its editor, James King of William, this angry. All through the winter of 1855–56, he’d been calling for Charles Cora’s death. “He must and will be hung!” he’d written. And if the sheriff of San Francisco let Cora slip away? Then “hang him—hang the Sheriff!”
But now, Cora had been caught, and the only thing hung was the jury. Rumor had it that Cora’s lover, the madame of a Waverly Place parlor house who was known simply as Belle Cora, had influenced the jury with gold dust. Key witnesses were fleeing the city. The murder case was falling apart.
“Hung be the heavens with black!” cried King of William, quoting Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 1. He cursed Cora’s “obscene paramour”; he wept for “the fame of the fair city.” In the pages of his newspaper, he’d already declared war in San Francisco, “war between the prostitutes and gamblers on one side, and the virtuous and respectable on the other.” He viewed the hung jury as a patriotic humiliation.
But he wasn’t about to surrender. He ended his editorial with a threat that would’ve chilled anyone who recalled the violent excess of the Committee of Vigilance: “Gamblers, we warn you! remember Vicksburg!” Read More