an unauthorized committee of citizens organized for the maintenance of order and the summary punishment of crime in the absence of regular or efficient courts.
History/Historical. (in the South) an organization of citizens using extralegal means to control or intimidate blacks and abolitionists and, during the Civil War, to suppress Union loyalists.
Origin of vigilance committee
An Americanism dating back to 1825–35
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
British Dictionary definitions for vigilance committee
(in the US) a self-appointed body of citizens organized to maintain order, punish crime, etc, where an efficient system of courts does not exist
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012