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never established a vigorous commerce. Controlling the important trade of the Western Islands, from 1568 to 1815, which obliged them to send their richly laden galleons to the coast of California—the necessity that, as early as 1565, led one of their navigators, Andres de Urdenata, to discover the northwest trade winds, which wafts a vessel from Asia almost to the Golden Gate of California—though following the track of these favoring winds for more than a century, they did not increase their commerce. In the year 1835, there were not more than thirty vessels belonging to all the states and nations of Spanish origin, from Valdavia to Oregon.
Compare this with the career of the United States. Within a century of their existence, they have created a commerce extending over every land and sea, and perfected arrangements for its further extension, unexcelled by those of any other nation. railroads, steamships, and telegraphs, as appliances of commerce, are more extensively employed by the Anglo-Saxon race in America, than by any other nation; and in no portion of their dominion have these appliances been more effectively employed than in California.
These remarks are not introduced in a spirit of self-laudation, or to express any feeling of disrespect to our Spanish and Mexican fellowcitizens or neighbors, but to account for the extraordinary expansion of the commerce of California, and to explain the basis on which our calculations of its future extension is founded. Within twenty years after obtaining possession of the country by the Anglo-Saxons, this commerce has been expanded from an annual cargo or two of hides and tallow, exported to barter for a few thousand dollars' worth of coarse manufactured goods, until the value of the exports of products and manufactures—exclusive of the precious metals—exceeds 820,000,000, annually, and the imports of merchandise amount to $60,000,000. From a few scowls, to transport the hides and tallow from the missions to San Francisco or San Diego, the local marine has increased until there are nearly 1,000 vessels, including 125 steamers, chiefly owned by the merchants of San Francisco; and hundreds of the finest ships of the mercantile marine of the United States are employed in the California trade, which has also created lines of swift and capacious steamers, connecting the State with China, Japan, Europe, the Atlantic States and Australia, via the Isthmus of Panama; the Sandwich Islands, British Columbia, Oregon, and Mexico.
These facts and figures prove that less than 500,000 of the AngloSaxon race, possessing less than 700 miles of the Pacific coast-line, within less than twenty years, have created a greater commerce than did all the nations of Spanish origin, possessing 5000 miles of that coast, in three hundred years. If such a commerce has been created in so short a time, by so small a population, is it unreasonable to anticipate an immense increase, when the enterprising artizans and manufacturers of the Atlantic States and Europe, being informed of the advantages California offers, as a field for their labor and skill, shall make their homes here, and increase its products and manufactures?
Prior to the arrival of a few citizens of the United States, commerce was unknown in California. The missionaries produced all they required to supply the wants of themselves and their Indian neophytes, and were too much opposed to the introduction of strangers to encourage any communication with the rest of the world.
Mr. Gilroy, who has resided in California since 1814, states that for several years after his arrival, the whole trade and commerce of the country consisted of the shipment of a cargo of tallow, once a year, to Callao, in a Spanish vessel, which in return brought a few cotton goods and miscellaneous articles for the missionaries.
In 1822, after Mexico had declared its independence of Spain, there was a slight increase in the commerce of California. In that year, an English firm at Lima (Peru) established a branch of its business at Monterey, for the purchase of hides and tallow; and vessels from Chili, Peru, and Mexico, made occasional trips for a cargo of these articles. American vessels, trading with the settlers on the Columbia river, finding that the missionaries of California had something to sell, visited San Francisco, Monterey, and San Diego, about this time. Whale ships were quite numerous on the coast, as early as 1820, and occasionally visited the California ports for fresh provisions and water, and bartered for them. It was through the visits of these American vessels that the value of California products became known to the world.
Between 1822 and 1832, the exports from California had increased from a single cargo until they were estimated at 30,000 hides, 7,000 quintals of tallow, 500 bales of furs, and 2,000 bushels of wheat annually. In 1834, this branch of trade was greatly increased by the missionaries killing immense numbers of their cattle, in anticipation of the movement for secularizing the missions, which was already inaugurated by the Mexican Government. In this year, the Fathers slaughtered upwards of 100,000 cattle, to obtain their hides and tallow. At this time a new branch of trade was introduced by Thomas O. Larkin, and other Americans residing at Monterey. Vessels were dispatched with cargoes of horses, cattle, grain, etc., to Honolulu. The first animals of this class ever seen on the Islands, were taken from California on board the brig Delia Byrd, and landed there in June, 1803: they consisted of one horse and two mares. In the course of a year or two, these exports were increased by shipments of lumber, shingles, flour, potatoes, soap, etc. The Hudson Bay Company, also, began to send to California for supplies of grain and provisions, for its establishment on the Columbia, and the missionaries began to produce wine, raisins, olives, etc., which found a ready market in Mexico.
From 1825 to 1836, an important element in the trade of California consisted of the skins of the sea otter, which were exceedingly abundant on the coast from Mazatlan to San Francisco. But their reckless slaughter by the hunters exterminated them before 1840. La Pe'rouse states that when he visited Monterey, in 1786, the agents of the Spanish Government, who then controlled this trade, were collecting the skins. Twenty thousand otters were in the list. The great French navigator thought they might have collected fifty thousand, the animals were so very numerous.
As the export trade increased, the value and variety of the imports began to increase also, and about the year 1830, they included clothing, furniture, agricultural implements, salt, candles, lumber, etc.
There was no trade with the interior of the country until about 1840. The few inhabitants who resided beyond the boundaries of the missions had to produce all they required, or barter with the missionaries for cloth, wine, etc. There was no circulating medium of any kind in the country until 1824, when the "hide ships," introduced a few hundred dollars worth of silver, which generally found its way into the coffers of the missionaries. In 1832 there was but little money in circulation, most of the trade being transacted by barter. As late as 1848, up to the discovery of gold, the currency of the country was almost exclusively silver. When La Perouse visited the country, in 1798, beads were the circulating medium.
The trade of California steadily increased under the judicious cultivation of the American residents. English, Chilian, and Mexican merchants sent their ships here to compete for a share of this trade. The following table of imports and exports, compiled by De Mofras, in. 1841, show that the Bostonians, who at that time managed this trade, obtained the largest share of it:
Imports and Exports of California, in 1841.
Nation. Exports. Imports.
United States $70,000 $150,000
Mexican. 50,000 65,000
English 20,000 45,000
Other countries 10,000 20,000
Totals $150,000 $280,000
Included in these exports were hides valued at 8210,000 ; tallow, $55,000; peltries, lumber, etc., $15,000. About thirty vessels visited California, annually, in the conduct of this business.
From 1837 to 1841, the trade of San Francisco was almost exclusively in the hands of the Hudson Bay Company. In 1841, this company sold out its establishment and left the country. San Diego was then the seat of the export and import trade, but San Francisco began to take the lead in 1842. From 1841 to 1846, the commerce of California greatly increased. The preparations made by the United States Government to take possession of the territory caused an extensive circulation of money. The arrival of large detachments of its naval and military forces, and the great increase in the number of inhabitants by immigration, both by sea and overland, created a considerable inland trade. The imports and exports were also materially increased.
The following table of exports and imports, at San Francisco, during October, November, and December, 1847, will convey an idea of the course of the trade at that time:
Imports and Exports at San Francisco during the last quarter of 1847.
Countries. Exports. Imports.
Atlantic States. $2,060 C $6,790 54
Oregon 7,701 59
Mexico 5,39160 160 00
Sandwich Islands 1,422 18 81,740 00
Chili and Peru 21,448 35 3,676 44
Sitka 2,471 32
Bremen 550 54
Other countries 19,275 50 499 10
Totals $49,597 53 $53,589 53
The discovery of gold on the 19th of January, 1848, so thoroughly revolutionized the commerce, and everything else in the country, that a new era was inaugurated. As all the particulars of that event, and the history of San Francisco, which became the metropolis of the Pacific Coast in consequence of that discovery, are each given in a separate chapter, the commerce of the country subsequent to that event will be found in those chapters.
THE ACQUISITION OF CALIFORNIA BY THE UNITED STATES.
As there are many persons in California, as well as in the Atlantic States and Europe, who labor under the impression that the acquisition of this State was influenced by, or was in some manner connected with the discovery of gold, the following synopsis of the policy pursued by the United States Government in acquiring territory on the Pacific Coast may be useful in removing such an erroneous impression, and in proving that that grand discovery was the result of American enterprise subsequent to the possession of the country by the Federal Government.
We have already stated, when explaining the causes which led to the establishment of the first settlement of Americans on the Pacific Coast, that the importance of the fur trade of the northwest territory, as early as 1784, induced Mr. Jefferson, while Minister to France, to employ John Ledyard, to make an exploration of a portion of that territory, with a view to its ultimate possession and settlement by the United States—a purpose so well understood by the Russian Government that Ledyard was arrested and expelled from the country. This did not prevent Mr. Jefferson and his friends from persisting in their efforts to obtain their end. Through their influence, Mr. Astor, the great American fur merchant, was induced to fit out several vessels, ostensibly to trade, but really to found a settlement on this coast. One of these vessels discovered the Columbia River, and another founded a trading post on its banks, claiming the land by virtue of its discovery. This claim was denied by both Russia and England, which were most anxious to prevent an American settlement on this coast. This settlement was the entrance of the wedge of American possession on this coast, which has yet to be driven home. On the 30th of April, 1803, the United States purchased the territory of Louisiana from France, which gave it another foothold on the Pacific. It was stated in the title conveyed by this purchase that the western boundary of that territory was the Pacific Ocean. Spain, England, and Russia, objected to such boundary. Pending a settlement of the dispute which arose on this point, Mr. Jefferson, who was then President, to carry out the object for which he had employed Ledyard, nearly twenty years previously, appointed Clark and Lewis, two famous explorers, whose names are familiar to every reader of American history, and several other parties,