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prise of the past. Bound by the affinities of homogeneous population, political union, and common interest to this Republic,—with the iron pathways of trade extending, as they soon will, from ocean to ocean through our own territory, and the long line of the magnetic wire thrilling with communicated thought,—it will grow into a great central station between Europe and Asia, and powerfully influence the interests and institutions of the Old World, while at the same time, it expands the resources and builds up the greatness of our own country.
It is not my design to review fully the history of California from the period of its earliest settlement, but only to embody such facts as are essential to the connection of this narrative, and tend to explain points which it may be necessary briefly to discuss.
The country known under the name of California, stretches upon the Eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean, from the parallel of 22° 48' to the 42d degree of North latitude, and is divided into upper and lower California. Old or Lower CALIFORNIA is the name applied to the Peninsula which trends to the South-East, between the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of California, to the 22d parallel.
It was discovered in the year 1534 by one of the captains of Cortéz, and for the succeeding century and a half occupied largely the attention of the Government of New Spain.* Numerous expeditions were sent out both by the Vice Royal Government and by private individuals, for the purpose of exploration and settlement; and the current reports of the wealth of the country in gold and pearls kept the spirit of adventure alive up to the year 1683, when the Government, believing the settlement of the country to be impracticable, determined that no further attempts should be made at the public cost. The expeditions resulted unfavorably in almost every case. The navigation was hazardous, the coast of the Peninsula which the discoverers skirted, was barren and desolate. Much difficulty was experienced in obtaining food, and some of the native tribes manifested a hostile spirit. Under such circumstances, the settlement of the country would probably have been long postponed, had not other influences brought to its accomplishment a few devoted men, whose labors have invested the early history of California with a peculiar interest.†
In all the important enterprises of that adventurous age, religion went hand in hand with discovery; and when in this instance the secular power shrank from the difficulties connected with the settlement of California, the missionary priesthood of the Catholic church entered upon the field, and accomplished the spiritual conquest of the country.
The undertaking was a formidable one. Numerous expeditions, backed by the power of the Government, or sustained by individual wealth, had attempted it during a century without success; and we cannot withhold our astonishment and admiration, when we find that a few priests, almost destitute of resources, and strong only in faith, encountered all the difficulties incident to the undertaking, and finally achieved the settlement of the country. The success of this enter
• Forbes's California, p. 7.
prise was chiefly owing to the labors of Fathers Kino and Salvatierra, who were worthy followers of Loyola; and those who wish to appreciate the life of the Catholic missionary, will find the record of their labors in California an interesting history of privation and danger.*
They obtained a foothold in the country with great difficulty. By undeviating kindness, they slowly overcame the hostile feeling which the conduct of previous adventurers had excited, and were enabled to establish mission houses in different parts of the Peninsula, each of which became the nucleus of a settlement. At these establishments they concentrated as large an Indian population as possible, and by ingenious artifices and constant kindness, induced them to assist in the cultivation of the land, while, at the same time, they instructed them in the first principles of Christianity. One of the greatest difficulties which they had to contend with was the invincible sloth of the natives, and the establishment of a mission was a task of slow and laborious accomplishment.
After the selection of a suitable location, the priests by gentle treatment and liberal presents, gained the good will of the Indians. During this interval, their lodging was in the open air, or under a rude hut of mesquit branches. The next step in the progress of civilization was the erection of small houses of udobies or sun-baked bricks; and finally the chapel and numerous outbuildings of the mission were constructed. In the labor of these erections, the Fathers themselves participated largely. Their first assistants were the Indian boys, whose aid they secured by donations of sweetmeats or by innocent wagers, as to who could destroy most mesquit bushes, carry away most earth, or mould the largest number of adobies, in a given time. Thus by degrees the Indians were slowly humanised, the religious establishments became numerous and thriving, the power of the Fathers was consolidated, and the spiritual conquest of Lower California was accomplished.t
Apart however from the partial conversion of the Indians, these severe labors had no very important results. The country proved to be unattractive and barren. Seven or eight hundred miles in length, and varying from thirty to a hundred miles in breadth, it was sound to consist of broken groups of bare rocks, with tracts of sandy soil, interspersed with narrow strips of cultivable land. There were only two or three streams in the whole country, and springs of good water were very rare. The only wealth of the peninsula was in minerals and pearls, and the policy of the Fathers forbade the development of these resources, fearing that they would attract a class of population which would have thwarted their plans for the conversion of the natives. The severe restrictions which they imposed with the approbation of the Government of New Spain, account for the long interval which has elapsed before the greater attractions and singular wealth of the main land were opened to enterprise. Through the arteries of an encouraged commerce alone, beats the great heart of national progress. The pearls of the gulf, and the quicksilver and gold of the Peninsula, would Vanegas.
| Vanegas. Forbes's California, p. 33.
have led Trade with her thousand energies, into the valley of the Sacramento centuries ago, and made the treasures of the El Dorado a tale of the past, instead of a marvel of the present.
New or Alta CALIFORNIA was discovered about 1542, by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, who explored the coast as far north as the 430 degree. Portions of the coast were visited by Sir Francis Drake in 1578; by Francisco Galli in 1582, and by Sebastian Vescayna in 1603. Vescayna discovered the ports of San Diego and Monterey, and closed the career of northern exploration which had originated with Cortéz. In 1767, the Jesuits, by whom the settlement of Lower California had been accomplished, fell under the displeasure of the Government of Spain, and were expelled from the Peninsula.f The Marqués de Croix, who was at that time viceroy of New Spain, replaced them by the rival order of the Franciscans, upon whom he strongly urged the spiritual conquest of the Upper Province. This enterprise the Government considered more important than the settlement of the Peninsula. The accounts which were current of the wealth of the country were very flattering, and political reasons induced them to lend efficient assistance to the adventure. Both France and England at that time evinced considerable interest in the islands of the Pacific, and the countries upon its coast; and the explorations of Bourgainville and Cook, had begun to excite alarm. Russia also, with noiseless, but certain advance, was streiching her gigantic empire along the western coast, and Spain recognised the necessity of preventing these dangerous intruders from obtaining a foothold in her American possessions. I
Under these circumstances, the spiritual subjugation of Upper California was accomplished in a comparatively short time. The same career of privation and toil was run by the priestly pioneers as marked the settlement of the Peninsula, but the missions grew up more rapidly, and the difficulties were, on the whole, fewer. The results were equally unimportant. Neither Mexico nor the colony was much benefited. The country offered great inducements to a profitable trade, and was believed to possess large deposits of quicksilver and gold; but the narrow and unwise policy of Mexico, both when an appendage of Spain, and an independent State, rendered the development of its resources impossible. The Government feltered commerce. It imposed restrictions instead of granting facilities; levied onerous taxes, and stretched a barrier of custom houses across ports which a liberal policy would have crowded with profitable trade. The interests of the country were wholly disregarded ; and California became a resuge for invalid soldiers, indolent priests, and pampered officials.
The missions, however, aided by large donations from the pious in Mexico, which were consolidated into what was styled “the California Pious Fund,” rapidly grew in importance. They brought the mass of the native population into a condition of comparative vassalage, and gradually absorbed the valuable lands, almost to the exclusion of the white settlers. They existed in a state of almost total independence of Mexico; and although ordinary government establishments were kept up, as in the other provinces of the Vice Royalty, the priests were virtually the owners of the soil, and the masters of the country. Affairs remained in this position until the occurrence of the Mexican revolution in 1824. The Californias were then erected into territories, not having sufficient population to entitle them to be federative States, and were each allowed to send one member to the general Congress, who was privileged to take part in the debates of that body, but had no voice in its decisions. As territories, they were under the government of an agent styled the Commandant General, whose powers were very extensive.*
* Forbes's California, 79, 80. | Greenhow's Oregon and California, p. 106. | Greenhow's Oregon and California, pp. 104, 105. || Forbes, 289. Revere, 28.
In the year 1827, the changes which had occured in affairs in Mexico in consequence of the revolution of 1824, began to affect Upper California, and measures were adopted by the Government which opened the country to the influence of progress. The most serious of these was the secularization of the missions. As this mission system is the most important feature in the history of California, it is necessary to understand its character and operations. The spiritual conquerors of Upper California obtained a foothold in the country in 1769, and between that period and 1835, twenty-one missions were established. The missionaries having, by the settlement of the country, carried out the policy of the Government of New Spain, they were left to accomplish the task of converting the native population, which was their great object, unmolested by the Government, for more than half a century. With the first monks who went into the country, small detachments of soldiers were sent as guards, but as the establishments became important, the country was divided into four military districts, the head-quarters of which were termed Presidences or Presidios. The buildings at these consisted of quarters for the troops, a house for the commandant, a church, and warehouses. At a short distance was erected a fort, and to each Presidio was assigned two hundred and fifty mounted soldiers. These soldiers, the refuse of the army, were mostly deserters, mutineers and felons. The garrisons were intended for the protection of the missions, and the chief occupation of the troops was to recapture absconding converts. Connected with each Presidio were “ Ranchos," or national farms, which were set apart for the use and support of the soldiers. After a certain term, the troops became exempted from further service, and grants of land were given to such as desired to settle in the country. This class founded three free “Pueblos” or Towns : Los Angelos, San José and Branciforte. So jealous were the missionaries of intrusion, that no grants of land could be obtained without their assent, which was given only to their own adherents; and as the soldiers were not allowed to marry, except by special permission, the free settlers were small in number. In 1835, the whole population of white and nixed castes in these towns, exclusive of Indians bound to the missions, did not exceed five thousand.
• Forbes, 132, 133.
The mission establishments to which both the Presidios and Pueblos were subsidiary, were all formed on the same plan, and varied only in their extent, standing and population. Each mission was governed by a Friar, styled the prefect, who corresponded with the Government at Mexico, and ruled with absolute power over all the concerns of the establishment. The tillage of the ground, the gathering of the harvest, the slaughtering of the cattle, the weaving, and the spiritual and physical interests of the resident Indians were all directed by him. To each mission, a tract of about fifteen acres of land was originally allotted, but they gradually extended their boundaries from one establishment to another, and absorbed nearly all the valuable land on the coast. The edifices consisted of houses for the priests, storehouses, the dwellings of the Indians, and a church. The wealth of a mission depended largely upon its converted Indians, whose condition was little better than absolute slavery; and the number of these was increased by persuasion, purchase, and in some cases, force. Their religious education was attended to, they were clothed and fed, instructed in some useful arts, and performed all the labor of these extensive establishments. On the whole, it may be supposed that they were benefited by the working of the system. In 1832, the whole native population connected with the missions amounted to eighteen thousand six hundred and eightythree. It, however, was not equally distributed. The mission of San Luis Rey possessed at that period three thousand dependant Indians. The number of domesticated animals belonging to this establishment exceeded sixty thousand, and its domain yielded annually about thirteen thousand bushels of grain.*
From these details, an opinion may be formed of the character and importance of the mission system. It concentrated power and wealth in the hands of a small body of monks, and while this power was doubtless sometimes abused, all the writers upon California bear concurrent testimony to the eminent zeal, virtuous conduct, self-denial, and kindness of these missionary rulers.
A spirit of opposition to the missions had long been gathering strength in Mexico, and in 1833, under the administration of Gomez Farias, an act passed the Mexican Congress, decreeing their secularization. This was followed by other acts, suspending the salaries of the monks, directing them to liberate the Indians from their servitude to the mission establishments, and to provide them with districts of land for their maintenance. The “Pious Fund” was confiscated; the removal of the missionaries, and the division of their property anong the Indians and settlers was decreed, and an extensive plan adopted for the settlement of the country by emigration.
With these measures the history of the missions closes. They were deserted and speedily decayed ;-and now, dilapidated walls and neg. lected fields alone bear witness to their former importance and extent.
Greenhow's Oregon and California, p. 113. Thornton's Oregon and California, p. 92. Forbes's California, pp. 201 to 228. Bryant's California, 279 to 256. Robin. son's Life in California, 18-16, pp. 24, 33.