« PrejšnjaNaprej »
In the year 1845 the population of Upper California amounted to about ten thousand, exclusive of Indians.* Of this number two thousand were Americans, and it became evident to the more intelligent Californians that the increase of this class of population placed in jeopardy the government and institutions of the country. This apprehension led to the adoption of measures which hastened the event they dreaded. The revolution of 1845, headed by Don José Castro, Alvarado, Pio Pico and others, and in which the foreigners in California participated, resulted in the deposition of the Mexican governor, General Micheltorena; and the assumption of the gubernatorial functions by Pio Pico, and of the military command by General Castro.
General Castro at once adopted a policy highly offensive to the foreign population. Among other acts was the promulgation of a decree requiring all Americans to leave the country. No immediate attempt was made to enforce this decree, but it excited the determined hostility of those against whom it was directed, and they at once prepared to resist its execution. Soon after its promulgation, a detachment of soldiers was sent by General Castro to remove some government horses from the mission at San Raphael to his head-quarters at Santa Clara. They were obliged, in the performance of this duty, to cross the Rio Sacramento at Nueva Helvetia, in the neighborhood of which a large American population had concentrated. Intelligence of their approach was given to the settlers by an Indian, and also to Capt. Frémont who was at that time in the valley; and a Mr. Knight who had encountered them, communicated the important information, that these horses had been sent for to mount a battalion of two hundred men, to be used by General Castro in the expulsion of the Americans from the valley. It was also stated that Castro intended to fortify the Bear River Pass, and shut out emigration from the United States.
A meeting of the Americans was at once held, and a volunteer party started after the Californians, took the horses from them, and sent word to Castro by the soldiers that "if he wanted his horses he must come
Bryant, 286. Emigration to California.- According to the lists made out in the New York Herald, the number of vessels which have, up to the present moment, (March, 1849,) cleared in the ports of the United States for California, is 270, carrying, passengers and crews together, 17,341 souls. The following exhibits the number of vessels and emigrants, including crews, that have sailed by the different routes : By Cape Horn,
12,323 souls. Chargres,
103 San Juan,
17,341 This estimate, from the general accuracy of this paper, is probably nearly correct as far as the emigration from the Atlantic ports ; but the population has been immensely increased up to this time by the thousands who have gone to California from this country by the overland routes, from the western coast of South America, from Mexico, the Pacific Islands and Europe.
and get them.” The movement, thus commenced, was prosecuted in the manner peculiar to the parties. The Mexicans fulminated ridiculous proclamations; the Americans came off victorious in all the encounters which occurred; had taken Sonoma, driven Castro out of the Northern Valley, in seventeen days after the issue of his order, and were seriously meditating the policy of raising the banner of the “Bear and Star,” and planting a Republic on the shores of the Pacific.*
The opportune appearance of the United States as an actor in the affairs of California prevented the consummation of this scheme. On the 2d of July, 1846, Commodore Sloat, in the frigate Savannah, entered the harbor of Monterey, and in view of the difficulties between Mexico and the United States, determined to take possession of the place. The American flag was raised by him at this point on the 7th instant, and soon after at San Francisco and Sonoma. On the 15th, Commodore Stockton arrived at Monterey, and on the 17th of the following month issued a proclamation, declaring California to be in the full and peaceable possession of the United States. In September a revolution broke out, and some hard fighting became necessary to the retention of the territory thus easily acquired; and the Americans, under the commands respectively of Commodore Stockton, General Kearney, and Captain Frémont, convinced their opponents that it was vain to hope the forcible expulsion of the intruders who had raised the flag of the United States upon the soil of California. The revolution of Flores was effectually crushed, and Commodore Stockton (General Kearney protesting against his power to do so) appointed Lieut. Col. Frémont Governor of California. Commodore Stockton was soon afterward superseded by Commodore Shubrick, and in March, 1847, General Kearney assumed the reins of government. In May, he returned to the United States, leaving Colonel Mason, who had been sent out for that purpose, Acting-Governor of California.
The space within which I am obliged to confine my paper, makes it necessary to sketch rapidly these important events. I have said nothing of the premature occupation of Monterey by Commodore Jones in 1842, only glanced at the revolution headed by General Flores, and given no extended view of the movement of the American settlers under Mr. Ide, which was called the “Bear Revolution.”! Among other malters thus hastily alluded to, is the unfortunate collision between General Kearney and Commodore Stockton. It is greatly to be regretted that this difficulty should have occurred, especially as its result has been to deprive the Government, for the present at least, of the invaluable
* Bryant, 286. Hughes's California, 81.
| Bryant, 287 to 405. Documents accompanying the President's message of December, 1848, pp. 1037 to 1054.
I The corps of volunteers consisting of American emigrants to California, commanded by Mr. Ide and Captain Grigsby, raised the flag of the “Bear and Star”in the settlements on the Sacramento, and held that part of the province in quiet possession. Their intention was to establish an independent government in case the United States forces did not co-operate in wresting the country from the hands of the Mexicans. These were styled the Bear Men. The number of grizzly bears in the country and the single star of the Texan flag, probably suggested the device of their own banner.-Hughes's California, p. 82
services of Lieutenant Colonel Frémont, one of the boldest and most scientific explorers that has ever served the Republic. To his untiring energy, indomitable perseverance, extended research and graphic pen we are indebted for the most reliable and interesting details which have been furnished in connection with our far western possessions; and it is a matter of national moment that such a man should speedily be restored to the position which his high qualities so well fit him to adorn.
After the expulsion of the last Mexican Governor, General Micheltorena, and before the occupation of the country by the American forces, a Junta was convened at Monterey, and the question of a foreign alliance argued with great earnestness, and no inconsiderable ability. The most prominent members of this body were General José Castro, Don Pio Pico, and Don Mariana Gaudalupe Vallejo. The two first were earnest in their advocacy of immediate annexation to France or England, and Vallejo was in favor of a union with the United States. I quote the speeches of Señors Pico and Vallejo, because they show what were the feelings of the better informed Californians at this crisis, and allude, in forcible language, to the resources of their country and the characteristic results of Mexican domination.*
"Excellent Sirs !" argued Pio Pico, “to what a deplorable condition is our country reduced ! Mexico, professing to be our mother and our protectress, has given us neither arms, nor money, nor the material of war for our defence. She is not likely to do any thing in our behalf, although she is quite willing to afflict us with her extortionate minions, who come hither in the guise of soldiers and civil officers, to harrass and oppress our people. We possess a glorious country, capable of attaining a physical and moral greatness corresponding with the grandeur and beauty which an Alınighty hand has stamped upon the face of our beloved California. But although nature has been prodigal, it cannot be denied that we are not in a position to avail ourselves of her bounty. Our population is not large, and it is sparsely scattered over valley and mountain, covering an immense area of virgin soil, destitute of roads, and traversed with difficulty; hence it is hardly possible to collect an army of any considerable force. Our people are poor, as well as few, and cannot well govern themselves and maintain a decent show of sovereign power. Although we live in the midst of plenty, we lay up nothing; but, tilling the earth in an imperfect manner, all our time is required to provide proper subsistence for ourselves and our families. Thus circumstanced, we find ourselves suddenly threatened by hordes of Yankee emigrants, who have already begun to flock into our country, and whose progress we cannot arrest. Already have the wagons of that perfidious people scaled the almost inaccessible summits of the Sierra Nevada, crossed the entire continent, and penetrated the fruitful valley of the Sacramento. What that astonishing people will next undertake, I cannot say ; but in whatever enterprise they embark they will be sure to prove successful. Already are these adventurous land-voyagers
Mr. Revere, from whose work these speeches are taken, intimates that the remarks attributed to Pio Pico, may have been in fact delivered by Señor Antonio Varillo, who was a member prominent in the Junta. See Revere, pp. 24 to 30,
spreading themselves far and wide over a country which seems suited to their tastes. They are cultivating farms, establishing vineyards, erecting mills, sawing up lumber, building workshops, and doing a thousand other things which seem natural to them, but which Californians neglect or despise. What then are we to do? Shall we remain supine, while these daring strangers are overrunning our fertile plains, and gradually outnumbering and displacing us ? Shall these incursions go on unchecked, until we shall become strangers in our own land? We cannot successfully oppose them by our own unaided power, and the swelling tide of emigration renders the odds against us more formidable every day. We cannot stand alone against them, nor can we creditably maintain our independence even against Mexico; but there is something which we can do which will elevate our country, strengthen her at all points, and yet enable us to preserve our identity and remain masters of our own soil. Perhaps what I am about to suggest may seem to some, faint-hearted and dishonorable.
“There are two great powers in Europe which seem destined to divide between them the unappropriated countries of the world. They have large fleets and armies not unpracticed in the art of war. Is it not better to connect ourselves with one of these powerful nations, than to struggle on without hope, as we are doing now? Is it not better that one of them should be invited to send a fleet and an army, to defend and protect California, rather than we should fall an easy prey to the lawless adventurers who are overrunning our beautiful country? I pronounce for annexation to France or England, and the people of California will never regret having taken my advice. They will no longer be subjected to the trouble and grievous expense of governing themselves; and their beef and their grain, which they produce in such abundance, would find a ready market among the new comers. But I hear some one say, “No monarchy!” But is not monarchy better than anarchy? Is not existence in some shape, better than annihilation? No monarchy! and what is there so terrible in a monarchy? Have we not all lived under a monarchy far more despotic than that of France, or England, and were not our people happy under it? Have not the leading men among our agriculturists been bred beneath the royal rule of Spain, and have they been happier since the mock republic of Mexico has supplied its place? Nay, does not every man abhor the miserable abortion christened the Republic of Mexico, and look back with regret to the golden days of the Spanish monarchy? Let us restore that glorious era. Then may our people go quietly to their ranchos, and live there as of yore, leading a merry and thoughtless lise, untroubled by politics or cares of State, sure of what is their own, and safe from the incursions of the Yankees, who would soon be forced to retreat into their own country.”
Señor Vallejo, a native Californian, of high position and character, replied in substance as follows:
“ I cannot, gentlemen, coincide in opinion with the military and civil functionaries who have advocated the cession of our country to France or England. It is most true that to rely any longer upon Mexico to govern and defend us, would be idle and absurd. To this extent I fully agree wita my distinguished colleagues. It is also true that we possess a noble country, every way calculated, from position and resources, to become great and powerful. For that very reason I would not have her a mere dependency upon a foreign monarchy, naturally alien, or at least indifferent to our interests and our welfare.
“ Even could we tolerate the idea of dependence, ought we to go to distant Europe for a master? What possible sympathy could exist between us and a nation separated from us by two vast oceans ? But waiving this insuperable objection, how could we endure to come under the dominion of a monarchy ?-for although others speak lightly of a form of government, as a freeman, I cannot do so. We are republicans—badly governed and badly situated as we are—still we are all, in sentiment, republicans. So far as we are governed at all, we at least prosess to be self-governed. Who then, that possesses true patriotism will consent to subject himself and his children to the caprices of a foreign king and his official minions? But it is asked, If we do not throw ourselves upon the protection of France or England, what shall we do? I do not come here to support the existing order of things, but I come prepared to propose instant and effective action to extricate our country from her present forlorn condition. My opinion is made up that we must persevere in throwing off the galling yoke of Mexico, and proclaim our independence of her forever. We have endured her official cormorants and her villainous soldiery until we can endure no longer. All will probably agree with me that we ought at once to rid ourselves of what may remain of Mexican domination. But some profess to doubt our ability to maintain our position. To my mind, there comes no doubt. Look at Texas, and see how long she withstood the power of united Mexico. The resources of Texas were not to be compared with ours, and she was much nearer to her enemy than we are. Our position is so remote, either by land or sea, that we are in no danger from a Mexican invasion. Why then, should we hesitate, still to assert our independence? We have indeed taken the first step, by electing our own governor, but another remains to be taken. I will mention it plain and distinctly : it is annexation to the United States. In contemplating this consummation of our destiny, I feel nothing but pleasure, and I ask you to share it. Discard old prejudices, disregard old customs, and prepare for the glorious change which awaits our country. Why should we shrink from incorporating ourselves with the happiest and freest nation in the world, destined soon to be the most wealthy and powerful? Why should we go abroad for protection when this great nation is our adjoining neighbor? When we join our fortunes to hers, we shall not become subjects, but fellow-citizens, possessing all the rights of the people of the United States, and choosing our own federal and local rulers. We shall have a stable government and just laws. California will grow strong and flourish, and her people will be prosperous, happy and free. Look not, therefore, with jealousy upon ihe hardy pioneers who scale our mountains and cultivate our unoccupied plains; but rather welcome them as brothers, who come to share with us a common destiny.”