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These sound views of Señor Vallejo were not adopted by the Junta, but the stand he took, led to its sudden adjournment; and the arrival soon afterward of the American squadron, setiled the question of French or English annexation.
At the close of the war with Mexico, the territory of Alta California was ceded to the United States by the treaty of Gaudalupe Hidalgo, which was ratified in May 1848. The magnificent domain thus formally transferred to us, lies between the parallels of 32° 50' and 42° north latitude, and 1060 and 124° west longitude. The western coast for nine hundred and seventy miles is washed by the Pacific ocean. The majestic range of the Sierra Madre forms its eastern boundary. On the south runs the river Gila; and western Missouri, and the Oregon Territory, shut it in on the north. It has an area of four hundred and forty-eight thousand six hundred and ninety-one square miles, or two hundred and eighty-seven million one hundred and sixty-two thousand two hundred and forty acres of land. In other words, our territory of Upper California contains twelve hundred and two square miles more than the States of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin, all combined.
In continuing the description of this empire, the natural configuration of which is proportionate to its vast extent, it becomes necessary to treat of it in two divisions. Between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, lies an immense tract only partially explored, which has received the name of the Great Basin. It is some five hundred miles in diameter every way, and between four and five thousand feet above the level of the sea. Shut in upon all sides by mountains, and having a perfect system of lakes and rivers entirely unconnected with the ocean, its general character is that of desert but with great exceptions, there being many parts of it very fit for the residence of a civilized people. Its interior mountains, abrupt and wooded, rise suddenly from a base of ten or twenty miles, to an elevation of seven to ten thousand feet
Accompanying the President's Message of December, 1848, is a map shewing the estimated surface of the Territories north and west of the organized States, and the portions of Territories thereof, north and south of the parallel of 39° 30 north latitude; with a table exhibiting the areas of the States and Territories in square miles and acres. In the table of Territory, exclusive of old Territory east of the Rocky Mountains, the area of California is estimated at four hundred and fortyeight thousand six hundred and ninety-one square miles; or two hundred and eighty. seven million one hundred and sixty-two thousand two hundred and forty acres. The whole area of the States enumerated in the text, is stated to be four hundred and forty-seven thousand four hundred and eighty-nine square miles, which leaves a surplus in favor of California of twelve hundred and two square miles. See Presi. dent's Message, pp. 8 and 72 and map. Bryant, 275. See also California and Oregon, by Com. Wilkes, p. 19.
ti quote freely from Col. Frémont's Memoir in this description of the Great Basin; and avail myself throughout my paper of his graphic and reliable publication. The bold and scientific manner in which he conducts his explorations, and the forcible and elegant style in which he records the results of them, are equally remarkable.
above the level of the sea. In its bosom are a great number of lakes. The most important yet discovered are the Great Salt Lake, and the Ulah Lake. The first of these is about seventy miles in length, and is remarkable for its saline qualities. The rocky shores of its islands are whitened by the spray which deposits salt upon every thing it touches. The shallow arms of the lake during the dry season, under a slight covering of water, present beds of salt extending for miles, and resembling softened ice, in which the horses sink to the fetlock. No fish or animal life of any kind, is found in its waters, and the larvæ upon the shores belong wholly to winged insects. The Utah is a fresh
a water lake, about thirty-five miles in length, nearly tive thousand feet above the level of the sea, and fed by numerous streams from the neighboring mountains. Upon the western side of the Basin is the Pyramid Lake, also thirty-five miles in length, shut in by mountains and remarkable for its depth and clearness. To the southward along the base of the Sierra Nevada, is a long range of lakes, some of which are of considerable size.
The most important river of the Basin is Humboldt River, laid down upon some maps as Mary's or Ogden River. It rises in the mountains west of the Great Salt Lake, and runs westwardly along the northern side of the Basin, towards the Sierra Nevada. Bordered with a rich alluvial valley of its own creation, covered with beautiful grasses, and fringed with willow and cotton wood trees-it sweeps through an otherwise sterile plain for three hundred miles without any affluents, until its waters, lessened by evaporation and absorption, lose themselves in a marshy lake within fifty miles of the Sierra Nevada. This river is likely to become very important in connection with the development of our commerce with the Pacific. It rises near the Great Salt Lake, in the vicinity of which is the Mormon settlement, daily growing in importance. It runs nearly east and west, in the direci line of travel to Oregon and California, and furnishes a level and unobstructed road, well supplied with wood and water, for three hundred miles. Its termination is opposite to the Pass of the Salmon Trout River, which at an elevation of less than three thousand six hundred feet above the level of the Basin, opens directly into the rich valley of the Sacramento, only forty miles north of Nueva Helvetia. The other principal rivers of the Basin are the Bear, Utah, Nicollett, and Salmon Trout Rivers, wbich are from one to two hundred miles in length. The Great Basin has not been sufficiently explored to justify any theory of climate, applicable to it in its whole extent. High above the sea, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, swept by the winds from the Pacific, which after depositing their moisture upon the slopes of the Sierra, blow piercing and cold over its plains; and with an immense evaporation constantly going on from its peculiar system of lakes, rivers and marshes, its dominant characteristics are cold and moisture. Notwithstanding these traits of climate, and its general desert character, Frémont believes that it may be made the home of civilized men, who will find in its arable parts, sufficient resources of subsistence and comfort.
West of the Sierra Nevada, and lying between it and the Pacific, is the division of California with which we are most familiar, and to which
the attention of the civilized world has lately been so forcibly attracted. The contrast which it presents to the region just described is very striking. The westward traveller, wearied with the sterility of the Great Basin, winds up some Pass, piercing the wall of seperation, and from the heights of the Sierra Nevada looks down upon a scene of blended magnificence and beauty. The slopes of the inountain range, with a breadth of forty to seventy miles, and five hundred miles in length; heavily wooded with oak, pine, cypress and cedar; watered by innumerable streams, and opening into broad glens, stretch down into the valley with gradual and easy descent. At the base of the Sierra spread the fertile and picturesque valleys of the Sacramento and San Joaquin, watered by the confluent rivers which give them name, and rendered beautiful by diversified and luxuriant vegetation. Beyond these to the west, rises a mountain range two thousand feet in elevation, covered with lofty cypress, and sheltering between its ridges and the lower hills upon the coast, the lovely valley of San Juan, which is the garden spot of California. To the north-west, distinctly seen at a distance of one hundred and forty miles, the Shastle Peak rises fourteen thousand feet above the level of the sea. In the foreground is Monte Diavolo, beyond which the broad bay of San Francisco opens by a narrow pass into the Pacific.
One of the most important features of this division of California, is the Bay of San Francisco. It was discovered about 1768 by a party of Franciscan monks, who bestowed upon it the name of their patron saint. All writers unite in pronouncing it one of most splendid harbors in the world. It is completely land-locked, and sufficiently capacious to meet the requirements of the most extended commerce. Approaching from the sea, the coast presents a bold outline. On the south the bordering mountains come down in a narrow range of hills, against which the sea breaks heavily. On the northern side the ridge presents a bold promontory, rising in a few miles to a height of three thousand feet. Between these two points, with abrupt and lofty cliffs upon each side, is a narrow strait about one mile wide and five in length, with a depth of water in mid-channel of forty to forty-five fathoms, which forms the entrance into the bay. This is called Chrysopolæ, or the Golden Gate. Beyond this gate the Bay of San Francisco opens to the right and lesi, extending in each direction about thirty-five miles, having a total length of more than seventy miles, and an inland coast of two hundred and seventy-five in extent. Within, the view presented is of an interior lake of deep water lying between parallel ranges of mountains. Islands, some of them mere masses of rock, and others covered with grasses, and three to eight hundred feet in height, give its surface a picturesque appearance. It is divided, by projecting points and straits, into three separate bays. At its northern extremity is Whaler's Harbor, which communicates by a strait two miles in length, with the Bay of San Pablo, a circular basin ten miles in diameter; and this again at its northeastern extremity by another strait of greater length connects with Suissun Bay, which is of nearly equal magnitude and form as that of San Pablo. Into Suissun Bay the confluent waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers empty. By these rivers a direct communication is opened with the productive valleys which bear their names. The main Bay of San Francisco lies to the southward.*
The town of San Francisco, or Yerba Buena, is situated on the west side of the bay, and on the northern point of the Peninsula which lies between the southern portion of the bay and the Pacific ocean. It is about four miles from the narrows or straits by which the bay is entered from the sea. The immediate site of the present town is an indentation or cove in the western shore of the bay, directly in front of which, and at a distance of about two miles, lies a large Island called Yerba Buena. From the water's edge the land rises gradually for more than half a mile, to the west and south-west, until it terminates in a range of bills five hundred feet in height at the back of the town. To the north of the town is an immense bluff (or rather three in one) more than five hundred feet high, which comes down to the water's edge, with precipitous sides of from twenty to one hundred feet in height. Jn front of this bluff is the best anchorage ground, the bottom being good and the highlands protecting vessels from the force of the westerly winds. Between this bluff and the above mentioned hill, there is a small and nearly level valley which connects with a smaller cove about a mile nearer the ocean. The bluff forms the north-western boundary of the cove, whilst the eastern boundary is another bluff, called the Rincon, near fifty feet in height. To the south and south-west of this last mentioned point there is a succession of low sand hills, covered with a dense growth of stunted trees peculiar to the country.t
In the development of California San Francisco will doubtless become a large and important city. Its position immediately upon the bay, will make it the port of the country. The direct communication with the interior valley, already open by the Carquinez Straits and the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, furnishes a natural channel, through which supplies will flow into it. The surface of the country will admit of the construction at a moderate cost of rail roads into the interior, and an immense commerce will find in it a point of concentration. The increase of population, the presence of capital and the facilities offered for its profitable investment in agriculture and trade, combined with the attractions of a more uniform and delicious climate, will soon direct attention to other points which present many advantages as the sites of future cities. One of these is at the head of the Suissun Bay, at the debouchment of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers; another is at or near the settlement of Captain Sutter, called Nueva Helvetia, and a third and most desirable location will be found in the rich valley south of San Francisco, in the vicinity of the Pueblo of San José.I
Bryant, 323, 439. Forbes, 166. Life in Cal. 60, 215. Thornton's Oregon and California, 67, 68, 69. Frémont, 32. There are two other harbors upon the coast, Monterey and San Diego. San Diego is much less capacious than San Francisco, but is large enough to accommodate a considerable trade; and is esteemed a good and secure harbor. Monterey is an open roadstead, but is protected from the prevalent winds, and has heretofore been thechief resort of foreign shipping.- Forbes, 167.
† Thornton's Oregon and California, p. 72. The “California Star" of April 1, 18is, gives eight hundred as the white population of the town of San Francisco. The population, in February, 1849, was nearly 6,000.
Since this paragraph was written, a friend has placed in my hands a California
The most important rivers of Maratime California are the Sacramento and San Joaquin.* The San Joaquin rises in the Sierra Nevada, near the southern extremity of the valley. It is fed by many larger tributaries from the Sierra, and empties into the Bay of San Francisco alter a course of about two hundred miles. It is navigable in some seasons during eight months of the year, and for a greater part of its length.† The chief tributaries of the San Joaquin are the Reyes, the Stanislaus, the Javalones, the Merced, and the Cosumnes Rivers. The Sacramento River rises above latitude 42° north, and runs from north to south, nearly parallel with the coast of the Pacific until it empties, after a course of about two hundred miles, into the Bay of San Francisco, in latitude 381° north. It runs through an inclined alluvial prairie, and is described by all writers as a deep, broad and beautiful stream. This river is destined to become a very important feature in the development of the country. It communicates directly with the bay, flows through a very fertile region, and is already navigable for vessels of considerable draught, as high up as the settlements at Nueva Helvetia. Jis principal tributaries are the Rio de los Americanos and the Rio de las Plumas. I
The belt of country lying between the Sierra Nevada and the sea, is called Maratime Calisonnia. It extends north and south, ten degrees of latitude, from the Peninsula to Oregon. Its average breadth is from one hundred and fifty to two hundred miles; and its superficial area is one hundred thousand square miles, or sixty-four million acres, which is equal to the area in square miles of the States of New York, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts combined. I
The valley of the Sacramento, although discriminated by the names of the two principal rivers, is a single geographical formation, about five hundred miles in length, and sixty broad, lying at the western base of the Sierra and the coast range of mountains, and stretching across the head of the Bay of San Francisco, with which it is connected by a delta of twenty-five miles.ý Opposite the head of the Bay of San Francisco and at the point where the Sacramento and San Joaquin River debouche, occurs ihe only break or gap in the range of mountains which forms the western boundary of the great valley, and (according to Frémont's map:)
'newspaper, in which I find an account of a city already laid out at the Straits of Carquinez. It is called Benecia city. These straits unite the bays of Suissun and San Pablo.
* Bryant, p. 276. Frémont, p. 21. There are one or more lakes of considerable size in the southern part of the valley, with which this river connects at high water. They are variously named and described as the Tulare Lake, Buena Vista, Chintache, and Tula Lake.-Wilkes and Dr. Marsh speak of two lakes-Frémont of the Tulare Lakes. Bryant, 276. Wilkes, 29. Frémont, 15, 18, 21.
+ The largest river in Upper California is the Colorado, or Red River, which, after a course of a thousand miles, empties into the Gulf of California about 32° north. It rises in and flows through a region very little known. Green, Grand, Sevier and Virgin Rivers are its chief known tributaries. The Gila is its main brancb, and pours into it near its month.
Bryant, 271, 344. Wilkes, 27. Mr. Revere, p. 69, says that it is navigable for steamboats at all seasons, as high as the Buttes, an isolated mountain ridge a little above the 39th parallel. Revere, 69. Frémont's Memoir, 27.
|| See the table of estimated areas of Territories and States, accompanying the President's Message of December 5, 1848. Fréinont's Memoir, p. 13.
$ Frémont's Memoir, p. 15.