Part 2 out of 8
the "Pathfinder" manoeuvres to baffle clumsy Castro. He may yet
elude his pursuers, or cut his way out.
Don Miguel steadily refuses to see Maxime. Through the padre,
Maxime receives any necessary messages or questions.
The Louisianian learns that all the foreigners are in commotion.
Peralta's spies bring rumors of war vessels expected, both English
In New Helvetia, in Sonoma, at Monterey, and in Yerba Buena,
guided by the most resolute, the aliens are quietly arming; they
are secretly organizing.
March wears away into April. The breath of May is wafted down in
spicy odors from the forests.
Fremont is away hiding where the great Sacramento River mountains
break into the gorgeous canyons of its headwaters. Will he never
The padre, now unreservedly friendly, tells Maxime that Castro fears
to attack Fremont in the open field. He has sent Indian runners to
stir up the wild Klamath, Snake River, and Oregon Indians against
the Americans. This is serious. Should the explorers receive a
check there, they would retreat; then the guerillas would cut them
Padre Francisco fears for the result. He tells Maxime that bands of
fierce vaqueros are riding the roads; they have already butchered
straggling foreigners. A general war of extermination may sweep
from Sonoma to San Diego.
Valois' weary eyes have roved from mountain to valley for many
days. Will he ever regain his liberty? A few morning walks with
the padre, and a stroll by the waters of Lagunitas, are his only
The priest is busy daily with the instruction of little Dolores.
The child's sweet, dancing eyes belie her mournful name. Valois
has passed quiet Donna Juanita often in the garden walks. A light
bending of her head is her only answer to the young man's respectful
salutation. She, too, fears and distrusts all Americans.
The roses have faded from her cheeks too early. It is the hard
lot of the California lady. Though wealth of lands in broad leagues
dotted with thousands of cattle, horses, and sheep is hers, this
daughter of an old feudal house has dreamed away a lonely life. It
is devoid of all social pleasures since she became the first lady
Colorless and sad is her daily life. Denied society by her isolation,
she is yet too proud to associate with her women dependants.
Her lord is away often in the field. His days are spent galloping
over his broad domains. There is no intellectual life, no change
of day and day. The years have silently buried themselves, with
no crown of happy memories. She left her merry home at the Alameda
shore of the great bay to be the lonely lady of this distant
domain. Her narrow nature has settled into imitative and mechanical
devotion, a sad, cold faith.
Youthful lack of education has not been repaired by any individual
experience of life. Maternity has been a mere physical epoch of
her dreary womanhood. The current of her days in narrow channels
sluggishly flows toward its close.
Even the laughing child runs away from the young "pathfinder." She
furtively peers at him from the shelter of the graceful vines and
rose bowers of her playground.
Maxime has exhausted the slender library of his friend. In the
peaceful evening hours he listens to weird stories of the lonely
land of the Far West--early discovery, zealous monkish exploration,
daring voyages in trackless unknown seas, and the descent of curious
strangers. Bold Sir Francis Drake, Cabrillo, Viscaino, Portala, the
good Junipero Serra of sainted memory, live again in these recitals.
Day by day passes. No news from the Americans at bay in the wilds
of the Klamath. By courier the Don has heard of Castro's feeble
moves. He toils along with his cavalry, guns, and foot soldiers,
whom Fremont defied from behind the rocky slopes of Hawk's Peak.
The foreigners are all conspiring.
A cloud of government agents are scouring the valleys for aid to
send a column to attack Fremont. It had been a pride of Don Miguel's
military career to assist warlike Vallejo to drive the foreigners
from Monterey in 1840. He is ready for the fray again.
The Commandante gnashed his teeth when he heard, in 1842, at Lagunitas,
that the strangers had returned. He remembers the shameful day of
October 19, 1842, when the Yankee frigates covered Monterey with
their guns, while Commodore Jones hoisted the stars and stripes
for a day or so. Always before the English.
Though it was disowned, this act showed how easily the defenceless
coast could be ravaged. Many times did he thank the Blessed Virgin
that his domain was far away in the inland basin. There his precious
herds are safe from the invader.
There is danger for Valois in the Commandante's scowl when the
saddest May day of his life comes. A rider on relay horses hands
him a fateful despatch.
"Curse the Gringos!" He strikes his table till the glasses ring.
There are five huge Yankee war vessels in Monterey harbor. It is
too true. This time they have come to stay. Padre Francisco softly
makes his exit. He keeps Maxime in cover for a day or so.
Bit by bit, the details come to light. The SAVANNAH, PORTSMOUTH,
CYANE, LEVANT, and CONGRESS bear the flag of Commodore Sloat. This
force can crush any native army. All communication by sea with
Mexico is now cut off. The Californian Government is paralyzed.
Worse and worse, the wild Klamath warriors have failed in their
midnight dash on Fremont. He is now swinging down the valley--a
new danger to Maxime.
What means all this? The perplexed Don knows not what to do. From
his outposts come menacing news. The battery of the PORTSMOUTH
commands the town of Yerba Buena. San Diego, too, is under American
guns. The CYANE is victorious there, and the CONGRESS holds San
Pedro. The political fabric is so slight that its coming fall gives
no sign. The veteran Commandante receives an order to march, with
every available man, to join General Castro. He feels even his
own domains are now in danger. He communes long with the padre.
He musters every vaquero for their last campaign under the Mexican
Miguel Peralta growls with rage. He learns the English liner
COLLINGWOOD has arrived, a day or so too late--only another enemy.
Still, better temporary English rule than the long reign of the
grasping Yankee. The Don's self-interest, in alarm, is in the
logical right this time.
How shall he protect his property? What will he do with his family?
He knows that behind him the great Sierras wall the awful depths
of the Yosemite. The gloomy forests of the big trees appall the
stray traveller. The Utes are merciless in the day of their advantage,
and the American war vessels cut off all escape by sea to Mexico.
All the towns near the ocean are rendezvous of defiant foreigners,
now madly exultant. To the north is the enemy he is going out to
Padre Francisco advises him to leave the rancho in his charge. He
begs him to even let the young American prisoner remain.
Lagunitas may be seized, yet private property will be respected.
Young Valois may be a help to considerate treatment. After council
with his frightened spouse, Don Miguel rides off to the rendezvous
near Santa Clara. He curbs his passion from prudence only, for he
was on the point of making Valois a human tassel for a live-oak
The padre breaths freer.
Day after day elapses. Under a small body-guard both the padre and
Maxime ride the domain in freedom. Juanita Peralta shuts herself
up in the gloomy mansion, where she tells her beads in the shadow
of the coming defeats.
Rich and lovely Lagunitas is yet out of the theatre of action. Its
lonely inhabitants hear of the now rapid march of events, but only
defeated riders wander in with heavy tidings.
Fremont has whirled back once more and controls Suiter's Fort and
Sonoma. The ablest general of California is powerless. Gallant
Vallejo is now a prisoner. His scanty cannons and arms are all
taken. Castro's cavalry are broken up or captured. Everywhere the
foreigners gather for concerted action. It is a partisan warfare.
Don Miguel's sullen bulletins tell of Castro's futile attempt
to get north of the bay. Since Cabrillo was foiled in landing at
Mendocino in 1543, the first royal flag floating over this "No Man's
Land" was Good Queen Bess's standard, set up in 1579 by dashing Sir
Francis Drake. He landed from the Golden Hind. In 1602 the Spanish
ensign floated on December 10 at Monterey; in 1822 the third national
ensign was unfurled, the beloved Mexican eagle-bearing banner. It
now flutters to its downfall.
Don Miguel warns the padre that the rude "bear flag" of the revolted
foreigners victoriously floats at Sonoma. It was raised on July
4, 1846. Castro and Pio Pico are driven away from the coast. They
only hold the Santa Clara valley and the interior. There is but
one depot of arms in the country now; it is a hidden store at San
Juan. Far away in Illinois, a near relative of the painter and
hoister of the "bear flag" is a struggling lawyer. Todd's obscure
boyhood friend, Abraham Lincoln, is destined to be the martyr
ruler of the United States. A new star will shine in the stars and
stripes for California, in a bloody civil war, far off yet in the
In the narrow theatre where the decaying Latin system is falling,
under Anglo-Saxon self-assertion, the stern logic of events teaches
Don Miguel better lessons. His wild riders may as well sheathe
their useless swords as fight against fate.
The first blood is drawn at Petaluma. A declaration of independence,
rude in form, but grimly effective in scope, is given out by the
"bear flag" party. Fremont joins and commands them. The Presidio
batteries at San Francisco are spiked by Fremont and daring Kit
Carson, The cannon and arms of Castro are soon taken. On July 7,
Captain Mervine, with two hundred and fifty blue-jackets, raises
the flag of the United States at Monterey. Its hills reecho twenty-one
guns in salvo from Sloat's squadron.
On the 8th, Montgomery throws the national starry emblem to the
breeze at the Golden Gates of San Francisco. The old PORTSMOUTH'S
heavy cannon roar their notes of triumph.
Valois remains lonely and inactive at Lagunitas. His priestly
friend warns him that he would be assassinated at any halting place
if he tried to join his friends. In fact, he conceals his presence
from any wayfaring, Yankee-hunting guerillas.
Don Miguel is bound by his military oath to keep the field.
A returning straggler brings the crushing news that the San Juan
military depot has been captured by a smart dash of the American
volunteers under Fremont and Gillespie. And San Diego has fallen
now. The bitter news of the Mexican War is heard from the Rio
Grande. A new sorrow!
Broken-hearted Don Miguel bravely clings to his flag. He marches
south with Castro and Pico, The long weeks wear along. The arrival of
General Kearney, and the occupation of San Diego and Los Angeles,
are the prelude to the last effort made for the honor of the Mexican
ensign. Months drag away. The early winter finds Don Miguel still
missing. Commodore Stockton, now in command of the powerful fleet,
reinforces Fremont and Gillespie. The battles of San Gabriel and
the Mesa teach the wild Californians what bitter foes their invaders
can be. The treaty of Coenga at last ends the unequal strife. The
stars and stripes wave over the yet unmeasured boundaries of the
golden West. The Dons are in the conquerors' hands. After the fatal
day of January 16, 1847, defeated and despairing of the future
of his race, war-worn Miguel Peralta, Commandante no longer, with
a few followers rides over the Tehachape. He descends the San
Joaquin to his imperilled domain.
With useless valor he has thrown himself into the fire of the Americans
at the battles near Los Angeles, but death will not come to him.
He must live to be one of the last Dons. The defeats of Mexico
sadden and embitter him. General Scott is fighting up to the old
palaces of the Montezumas with his ever victorious army.
In these stormy winter days, when the sheeted rain drives down from
the pine-clad Sierras, Donna Juanita day by day turns her passive
face in mute inquiry to the padre. She has the sense of a new burden
to bear. Her narrow nature contracts yet a little with a sense of
wounded native pride.
In all her wedded years her martial lord has always returned in
victory. Fandango and feast, "baile" and rejoicings, have made the
woodland echoes ring.
The growing Dolores mopes in the lonely mansion. She demands her
absent father daily.
Before the troopers of Lagunitas return with their humbled chieftain,
a squad of mounted American volunteers ride up and take possession.
For the first time in its history the foreigner is master here,
Though personally unknown to these mixed revolutionists, Maxime
Valois is free to go in safety.
While he makes acquaintance with his fellow "patriots," the advance
riders of Don Miguel announce his home-coming. It is a sad day
when the Commandante dismounts at his own door. There is a sentinel
there. He lives to be only a sullen, brooding protest in the face
of an accidental progress.
Standing on his porch he can see the "mozos," under requisition,
gathering up his choicest horses by the fifties. They are destined
for the necessary remount of the victors.
After greeting his patient helpmeet, henceforth to be the partner
of his sorrows, he sends for the padre and his major-domo. He takes
on himself the only dignity left to his defeated pride, practical
He bears in his bosom this rankling thorn--the hated Fremont
he rode out to bring in a captive, is now "His Excellency John C.
Fremont," the first American governor of California.
With his flocks and herds scattered, his cattle and horses under
heavy requisition, his cup is full. He moodily curses the Gringo,
and wishes that the rifle-ball which wounded him at San Gabriel
had reached the core of his proud old heart.
From all sides come fugitives with news of the Americanization of
the towns. The inland communities are reorganized. His only friend
is the Padre, to whose patient ear he confides the story of the
hopeless campaign. With prophetic pessimism he sees the downfall
of the native families.
Three months have made Larkin, Redding, Ide, Sutter, Semple,
Merritt, Bidwell, Leese, and Lassen the leading men of the day. The
victorious military and naval chiefs, Sloat, Stockton, Montgomery,
Fremont, Kearney, Halleck, and Gillespie are now men of history.
All the functions of government are in the hands of American army
or navy officers. The fall of the beloved Mexican banner is as
light and unmarked as the descent of the drifting pine-needles torn
from the swaying branches of the storm-swept forest kings around
His settled gloom casts a shadow over Lagunitas. The padre has lost
his scholars. The converts of the dull Indian tribes have fled to
the hills, leaving the major-domo helpless. All is in domestic
anarchy. At last the volunteers are leaving.
When the detachment is ready to depart, Maxime Valois is puzzled.
The Mexican War raging, prevents his homeward voyage as planned.
It will be months before the war vessels will sail. If allowed to
embark on them, he will be left, after doubling Cape Horn, a stranger
in the north, penniless. Why not stay?
Yet the shelter of Lagunitas is his no more. The maddened Don
will not see an American on the bare lands left to him. His herds
and flocks are levied on to feed the troops.
Many an hour does the youth confer with Fran‡ois Ribaut. The priest
is dependent on his patron. The Church fabric is swept away, for
Church and state went down together. With only one friend in the
State, Valois must now quit his place of enforced idleness.
The meagre news tells him the Fremont party is scattered. He has
no claims on the American Government. But Fremont has blossomed
into a governor. He will seek him. Happily, while Maxime Valois
deliberates, the question decides itself. He is offered the
hospitality of an escort back to Santa Clara, from whence he can
reach Monterey, San Francisco, or Los Angeles. In the new State no
present avenues are open to a castaway. His education is practically
useless. He is forced to consider the question of existence. The
utmost Padre Francisco can do is to provide him horse and gear.
A few Mexican dollars for the road are not lacking. The lot of
fate is drawn for him by necessity. For the present he must be a
Californian. He cannot leave until the future provides the means.
When the vigil of the departure comes, the young man is loath to
leave his friend. In their companionship they have grown dear to
The camp of the volunteers is ready for the next day's march. At
their last dinner, the simple cheer of the native wine and a few
cigaritos is all the padre can display.
"Maxime, listen. You are young and talented," the padre begins. "I
see a great community growing up here, This is a land of promise.
The termination of the war ends all tumult. Your fleet holds the
coast. Mexico seems to be under the talons of your eagle. Your
nation is aggressive. It is of high mechanical skill. Your people
will pour into this land and build here a great empire. Your
busy Yankees will never be satisfied with the skeleton wealth of a
pastoral life. They will dig, hew, and build. These bays and rivers
will be studded with cities. Go, my dear friend, to Yerba Buena.
I will give you letters to the fathers of the Mission Dolores.
Heaven will direct you after you arrive. You can communicate with
me through them. I shall remain here as long as my charge continues.
If driven out, I shall trust God to safely guide me to France. When I
am worn out, I shall die in peace under the shadows of Notre Dame."
At the hour of mass Maxime kneels to receive the blessing of the
The volunteers are in the saddle. It is the man, not the priest,
who embraces the freed "pathfinder." Valois' eyes are dim with tears
as he waves the adieu to the missionary. Not a word does Don Miguel
vouchsafe to the departing squad. The aversion of the dwellers in
Lagunitas is as great as their chief's.
Maxime joins the escort on the trail. Runaway sailors, voyageurs,
stray adventurers are they--queer flotsam on the sea of human life.
He learns from them the current stories of the day. He can trace
in the mysterious verbal "order to return," and that never-produced
"packet" given to Fremont by Gillespie, a guiding influence from
afar. The appearance of the strong fleet and the hostilities of
Captain Fremont are mysteriously connected. Was it from Washington
these wonders were worked? As they march, unopposed, over the
alamedas of San Joaquin, bearing toward the Coast Range, they pass
under overhanging Mount Diablo. The Louisianian marvels at the
sudden change of so many peaceful explorers into conquering invaders.
Valois suspects Senator Benton of intrigues toward western conquest.
He knows not that somewhere, diplomatically lost between President
Polk and Secretaries Buchanan, Marcy, and Bancroft, is the true
story of this seizure of California. Gillespie's orders were far in
advance of any Mexican hostilities. The fleet and all the actions
of the State, War, and Navy departments prove that some one in high
place knew the Pacific Coast would be subdued and held.
Was it for slavery's added domains these glorious lands were
Maxime is only a pawn in that great game of which the annexation
of Texas, the Mexican War, and California conquest are moves.
Wise, subtle, far-seeing, and not over-scrupulous, the leaders of
southern sentiment, with prophetic alarm, were seeking to neutralize
free-State extension in the Northwest. They wished to link the
warmer climes, newly acquired, to the Union by negro chains. Joying
in his freedom, eager to meet the newer phases of Californian life
under the stars and stripes, Valois rides along. Restored in health,
and with the light heart and high hopes of twenty, he threads the
beautiful mountain passes; for the first time he sees the royal
features of San Francisco Bay, locked by the Golden Gates.
GOLD FOR ALL.--A NEW STAR IN THE FLAG.
THE GOLDEN MAGNET.--FREE OR SLAVE?
Maxine Valois marvels not that the old navigators missed the Golden
Gate. It was easy to pass the land-locked bay, with its arterial
rivers, the Sacramento and San Joaquin. Fate hung a foggy curtain
on the outside bar. Greenest velvet sward now carpets the Alameda
hills. It is a balmy March day of 1847. The proceeds of his horse
and trappings give the youth less than a hundred dollars--his
The Louisianian exile, with the world before him, is now a picture
of manly symmetry. Graceful, well-knit physique, dark hair and
eyes, and his soft, impassioned speech, betray the Franco-American
of the Gulf States. While gazing on the glories of Tamalpais and
the wooded mountains of Marin, he notes the little mission under
the Visitacion hills. It's a glorious scene. All the world's navies
can swing at ease in this superb bay. The only banner floating
here is the ensign at the peak of the frigate Portsmouth. Interior
wanderings give him a glimpse of the vast areas controlled by this
noble sheet of water. Young and ardent, with a superior education,
he may be a ruling spirit of the new State now about to crystallize.
His studies prove how strangely the finger of Fortune points. It
turned aside the prows of Captain Cook, La Perouse, Vancouver, and
the great Behring, as well as the bold Drake, who tarried within
a day's sail at his New Albion. Frenchman, Englishman, and Russian
have been tricked by the fairy goddess of the mist. The Golden
Gates in these later days are locked by the Yankees from the inside.
Leaping from the boat, Valois tosses his scanty gear on the strand.
It is a deep, curving bay, in later years to be covered with stately
palaces of commerce, far out to where the Portsmouth now lies.
A few huts make up the city of Yerba Buena. Reflecting on his
status, he dares not seek the alcalde, Lieut. Washington Bartlett
of the navy. From his escort he has heard of the many bickerings
which have involved Sloat, Stockton, Fremont, and Kearney.
Trusting to Padre Francisco's letters, he hires a horse of a
loitering half-breed. This native pilots him to the mission.
The priests receive him with open arms. They are glad for news of
their brother of the Sierras. Maxime installs himself as a guest
of the priests. Some current of life will bear him onward--whither
he knows not.
Idle days run into weeks. A motley five or six hundred whites
have gathered. The alcalde begins to fear that the town limits are
None of the wise men of the epoch dare to dream that in less than
three years two hundred vessels will lie tossing, deserted in the
bay; that the cove will be filled with ships from the four corners
of the earth in five years.
Frowning hills and rolling sand dunes are to be thrown bodily into
the reentrant bay. They are future coverings for sunken hulks.
Where for twenty square miles coyote and fox now howl at night,
the covert oaks and brambles will be shaved off to give way to a
city, growing like a cloud-land vision.
Active and energetic, Valois coasts down to Monterey. He finds
Fremont gone, already on his way east. His soldier wrists are bound
with the red tape of arrest. The puppet of master minds behind the
scenes, Fremont has been a "pathfinder" for others.
Riding moodily, chafing in arrest, at the rear of the overland
column, the explorer receives as much as Columbus, Pizarro, or
Maluspina did--only obloquy. It is the Nemesis of disgrace, avenging
the outraged and conquered Californians.
A dark shade of double dealing hangs around the glories of the
capture of California. The methods used are hardly justified, even
by the national blessings of extension to this ocean threshold of
Asian trade. The descent was planned at Washington to extend the
domineering slave empire of the aspiring South. The secret is out.
The way is clear for the surplus blacks of the South to march in
chains to the Pacific under the so-called "flag of freedom."
Valois discovers at Monterey that no man of the staff of the
"Pathfinder" will be made an official pet, They are all proscribed.
The early fall finds him again under the spell of the bells of the
Mission Dolores. Whither to turn he knows not.
Averse to manual labor, like all Creoles, the lad decides to seek
a return passage on some trader. This will be hardly possible for
months. The Christmas chimes of 1848 sound sadly on his ears.
With no home ties but his uncle, his memories of the parents, lost
in youth, fade away. He feels the bitterness of being a stranger in
a strange land. He is discouraged with an isolated western empire
producing nothing but hides and tallow. He shares the general
opinion that no agriculture can succeed in this rainless summer land
of California. Hardly a plough goes afield. On the half-neglected
ranchos the owners of thousands of cattle have neither milk nor
butter. Fruits and vegetables are unattainable. The mission grapes,
olives, and oranges have died out by reason of fourteen years'
neglect. The mechanic arts are absent. What shall the harvest of
this idle land be?
Valois knows the interior Indians will never bear the strain of
development. Lazy and ambitionless, they are incapable of uniting
their tribal forces. Alas for them! They merely cumber the ground.
At the end of January, 1848, a wild commotion agitates the hamlet
of San Francisco. The cry is "Gold! Gold everywhere!" The tidings
are at first whispered, then the tale swells to a loud clamor.
In the stampede for the interior, Maxime Valois is borne away. He
seeks the Sacramento, the Feather, the Yuba, and the American. He
too must have gold.
A general hegira occurs. Incoming ships, little settlements, and
the ranches are all deserted, for a wondrous golden harvest is
being gleaned. The tidings go forth over the whole earth. Sail and
steam, trains of creaking wagons, troops of hardy horsemen, are all
bent Westward Ho! Desertion takes the troops and sailors from camp
and fleet pell-mell to the Sacramento valley. A shabby excrescence
of tent and hut swells Yerba Buena to a town. In a few months
it leaps into a city's rank. Over the prairies, toward the sandy
Humboldt, long emigrant trains are crawling toward the golden canyons
of the Sierras. The restless blood of the Mexican War pours across
the Gila deserts and the sandy wastes of the Colorado.
The Creole boy learns that he, too, can work with pick, pan,
cradle, rocker, at the long tom, sluice, and in the tunnel drift.
The world is mad for gold. New York and New Orleans pour shiploads
of adventurers in by Panama and Nicaragua. Sailing vessels from
Europe, fleets around the Horn, vessels from Chile, Mexico, Sandwich
Islands, and Australia crowd each other at the Golden Gates.
In San Francisco six months show ten thousand madmen. Tent, hut,
shanty, shed, even pretentious houses appear. Uncoined nuggets,
glittering gold dust in grains and powder, prove the harvest is
The Indians and lazy Californians are crowded out of the diggings.
The superior minds among the priests and rancheros can only explain
the long ignorance of the gold deposits by the absolute brutishness of
the hill tribes. Their knowledge of metals was absolutely nothing.
Beyond flint-headed spears, their bows and arrows, and a few mats,
baskets, and skin robes, they had no arts or useful handicraft.
Starving in a land of plenty, their tribal career never lifted
itself a moment from the level of the brute. And yet gold was the
The Mexican-descended rancheros should have looked for gold. The
traditions even indicated it. Their hold on the land was only in
the footprints of their horses and cattle.
Had the priests ever examined the interior, had a single military
expedition explored the State with care, the surface gold deposits
must have been stumbled on.
It remains an inexplicable fact, that, as early as 1841, gold was
found in the southern part of the State. In 1843, seventy-five
to one hundred ounces of dust were obtained from the Indians, and
sent to Boston via the Sandwich Island trading ships. Keen old Sir
Francis Drake's reports to good Queen Bess flatly spoke of these
yellow treasures. They, too, were ignored. English apathy! Pouring
in from the whole world, bursting in as a flood of noisy adventurers
on the stillness of the lazy land of the Dons, came the gold hunters
Already, in San Francisco, drinking booth, gambling shop, and
haunts of every villany spring up--the toadstools of a night.
Women throng in to add the incantations of the daughters of Sin to
this mad hurly-burly. Handsome Mexicans, lithe Chilenas, escaped
female convicts, and women of Australia were reinforced by the
adventuresses of New Orleans, Paris, New York, and Liverpool--a
motley crowd of Paphian dames.
Maxime Valois, reaching Suiter's Fort by a launch, falls in with a
lank Missouri lad. His sole property in the world is a rifle and
his Pike county name of Joe Woods. A late arrival with a party
of Mexican war strays, his age and good humor cause the Creole to
take him as valuable, simply because one and one make two. He is
a good-humored raw lad. Together in the broiling sun, half buried
under bank or in the river-beds, they go through the rough evolution
of the placer miner's art.
The two thousand scattered foreigners of the State are ten thousand
before the year is out. Through the canyons, troops of gold seekers
now wander. Sacramento's lovely crystal waters, where the silvery
salmon leap, are tinged with typical yellow colors, deepening every
month. Tents give way to cabins; pack trains of mules and horses
wind slowly over the ridges. Little towns dot the five or six river
regions where the miners toil, and only the defeated are idle.
From San Diego to Sonoma the temporary government is paralyzed.
It loses all control except the fulmination of useless orders.
Local organization occurs by the pressure of numbers. Quaint names
and queer local institutions are born of necessity.
At San Francisco the tower of Babel is duplicated. Polyglot crowds
arrive in the craziest craft. Supplies of every character pour
in. Shops and smiths, workmen of all trades, appear. Already an
old steamboat wheezes on the Sacramento River. Bay Steamers soon
vex the untroubled waters of the harbor. They appear as if by magic.
A fever by day, a revel by night, San Francisco is a caravansera
of all nations. The Argonauts bring with them their pistols and
Bibles, their whiskey and women, their morals and murderers. Crime
and intrigues quickly crop out. The ready knife, and the compact
code of Colonel Colt in six loaded chapters, are applied to the
settlement of all quarrels.
While Valois blisters his hands with the pick and shovel, a matchless
strain of good blood is also pouring westward. Young and daring
men, even professional scholars, cool merchants, able artisans, and
good women hopeful of a golden future, come with men finally able
to dragoon these varied masses into order.
Regular communications are established, presses set up, and even
churches appear. Post-office, banks, steamer and freight lines
spring up within the year of the reign of gold. Disease raises
its fevered head, and the physician appears by magic. The human
maelstrom settles into an ebb and flood tide to and from the mines.
All over California keen-eyed men from the West and South begin to
appropriate land. The Eastern and Middle States pilgrims take up
trades and mechanical occupations. All classes contribute recruits
to the scattered thousands of miners. Greedy officials and sly
schemers begin to prey on the vanishing property rights of the
Dons. A strange, unsubstantial social fabric is hastily reared.
It clusters around the western peaks by the Golden Gate.
Missouri, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana are sending great
contingents. Mere nearness, with a taste for personal adventure,
causes the southern border element to brave the overland journey.
The northwestern overland travellers are more cautious. They have
longer roads to drag over. They come prepared for farming or
trade, as well as rude mining. As soon as the two lines of Eastern
steamers are established, the Eastern and Middle States send heavy
reinforcements. They are largely traders or permanent settlers. From
the first day, the ambitious, overbearing men of the slave States
take the lead in politics. They look to the extension of their
gloomy "institution," negro slavery.
Valois keeps much to himself. Resolutely he saves his golden
gleanings. He avoids the gambling tables and dance-houses. Joe
Woods works like a horse, from mere acquisitiveness. He fondly looks
back to a certain farm in Missouri, where he would fain squire it
when rich. Public rumor announces the great hegira of gold seekers.
The rush begins. Horse stealing, quarrels over claims, personal
encounters, rum's lunacy, and warring opinion cause frequent bloody
Already scattered mounds rudely marked prove the reign of grim King
Death. His dark empire stretches even here unstayed, unchallenged.
Winter approaches; its floods drive the miners out of the river
beds. Joe Woods has aggregated several Pike County souls, whose
claims adjoin those of the two young associates. Wishing to open
communication with Judge Valois at Belle Etoile, Maxime ceases
work. He must recruit for hardships of the next season. He leaves
all in the hands of "partner Joe," who prefers to camp with
his friends, now the "Missouri Company." Valois is welcome at the
Mission Dolores. He can there safely deposit his splendid savings.
Provided with ample funds of gold dust, in heavy buckskin sacks,
to send up winter supplies, Valois secures his half of the profits.
It is in rudely sealed tin cans of solid gold dust. He is well armed
and in good company. He gladly leaves the human bee-hive by the
terrific gorges of the American River. He has now learned every
trick of the mines. By pack train his treasure moves down to
Sacramento. Well mounted, Maxime is the companion of a score of
similarly fortunate returning miners. Name, nationality, and previous
history of these free lances of fortune have been dropped, like
Christian's bundle, on climbing these hills. Every man can choose
for himself a new life here, under the spicy breezes of the Sierras.
He is a law unto himself.
The young gold hunter sees, amazed, a cantonment of ten thousand
people at the bay. He safely conveys his treasure to the priests
at the mission. They are shaken from slumber of their religious
routine by eager Argonauts. Letters from Padre Francisco at Lagunitas
prove the formation of bands of predatory Mexicans. These native
Californians and Indian vagabonds are driving away unguarded
stock. They mount their fierce banditti on the humbled Don's best
horses. Coast and valley are now deserted and ungoverned. The mad
rush for gold has led the men northward.
No one dreams as yet of the great Blue Cement lead, which, from
Sierra to Mariposa, is to unbosom three hundred millions from the
beds of the old, covered geologic rivers. Ten thousand scratch in
river bank and bed for surface gold. Priest and layman, would-be
scientist and embryo experts, ignore the yellow threaded quartz
veins buttressing the great Sierras. He would be a madman now who
would think that five hundred millions will be pounded out of the
rusty rocks of these California hills in less than a score of years.
The toilers have no curiosity as to the origin or mother veins of
the precious metal sought.
Maxime Valois sits under the red-tiled porches of the mission
in January, 1849. He has despatched his first safe consignment
of letters to Belle Etoile. He little cares for the events which
have thrown the exhaustless metal belt of the great West into the
reserve assets of the United States. He knows not it is destined
within fifty years to be the richest land in the world. The dark
schemes of slavery's lord-like statesmen have swept these vast
areas into our map. The plotters have ignored the future colossal
returns of gold, silver, copper, and lead.
Not an American has yet caught the real value of the world's most
extensive forests of pine and redwood. They clothe these western
slopes with graceful, unmutilated pageantry of green.
Fisheries and fields which promise great gains are passed unnoticed.
It is a mere pushing out of boundary lines, under the political
aggression of the South.
Even Benton, cheering the departing thousands Westward, grumbles
in the Senate of the United States, on January 26, 1840. As the
official news of the gold discoveries is imparted, the wise senators
are blind in the sunlight of this prosperity. "I regret that we
have these mines in California," Benton says; "but they are there,
and I am in favor of getting rid of them as soon as possible." Wise
Neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet is he. He cannot
see that these slighted mines in the future will be the means of
sustaining our country's credit in a great war. This gold and silver
will insure the construction of the overland railroads. The West
and Northwest, sealed to the Union by bands of steel, will be the
mainstay of the land. They will equalize a broader, grander Union
than he ever dreamed of.
Benton little thinks he has found the real solution of the wearying
strife of North and South. Turning the surplus population of these
bitterly opposed sections to the unpeopled West solves the problem.
His son-in-law, Governor Fremont, has been a future peacemaker
as well as a bold pathfinder. For it is on the track of Fremont
that thousands are now tramping west. Their wheels are bearing
the household gods. Civilization to be is on the move. Gold draws
these crowds. The gulfs of the Carribean, even the lonely straits
of Magellan and the far Pacific, are furrowed now by keels seeking
the happy land where plentiful gold awaits every daring adventurer.
Martinet military governors cannot control this embryo empire.
Already in Congress bills are introduced to admit California into
the Union. A rising golden star glitters in the West; it is soon
to gild the flag of the Union with a richer radiance.
Great leaders of the sovereign people struggle at Washington in
keen debate, inspired by the hostile sections of the Union. They
quarrel over the slavery interests in the great West. Keen Tom
Corwin, loyal Dix, astute Giddings, Douglass the little giant, and
David Wilmot fight freedom's battle with the great apostle of State
rights, Calhoun. He is supported by President Polk, the facile
Secretary of State Buchanan, and that dark Mississippi man of destiny,
Jefferson Davis. The fiery Foote and all the ardent knights of the
day champion the sunny South. Godlike Daniel Webster pours forth
for freedom some of his greatest utterances. William H. Seward,
prophet, seer, statesman, and patriot, with noble inspirations
cheers on freedom's army. Who shall own bright California, the
bond or the free? While these great knights of our country's round
table fight in the tourney of the Senate over this golden prize,
Benton sends back the "pathfinder" Fremont. He is now freed from
the army by an indignant resignation. He bears a letter to Benton's
friends in the West to organize the civil community and prepare a
While Valois watches for news, the buds and blossoms of early
spring call him back to the American River. The bay whitens with
the sails of arriving thousands. Political combinations begin
everywhere. Two years have made Fremont, Kearney, Colonel Mason,
General P. F. Smith, and General Bennett Riley temporary military
governors. Maxime leaves with ample stores; he rejoins the "Missouri
Company," already reaping the golden harvest of the golden spring.
Sage counsel reaches him from Padre Francisco. He hears with delight
of the youth's success in the mines. The French missionary, with
a natural love of the soil, advises Valois to buy lands as soon as
good titles can be had.
The Mexican War ends in glory to the once despised Gringos. Already
the broad grants of the Dons are coveted by the officials of the
military regency. Several of the officers have already served
themselves better than their country. The entanglements of a new
rule amount to practical confiscation of the lands of the old
chieftains. What they saved from the conqueror is destined later
to fatten greedy lawyers.
The spoliated Church is avenged upon the heirs of those who worked
its temporal ruin. For here, while mad thousands delve for the
gold of their desire, the tramping feet of uncontrolled hosts are
heard at the gates of the Sierras. When the fleets give out their
hordes of male and female adventurers, there is no law but that of
force or duplicity; no principle but self-interest. Virtue, worth,
and desert meekly bow to strength. Wealth in its rudest form of
sacks of uncoined gold dust rules the hour.
The spring days lengthen into summer. Maxime Valois recoils from
the physical toil of the rocky bars of the American. His nature
is aristocratic; his youthful prejudices are averse to hand work.
Menial attendance, though only upon himself, is degrading to him.
The rough life of the mines becomes unbearable. A Southerner, par
excellence, in his hatred of the physical familiarity of others,
he avails himself of his good fortune to find a purchaser for his
interests. The stream of new arrivals is a river now, for the old
emigrant road of Platte and Humboldt is delivering an unending
human current. Past the eastern frontier towns of Missouri, the
serpentine trains drag steadily west; their camp fires glitter
from "St. Joe" to Fort Bridger; they shine on the summit lakes of
the Sierras, where Donner's party, beset in deepest snows, died
in starvation. They were a type of the human sacrifices of the
overland passage. Skeletons dot the plains now.
By flood and desert, under the stroke of disease, by the Indian
tomahawk and arrow, with every varied accident and mishap, grim
Death has taken his ample toll along three thousand miles. Sioux
and Cheyenne, Ute and Blackfoot, wily Mormon, and every lurking
foe have preyed as human beasts on the caravans. These human fiends
emulate the prairie wolf and the terrific grizzly in thirst for
The gray sands of the burning Colorado desert are whitening with
the bones of many who escaped Comanche and Apache scalping knives,
only to die of fatigue.
By every avenue the crowd pours in. Valois has extended his
acquaintance with the leading miners. He is aware of the political
organization about to be effected. He has now about forty thousand
dollars as his share of gold dust. An offer of thirty thousand
more for his claim decides him to go to San Francisco. He is fairly
rich. With that fund he can, as soon as titles settle, buy a broad
rancho. His active mind suggests the future values of the building
lots in the growing city.
He completes the rude formalities of his sale, which consist of
signing a bill of sale of his mining claim, and receiving the price
roughly weighed out in gold. He hears that a convention is soon to
organize the State. On September i, 1849, at Monterey, the civil
fabric of government will be planned out.
Before he leaves he is made a delegate. Early July, with its
tropical heat, is at hand. The camp on the American is agitated
by the necessity of some better form of government. Among others,
Philip Hardin of Mississippi, a lawyer once, a rich miner now, is
named as delegate.
At Sacramento a steamer is loaded to the gunwales with departing
voyagers. Maxime meets some of his fellow delegates already named.
Among them is Hardin of Mississippi. Philip Hardin is a cool,
resolute, hard-faced man of forty. A lawyer of ability, he has
forged into prominence by sheer superiority. The young Creole is
glad to meet some one who knows his beloved New Orleans. As they
glide past the willow-shaded river banks, the two Southerners become
confidential over their cigars.
Valois learns, with surprise, that President Polk sent the polished
Slidell confidentially to Mexico in 1846, and offered several
millions for a cession of California. He also wanted a quit-claim
to Texas. This juggling occurred before General Taylor opened the
campaign on the Rio Grande. In confidential relations with Sidell,
Hardin pushed over to California as soon as the result of the war
was evident. Ambitious and far-seeing, Philip Hardin unfolds the
cherished plan of extending slavery to the West. It must rule below
the line of the thirty-sixth parallel. Hardin is an Aaron Burr in
persuasiveness. By the time the new friends reach San Francisco,
Maxime has found his political mentor. Ambition spurs him on.
Wonders burst upon their eyes. Streets, business houses and hotels,
dwellings and gaudy places of resort, are spread over the rolling
slopes. Valois has written his friends at the mission to hold his
letters. He hastens away to deposit his treasures and gain news of
the old home in the magnolia land.
Hardin has the promise of the young Louisianian to accompany him to
Monterey. A preliminary conference of the southern element in the
convention is arranged. They must give the embryo State a pro-slavery
constitution. He busies himself with gaining a thorough knowledge
of the already forming cabals. Power is to be parcelled out, places
are to be filled. The haughty Mississippian cares more for this
excitement than digging for mere inert treasure. His quick eye catches
California's splendid golden star in the national constellation.
Valois finds he must wait the expected letters. He decides to take
no steps as to investment until the civil power is stable.
With a good mustang he rides the peninsula thoroughly. He visits
the old Presidio on the outskirts of the growing city. He rides
far over the pass of Lake Merced, to where the broken gap in the
coast hills leaves a natural causeway for the railway of the future.
Philip Hardin, fisher of men, is keeping open house near the plaza.
Already his rooms are the headquarters of the fiery chivalry of
the South. Day by day Valois admires the self-assertion of the
imperious lawyer. The Mississippian has already plotted out the
situation. He is concert with leaders like himself, who are looking
up and drawing in their forces for the struggle at the convention.
Valois becomes familiar with the heads of the Northern opposition.
Able and sturdy chiefs are already marshalling the men who come from
the lands of the northern pine to meet in the peaceful political
arena the champions of the palmetto land. Maxime's enthusiasm
mounts. The young Southerner feels the pride of his race burning
in his veins.
In his evening hours, under the oaks of the Mission Dolores, he
bears to the calm priests his budget of port and town. He tells of
the new marvellous mines, of the influx of gold hunters. He cannot
withhold his astonishment that the priesthood should not have
discovered the gold deposits. The astute clergy inform him calmly
that for years their inner circles have known of considerable gold
in the possession of the Indians. It was a hope of the Church that
some fortunate turn of Mexican politics might have restored their
sway. Alas! It was shattered in 1834 by the relentless Hijar.
"Hijo mio!" says an old padre. "We knew since 1838 that gold was
dug at Franscisquita canyon in the south. If we had the old blessed
days of Church rule, we could have quietly controlled this great
treasure field. But this is now the land of rapine and adventure.
First, the old pearl-fishers in the gulf of California; then the
pirates lurking along the coast, watching the Philippine galleons.
When your Americans overran Texas, and commenced to pour over
the plains here, we knew all was lost. Your people have fought a
needless war with Mexico; now they are swarming in here--a godless
race, followed by outcasts of the whole of Europe. There is no law
here but the knife and pistol. Your hordes now arriving have but
one god alone--gold."
The saddened old padre sighs as he gathers his breviary and beads,
seeking his lonely cloister. He is a spectre of a day that is done.
LIGHTING FREEDOM'S WESTERN LAMP.
Bustling crowds confuse Valois when he rides through San Francisco
next day. One year's Yankee dominion shows a progress greater
than the two hundred and forty-six years of Spanish and Mexican
ownership. The period since Viscaino's sails glittered off Point
Reyes has been only stagnation.
Seventy-three years' droning along under mission rule has ended in
vain repetition of spiritual adjurations to the dullard Indians.
To-day hammer and saw, the shouts of command, the din of trade,
the ships of all nations, and the whistle, tell of the new era of
work. The steam engine is here. The age of faith is past. "Laborare
est orare" is the new motto. Adios, siesta! Enter, speculation.
Dreamy-eyed senoritas in amazement watch the growing town. Hundreds
are throwing the drifted sand dunes into the shallow bay to create
level frontage. Swarthy riders growl a curse as they see the lines
of city lot fences stretching toward the Presidio, mission, and
Inventive Americans live on hulks and flats, anchored over water lots.
The tide ebbs and flows, yet deep enough to drown the proprietors
on their own tracts, purchased at auction of the alcalde as "water
Water lots, indeed! Twenty years will see these water lots half a
Masonry palaces will find foundations far out beyond where the
old CYANE now lies. Her grinning ports hold Uncle Sam's hushed
thunder-bolts. It is the downfall of the old REGIME.
Shed, tent, house, barrack, hut, dug-out, ship's cabin--everything
which will cover a head from the salt night fog is in service. The
Mexican adobe house disappears. Pretentious hotels and storehouses
are quickly run up in wood. The mails are taking orders to the
East for completed houses to come "around the Horn." Sheet-iron
buildings are brought from England. A cut stone granite bank arrives
in blocks from far-off China.
Vessels with flour from Chile, goods from Australia, and supplies
from New York and Boston bring machinery and tools. Flour, saw, and
grist mills are provided. Every luxury is already on the way from
Liverpool, Bordeaux, Havre, Hamburg, Genoa, and Glasgow. These
vessels bring swarms of natives of every clime. They hasten to a
land where all are on an equal footing of open adventure, a land
where gold is under every foot.
Without class, aristocracy, history, or social past, California's
"golden days" are of the future.
Strange that in thirty years' residence of the sly Muscovites at
Fort Ross, in the long, idle leisure of the employees of the Hudson
Bay station at Yerba Buena Cove from 1836 to 1846, even with the
astute Swiss Captain Sutter at New Helvetia, all capacities of
the fruitful land have been so strangely ignored.
The slumber of two hundred and fifty years is over. Frenchman,
Russian, Englishman, what opiate's drowsy charms dulled your eager
eyes so long here? Thousands of miles of virgin lands, countless
millions of treasures, royal forests and hills yet to grow under
harvest of olive and vine--all this the mole-like eyes of the olden
days have never seen.
Even the Mormons acted with the supine ignorance of the foreigners.
They scorned to pick this jewel up. Judicious Brigham Young from
the Great Salt Lake finally sends emissaries to spy and report. Like
the wind his swift messengers go east to divert strong battalions
of the Mormon converts from Europe, under trusted leaders, to
San Francisco. Can he extend his self-built empire to the Pacific
Slope? Brigham may be a new Mahomet, a newer Napoleon, for he has
the genius of both.
Alas! when the Mormon bands arrive, Sam Brannard, their leader,
abandons the new creed of "Mormon" for the newer creed of
"Mammon." He becomes a mercantile giant. The disciples scatter as
gold-seekers. California is lost to the Mormons. Even so! Fate,
providence, destiny, or some cold evolution of necessary order, draws
up the blue curtains of the West. It pins them to our country's
flag with a new, glittering star, "California."
With eager interest Valois joins Philip Hardin. There is a social
fever in the air. His friends are all statesmen in this chrysalis
of territorial development. They are old hands at political
intrigue. They would modestly be senators, governors, and rulers.
They would cheerfully serve a grateful State.
A band of sturdy cavaliers, they ride out, down the bay shores.
They cross the Santa Clara and Salinas valleys toward Monterey.
Valois' easy means enable him to be a leader of the movement. It
is to give a constitution and laws to the embryo State.
Hardy men from the West and South are taking up lands. Cool traders
are buying great tracts. Temporary officials have eager eyes fixed
on the Mexican grants. At all the landings and along the new roads,
once trails, little settlements are springing up, for your unlucky
argonaut turns to the nearest avocation; inns, stables, lodging-houses
and trading-tents are waited on by men of every calling and
profession. Each wanderer turns to the easiest way of amassing
wealth. The settlers must devise all their own institutions. The
Mexicans idly wrap their serapes around them, and they avoid all
contact with the hated foreigner. Beyond watching their flocks and
herds, they take no part in the energetic development. Cigarito in
mouth, card playing or watching the sports of the mounted cavaliers
are their occupations. Dismounted in future years, these queer
equestrian natures have never learned to fight the battle of life
on foot. The law of absorption has taken their sad, swarthy visages
out of the social arena.
The cavalcade of Southerners sweeps over the alamedas. They dash
across the Salinas and up to wooded Monterey. There the first
constitutional convention assembles.
Their delighted eyes have rested on the lovely Santa Cruz mountains,
the glorious meadows of Santa Clara, and the great sapphire bay
of Monterey. The rich Pajaro and Salinas valleys lie waiting at
hand. Thinking also of the wondrous wealth of the Sacramento and
San Joaquin, of the tropical glories of Los Angeles, Philip Hardin
cries: "Gentlemen, this splendid land is for us! We must rule this
new State! We must be true to the South!"
To be in weal and woe "true to the South" is close to the heart of
every cavalier in Philip Hardin's train.
The train arrives at Monterey, swelled by others faithful to that
Southern Cross yet to glitter on dark fields of future battle.
The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo closed a bloody Conflict on February
2, 1848. It is the preamble to a long struggle. It is destined in
the West to be bloodless until the fatal guns trained on Fort Sumter
bellow out their challenge to the great Civil War. It is only then
the mighty pine will swing with a crash against the palm.
Hardin knows that recruits, true of blood, are hastening to the
new land of El Dorado. As he leads his dauntless followers into
Monterey his soul is high. He sees the beloved South sweeping in
victory westward as proudly as her legions rolled over the fields
of Monterey and Buena Vista.
The convention assembles. All classes are represented on September
1, 1849. The first legal civil body is convoked west of the Rockies.
Men of thought are here. Men destined to be world-famous in the
unknown future. Settlers, hidalgos, traders, argonauts, government
officials of army and navy, and transient adventurers of no mean
ability. A little press already works with its magical talking
types. A navy chaplain is the Franklin of the West. Some order and
decorum appear. The calm voice of prayer is heard. The mingled amens
of the conquerors thank God for a most unjustifiable acquisition
of the lands of others. They are ours only by the right of the
strong against the weak--the world's oldest title.
The South leads in representative men. Ready to second the secret
desires of Polk, Buchanan, and Calhoun is the astute and courtly
Gwin, yet to be senator, duke of Sonora, and Nestor of his clan.
Moore of Florida, Jones of Louisiana, Botts, Burnett, and others
are in line. On the Northern side are Shannon, an adopted citizen;
wise Halleck; polished McDougall; gifted Edward Gilbert, and other
distinguished men--men worthy of the day and hour.
As independent members, Sutter, General Vallejo, Thomas O. Larkin,
Dr. Semple, Wright, Hastings, Brown, McCarver, Rodman S. Price,
Snyder, and others lend their aid. From the first day the advocates
of slavery and freedom battle in oratorical storm. The forensic
conflict rages for days; first on the matter of freedom, finally
on that of boundary.
Freedom's hosts receive a glorious reinforcement in the arrival of
John C. Fremont.
After bitter struggles the convention casts the die for freedom.
The Constitution of the State is so adopted. While the publicists,
led by Fremont and Gwin, seek to raise the fabric of state, the
traders and adventurers, the hosts of miners springing to life
under the chance touch of James W. Marshall's finger, on January
24, 1848, are delving or trading for gold.
Poor, ill-starred Marshall! He wanders luckless among the golden
fields. He gains no wealth. He toils as yet, unthinking of his days
of old age and lonely poverty. He does not look forward to being
poor at seventy-three years, and dying in 1885 alone. The bronze
monument over his later grave attests no fruition of his hopes. It
only can show the warm-hearted gratitude of children yet unborn,
the Native Sons of the Golden West. Cool old borderers like Peter
Lassen, John Bidwell, P. B. Redding, Jacob P. Leese, Wm. B. Ide,
Captain Richardson, and others are grasping broad lands as fair
as the banks of Yarrow. They permit the ill-assorted delegates to
lay down rules for the present and laws for the future. The State
can take care of itself. Property-holders appear and aid. Hensley,
Henley, Bartlett, and others are cool and able. While the Dons are
solemnly complimented in the convention, their rights are gracefully
The military governor, General Bennett Riley, stands back. He justly
does not throw his sword into the scales. Around him are rising men
yet to be heroes on a grander field of action than the mud floors
of a Monterey adobe. William T. Sherman, the only Northern American
strategist, is a lieutenant of artillery. Halleck, destined to be
commander-in-chief of a million men, is only a captain of engineers
and acting Secretary of State. Graceful, unfortunate, accomplished
Charles P. Stone is a staff officer. Ball's Bluff and Fort Lafayette
are far in the misty unknown.
The convention adjourns SINE DIE n October 13, 1849. It has settled
the great point of freedom on the Pacific Coast. It throws out the
granite Sierras as an eternal bulwark against advancing slavery.
The black shame is doomed never to cross the Rockies, and yet the
great struggle for the born nobility of manhood has been led by
Shannon, an alien Irishman. The proudest American blood followed
Dr. Gwin's pro-slavery leading. The two senators named are Gwin and
the hitherto unrewarded Fremont. Wright and Gilbert are the two
congressmen. Honest Peter H. Burnett, on November 13, is elected
the first governor of California. He is chosen by the people, and
destined to live to see nearly fifty years of peaceful prosperity
on the golden coast.
While this struggle is being waged on the Pacific, at Washington the
giant statesmen of those famous ante-bellum days close in bitter
strife. The political future of the great West, now known to be
so rich, is undecided. It is the desperate desire of the South to
keep California out of the Union, unless the part falling under
the Wilmot proviso act south of 36 deg 30 min is given to slavery.
The national funds to pay for the "Gadsden purchase" will be
withheld unless slavery can be extended. The great struggle brings
out all the olden heroes of the political arena. Benton, Webster,
Clay, Calhoun, Davis, King, Sam Houston, Foote, Seward, John Bell,
and Douglas, are given a golden prize to tourney for. In that
press of good knights, many a hard blow is struck. The victor and
vanquished stand to-day, looming gigantic on the dim horizon of
the past. It is the dark before the dawn of the War of the Rebellion.
It was before these days of degenerated citizenship, when the
rising tide of gold floats the corrupt millionnaire and syndicate's
agent into the Senate. The senator's toga then wrapped the shoulders
of our greatest men. No bonanza agents--huge moral deformities of
heaped-up gold--were made senatorial hunchbacks by their accidental
No vulgar clowns dallied with the country's interests in those old
days when Greek met Greek. It was a gigantic duel of six leaders:
Webster, Seward, and Clay, pitted against Calhoun, Davis, and
Foote. Pausing to refresh their strength for the final struggle,
the noise of battle rolled away until the early days of 1850.
California was kept out.
The delegates at Monterey hastened home to their exciting callings.
Philip Hardin saw the wished-for victory of the South deferred.
Gnashing his teeth in rage, he rode out of Monterey. Maxime
Valois now is the ardent "Faust" to whom he plays "Mephisto." His
following had fallen away. Hardin, cold, profound, and deep, was
misunderstood at the Convention. He wished to gain local control.
He knew the overmastering power of the pro-slavery administration
would handle the main issue later--if not in peace, then in war.
As the red-tiled roofs of Monterey fade behind them, Hardin unbosoms
himself to his young comrade. Maxime Valois has been a notable
leader in the Convention. He was eager and loyal to the South. He
extended many acquaintances with the proud chivalry element of the
new State. His short experience of public life feeds his rising
ambition. He determines to follow the law; the glorious profession
which he laid aside to become a pathfinder; the pathway to every
"Valois," says Hardin, "these people are too short-sighted.
Our Convention leaders are failures. We should have ignored the
slavery fight as yet. Thousands of Southern voters are coming to
us within six months from the border States. Our friends from the
Gulf are swarming here. The President will fill all the Federal
offices with sound Southern Democrats. The army and navy will be
in sympathy with us. With a little management we could have got
slavery as far as 36 deg 30 sec. We could work it all over the West
with the power of our party at the North. We could have controlled
the rest of this coast by the Federal patronage, keeping the free
part out of the Union as territories. Then our balance of power
would be stable. It is not a lost game. Wait! only wait!"
Maxime agrees. Philip Hardin opens the young politician's eyes with
a great confidence.
"Maxime, I have learned to like you and depend on you. I will give
you a proof of it. We of the old school are determined to rule this
country. If Congress admits California as a free State, there will
yet be a Lone Star republic covering this whole coast. The South
will take it by force when we go out."
The Louisianian exclaims, "Secession!"
"Yes, war even. Rather war than the rule of the Northern mud-sill!"
cries Hardin, spurring his horse, instinctively. "Our leading men
at home are in thorough concert day by day. If the issue is forced
on us the whole South will surely go out. But we are not ready yet.
Maxime, we want our share of this great West. We will fill it with
at least even numbers of Southern men. In the next few years the
West will be entirely neutral in case of war or unless we get a
fair division. If we re-elect a Democrat as President we will save
the whole West."
"War," muses Valois, as they canter down the rich slopes toward
the Salinas River, "a war between the men who have pressed up Cerro
Gordo and Chepultepec together! A war between the descendants of
the victorious brothers of the Revolution!" It seems cold and brutal
to the young and ardent Louisianian. An American civil war! The
very idea seems unnatural. "But will the Yankees fight?" queries
Valois. Hardin replies grimly: "I did not think we would even be
opposed in this Convention. They seemed to fight us pretty well
here. They may fight in the field--when it comes."
For Philip Hardin is a wise man. He never under-estimates his
Valois smiles. He cannot control a sneer. The men who are lumber-hewers,
dirt-diggers, cod-fishers and factory operatives will never face
the Southern chivalry. He despises the sneaking Yankees. Traders
in a small way arouse all the arrogance of the planter. He cannot
bring any philosophy of the past to tell him that the straining,
leaky Mayflcnver was the pioneer of the stately American fleets
now swarming on every sea. The little wandering Boston bark, Otter,
in 1796 found her way to California. She was the harbinger of a
mighty future marine control. The lumbering old Sachem (of the same
Yankee borough) in 1822 founded the Pacific hide and tallow trade
as an earnest of the sea control. Where one Yankee shows the way
thousands may follow, yet this Valois ignored in his scorn of the
man who works.
Maxime could not dream that the day could ever come when thousands
of Yankees would swarm over entrenchments, vainly held by the best
blood of the sunny South.
As the two gentlemen ride on, Hardin uses the confidential loneliness
of the trip to prove to the Creole that war and separation must
"We want this rich land for ourselves and the South." The young
man's blood was up.
"I know the very place I want!" cries Valois.
He tells Hardin of Lagunitas, of its fertile lands sweeping to
the San Joaquin. He speaks of its grassy, rolling hills and virgin
Philip Hardin learns of the dashing waters of the Merced and Mariposa
on either side. He hears of the glittering gem-like Lagunitas
sparkling in the bosom of the foot-hills. Valois recounts the wild
legends, caught up from priest and Indian, of that great, terrific
gorge, the Yosemite. Hardin allows much for the young man's wild
fancy. The gigantic groves of the big trees are only vaguely
described. Yet he is thrilled.
He has already seen an emigrant who wandered past Mono Lake over
the great Mono notch in the Sierras. There it rises eleven thousand
feet above the blue Pacific--with Castle Dome and Cathedral Peak,
grim sentinels towering to the zenith.
"It must really be a paradise," muses Hardin.
"It is," cries the Creole; "I intend to watch that region. If money
can make it mine, I will toil to get it."
Philip Hardin, looking through half-closed eyes at Valois, decides
to follow closely this dashing adventurer. He will go far.
"Valois," he slowly says, "you have seen these native land-barons
at the Convention. A few came in to join us. The rest are hostile
and bitter. They can never stand before us. The whole truth is, the
Mexican must go! We stopped the war a little too soon here. They
are now protected by the treaty, but we will litigate them out of
all their grants. Keep your eye on Lagunitas. It may come into the
market. Gold will be the fool's beacon here for some time. These
great valleys will yet be the real wealth of the new State. Land is
the rock of the wealth to come. Get land, my boy!" he cries, with
the lordly planter's instinct.
Valois admires the cold self-confidence of the sardonic Hardin.
He opens his heart. He leans upon the resolute Mississippian.
It takes little to make Maxime joyfully accept Philip Hardin's
invitation to share his office. They will follow the fortunes of
the city by the Golden Gates.
On riding down the Visitacion valley their eyes are greeted with
the sight of the first ocean steamers. A thousand new-comers throng
Maxime finds a home in the abode of Hardin. His cottage stands on
a commanding lot, bought some time before.
Letters from "Belle Etoile" delight the wanderer. He learns of the
well-being of his friends. Judge Valois' advice to Maxime decides
him to cast his lot in with the new State. It is soon to be called
California by legal admission.
Philip Hardin is a leader of the embryo bar of the city. Courts,
books, two newspapers and the elements of a mercantile community
are the newest signs of a rapid crystallization toward order. With
magic strides the boundaries of San Francisco enlarge. Every day
sees white-winged sails fluttering. Higher rises the human tumult.
From the interior mines, excited reports carry away half the
arrivals. They are eager to scoop up the nuggets, to gather the
golden dust. New signs attract the eye: "Bank," "Hotel," "Merchandise,"
"Real Estate." Every craft and trade is represented. It is the
vision of a night.
Already a leader, Hardin daily extends his influence as man,
politician, and counsellor.
The great game is being played at the nation's capital for the last
sanction to the baptism of the new star in the flag.
California stands knocking at the gates of the Union, with
treasure-laden hands. In Congress the final struggle on admission
drags wearily on. Victorious Sam Houston of Texas, seconded by
Jefferson Davis, fresh laurelled from Buena Vista, urges the claims
of slavery. Foote "modestly" demands half of California, with a
new slave State cut out from the heart of blood-bought Texas. But
the silver voice of Henry Clay peals out against any extension
of slave territory. Proud King of Alabama appeals in vain to his
brethren of the Senate to discipline the two ambitious freemen of
the West, by keeping them out of the Union.
Great men rally to the bugle notes of their mighty leaders.
The gallant son of the South, General Taylor, finds presidential
honors following his victories. In formal message he announces
on February 13, 1850, to Congress that the new State waits, with
every detail of first organization, for admission.
Stern Calhoun, chief of the aspiring Southerners, proudly claims
a readjustment of the sectional equality thus menaced. Who shall
dare to lift the gauntlet thrown down by South Carolina's mighty
In the hush of a listening Senate, Daniel Webster, the lion
of the North, sounds a noble defiance. "Slavery is excluded from
California by the law of nature itself," is his warning admonition.
With solemn brow, and deep-set eyes, flashing with the light
of genius, he appeals to the noblest impulses of the human heart.
Breathless senators thrill with his inspired words. "We would not
take pains to reaffirm an ordinance of nature," he cries, and, as
his grave argument touches the listeners, he reverently adds, "nor
to re-enact the will of God."
Mighty Seward rises also to throw great New York's gauntlet in the
teeth of slavery.
Taunted with its legal constitutional sanction, he exclaims grandly,
"There is a higher law than the Constitution."
Long years have passed since both the colossus of the North and
the great Governor entered into the unbroken silence of the grave.
Their immortal words ring still down the columned years of our
country's history. They appeal to noble sons to emulate the heroes
of this great conflict. Shall the slave's chains clank westward?
No! Above the din of commoner men, the logic of John Bell, calm and
patriotic, brings conviction. The soaring eloquence of Stephen A.
Douglas claims the Western shores for freedom.
Haughty Foote and steadfast Benton break lances in the arena.
Kentucky's greatest chieftain, whose gallant son's life-blood
reddened Buena Vista's field, marshals the immortal defenders of
human liberty. Henry Clay's paternal hand is stretched forth in
blessing over the young Pacific commonwealth. All vainly do the
knights of the Southern Cross rally around mighty Calhoun, as he
sits high on slavery's awful throne.
Cold Davis, fiery Foote, ingenious Slidell, polished and versatile
Soule, ardent King, fail to withstand that mighty trio, "Webster,
Seward, and Clay," the immortal three. The death of the soldier-President
Taylor calms the clamor for a time. The struggle shifts to the
House. Patriotic Vinton, of Ohio, locks the door on slavery. On
the 9th day of September, 1850, President Millard Fillmore signs
the bill which limits the negro hunter to his cotton fields and cane
brakes at home. The representatives of the new State are admitted.
A new golden star shines unpolluted in the national constellation.
Westward the good news flies by steamer. All the shadows on
California's future are lifted.
While wearied statesmen rest from the bitter warfare of two long
years, from North and South thousands eagerly rush to the golden
The Southern and Border States send hosts of their restless youths.
From the Northwest sturdy freemen, farmers with families, toil
toward new homes under freedom's newest star. The East and Middle
States are represented by all their useful classes.
The news of California's admission finds Hardin and Valois already
men of mark in the Occidental city.
Disappointed at the issue, Hardin presses on to personal eminence;
he turns his energies to seeking honors in the legal forum.
Maxime Valois, quietly resuming his studies for the bar, guards his
funds, awaiting opportunity for investment. He burns the midnight
oil in deep studies. The two men wander over the growing avenues
of the Babel of the West. Every allurement of luxury, every scheme
of vice, all the arts of painted siren, glib knave, and lurking
sharper are here; where the game is, there the hunter follows.
Rapidly arriving steamers pour in hundreds. The camp followers of
the Mexican war have streamed over to San Francisco. The notable
arrival of the steamer California brings crowds of men, heirs to
future fame, and good women, the moral salt of the new city. It
also has its New York "Bowery Boys," Philadelphia "Plug Uglies,"
Baltimore "Roughs," and Albany "Strikers."
By day, new occupations, strange callings, and the labor of organizing
a business community, engage all men. The ebb and flow of going
and returning miners excite the daylight hours. From long wharves,
river steamers, laden to the gunwales, steam past the city shores
to Sacramento. At night, deprived of regular homes, the whole
city wanders in the streets, or crowds flashy places of amusement.
Cramped on the hilly peninsula, there are no social lines drawn
between good and bad. Each human being is at sea in a maelstrom
of wild license.
The delegated representatives of the Federal Government soon arrive.
Power is given largely to the Southern element. While many of the
national officials are distinguished and able, they soon feel the
inspiring madness of unrebuked personal enjoyment.
Money in rough-made octagonal fifty-dollar slugs flows freely. Every
counter has its gold-dust scales. Dust is current by the ounce,
half ounce, and quarter ounce. The varied coins of the whole
world pass here freely. The months roll away to see, at the end of
1850, a wider activity; there is even a greater excitement, a more
pronounced madness of dissipation. Speculation, enterprise, and
abandonment of old creeds, scruples, and codes, mark the hour.
The flying year has brought the ablest and most daring moral refugees
of the world to these shores, as well as steady reinforcements of
worthy settlers. Pouring over the Sierras, and dragging across
the deserts, the home builders are spreading in the interior. The
now regulated business circles, extending with wonderful elasticity,
attract home and foreign pilgrims of character. Though the Aspasias
of Paris, New Orleans, and Australia throng in; though New York
sends its worthless womanhood in floods, there are even now worthy
home circles by the Golden Gate. Church, school, and family begin
to build upon solid foundations. All the government bureaus are in
working order. The Custom House is already known as the "Virginia
Poor House." The Post-Office and all Federal places teem with the
ardent, haughty, and able ultra Democrats of the sunny South. The
victory of the Convention bids fair to be effaced in the high-handed
control of the State by Southern men. As the rain falleth on the
just and unjust, so does the tide of prosperity enrich both good
and bad. Vice, quickly nourished, flaunts its early flowers. The
slower growth of virtue is yet to give golden harvest of gathered
sheaves in thousands of homes yet to be in the Golden State. Long
after the maddened wantons and noisy adventurers have gone the
way of all "light flesh and corrupt blood," the homes will stand.
Sailing vessels stream in from the ports of the world. On the narrow
water-front, Greek and Lascar, Chinaman and Maltese, Italian and
Swede, Russian and Spaniard, Chileno and Portuguese jostle the
men of the East, South, and the old country. Fiery French, steady
German, and hot-headed Irish are all here, members of the new empire
by the golden baptism of the time.
Knife and revolver, billy and slung-shot, dirk and poniard, decide
the ARGUMENTUM AD HOMINEM.
In the enjoyment of fraternal relations with the leaders of the
dominant party East, Philip Hardin becomes a trusted counsellor
of the leading officials. He sees the forum of justice opened in
the name of Union and State. He ministers at the altars of the Law.
He gains, daily, renown and riches in his able conduct of affairs.
Hardin's revenue rises. He despises one of the State judgeships
easily at his hand. As his star mounts, his young neophyte, Maxime
Valois, shares his toils and enjoys his training. Under his guidance
he launches out on the sea of that professional legal activity,
which is one continued storm of contention.
Valois has trusted none of the mushroom banks. He keeps his gold
with the Padres. He makes a number of judicious purchases of blocks
and lots in the city, now growing into stable brick, stone, and
THE QUEEN OF THE EL DORADO.--GUILTY BONDS.
In the dreary winter of 1850-51, there are luxurious resting places
for the crowds driven at night from the narrow plank sidewalks of
the Bay City. Rain torrents make the great saloons and gambling
houses the only available shelter.
Running east and west, Sacramento, Clay, Washington, and Jackson
Streets rise in almost impracticable declivity to the hills. Their
tops, now inaccessible, are to be the future eyries of self-crowned
railroad nobs and rude bonanza barons.
Scrubby chaparral, tenanted by the coyote, fox, and sand rabbit,
covers these fringing sand hills. North and south, Sansome,
Montgomery, Kearney, Dupont, Stockton, and a faint outline of Powell
Street, are roadways more or less inchoate. An embryo western Paris.
Around the plaza, bounded by Clay, Washington, Dupont, and Kearney,
the revelry of night crystallizes. It is the aggregating sympathy
of birds of a feather.
The peculiar unconquered topography makes the handcart, wheelbarrow,
and even the Chinaman's carrying poles, necessary vehicles of
Water, brought in iron boats from Sansalito, is dragged around
these knobby hills in huge casks on wheels. The precious fluid is
distributed in five-gallon tin buckets, borne on a yoke by the
dealer, who gets a dollar for two bucketfuls. No one finds time
to dig for water. All have leisure to drink, dance, and gamble.
They face every disease, danger, and hardship. They breast
the grizzly-bear-haunted canyons in search of gold. No one will
seek for water. It is the only luxury. The incoming and outgoing
merchandise moves only a few rods from the narrow level city front.
At the long wharves it is transshipped from the deep-water vessels,
across forty feet of crazy wooden pier, to the river steamers. Lighters
in the stream transfer goods to the smaller vessels beginning to
trade up and down the coast.
In the plaza, now dignified by the RAFFINE name of "Portsmouth
Square," the red banners of vice wave triumphant over great citadels
of sin. Virtue is pushed to the distant heights and knolls. The
arriving families, for sheer self-protection, avoid this devil's
maelstrom. It sucks the wide crowd into the maddened nightly orgies
of the plaza.
In the most pretentious buildings of the town, the great trinity
of unlawful pleasures holds high carnival. Day and night are the
same: drink, gaming, and women are worshipped. For the average
resident there is no barrier of old which has not been burned away
in the fever of personal freedom and the flood of gold.
A motley mass of twenty thousand men and women daily augments. They
are all of full capacity for good and evil. They are bound by no
common ties. They serve no god but pleasure. They fear no code. With
no intention to remain longer than the profit of their adventures
or the pleasures of their wild life last, they catch the passing
Immense saloons are made attractive by displays of gaudy luxuries,
set out to tempt the purses of the self-made autocrats of wealth.
Gambling houses here are outvying in richness, and utter wantonness
of wasted expense, anything yet seen in America. They are open
always. Haunts abound where, in the pretended seclusion of a few
yards' distance, rich adventurers riot with the beautiful battalions
of the fallen angels. It were gross profanation to the baleful
memories of Phryne, Aspasia, and Messalina to find, from all
the sin-stained leaves of the world's past, prototypes of these
bold, reckless man-eaters. They throng the softly carpeted, richly
tapestried interiors of the gilded hells of Venus.
Drink and play. Twins steeds of the devil's car on the road to
ruin. They are lashed on by wild-eyed, bright, beautiful demons.
All follow the train of the modern reigning star of the West, Venus.
Shabby dance-halls, ephemeral Thespian efforts, cheap dens of the
most brutal vice, and dark lairs abound, where sailors, laborers,
and crowding criminals lurk, ready for their human prey. Their female
accomplices are only the sirens watching these great strongholds
of brazen vice. A greater luxury only gilds a lower form of human
abasement. The motley horde, wallowing on the "Barbary Coast" and
in the mongrel thieves' haunts of "Pacific Street," the entrenched
human devils on "Telegraph Hill" are but natural prey of the
The ready revolver, Colt's devilish invention, has deluged the
West and South with blood. Murder's prime minister hangs in every
man's belt. Colonel James Bowie's awful knife is a twin of this
monstrous birth. In long years of dark national shame our country
will curse the memory of the "two Colonels." They were typical of
their different sectional ideas. These men gave us the present
coat of arms of San Francisco: the Colt's revolver and the Bowie
Yes, thousands of yet untenanted graves yawn for the future victims
of these mechanical devices. The skill of the Northern inventor,
and the devilish perfection of the heart-cleaving blade of the
Southern duellist are a shame to this wild age.
The plaza with impartial liberality yields up its frontages to
saloon, palace of play, and hotels for the fair ministers of His
Satanic Majesty. It is the pride of the enterprising "sports" and
"sharpers," who represent the baccalaureate degree of every known
vice. On the west, the "Adelphi" towers, with its grand gambling
saloon, its splendid "salle a manger," and cosey nooks presided
over by attractive Frenchwomen. Long tables, under crystal
chandeliers, offer a choice of roads to ruin. Monte, faro, rouge
et noir, roulette, rondo and every gambling device are here, to lure
the unwary. Dark-eyed subtle attendants lurk, ready to "preserve
order," in gambling parlance. At night, blazing with lights, the
superb erotic pictures on the walls look down on a mad crowd of
desperate gamesters. Paris has sent its most suggestive pictures
here, to inflame the wildest of human passions. Nymph and satyr
gleam from glittering walls; Venus approves with melting glances,
from costliest frames, the self-immolation of these dupes of fortune.
Every wanton grace of the artist throws a luxurious refinement of
the ideal over the palace of sin and shame.
Long counters, with splendid mirrors, display richest plate. They
groan with costliest glass, and every dark beverage from hell's
hottest brew. Card tables, and quiet recesses, richly curtained,
invite to self-surrender and seclusion. The softest music breathes
from a full orchestra. Gold is everywhere, in slugs, doubloons,
and heaps of nuggets. Gold reigns here. Silver is a meaner metal
hardly attainable. Bank notes are a flimsy possibility of the
future. Piles of yellow sovereigns and the coinage of every land
load the tables. Sallow, glittering-eyed croupiers sweep in, with
affected nonchalance, this easy-gained harvest of chance or fraud.
As the evening wears on, these halls fill up with young and old.
The bright face of youth is seen, inflamed with every burning
passion, let loose in the wild uncontrolled West. It is side by
side with the haggard visage of the veteran gamester. Every race
has its representatives. The possession of gold is the cachet of
good-fellowship. Anxious crowds criticise rapid and dashing play.
The rattle of dice, calls of the dealers, shouts of the attendants
ring out. The sharp, hard, ringing voices of the fallen goddesses
of the tables rise on the stifling air, reeking of smoke and wine.
Dressed with the spoils of the East, bare of bosom, bright of eye,
hard of heart, glittering in flashing gems, and nerved with drink,
are these women. The painted sirens of the Adelphi smile, with
curled carmine lips which give the lie to the bold glances of the
wary eyes of those she-devils.
With a hideous past thrown far behind them, they fear no future.
Desperate as to the present, ministering to sin, inciting to violence,
conspiring to destroy body and soul, these beautiful annihilators
of all decency vie in deviltry only with each other.
They flaunt, by day, toilettes like duchesses' over the muddy
streets; their midnight revels outlast the stars sweeping to the
pure bosom of the Pacific. The nightly net is drawn till no casting
brings new gudgeons. An unparalleled display of wildest license
and maddest abandonment marks day and night.
Across the square the Bella Union boasts similar glories, equal
grandeur, and its own local divinities of the Lampsacene goddess.
It is but a stone's throw to the great Arcade. From Clay to Commercial
Street, one grand room offers every allurement to hundreds, without
any sign of overcrowding. The devil is not in narrow quarters.
On the eastern front of the plaza, the pride of San Francisco
towers up: the El Dorado. Here every glory of the Adelphi, Arcade,
and Bella Union is eclipsed. The unrivalled splendor of rooms,
rich decorations, and unexcelled beauty of pictures excite all. The
rare liveliness of the attendant wantons marks them as the fairest
daughters of Beelzebub. The world waves have stranded these children
of Venus on the Pacific shores. Music, recalling the genius of the
inspired masters, sways the varying emotions of the multitude. The
miners' evenings are given up to roaming from one resort to another.
Here, a certain varnish of necessary politeness restrains the throng
of men; they are all armed and in the flush of physical power;
they dash their thousands against impregnable and exciting gambling
combinations at the tables. With no feeling of self-abasement, leading
officials, merchants, bankers, judges, officers, and professional
men crowd the royal El Dorado. Here they relax the labors of the
day with every distraction known to human dissipation.
Staggering out broken-hearted, in the dark midnight, dozens
of ruined gamesters have wandered from these fatal doors into the
plaza. The nearest alley gives a shelter; a pistol ball crashes
into the half-crazed brain.
Suicide!--the gambler's end! Already the Potter's Field claims
many of these victims. The successful murderers and thugs linger
in the dark shadows of Dupont Street. They crowd Murderer's Alley,
Dunbar's Alley, and Kearney Street.
When the purse is emptied, so that the calculating women dealers
scorn to notice the last few coins, they point significantly to
the outer darkness. "Vamos," is the word. A few rods will bring
the plucked fool to the "Blue Wing," the "Magnolia," or any one of
a hundred drinking dens. Here the bottle chases away all memories
of the night's play.
In utter defiance of the decent community, these temples of pleasure,
with their quick-witted knaves, and garrisons of bright-eyed
bacchanals, ignore the useful day; at night, they shine out, splendid
lighthouses on the path to the dark entrance of hell. By mutual
avoidance, the good and bad, the bright and dark side of human effort
rule in alternation the day and night. Sin rests in the daytime.
In the barracks, where the serried battalions of crime loll away
the garish day, silence discreetly rules. Sleep and rest mark the
sunlit hours. The late afternoon parade is an excitant.
All over San Francisco, in its queerly assorted tenancy, church
and saloon, school and opium den, thieves' resort and budding home,
are placed side by side. Vigorous elbowing of the criminal and base
classes finally forces all that is decent into a semi-banishment.
Decency is driven to the distant hills, crowned with their scrubby
oaks. Vice needs the city centre. It always does.
Philip Hardin is cynical and without family ties. Able by nature,
skilled in books, and a master of human strategy he needs some
broader field for the sweep of his splendid talents than the narrowed
forum of the local courts. Ambition offers no immediate prize to
struggle for. The busy present calls on him for daily professional
effort. Political events point to an exciting struggle between
North and South in the future; but the hour of fate is not yet on
In the Southerner's dislike of the contact of others, looking to his
place as a social leader of the political element, Philip Hardin
lives alone; his temporary cottage is planted in a large lot removed
from the immediate danger of fires. His quick wit tells him they
will some day sweep the crowded houses in the eastern part of the
city, as far as the bay. The larger native oaks still afford a
genial shade. Their shadows give the tired lawyer a few square rods
of breathing space. Books and all the implements of the scholar
are his; the interior is crowded with those luxuries which Hardin
enjoys as of right. Deeply drinking the cup of life, even in his
social vices, Philip Hardin aims at a certain distinction.
Around his table gather the choicest knights-errant of the golden
quest. Maxime Valois here develops a social talent as a leader of
men, guided by the sardonic Mephisto of his young life.
Still the evening hours hang heavily on the hands of the two lawyers.
When the rapidly arriving steamers bring friends, with letters or
introductions, they have hospitality to dispense. The great leaders
of the South are now systematically colonizing California. Guests
abound at these times at Hardin's board. Travel, mining, exploration,
and adventure carry them away soon; extensive tours on official
duty draw them away. As occupations increase, men grow unmindful
of each other and meet more rarely.
For the saloons, rude hotels, gaming palaces, and resorts of
covert pleasures are the usual rendezvous of the men of fortune
and power. In such resorts grave intrigues are planned; future
policies are mapped out; business goes on under the laughter of
wild-eyed Maenads; secrets of state are whispered between glass
Family circles, cooped up, timid and distant, keep their doors
closed to the general public. No one has yet dared to permanently
set up here their Lares and Penates. The subordination of family
life to externals, and insincerity of social compacts, are destined
to make California a mere abiding place for several generations. The
fibres of ancestry must first knit the living into close communion
with their parents born on these Western shores. Hardin's domineering
nature, craving excitement and control over others, carries him often
to the great halls of play; cigar in mouth, he stands unmoved; he
watches the chances of play. Nerved with the cognac he loves, he
moves quickly to the table; he astonishes all by the deliberate
daring of his play. His iron nerve is unshaken by the allurements
of the painted dancers and surrounding villains. Towering high
above all others, the gifted Mississippian nightly refreshes his
jaded emotions. He revels in the varying fortunes of the many games
he coolly enjoys. Unheeding others, moving neither right nor left
at menace or danger, Hardin scorns this human circus, struggling
far below his own mental height.
Heartless and unmoved, he smiles at the weaknesses of others.
The strong man led captive in Beauty's train, the bright intellect
sinking under the craze of drink, the weak nature shattered by the
loss of a few thousands at play--all this pleases him. He sees,
with prophetic eye, hundreds of thousands of future dwellers between
the Sierras and the sea. His Southern pride looks forward to a
control of the great West by the haughty slave-owners.
This Northern trash must disappear! To ride on the top wave of the
future successful community, is his settled determination. Without
self-surrender, he enjoys every draught of pleasure the cup of life
can offer. Without scruple, void of enthusiasm, his passionless
heart is unmoved by the joys or sorrows of others. His nature
is as steady as the nerve with which he guides his evening pistol
practice. The welcome given to Maxime Valois by him arises only
from a conviction of that man's future usefulness. The general
acceptability of the young Louisianian is undoubted. His blood,
creed, and manners prove him worthy of the old Valois family. Their
past glories are well known to Philip Hardin. "Bon sang ne peut
mentir." Hardin's legal position places him high in the turmoils
of the litigations of the great Mexican grants. Already, over the
Sonoma, Napa, Santa Clara, San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys all
is in jeopardy. The old Dons begin to seek confirmations of the legal
lines, to keep the crowding settlers at bay. The mining, trading,
and land-grabbing of the Americans are pushed to the limits of the
new commonwealth. A backward movement of the poor Mexican natives
carries them between the Americans and the yet powerful land barons
of their own race. Harassed, unfit to work, unable to cope with the
intruders, the native Californians become homeless rovers. They
are bitter at heart. Many, in open resentment, rise on the plains
or haunt the lonely trails. They are now bandits, horse-thieves,
footpads and murderers. True to each other, they establish a chain
of secret refuges from Shasta to San Diego. Every marauder of
their own blood is safe among them from American pursuers.
Every mining camp and all the settlements are beginning to send
refugees of the male foreign criminal classes to join these wandering
With riot in the camps, licentiousness ruling the cities, and
murder besetting every path, there is no safety for the present.
California sees no guarantee for the future. Judge Lynch is the only
recognized authority. He represents the rough justice of outraged
camps and infuriated citizens. Unrepressed violent crimes lead
to the retaliatory butchery of vigilance committees. Innocent and
guilty suffer without warrant of law. Foreign criminal clans herd
together in San Francisco for mutual aid. The different Atlantic
cities are separately represented in knots of powerful villains.
Politics, gambling, and the elements of wealth flourishing in
dens and resorts, are controlled by organized villains. They band
together against the good. Only some personal brawl throws them
against each other.
Looking at the dangerous mass of vicious men and women, Valois
determines that the real strength of the land will lie in the
arrivals by the overland caravans. These trains are now filling
the valleys with resolute and honest settlers.
His determination holds yet to acquire some large tract of land where
he may have a future domain. On professional visits to Sacramento,
Stockton, and San Jose he notes the rising of the agricultural
power in the interior. In thought he yearns often for the beauties
of splendid Lagunitas. Padre Ribaut writes him of the sullen
retirement of Don Miguel. He grows more morose daily. Valois learns
of the failing of the sorrow-subdued Donna Juanita. The girlish
beauty of young Dolores is pictured in these letters. She approaches
the early development of her rare beauty. Padre Francisco has his
daily occupation in his church and school. The higher education of
pretty Dolores is his only luxury. Were it not for this, he would
abandon the barren spiritual field and return to France. Already
in the canyons of the Mariposa, Fresno, and in the great foot-hills,
miners are scratching around the river beds. Hostile settlers are
approaching from the valley the Don's boundaries. These signs are
Padre Francisco writes that as yet Don Miguel is sullenly ferocious.
He absolutely refuses any submission of his grant titles to the
cursed Gringos. Padre Francisco has not been able to convince the
ex-commandante of the power of the great United States. He knows
not it can cancel or reject his title to the thousands of rich acres
where his cattle graze and his horses sweep in mustang wildness.
Even from his very boundaries the plough can now be seen breaking
up the breast of the virgin valley. The Don will take no heed. He
is blinded by prejudice. Maxime promises the good priest to visit
him. He wonders if the savage Don would decline a word. If the
frightened, faded wife would deign to speak to the Americano. If
the budding beauty would now cast roses slyly at him from the bowers
of her childhood.
Maxime's heart is young and warm. He is chilled in his affections.
The loss of his parents made his life lonely. Judge Valois, his
uncle, has but one child, a boy born since Maxime's departure on
the Western adventure. Between Hardin and himself is a bar of twenty
years of cool experience. It indurates and blunts any gracefulness
Hardin's youth ever possessed. If any man of forty has gained
knowledge of good and evil, it is the accomplished Hardin. He is
a law unto himself.
Fearing neither God nor man, insensible to tenderness, Philip
Hardin looks in vain to refresh his jaded emotions by the every-day
diversions of the city by the sea. The daily brawls, the excited
vigilance committee of the first winter session of popular justice,
and partial burning of the city, leave Hardin unmoved. It is a
dismal March night of 1851 when he leaves his residence for a stroll
through the resorts of the town. Valois listlessly accompanies
him. He does not gamble. To the El Dorado the two slowly saunter.
The nightly battle over the heaps of gold is at its height. At the
superb marble counter they are served with the choicest beverages
and regalias of Vuelta Abajos' best leaf. The human mob is dense.
Wailing, passionate music beats upon the air. There is the cry of
lost souls in its under-toned pathos. Villany and sentiment go hand
in hand at the El Dorado. The songs of old, in voice and symphony,
unlock the gates of memory. They leave the lingerers, disarmed, to
the tempting allurements of beauty, drink, and gaming.
There is an unusual crowd in the headquarters of gilded folly.
Maxime, wandering alone for a few minutes, finds a throng around a
table of rouge et noir. It is crowded with eager gamesters. Nodding
to one and another, he meets many acquaintances--men have no real
friends as yet in this egoistic land. The Louisianian moves toward
the goal whither all are tending. Jealous glances are cast by
women whose deserted tables show their charms are too well known.
All swarm toward a new centre of attraction. Cheeks long unused
to the blush of shame are reddened with passion, to see the fickle
crowd surge around the game presided over by a new-comer to the
sandy shores of San Francisco. She is an unknown goddess.
"What's all this?" asks Maxime, of a man he knows. He is idling
now, with an amused smile. He catches a glimpse of the tall form
of Philip Hardin in the front row of players, near the yellow
bulwarks of gold.
"Why, Valois, you are behind the times!" is the reply. "Don't you
know the 'Queen of the El Dorado'?"
"I confess I do not," says the Creole. He has been absent for some
time from this resort of men with more gold than brains. "Who is
she? What is she?" continues Maxime.
His friend laughs as he gaily replies, "As to what she is, walk
up to the table. Throw away an ounce, and look at her. It's worth
it. As to who she is, she calls herself Hortense Duval." "I suppose
she has as much right to call herself the daughter of the moon
as to use that aristocratic name." "My dear boy, she is, for all
that--" "Queen Hortense?" "Queen of the El Dorado." He saunters
away, to allow Valois a chance to edge his way into the front row.
There the dropping gold is raked in by this fresh siren who draws
all men to her.
Dressed in robes of price, a young woman sits twirling the arrow
of destiny at the treasure-laden table. Her exquisite form is
audaciously and recklessly exposed by a daring costume. Her superb
arms are bared to the shoulder, save where heavy-gemmed bracelets
clasp glittering badges of sin around her slender wrists. An
indescribable grace and charm is in every movement of her sinuous
body. Her well-poised head is set upon a neck of ivory. The lustrous
dark eyes rove around the circle of eager betters with languishing
velvety glances. A smile, half a sneer, lingers on the curved lips.
Her statuesque beauty of feature is enhanced by the rippling dark
masses of hair crowning her lovely brows. In the silky waves of
her coronal, shines one diamond star of surpassing richness. In
all the pride and freshness of youth her loveliness is unmarred by
the tawdry arts of cosmetic and make-up. Unabashed by the admiration
she compels, she calmly pursues her exciting calling. The new-comer
is well worthy the rank, by general acclaim, of "Queen of the El
Dorado." In no way does she notice the eager crowd. She is an
impartial priestess of fortune. Maxime waits only to hear her speak.
She is silent, save the monosyllabic French words of the game.
Is she Cuban, Creole, French, Andalusian, Italian, or a wandering
gypsy star? A jewelled dagger-sheath in her corsage speaks of Spain
or Italy. Maxime notes the unaccustomed eagerness with which Hardin
recklessly plays. He seems determined to attract the especial
attention of the divinity of the hour. Hardin's color is unusual.
His features are sternly set. Near him stands "French Charlie," one
of the deadliest gamesters of the plaza. Equally quick with card,
knife, or trigger, the Creole gambler is a man to be avoided. He
is as dangerous as the crouching panther in its fearful leap.