Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana

Part 8 out of 8

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.0 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

have combined against him, and if they have not fabricated a
story entirely, have at least so exaggerated it, that little
confidence can be placed in it.

The next thing to be done is to show to the court and jury that the
captain is a poor man, and has a wife and family, or other friends,
depending upon him for support; that if he is fined, it will only be
taking bread from the mouths of the innocent and helpless, and laying
a burden upon them which their whole lives will not be able to work
off; and that if he is imprisoned, the confinement, to be sure,
he will have to bear, but the distress consequent upon the cutting
him off from his labor and means of earning his wages, will fall
upon a poor wife and helpless children, or upon an infirm parent.
These two topics, well put, and urged home earnestly, seldom fail
of their effect.

In deprecation of this mode of proceeding, and in behalf of men
who I believe are every day wronged by it, I would urge a few
considerations which seem to me to be conclusive.

First, as to the evidence of the good character the captain sustains
on shore. It is to be remembered that masters of vessels have usually
been brought up in a forecastle; and upon all men, and especially upon
those taken from lower situations, the conferring of absolute power is
too apt to work a great change. There are many captains whom I know
to be cruel and tyrannical men at sea, who yet, among their friends,
and in their families, have never lost the reputation they bore in
childhood. In fact, the sea-captain is seldom at home, and when
he is, his stay is short, and during the continuance of it he is
surrounded by friends who treat him with kindness and consideration,
and he has everything to please, and at the same time to restrain
him. He would be a brute indeed, if, after an absence of months
or years, during his short stay, so short that the novelty and
excitement of it has hardly time to wear off, and the attentions
he receives as a visitor and stranger hardly time to slacken,--if,
under such circumstances, a townsman or neighbor would be justified
in testifying against his correct and peaceable deportment. With
the owners of the vessel, also, to which he is attached, and among
merchants and insurers generally, he is a very different man from what
he may be at sea, when his own master, and the master of everybody
and everything about him. He knows that upon such men, and their
good opinion of him, he depends for his bread. So far from their
testimony being of any value in determining what his conduct would
be at sea, one would expect that the master who would abuse and
impose upon a man under his power, would be the most compliant
and deferential to his employers at home.

As to the appeal made in the captain's behalf on the ground of
his being poor and having persons depending upon his labor for
support, the main and fatal objection to it is, that it will
cover every case of the kind, and exempt nearly the whole body
of masters and officers from the punishment the law has provided
for them. There are very few, if any masters or other officers of
merchantmen in our country, who are not poor men, and having either
parents, wives, children, or other relatives, depending mainly or
wholly upon their exertions for support in life. Few others follow
the sea for subsistence. Now if this appeal is to have weight with
courts in diminishing the penalty the law would otherwise inflict,
is not the whole class under a privilege which will, in a degree,
protect it in wrong-doing? It is not a thing that happens now and
then. It is the invariable appeal, the last resort, of counsel,
when everything else has failed. I have known cases of the most
flagrant nature, where after every effort has been made for the
captain, and yet a verdict rendered against him, and all other
hope failed, this appeal has been urged, and with such success
that the punishment has been reduced to something little more
than nominal, the court not seeming to consider that it might be
made in almost every such case that could come before them. It is
a little singular, too, that it seems to be confined to cases
of shipmasters and officers. No one ever heard of a sentence,
for an offence committed on shore, being reduced by the court
on the ground of the prisoner's poverty, and the relation in
which he may stand to third persons. On the contrary, it had
been thought that the certainty that disgrace and suffering will
be brought upon others as well as himself, is one of the chief
restraints upon the criminally disposed. Besides, this course
works a peculiar hardship in the case of the sailor. For if
poverty is the point in question, the sailor is the poorer of the
two; and if there is a man on earth who depends upon whole limbs
and an unbroken spirit for support, it is the sailor. He, too,
has friends to whom his hard earnings may be a relief, and whose
hearts will bleed at any cruelty or indignity practised upon him.
Yet I never knew this side of the case to be once adverted to in
these arguments addressed to the leniency of the court, which are
now so much in vogue; and certainly they are never allowed a moment's
consideration when a sailor is on trial for revolt, or for an injury
done to an officer. Notwithstanding the many difficulties which
lie in a seaman's way in a court of justice, presuming that they
will be modified in time, there would be little to complain of,
were it not for these two appeals.

It is no cause of complaint that the testimony of seamen against
their officers is viewed with suspicion, and that great allowance is
made for combinations and exaggeration. On the contrary, it is the
judge's duty to charge the jury on these points strongly. But there
is reason for objection, when, after a strict cross-examination of
witnesses, after the arguments of counsel, and the judge's charge,
a verdict is found against the master, that the court should allow
the practice of hearing appeals to its lenity, supported solely by
evidence of the captain's good conduct when on shore, (especially
where the case is one in which no evidence but that of sailors could
have been brought against the accused), and then, on this ground,
and on the invariable claims of the wife and family, be induced
to cut down essentially the penalty imposed by a statute made
expressly for masters and officers of merchantmen, and for no
one else.

There are many particulars connected with the manning of vessels,
the provisions given to crews, and the treatment of them while at
sea, upon which there might be a good deal said; but as I have,
for the most part, remarked upon them as they came up in the course
of my narrative, I will offer nothing further now, except on the
single point of the manner of shipping men. This, it is well
known, is usually left entirely to the shipping-masters, and is
a cause of a great deal of difficulty, which might be remedied
by the captain, or owner, if he has any knowledge of seamen,
attending to it personally. One of the members of the firm to
which our ship belonged, Mr. S-----, had been himself a master of
a vessel, and generally selected the crew from a number sent down
to him from the shipping-office. In this way he almost always
had healthy, serviceable, and respectable men; for any one who
has seen much of sailors can tell pretty well at first sight,
by a man's dress, countenance, and deportment, what he would
be on board ship. This same gentleman was also in the habit of
seeing the crew together, and speaking to them previously to their
sailing. On the day before our ship sailed, while the crew were
getting their chests and clothes on board, he went down into the
forecastle and spoke to them about the voyage, the clothing they
would need, the provision he had made for them, and saw that they
had a lamp and a few other conveniences. If owners or masters
would more generally take the same pains, they would often save
their crews a good deal of inconvenience, beside creating a sense
of satisfaction and gratitude, which makes a voyage begin under
good auspices, and goes far toward keeping up a better state of
feeling throughout its continuance.

It only remains for me now to speak of the associated public efforts
which have been making of late years for the good of seamen: a far
more agreeable task than that of finding fault, even where fault
there is. The exertions of the general association, called the
American Seamen's Friend Society, and of the other smaller
societies throughout the Union, have been a true blessing
to the seaman; and bid fair, in course of time, to change the
whole nature of the circumstances in which he is placed, and give
him a new name, as well as a new character. These associations
have taken hold in the right way, and aimed both at making the
sailor's life more comfortable and creditable, and at giving him
spiritual instruction. Connected with these efforts, the spread of
temperance among seamen, by means of societies, called, in their own
nautical language, Windward-Anchor Societies, and the distribution
of books; the establishment of Sailors' Homes, where they can be
comfortably and cheaply boarded, live quietly and decently, and be
in the way of religious services, reading and conversation; also the
institution of Savings Banks for Seamen; the distribution of tracts
and Bibles;--are all means which are silently doing a great work for
this class of men. These societies make the religious instruction
of seamen their prominent object. If this is gained, there is no
fear but that all other things necessary will be added unto them.
A sailor never becomes interested in religion, without immediately
learning to read, if he did not know how before; and regular habits,
forehandedness (if I may use the word) in worldly affairs, and hours
reclaimed from indolence and vice, which follow in the wake of the
converted man, make it sure that he will instruct himself in the
knowledge necessary and suitable to his calling. The religious
change is the great object. If this is secured, there is no fear
but that knowledge of things of the world will come in fast enough.
With the sailor, as with all other men in fact, the cultivation of the
intellect, and the spread of what is commonly called useful knowledge,
while religious instruction is neglected, is little else than changing
an ignorant sinner into an intelligent and powerful one. That sailor
upon whom, of all others, the preaching of the Cross is least likely
to have effect, is the one whose understanding has been cultivated,
while his heart has been left to its own devices. I fully believe that
those efforts which have their end in the intellectual cultivation of
the sailor; in giving him scientific knowledge; putting it in his
power to read everything, without securing, first of all, a right
heart which shall guide him in judgment; in giving him political
information, and interesting him in newspapers;--an end in the
furtherance of which he is exhibited at ladies' fairs and public
meetings, and complimented for his gallantry and generosity,--are
all doing a harm which the labors of many faithful men cannot undo.

The establishment of Bethels in most of our own seaports, and in
many foreign ports frequented by our vessels, where the gospel is
regularly preached and the opening of "Sailors' Homes," which I have
before mentioned, where there are usually religious services and other
good influences, are doing a vast deal in this cause. But it is to be
remembered that the sailor's home is on the deep. Nearly all his life
must be spent on board ship; and to secure a religious influence there,
should be the great object. The distribution of Bibles and tracts
into cabins and forecastles, will do much toward this. There is
nothing which will gain a sailor's attention sooner, and interest
him more deeply, than a tract, especially one which contains a
story. It is difficult to engage their attention in mere essays
and arguments, but the simplest and shortest story, in which home
is spoken of, kind friends, a praying mother or sister, a sudden
death, and the like, often touches the heart of the roughest and
most abandoned. The Bible is to the sailor a sacred book. It may
lie in the bottom of his chest, voyage after voyage; but he never
treats it with positive disrespect. I never knew but one sailor
who doubted its being the inspired word of God; and he was one
who had received an uncommonly good education, except that he had
been brought up without any early religious influence. The most
abandoned man of our crew, one Sunday morning, asked one of the
boys to lend him his Bible. The boy said he would, but was afraid
he would make sport of it. "No!" said the man, "I don't make sport
of God Almighty." This is a feeling general among sailors, and is
a good foundation for religious influence.

A still greater gain is made whenever, by means of a captain who
is interested in the eternal welfare of those under his command,
there can be secured the performance of regular religious exercises,
and the exertion, on the side of religion, of that mighty influence which
a captain possesses for good, or for evil. There are occurrences at sea
which he may turn to great account,--a sudden death, the apprehension
of danger, or the escape from it, and the like; and all the calls
for gratitude and faith. Besides, this state of thing alters the
whole current of feeling between the crew and their commander.
His authority assumes more of the parental character; and kinder
feelings exist. Godwin, though an infidel, in one of his novels,
describing the relation in which a tutor stood to his pupil, says
that the conviction the tutor was under, that he and his ward were
both alike awaiting a state of eternal happiness or misery, and that
they must appear together before the same judgment-seat, operated so
upon his naturally morose disposition, as to produce a feeling of
kindness and tenderness toward his ward, which nothing else could
have caused. Such must be the effect upon the relation of master
and common seaman.

There are now many vessels sailing under such auspices, in which
great good is done. Yet I never happened to fall in with one of
them. I did not hear a prayer made, a chapter read in public,
nor see anything approaching to a religious service, for two
years and a quarter. There were, in the course of the voyage,
many incidents which made, for the time, serious impressions upon
our minds, and which might have been turned to our good; but there
being no one to use the opportunity, and no services, the regular
return of which might have kept something of the feeling alive
in us, the advantage of them was lost, to some, perhaps, forever.

The good which a single religious captain may do can hardly be
calculated. In the first place, as I have said, a kinder state
of feeling exists on board the ship. There is no profanity allowed;
and the men are not called by any opprobrious names, which is a great
thing with sailors. The Sabbath is observed. This gives the men a
day of rest, even if they pass it in no other way. Such a captain,
too, will not allow a sailor on board his ship to remain unable to
read his Bible and the books given to him; and will usually instruct
those who need it, in writing, arithmetic, and navigation; since he
has a good deal of time on his hands, which he can easily employ in
such a manner. He will also have regular religious services; and,
in fact, by the power of his example, and, where it can judiciously
be done, by the exercise of his authority, will give a character
to the ship and all on board. In foreign ports, a ship is known
by her captain; for, there being no general rules in the merchant
service, each master may adopt a plan of his own. It is to be
remembered, too, that there are, in most ships, boys of a tender
age, whose characters for life are forming, as well as old men,
whose lives must be drawing toward a close. The greater part of
sailors die at sea; and when they find their end approaching,
if it does not, as is often the case, come without warning,
they cannot, as on shore, send for a clergyman, or some religious
friend, to speak to them of that hope in a Saviour, which they
have neglected, if not despised, through life; but if the little
hull does not contain such an one within its compass, they must
be left without human aid in their great extremity. When such
commanders and such ships, as I have just described, shall become
more numerous, the hope of the friends of seamen will be greatly
strengthened; and it is encouraging to remember that the efforts
among common sailors will soon raise up such a class; for those of
them who are brought under these influences will inevitably be the
ones to succeed to the places of trust and authority. If there is
on earth an instance where a little leaven may leaven the whole
lump, it is that of the religious shipmaster.

It is to the progress of this work among seamen that we must look
with the greatest confidence for the remedying of those numerous
minor evils and abuses that we so often hear of. It will raise
the character of sailors, both as individuals and as a class.
It will give weight to their testimony in courts of justice,
secure better usage to them on board ship, and add comforts to
their lives on shore and at sea. There are some laws that can
be passed to remove temptation from their way and to help them
in their progress; and some changes in the jurisdiction of the
lower courts, to prevent delays, may, and probably will, be made.
But, generally speaking, more especially in things which concern
the discipline of ships, we had better labor in this great work,
and view with caution the proposal of new laws and arbitrary
regulations, remembering that most of those concerned in the
making of them must necessarily be little qualified to judge
of their operation.

Without any formal dedication of my narrative to that body of men,
of whose common life it is intended to be a picture, I have yet
borne them constantly in mind during its preparation. I cannot
but trust that those of them, into whose hands it may chance to
fall, will find in it that which shall render any professions of
sympathy and good wishes on my part unnecessary. And I will take
the liberty, on parting with my reader, who has gone down with us
to the ocean, and "laid his hand upon its mane," to commend to his
kind wishes, and to the benefit of his efforts, that class of men
with whom, for a time, my lot was cast. I wish the rather to do
this, since I feel that whatever attention this book may gain,
and whatever favor it may find, I shall owe almost entirely to
that interest in the sea, and those who follow it, which is so
easily excited in us all.


It was in the winter of 1835-6 that the ship Alert, in the prosecution
of her voyage for hides on the remote and almost unknown coast
of California, floated into the vast solitude of the Bay of San
Francisco. All around was the stillness of nature. One vessel,
a Russian, lay at anchor there, but during our whole stay not a
sail came or went. Our trade was with remote Missions, which sent
hides to us in launches manned by their Indians. Our anchorage was
between a small island, called Yerba Buena, and a gravel beach
in a little bight or cove of the same name, formed by two small
projecting points. Beyond, to the westward of the landing-place,
were dreary sand-hills, with little grass to be seen, and few trees,
and beyond them higher hills, steep and barren, their sides gullied
by the rains. Some five or six miles beyond the landing-place,
to the right, was a ruinous Presidio, and some three or four miles
to the left was the Mission of Dolores, as ruinous as the Presidio,
almost deserted, with but few Indians attached to it, and but little
property in cattle. Over a region far beyond our sight there were
no other human habitations, except that an enterprising Yankee,
years in advance of his time, had put up, on the rising ground
above the landing, a shanty of rough boards, where he carried on
a very small retail trade between the hide ships and the Indians.
Vast banks of fog, invading us from the North Pacific, drove in
through the entrance, and covered the whole bay; and when they
disappeared, we saw a few well-wooded islands, the sand-hills on
the west, the grassy and wooded slopes on the east, and the vast
stretch of the bay to the southward, where we were told lay the
Missions of Santa Clara and San José, and still longer stretches to
the northward and northeastward, where we understood smaller bays
spread out, and large rivers poured in their tributes of waters.
There were no settlements on these bays or rivers, and the few
ranchos and Missions were remote and widely separated. Not only
the neighborhood of our anchorage, but the entire region of the
great bay, was a solitude. On the whole coast of California there
was not a lighthouse, a beacon, or a buoy, and the charts were
made up from old and disconnected surveys by British, Russian,
and Mexican voyagers. Birds of prey and passage swooped and
dived about us, wild beasts ranged through the oak groves, and as
we slowly floated out of the harbor with the tide, herds of deer
came to the water's edge, on the northerly side of the entrance,
to gaze at the strange spectacle.

On the evening of Saturday, the 13th of August, 1859, the superb
steamship Golden Gate, gay with crowds of passengers, and lighting
the sea for miles around with the glare of her signal lights of red,
green, and white, and brilliant with lighted saloons and staterooms,
bound up from the Isthmus of Panama, neared the entrance to San
Francisco, the great centre of a world-wide commerce. Miles out at
sea, on the desolate rocks of the Farallones, gleamed the powerful
rays of one of the most costly and effective light-houses in the
world. As we drew in through the Golden Gate, another light-house
met our eyes, and in the clear moonlight of the unbroken California
summer we saw, on the right, a large fortification protecting the
narrow entrance, and just before us the little island of Alcatraz
confronted us,--one entire fortress. We bore round the point toward
the old anchoring-ground of the hide ships, and there, covering the
sand-hills and the valleys, stretching from the water's edge to the
base of the great hills, and from the old Presidio to the Mission,
flickering all over with the lamps of its streets and houses, lay a
city of one hundred thousand inhabitants. Clocks tolled the hour
of midnight from its steeples, but the city was alive from the salute
of our guns, spreading the news that the fortnightly steamer had come,
bringing mails and passengers from the Atlantic world. Clipper ships
of the largest size lay at anchor in the stream, or were girt to
the wharves; and capacious high-pressure steamers, as large and
showy as those of the Hudson or Mississippi, bodies of dazzling
light, awaited the delivery of our mails to take their courses up
the Bay, stopping at Benicia and the United States Naval Station,
and then up the great tributaries--the Sacramento, San Joaquin,
and Feather Rivers--to the far inland cities of Sacramento,
Stockton, and Marysville.

The dock into which we drew, and the streets about it, were densely
crowded with express wagons and hand-carts to take luggage, coaches and
cabs for passengers, and with men,--some looking out for friends among
our hundreds of passengers,--agents of the press, and a greater
multitude eager for newspapers and verbal intelligence from the
great Atlantic and European world. Through this crowd I made
my way, along the well-built and well-lighted streets, as alive
as by day, where boys in high-keyed voices were already crying
the latest New York papers; and between one and two o'clock in
the morning found myself comfortably abed in a commodious room,
in the Oriental Hotel, which stood, as well as I could learn,
on the filled-up cove, and not far from the spot where we used
to beach our boats from the Alert.

Sunday, August 14th. When I awoke in the morning, and looked from
my windows over the city of San Francisco, with its storehouses,
towers, and steeples; its court-houses, theatres, and hospitals; its
daily journals; its well-filled learned professions; its fortresses
and light-houses; its wharves and harbor, with their thousand-ton
clipper ships, more in number than London or Liverpool sheltered
that day, itself one of the capitals of the American Republic,
and the sole emporium of a new world, the awakened Pacific; when I
looked across the bay to the eastward, and beheld a beautiful town
on the fertile, wooded shores of the Contra Costa, and steamers,
large and small, the ferryboats to the Contra Costa, and capacious
freighters and passenger-carriers to all parts of the great bay and
its tributaries, with lines of their smoke in the horizon,--when
I saw all these things, and reflected on what I once was and saw
here, and what now surrounded me, I could scarcely keep my hold on
reality at all, or the genuineness of anything, and seemed to myself
like one who had moved in "worlds not realized."

I could not complain that I had not a choice of places of worship.
The Roman Catholics have an archbishop, a cathedral, and five
or six smaller churches, French, German, Spanish, and English;
and the Episcopalians, a bishop, a cathedral, and three other
churches; the Methodists and Presbyterians have three or four
each, and there are Congregationalists, Baptists, a Unitarian,
and other societies. On my way to church, I met two classmates
of mine at Harvard standing in a door-way, one a lawyer and the
other a teacher, and made appointments for a future meeting. A
little farther on I came upon another Harvard man, a fine scholar
and wit, and full of cleverness and good-humor, who invited me to
go to breakfast with him at the French house--he was a bachelor,
and a late riser on Sundays. I asked him to show me the way to
Bishop Kip's church. He hesitated, looked a little confused,
and admitted that he was not as well up in certain classes of
knowledge as in others, but, by a desperate guess, pointed out
a wooden building at the foot of the street, which any one
might have seen could not be right, and which turned out to be
an African Baptist meeting-house. But my friend had many capital
points of character, and I owed much of the pleasure of my visit
to his attentions.

The congregation at the Bishop's church was precisely like one
you would meet in New York, Philadelphia, or Boston. To be sure,
the identity of the service makes one feel at once at home, but the
people were alike, nearly all of the English race, though from all
parts of the Union. The latest French bonnets were at the head
of the chief pews, and business men at the foot. The music was
without character, but there was an instructive sermon, and the
church was full.

I found that there were no services at any of the Protestant
churches in the afternoon. They have two services on Sunday;
at 11 A. M., and after dark. The afternoon is spent at home,
or in friendly visiting, or teaching of Sunday Schools, or other
humane and social duties.

This is as much the practice with what at home are called the
strictest denominations as with any others. Indeed, I found
individuals, as well as public bodies, affected in a marked
degree by a change of oceans and by California life. One Sunday
afternoon I was surprised at receiving the card of a man whom I
had last known, some fifteen years ago, as a strict and formal
deacon of a Congregational Society in New England. He was a deacon
still, in San Francisco, a leader in all pious works, devoted to
his denomination and to total abstinence,--the same internally,
but externally--what a change! Gone was the downcast eye, the
bated breath, the solemn, non-natural voice, the watchful gait,
stepping as if he felt responsible for the balance of the moral
universe! He walked with a stride, an uplifted open countenance,
his face covered with beard, whiskers, and mustache, his voice
strong and natural;--and, in short, he had put off the New
England deacon and become a human being. In a visit of an hour
I learned much from him about the religious societies, the moral
reforms, the "Dashaways,"--total abstinence societies, which had
taken strong hold on the young and wilder parts of society,--and
then of the Vigilance Committee, of which he was a member, and of
more secular points of interest.

In one of the parlors of the hotel, I saw a man of about sixty years
of age, with his feet bandaged and resting in a chair, whom somebody
addressed by the name of Lies.(1) Lies! thought I, that must be the

1. Pronounced _Leese_.

man who came across the country from Kentucky to Monterey while
we lay there in the Pilgrim in 1835, and made a passage in the
Alert, when he used to shoot with his rifle bottles hung from the
top-gallant studding-sail-boom-ends. He married the beautiful Doña
Rosalía Vallejo, sister of Don Guadalupe. There were the old high
features and sandy hair. I put my chair beside him, and began
conversation, as any one may do in California. Yes, he was the
Mr. Lies; and when I gave my name he professed at once to remember
me, and spoke of my book. I found that almost--I might perhaps say
quite--every American in California had read it; for when California
"broke out," as the phrase is, in 1848, and so large a portion of the
Anglo-Saxon race flocked to it, there was no book upon California
but mine. Many who were on the coast at the time the book refers
to, and afterwards read it, and remembered the Pilgrim and Alert,
thought they also remembered me. But perhaps more did remember
me than I was inclined at first to believe, for the novelty of a
collegian coming out before the mast had drawn more attention to
me than I was aware of at the time.

Late in the afternoon, as there were vespers at the Roman Catholic
churches, I went to that of Notre Dame des Victoires. The congregation
was French, and a sermon in French was preached by an Abbé; the music
was excellent, all things airy and tasteful, and making one feel as if
in one of the chapels in Paris. The Cathedral of St. Mary, which I
afterwards visited, where the Irish attend, was a contrast indeed,
and more like one of our stifling Irish Catholic churches in Boston
or New York, with intelligence in so small a proportion to the number
of faces. During the three Sundays I was in San Francisco, I visited
three of the Episcopal churches, and the Congregational, a Chinese
Mission Chapel, and on the Sabbath (Saturday) a Jewish synagogue.
The Jews are a wealthy and powerful class here. The Chinese, too,
are numerous, and do a great part of the manual labor and small
shop-keeping, and have some wealthy mercantile houses.

It is noticeable that European Continental fashions prevail generally
in this city,--French cooking, lunch at noon, and dinner at the end
of the day, with café noir after meals, and to a great extent the
European Sunday,--to all which emigrants from the United States and
Great Britain seem to adapt themselves. Some dinners which were given
to me at French restaurants were, it seemed to me,--a poor judge of
such matters, to be sure,--as sumptuous and as good, in dishes and
wines, as I have found in Paris. But I had a relish-maker which my
friends at table did not suspect--the remembrance of the forecastle
dinners I ate here twenty-four years before.

August 17th. The customs of California are free; and any person who
knows about my book speaks to me. The newspapers have announced the
arrival of the veteran pioneer of all. I hardly walk out without
meeting or making acquaintances. I have already been invited to
deliver the anniversary oration before the Pioneer Society, to
celebrate the settlement of San Francisco. Any man is qualified
for election into the society who came to California before 1853.
What moderns they are! I tell them of the time when Richardson's
shanty of 1835--not his adobe house of 1836--was the only human
habitation between the Mission and the Presidio, and when the vast
bay, with all its tributaries and recesses, was a solitude,--and
yet I am but little past forty years of age. They point out the
place where Richardson's adobe house stood, and tell me that the
first court and first town council were convened in it, the first
Protestant worship performed in it, and in it the first capital
trial by the Vigilance Committee held. I am taken down to
the wharves, by antiquaries of a ten or twelve years' range,
to identify the two points, now known as Clark's and Rincon,
which formed the little cove of Yerba Buena, where we used to
beach our boats,--now filled up and built upon. The island we
called "Wood Island," where we spent the cold days and nights
of December, in our launch, getting wood for our year's supply,
is clean shorn of trees; and the bare rocks of Alcatraz Island,
an entire fortress. I have looked at the city from the water
and islands from the city, but I can see nothing that recalls the
times gone by, except the venerable Mission, the ruinous Presidio,
the high hills in the rear of the town, and the great stretches of
the bay in all directions.

To-day I took a California horse of the old style,--the run, the
loping gait,--and visited the Presidio. The walls stand as they
did, with some changes made to accommodate a small garrison of
United States troops. It has a noble situation, and I saw from
it a clipper ship of the very largest class, coming through the
Gate, under her fore-and-aft sails. Thence I rode to the Fort,
now nearly finished, on the southern shore of the Gate, and made an
inspection of it. It is very expensive and of the latest style.
One of the engineers here is Custis Lee, who has just left West
Point at the head of his class,--a son of Colonel Robert E. Lee,
who distinguished himself in the Mexican War.

Another morning I ride to the Mission Dolores. It has a strangely
solitary aspect, enhanced by its surroundings of the most uncongenial,
rapidly growing modernisms; the hoar of ages surrounded by the
brightest, slightest, and rapidest of modern growths. Its old
belfries still clanged with the discordant bells, and Mass was
saying within, for it is used as a place of worship for the
extreme south part of the city.

In one of my walks about the wharves, I found a pile of dry hides
lying by the side of a vessel. Here was something to feelingly
persuade me what I had been, to recall a past scarce credible to
myself. I stood lost in reflection. What were these hides--what
were they not?--to us, to me, a boy, twenty-four years ago?
These were our constant labor, our chief object, our almost
habitual thought. They brought us out here, they kept us here,
and it was only by getting them that we could escape from the
coast and return to home and civilized life. If it had not been
that I might be seen, I should have seized one, slung it over my
head, walked off with it, and thrown it by the old toss--I do not
believe yet a lost art--to the ground. How they called up to my
mind the months of curing at San Diego, the year and more of beach
and surf work, and the steering of the ship for home! I was in a
dream of San Diego, San Pedro--with its hills so steep for taking
up goods, and its stones so hard to our bare feet--and the cliffs
of San Juan! All this, too, is no more! The entire hide-business
is of the past, and to the present inhabitants of California a dim
tradition. The gold discoveries drew off all men from the gathering
or cure of hides, the inflowing population made an end of the
great droves of cattle; and now not a vessel pursues the--I was
about to say dear--the dreary once hated business of gathering
hides upon the coast, and the beach of San Diego is abandoned and
its hide-houses have disappeared. Meeting a respectable-looking
citizen on the wharf, I inquired of him how the hide-trade was
carried on. "O," said he, "there is very little of it, and that
is all here. The few that are brought in are placed under
sheds in winter, or left out on the wharf in summer, and are
loaded from the wharves into the vessels alongside. They form
parts of cargoes of other materials." I really felt too much,
at the instant, to express to him the cause of my interest in
the subject, and only added, "Then the old business of trading
up and down the coast and curing hides for cargoes is all over?"
"O yes, sir," said he, "those old times of the Pilgrim and Alert
and California, that we read about, are gone by."

Saturday, August 20th. The steamer Senator makes regular trips up
and down the coast, between San Francisco and San Diego, calling
at intermediate ports. This is my opportunity to revisit the
old scenes. She sails to-day, and I am off, steaming among the
great clippers anchored in the harbor, and gliding rapidly round
the point, past Alcatraz Island, the light-house, and through the
fortified Golden Gate, and bending to the southward,--all done in
two or three hours, which, in the Alert, under canvas, with head
tides, variable winds, and sweeping currents to deal with, took us
full two days.

Among the passengers I noticed an elderly gentleman, thin, with
sandy hair and face that seemed familiar. He took off his glove
and showed one shrivelled hand. It must be he! I went to him
and said, "Captain Wilson, I believe." Yes, that was his name.
"I knew you, sir, when you commanded the Ayacucho on this coast,
in old hide-droghing times, in 1835-6." He was quickened by this,
and at once inquiries were made on each side, and we were in full talk
about the Pilgrim and Alert, Ayacucho and Loriotte, the California
and Lagoda. I found he had been very much flattered by the praise
I had bestowed in my book on his seamanship, especially in bringing
the Pilgrim to her berth in San Diego harbor, after she had drifted
successively into the Lagoda and Loriotte, and was coming into him.
I had made a pet of his brig, the Ayacucho, which pleased him almost
as much as my remembrance of his bride and their wedding, which I
saw at Santa Barbara in 1836. Doña Ramona was now the mother of
a large family, and Wilson assured me that if I would visit him
at his rancho, near San Luis Obispo, I should find her still
a handsome woman, and very glad to see me. How we walked the
deck together, hour after hour, talking over the old times,--the
ships, the captains, the crews, the traders on shore, the ladies,
the Missions, the south-easters! indeed, where could we stop? He
had sold the Ayacucho in Chili for a vessel of war, and had given up
the sea, and had been for years a ranchero. (I learned from others
that he had become one of the most wealthy and respectable farmers
in the State, and that his rancho was well worth visiting.) Thompson,
he said, hadn't the sailor in him; and he never could laugh enough at
his fiasco in San Diego, and his reception by Bradshaw. Faucon was a
sailor and a navigator. He did not know what had become of George
Marsh (ante, pp. 199-202, 252), except that he left him in Callao;
nor could he tell me anything of handsome Bill Jackson (ante,
p. 86), nor of Captain Nye of the Loriotte. I told him all I
then knew of the ships, the masters, and the officers. I found he
had kept some run of my history, and needed little information.
Old Señor Noriego of Santa Barbara, he told me, was dead, and Don
Carlos and Don Santiago, but I should find their children there,
now in middle life. Doña Augustia, he said, I had made famous by
my praises of her beauty and dancing, and I should have from her a
royal reception. She had been a widow, and remarried since, and had
a daughter as handsome as herself. The descendants of Noriego had
taken the ancestral name of De la Guerra, as they were nobles of
Old Spain by birth; and the boy Pablo, who used to make passages
in the Alert, was now Don Pablo de la Guerra, a Senator in the
State Legislature for Santa Barbara County.

The points in the country, too, he noticed, as he passed them,
--Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Point Año Nuevo, the opening
to Monterey, which to my disappointment we did not visit.
No; Monterey, the prettiest town on the coast, and its capital
and seat of customs, had got no advantage from the great changes,
was out of the way of commerce and of the travel to the mines and
great rivers, and was not worth stopping at. Point Conception
we passed in the night, a cheery light gleaming over the waters
from its tar light-house, standing on its outermost peak. Point
Conception! That word was enough to recall all our experiences
and dreads of gales, swept decks, topmast carried away, and the
hardships of a coast service in the winter. But Captain Wilson
tells me that the climate has altered; that the southeasters are
no longer the bane of the coast they once were, and that vessels
now anchor inside the kelp at Santa Barbara and San Pedro all the
year round. I should have thought this owing to his spending his
winters on a rancho instead of the deck of the Ayacucho, had not
the same thing been told me by others.

Passing round Point Conception, and steering easterly, we opened
the islands that form, with the main-land, the canal of Santa
Barbara. There they are, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa; and there is the
beautiful point, Santa Buenaventura; and there lies Santa Barbara
on its plain, with its amphitheatre of high hills and distant
mountains. There is the old white Mission with its belfries,
and there the town, with its one-story adobe houses, with here
and there a two-story wooden house of later build; yet little is
it altered,--the same repose in the golden sunlight and glorious
climate, sheltered by its hills; and then, more remindful than
anything else, there roars and tumbles upon the beach the same
grand surf of the great Pacific as on the beautiful day when
the Pilgrim, after her five months' voyage, dropped her weary
anchors here; the same bright blue ocean, and the surf making
just the same monotonous, melancholy roar, and the same dreamy
town, and gleaming white Mission, as when we beached our boats
for the first time, riding over the breakers with shouting Kanakas,
the three small hide-traders lying at anchor in the offing. But now
we are the only vessel, and that an unromantic, sail-less, spar-less,
engine-driven hulk!

I landed in the surf, in the old style, but it was not high enough
to excite us, the only change being that I was somehow unaccountably
a passenger, and did not have to jump overboard and steady the boat,
and run her up by the gunwales.

Santa Barbara has gained but little. I should not know, from anything
I saw, that she was now a seaport of the United States, a part of the
enterprising Yankee nation, and not still a lifeless Mexican town.
At the same old house, where Señor Noriego lived, on the piazza in
front of the court-yard, where was the gay scene of the marriage
of our agent, Mr. Robinson, to Doña Anita, where Don Juan Bandini
and Doña Augustia danced, Don Pablo de la Guerra received me in a
courtly fashion. I passed the day with the family, and in walking
about the place; and ate the old dinner with its accompaniments
of frijoles, native olives and grapes, and native wines. In due
time I paid my respects to Doña Augustia, and notwithstanding
what Wilson told me, I could hardly believe that after twenty-
four years there would still be so much of the enchanting woman
about her.

She thanked me for the kind and, as she called them, greatly exaggerated
compliments I had paid her; and her daughter told me that all travellers
who came to Santa Barbara called to see her mother, and that she herself
never expected to live long enough to be a belle.

Mr. Alfred Robinson, our agent in 1835-6, was here, with a part of
his family. I did not know how he would receive me, remembering
what I had printed to the world about him at a time when I took
little thought that the world was going to read it; but there was
no sign of offence, only cordiality which gave him, as between us,
rather the advantage in status.

The people of this region are giving attention to sheep-raising,
wine-making, and the raising of olives, just enough to keep the
town from going backwards.

But evening is drawing on, and our boat sails to-night. So,
refusing a horse or carriage, I walk down, not unwilling to be a
little early, that I may pace up and down the beach, looking off
to the islands and the points, and watching the roaring, tumbling
billows. How softening is the effect of time! It touches us
through the affections. I almost feel as if I were lamenting the
passing away of something loved and dear,--the boats, the Kanakas,
the hides, my old shipmates. Death, change, distance, lend them
a character which makes them quite another thing from the vulgar,
wearisome toil of uninteresting, forced manual labour.

The breeze freshened as we stood out to sea, and the wild waves
rolled over the red sun, on the broad horizon of the Pacific;
but it is summer, and in summer there can be no bad weather in
California. Every day is pleasant. Nature forbids a drop of
rain to fall by day or night, or a wind to excite itself beyond
a fresh summer breeze.

The next morning we found ourselves at anchor in the Bay of
San Pedro. Here was this hated, this thoroughly detested spot.
Although we lay near, I could scarce recognize the hill up which
we rolled and dragged and pushed and carried our heavy loads,
and down which we pitched the hides, to carry them barefooted
over the rocks to the floating long-boat. It was no longer
the landing-place. One had been made at the head of the creek,
and boats discharged and took off cargoes from a mole or wharf,
in a quiet place, safe from southeasters. A tug ran to take off
passengers from the steamer to the wharf,--for the trade of Los
Angeles is sufficient to support such a vessel. I got the captain
to land me privately, in a small boat, at the old place by the hill.
I dismissed the boat, and, alone, found my way to the high ground.
I say found my way, for neglect and weather had left but few
traces of the steep road the hide-vessels had built to the top.
The cliff off which we used to throw the hides, and where I spent
nights watching them, was more easily found. The population was
doubled, that is to say, there were two houses, instead of one,
on the hill. I stood on the brow and looked out toward the offing,
the Santa Catalina Island, and, nearer, the melancholy Dead Man's
Island, with its painful tradition, and recalled the gloomy days
that followed the flogging, and fancied the Pilgrim at anchor in
the offing. But the tug is going toward our steamer, and I must
awake and be off. I walked along the shore to the new landing-place,
where were two or three store-houses and other buildings, forming a
small depot; and a stage-coach, I found, went daily between this place
and the Pueblo. I got a seat on the top of the coach, to which were
tackled six little less than wild California horses. Each horse had
a man at his head, and when the driver had got his reins in hand he
gave the word, all the horses were let go at once, and away they
went on a spring, tearing over the ground, the driver only keeping
them from going the wrong way, for they had a wide, level pampa
to run over the whole thirty miles to the Pueblo. This plain is
almost treeless, with no grass, at least none now in the drought
of mid-summer, and is filled with squirrel-holes, and alive with
squirrels. As we changed horses twice, we did not slacken our
speed until we turned into the streets of the Pueblo.

The Pueblo de los Angeles I found a large and flourishing town of
about twenty thousand inhabitants, with brick sidewalks, and blocks
of stone or brick houses. The three principal traders when we
were here for hides in the Pilgrim and Alert are still among the
chief traders of the place,--Stearns, Temple, and Warner, the two
former being reputed very rich. I dined with Mr. Stearns, now a
very old man, and met there Don Juan Bandini, to whom I had given
a good deal of notice in my book. From him, as indeed from every
one in this town, I met with the kindest attentions. The wife of
Don Juan, who was a beautiful young girl when we were on the coast,
Doña Refugio, daughter of Don Santiago Argüello, the commandante
of San Diego, was with him, and still handsome. This is one of
several instances I have noticed of the preserving quality of the
California climate. Here, too, was Henry Mellus, who came out with
me before the mast in the Pilgrim, and left the brig to be agent's
clerk on shore. He had experienced varying fortunes here, and was
now married to a Mexican lady, and had a family. I dined with
him, and in the afternoon he drove me round to see the vineyards,
the chief objects in this region. The vintage of last year was
estimated at half a million of gallons. Every year new square
miles of ground are laid down to vineyards, and the Pueblo promises
to be the centre of one of the largest wine-producing regions in
the world. Grapes are a drug here, and I found a great abundance
of figs, olives, peaches, pears, and melons. The climate is well
suited to these fruits, but is too hot and dry for successful
wheat crops.

Towards evening, we started off in the stage coach, with again
our relays of six mad horses, and reached the creek before dark,
though it was late at night before we got on board the steamer,
which was slowly moving her wheels, under way for San Diego.

As we skirted along the coast, Wilson and I recognized, or thought
we did, in the clear moonlight, the rude white Mission of San Juan
Capistrano, and its cliff, from which I had swung down by a pair of
halyards to save a few hides,--a boy who could not be prudential,
and who caught at every chance for adventure.

As we made the high point off San Diego, Point Loma, we were
greeted by the cheering presence of a light-house. As we swept
round it in the early morning, there, before us, lay the little
harbor of San Diego, its low spit of sand, where the water runs
so deep; the opposite flats, where the Alert grounded in starting
for home; the low hills, without trees, and almost without brush;
the quiet little beach;--but the chief objects, the hide houses,
my eye looked for in vain. They were gone, all, and left no mark

I wished to be alone, so I let the other passengers go up to the
town, and was quietly pulled ashore in a boat, and left to myself.
The recollections and the emotions all were sad, and only sad.

Fugit, interea fugit irreparabile tempus.

The past was real. The present, all about me, was unreal,
unnatural, repellant. I saw the big ships lying in the stream,
the Alert, the California, the Rosa, with her Italians; then the
handsome Ayacucho, my favorite; the poor, dear old Pilgrim, the
home of hardship and hopelessness; the boats passing to and fro;
the cries of the sailors at the capstan or falls; the peopled
beach; the large hide-houses with their gangs of men; and the
Kanakas interspersed everywhere. All, all were gone! not a
vestige to mark where one hide-house stood. The oven, too,
was gone. I searched for its site, and found, where I thought
it should be, a few broken bricks and bits of mortar. I alone
was left of all, and how strangely was I here! What changes to
me! Where were they all? Why should I care for them,--poor
Kanakas and sailors, the refuse of civilization, the outlaws
and beach-combers of the Pacific! Time and death seemed to
transfigure them. Doubtless nearly all were dead; but how had
they died, and where? In hospitals, in fever-climes, in dens
of vice, or falling from the mast, or dropping exhausted from
the wreck,--

"When for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,
Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown."

The light-hearted boys are now hardened middle-aged men, if the
seas, rocks, fevers, and the deadlier enemies that beset a sailor's
life on shore have spared them; and the then strong men have bowed
themselves, and the earth or sea has covered them.

Even the animals are gone,--the colony of dogs, the broods of
poultry, the useful horses; but the coyotes bark still in the
woods, for they belong not to man, and are not touched by his

I walked slowly up the hill, finding my way among the few bushes,
for the path was long grown over, and sat down where we used to
rest in carrying our burdens of wood, and to look out for vessels
that might, though so seldom, be coming down from the windward.

To rally myself by calling to mind my own better fortune and nobler
lot, and cherished surroundings at home, was impossible. Borne down
by depression, the day being yet at its noon, and the sun over the
old point--it is four miles to the town, the Presidio,--I have walked
it often, and can do it once more,--I passed the familiar objects,
and it seemed to me that I remembered them better than those of any
other place I had ever been in;--the opening to the little cave;
the low hills where we cut wood and killed rattlesnakes, and where
our dogs chased the coyotes; and the black ground where so many
of the ship's crew and beach-combers used to bring up on their
return at the end of a liberty day, and spend the night sub Jove.

The little town of San Diego has undergone no change whatever that
I can see. It certainly has not grown. It is still, like Santa
Barbara, a Mexican town. The four principal houses of the gente
de razon--of the Bandinis, Estudillos, Argüellos, and Picos--are
the chief houses now; but all the gentlemen--and their families,
too, I believe--are gone. The big vulgar shop-keeper and trader,
Fitch, is long since dead; Tom Wrightington, who kept the rival
pulpería, fell from his horse when drunk, and was found nearly
eaten up by coyotes; and I can scarce find a person whom I remember.
I went into a familiar one-story adobe house, with its piazza and
earthen floor, inhabited by a respectable lower-class family by
the name of Muchado, and inquired if any of the family remained,
when a bright-eyed middle-aged woman recognized me, for she had
heard I was on board the steamer, and told me she had married a
shipmate of mine, Jack Stewart, who went out as second mate the next
voyage, but left the ship and married and settled here. She said he
wished very much to see me. In a few minutes he came in, and his
sincere pleasure in meeting me was extremely grateful. We talked
over old times as long as I could afford to. I was glad to hear
that he was sober and doing well. Doña Tomasa Pico I found and
talked with. She was the only person of the old upper class that
remained on the spot, if I rightly recollect. I found an American
family here, with whom I dined,--Doyle and his wife, nice young
people, Doyle agent for the great line of coaches to run to the
frontier of the old States.

I must complete my acts of pious remembrance, so I take a horse
and make a run out to the old Mission, where Ben Stimson and I
went the first liberty day we had after we left Boston (ante,
p. 115). All has gone to decay. The buildings are unused and
ruinous, and the large gardens show now only wild cactuses, willows,
and a few olive-trees. A fast run brings me back in time to take
leave of the few I knew and who knew me, and to reach the steamer
before she sails. A last look--yes, last for life--to the beach,
the hills, the low point, the distant town, as we round Point
Loma and the first beams of the light-house strike out towards
the setting sun.

Wednesday, August 24th. At anchor at San Pedro by daylight.
But instead of being roused out of the forecastle to row the
long-boat ashore and bring off a load of hides before breakfast,
we were served with breakfast in the cabin, and again took our
drive with the wild horses to the Pueblo and spent the day;
seeing nearly the same persons as before, and again getting back
by dark. We steamed again for Santa Barbara, where we only lay
an hour, and passed through its canal and round Point Conception,
stopping at San Luis Obispo to land my friend, as I may truly call
him after this long passage together, Captain Wilson, whose most
earnest invitation to stop here and visit him at his rancho I was
obliged to decline.

Friday evening, 26th August, we entered the Golden Gate, passed the
light-houses and forts, and clipper ships at anchor, and came to our
dock, with this great city, on its high hills and rising surfaces,
brilliant before us, and full of eager life.

Making San Francisco my head-quarters, I paid visits to various
parts of the State,--down the Bay to Santa Clara, with its live
oaks and sycamores, and its Jesuit College for boys; and San
José, where is the best girls' school in the State, kept by the
Sisters of Notre Dame,--a town now famous for a year's session of
"The legislature of a thousand drinks,"--and thence to the rich
Almaden quicksilver mines, returning on the Contra Costa side
through the rich agricultural country, with its ranchos and the
vast grants of the Castro and Soto families, where farming and
fruit-raising are done on so large a scale. Another excursion
was up the San Joaquin to Stockton, a town of some ten thousand
inhabitants, a hundred miles from San Francisco, and crossing the
Tuolumne and Stanislaus and Merced, by the little Spanish town
of Hornitos, and Snelling's Tavern, at the ford of the Merced,
where so many fatal fights are had. Thence I went to Mariposa
County, and Colonel Fremont's mines, and made an interesting
visit to "the Colonel," as he is called all over the country,
and Mrs. Fremont, a heroine equal to either fortune, the salons
of Paris and the drawing-rooms of New York and Washington, or the
roughest life of the remote and wild mining regions of Mariposa,--with
their fine family of spirited, clever children. After a rest there,
we went on to Clark's Camp and the Big Trees, where I measured one
tree ninety-seven feet in circumference without its bark, and the
bark is usually eighteen inches thick; and rode through another which
lay on the ground, a shell, with all the insides out--rode through
it mounted, and sitting at full height in the saddle; then to the
wonderful Yo Semite Valley,--itself a stupendous miracle of nature,
with its Dome, its Capitan, its walls of three thousand feet of
perpendicular height,--but a valley of streams, of waterfalls from
the torrent to the mere shimmer of a bridal veil, only enough to
reflect a rainbow, with their plunges of twenty-five hundred feet,
or their smaller falls of eight hundred, with nothing at the base
but thick mists, which form and trickle, and then run and at last
plunge into the blue Merced that flows through the centre of the
valley. Back by the Coulterville trail, the peaks of Sierra Nevada
in sight, across the North Fork of the Merced, by Gentry's Gulch,
over hills and through cañons, to Fremont's again, and thence to
Stockton and San Francisco--all this at the end of August, when
there has been no rain for four months, and the air is dear and
very hot, and the ground perfectly dry; windmills, to raise water for
artificial irrigation of small patches, seen all over the landscape,
while we travel through square miles of hot dust, where they tell
us, and truly that in winter and early spring we should be up to
our knees in flowers; a country, too, where surface gold-digging
is so common and unnoticed that the large, six-horse stage-coach,
in which I travelled from Stockton to Hornitos, turned off in the
high road for a Chinaman, who, with his pan and washer, was working
up a hole which an American had abandoned, but where the minute
and patient industry of the Chinaman averaged a few dollars a day.

These visits were so full of interest, with grandeurs and humors
of all sorts, that I am strongly tempted to describe them. But I
remember that I am not to write a journal of a visit over the new
California, but to sketch briefly the contrasts with the old spots
of 1835-6, and I forbear.

How strange and eventful has been the brief history of this
marvellous city, San Francisco! In 1835 there was one board
shanty. In 1836, one adobe house on the same spot. In 1847,
a population of four hundred and fifty persons, who organized a
town government. Then came the auri sacra fames, the flocking
together of many of the worst spirits of Christendom; a sudden
birth of a city of canvas and boards, entirely destroyed by fire
five times in eighteen months, with a loss of sixteen millions
of dollars, and as often rebuilt, until it became a solid city
of brick and stone, of nearly one hundred thousand inhabitants,
with all the accompaniments of wealth and culture, and now
(in 1859) the most quiet and well-governed city of its size
in the United States. But it has been through its season of
Heaven-defying crime, violence, and blood, from which it was
rescued and handed back to soberness, morality, and good government,
by that peculiar invention of Anglo-Saxon Republican America,
the solemn, awe-inspiring Vigilance Committee of the most grave
and responsible citizens, the last resort of the thinking and the
good, taken to only when vice, fraud, and ruffianism have intrenched
themselves behind the forms of law, suffrage, and ballot, and there
is no hope but in organized force, whose action must be instant and
thorough, or its state will be worse than before. A history of the
passage of this city through those ordeals, and through its almost
incredible financial extremes, should be written by a pen which
not only accuracy shall govern, but imagination shall inspire.

I cannot pause for the civility of referring to the many kind
attentions I received, and the society of educated men and women
from all parts of the Union I met with; where New England,
the Carolinas, Virginia, and the new West sat side by side
with English, French, and German civilization.

My stay in California was interrupted by an absence of nearly four
months, when I sailed for the Sandwich Islands in the noble Boston
clipper ship Mastiff, which was burned at sea to the water's edge;
we escaping in boats, and carried by a friendly British bark into
Honolulu, whence, after a deeply interesting visit of three months
in that most fascinating group of islands, with its natural and its
moral wonders, I returned to San Francisco in an American whaler,
and found myself again in my quarters on the morning of Sunday,
December 11th, 1859.

My first visit after my return was to Sacramento, a city of about
forty thousand inhabitants, more than a hundred miles inland
from San Francisco, on the Sacramento, where was the capital of
the State, and where were fleets of river steamers, and a large
inland commerce. Here I saw the inauguration of a Governor, Mr.
Latham, a young man from Massachusetts, much my junior; and met a
member of the State Senate, a man who, as a carpenter, repaired
my father's house at home some ten years before; and two more
Senators from southern California, relics of another age,--Don
Andres Pico, from San Diego; and Don Pablo de la Guerra, whom I
have mentioned as meeting at Santa Barbara. I had a good deal of
conversation with these gentlemen, who stood alone in an assembly
of Americans, who had conquered their country, spared pillars of
the past. Don Andres had fought us at San Pazqual and Sepulveda's
rancho, in 1846, and as he fought bravely, not a common thing among
the Mexicans, and, indeed, repulsed Kearney, is always treated with
respect. He had the satisfaction, dear to the proud Spanish heart,
of making a speech before a Senate of Americans, in favor of the
retention in office of an officer of our army who was wounded at
San Pazqual and whom some wretched caucus was going to displace to
carry out a political job. Don Andres's magnanimity and indignation
carried the day.

My last visit in this part of the country was to a new and
rich farming region, the Napa Valley, the United States Navy
Yard at Mare Island, the river gold workings, and the Geysers,
and old Mr. John Yount's rancho. On board the steamer, found Mr.
Edward Stanley, formerly member of Congress from North Carolina,
who became my companion for the greater part of my trip. I also
met--a revival on the spot of an acquaintance of twenty years
ago--Don Guadalupe Vallejo; I may say acquaintance, for although
I was then before the mast, he knew my story, and, as he spoke
English well, used to hold many conversations with me, when in
the boat or on shore. He received me with true earnestness, and
would not hear of my passing his estate without visiting him.
He reminded me of a remark I made to him once, when pulling him
ashore in the boat, when he was commandante at the Presidio.
I learned that the two Vallejos, Guadalupe and Salvador, owned,
at an early time, nearly all Napa and Sonoma, having princely
estates. But they have not much left. They were nearly ruined
by their bargain with the State, that they would put up the public
buildings if the Capital should be placed at Vallejo, then a town
of some promise. They spent $100,000, the Capital was moved there,
and in two years removed to San José on another contract. The town
fell to pieces, and the houses, chiefly wooden, were taken down
and removed. I accepted the old gentleman's invitation so far as
to stop at Vallejo to breakfast.

The United States Navy Yard, at Mare Island, near Vallejo, is large
and well placed, with deep fresh water. The old Independence,
and the sloop Decatur, and two steamers were there, and they
were experimenting on building a despatch boat, the Saginaw,
of California timber.

I have no excuse for attempting to describe my visit through the
fertile and beautiful Napa Valley, nor even, what exceeded that
in interest, my visit to old John Yount at his rancho, where I
heard from his own lips some of his most interesting stories of
hunting and trapping and Indian fighting, during an adventurous
life of forty years of such work, between our back settlements in
Missouri and Arkansas, and the mountains of California, trapping in
Colorado and Gila,--and his celebrated dream, thrice repeated,
which led him to organize a party to go out over the mountains,
that did actually rescue from death by starvation the wretched
remnants of the Donner party.

I must not pause for the dreary country of the Geysers, the screaming
escapes of steam, the sulphur, the boiling caldrons of black and yellow
and green, and the region of Gehenna, through which runs a quiet stream
of pure water; nor for the park scenery, and captivating ranchos of
the Napa Valley, where farming is done on so grand a scale--where
I have seen a man plough a furrow by little red flags on sticks,
to keep his range by, until nearly out of sight, and where, the wits
tell us, he returns the next day on the back furrow; a region where,
at Christmas time, I have seen old strawberries still on the vines,
by the side of vines in full blossom for the next crop, and grapes
in the same stages, and open windows, and yet a grateful wood fire
on the hearth in early morning; nor for the titanic operations of
hydraulic surface mining, where large mountain streams are diverted
from their ancient beds, and made to do the work, beyond the reach
of all other agents, of washing out valleys and carrying away hills,
and changing the whole surface of the country, to expose the stores
of gold hidden for centuries in the darkness of their earthly depths.

January 10th, 1860. I am again in San Francisco, and my revisit
to California is closed. I have touched too lightly and rapidly
for much impression upon the reader on my last visit into the
interior; but, as I have said, in a mere continuation to a narrative
of a sea-faring life on the coast, I am only to carry the reader
with me on a visit to those scenes in which the public has long
manifested so gratifying an interest. But it seemed to me that
slight notices of these entirely new parts of the country would
not be out of place, for they serve to put in strong contrast with
the solitudes of 1835-6 the developed interior, with its mines,
and agricultural wealth, and rapidly filling population, and its
large cities, so far from the coast, with their education, religion,
arts, and trade.

On the morning of the 11th January, 1860, I passed, for the eighth
time, through the Golden Gate, on my way across the delightful Pacific
to the Oriental world, with its civilization three thousand years
older than that I was leaving behind. As the shores of California
fadcd in the distance, and the summits of the Coast Range sank
under the blue horizon, I bade farewell--yes, I do not doubt,
forever--to those scenes which, however changed or unchanged,
must always possess an ineffable interest for me.


It is time my fellow-travellers and I should part company. But I
have been requested by a great many persons to give some account of
the subsequent history of the vessels and their crews, with which
I had made them acquainted. I attempt the following sketches in
deference to these suggestions, and not, I trust, with any undue
estimate of the general interest my narrative may have created.

Something less than a year after my return in the Alert, and when,
my eyes having recovered, I was again in college life, I found one
morning in the newspapers, among the arrivals of the day before,
"The brig Pilgrim, Faucon, from San Diego, California." In a
few hours I was down in Ann Street, and on my way to Hackstadt's
boarding-house, where I knew Tom Harris and others would lodge.
Entering the front room, I heard my name called from amid a group
of blue-jackets, and several sunburned, tar-colored men came forward
to speak to me. They were, at first, a little embarrassed by
the dress and style in which they had never seen me, and one of
them was calling me Mr. Dana; but I soon stopped that, and we
were shipmates once more. First, there was Tom Harris, in a
characteristic occupation. I had made him promise to come and
see me when we parted in San Diego; he had got a directory of
Boston, found the street and number of my father's house, and,
by a study of the plan of the city, had laid out his course,
and was committing it to memory. He said he could go straight to
the house without asking a question. And so he could, for I took
the book from him, and he gave his course, naming each street and
turn to right or left, directly to the door.

Tom had been second mate of the Pilgrim, and had laid up no mean
sum of money. True to his resolution, he was going to England to
find his mother, and he entered into the comparative advantages
of taking his money home in gold or in bills,--a matter of some
moment, as this was in the disastrous financial year of 1837.
He seemed to have his ideas well arranged, but I took him to
a leading banker, whose advice he followed; and, declining my
invitation to go up and show himself to my friends, he was off
for New York that afternoon, to sail the next day for Liverpool.
The last I ever saw of Tom Harris was as he passed down Tremont
Street on the sidewalk, a man dragging a hand-cart in the street
by his side, on which were his voyage-worn chest, his mattress,
and a box of nautical instruments.

Sam seemed to have got funny again, and he and John the Swede
learned that Captain Thompson had several months before sailed
in command of a ship for the coast of Sumatra, and that their
chance of proceedings against him at law was hopeless. Sam was
afterwards lost in a brig off the coast of Brazil, when all hands
went down. Of John and the rest of the men I have never heard.
The Marblehead boy, Sam, turned out badly; and, although he had
influential friends, never allowed them to improve his condition.
The old carpenter, the Fin, of whom the cook stood in such awe
(ante p. 41), had fallen sick and died in Santa Barbara, and was
buried ashore. Jim Hall, from the Kennebec, who sailed with us
before the mast, and was made second mate in Foster's place,
came home chief mate of the Pilgrim. I have often seen him
since. His lot has been prosperous, as he well deserved it
should be. He has commanded the largest ships, and when I
last saw him, was going to the Pacific coast of South America,
to take charge of a line of mail steamers. Poor, luckless Foster
I have twice seen. He came into my rooms in Boston, after I had
become a barrister and my narrative had been published, and told
me he was chief mate of a big ship; that he had heard I had said
some things unfavorable of him in my book; that he had just bought
it, and was going to read it that night, and if I had said anything
unfair of him, he would punish me if he found me in State Street.
I surveyed him from head to foot, and said to him, "Foster, you were
not a formidable man when I last knew you, and I don't believe you
are now." Either he was of my opinion, or thought I had spoken of
him well enough, for the next (and last) time I met him he was civil
and pleasant.

I believe I omitted to state that Mr. Andrew B. Amerzene, the chief
mate of the Pilgrim, an estimable, kind, and trustworthy man, had a
difficulty with Captain Faucon, who thought him slack, was turned
off duty, and sent home with us in the Alert. Captain Thompson,
instead of giving him the place of a mate off duty, put him into
the narrow between-decks, where a space, not over four feet high,
had been left out among the hides, and there compelled him to live
the whole wearisome voyage, through trades and tropics, and round
Cape Horn, with nothing to do,--not allowed to converse or walk
with the officers, and obliged to get his grub himself from the
galley, in the tin pot and kid of a common sailor. I used to
talk with him as much as I had opportunity to, but his lot was
wretched, and in every way wounding to his feelings. After our
arrival, Captain Thompson was obliged to make him compensation
for this treatment. It happens that I have never heard of him

Henry Mellus, who had been in a counting-house in Boston, and left
the forecastle, on the coast, to be agent's clerk, and whom I met,
a married man, at Los Angeles in 1859, died at that place a few years
ago, not having been successful in commercial life. Ben Stimson left
the sea for the fresh water and prairies, and settled in Detroit as
a merchant, and when I visited that city, in 1863, I was rejoiced to
find him a prosperous and respected man, and the same generous-hearted
shipmate as ever.

This ends the catalogue of the Pilgrim's original crew, except
her first master, Captain Thompson. He was not employed by the
same firm again, and got up a voyage to the coast of Sumatra for
pepper. A cousin and classmate of mine, Mr. Channing, went as
supercargo, not having consulted me as to the captain. First,
Captain Thompson got into difficulties with another American vessel
on the coast, which charged him with having taken some advantage of
her in getting pepper; and then with the natives, who accused him
of having obtained too much pepper for his weights. The natives
seized him, one afternoon, as he landed in his boat, and demanded
of him to sign an order on the supercargo for the Spanish dollars
that they said were due them, on pain of being imprisoned on shore.
He never failed in pluck, and now ordered his boat aboard, leaving
him ashore, the officer to tell the supercargo to obey no direction
except under his hand. For several successive days and nights,
his ship, the Alciope, lay in the burning sun, with rain-squalls
and thunder-clouds coming over the high mountains, waiting for a
word from him. Toward evening of the fourth or fifth day he was
seen on the beach, hailing for the boat. The natives, finding they
could not force more money from him, were afraid to hold him longer,
and had let him go. He sprang into the boat, urged her off with the
utmost eagerness, leaped on board the ship like a tiger, his eyes
flashing and his face full of blood, ordered the anchor aweigh,
and the topsails set, the four guns, two on a side, loaded with all
sorts of devilish stuff, and wore her round, and, keeping as close
into the bamboo village as he could, gave them both broadsides,
slam-bang into the midst of the houses and people, and stood out
to sea! As his excitement passed off, headache, languor, fever,
set in,--the deadly coast-fever, contracted from the water and
night-dews on shore and his maddened temper. He ordered the ship
to Penang, and never saw the deck again. He died on the passage,
and was buried at sea. Mr. Channing, who took care of him in his
sickness and delirium, caught the fever from him, but, as we
gratefully remember, did not die until the ship made port, and he was
under the kindly roof of a hospitable family in Penang. The chief
mate, also, took the fever, and the second mate and crew deserted;
and although the chief mate recovered and took the ship to Europe
and home, the voyage was a melancholy disaster. In a tour I made
round the world in 1859-1860, of which my revisit to California was
the beginning, I went to Penang. In that fairy-like scene of sea
and sky and shore, as beautiful as material earth can be, with its
fruits and flowers of a perpetual summer,--somewhere in which still
lurks the deadly fever,--I found the tomb of my kinsman, classmate,
and friend. Standing beside his grave, I tried not to think that
his life had been sacrificed to the faults and violence of another;
I tried not to think too hardly of that other, who at least had
suffered in death.

The dear old Pilgrim herself! She was sold, at the end of this
voyage, to a merchant in New Hampshire, who employed her on short
voyages, and, after a few years, I read of her total loss at sea,
by fire, off the coast of North Carolina.

Captain Faucon, who took out the Alert, and brought home the
Pilgrim, spent many years in command of vessels in the Indian and
Chinese seas, and was in our volunteer navy during the late war,
commanding several large vessels in succession, on the blockade
of the Carolinas, with the rank of lieutenant. He has now given
up the sea, but still keeps it under his eye, from the piazza of
his house on the most beautiful hill in the environs of Boston.
I have the pleasure of meeting him often. Once, in speaking of
the Alert's crew, in a company of gentlemen, I heard him say that
that crew was exceptional: that he had passed all his life at sea,
but whether before the mast or abaft, whether officer or master,
he had never met such a crew, and never should expect to; and that
the two officers of the Alert, long ago shipmasters, agreed with
him that, for intelligence, knowledge of duty and willingness to
perform it, pride in the ship, her appearance and sailing, and in
absolute reliableness, they never had seen their equal. Especially he
spoke of his favorite seaman, French John. John, after a few more
years at sea, became a boatman, and kept his neat boat at the end of
Granite Wharf, and was ready to take all, but delighted to take any
of us of the old Alert's crew, to sail down the harbor. One day
Captain Faucon went to the end of the wharf to board a vessel in
the stream, and hailed for John. There was no response, and his
boat was not there. He inquired of a boatman near, where John
was. The time had come that comes to all! There was no loyal
voice to respond to the familiar call, the hatches had closed
over him, his boat was sold to another, and he had left not a
trace behind. We could not find out even where he was buried.

Mr. Richard Brown, of Marblehead, our chief mate in the Alert,
commanded many of our noblest ships in the European trade,
a general favorite. A few years ago, while stepping on board
his ship from the wharf, he fell from the plank into the hold
and was killed. If he did not actually die at sea, at least
he died as a sailor,--he died on board ship.

Our second mate, Evans, no one liked or cared for, and I know
nothing of him, except that I once saw him in court, on trial
for some alleged petty tyranny towards his men,--still a subaltern

The third mate, Mr. Hatch, a nephew of one of the owners, though only
a lad on board the ship, went out chief mate the next voyage, and rose
soon to command some of the finest clippers in the California and
India trade, under the new order of things,--a man of character,
good judgment, and no little cultivation.

Of the other men before the mast in the Alert, I know nothing of
peculiar interest. When visiting, with a party of ladies and
gentlemen, one of our largest line-of-battle ships, we were
escorted about the decks by a midshipman, who was explaining
various matters on board, when one of the party came to me and
told me that there was an old sailor there with a whistle round
his neck, who looked at me and said of the officer, "he can't show
him anything aboard a ship." I found him out, and, looking into
his sunburnt face, covered with hair, and his little eyes drawn
up into the smallest passages for light,--like a man who had
peered into hundreds of northeasters,--there was old "Sails"
of the Alert, clothed in all the honors of boatswain's-mate.
We stood aside, out of the cun of the officers, and had a good
talk over old times. I remember the contempt with which he turned
on his heel to conceal his face, when the midshipman (who was a
grown youth) could not tell the ladies the length of a fathom,
and said it depended on circumstances. Notwithstanding his advice
and consolation to "Chips," in the steerage of the Alert, and his
story of his runaway wife and the flag-bottomed chairs (ante, p.
249), he confessed to me that he had tried marriage again, and had
a little tenement just outside the gate of the yard.

Harry Bennett, the man who had the palsy, and was unfeelingly left
on shore when the Alert sailed, came home in the Pilgrim, and I had
the pleasure of helping to get him into the Massachusetts General
Hospital. When he had been there about a week, I went to see him
in his ward, and asked him how he got along. "Oh! first-rate
usage, sir; not a hand's turn to do, and all your grub brought
to you, sir." This is a sailor's paradise,--not a hand's turn
to do, and all your grub brought to you. But an earthly paradise
may pall. Bennett got tired of in-doors and stillness, and was soon
out again, and set up a stall, covered with canvas, at the end of one
of the bridges, where he could see all the passers-by, and turn
a penny by cakes and ale. The stall in time disappeared, and I
could learn nothing of his last end, if it has come.

Of the lads who, beside myself, composed the gig's crew, I know
something of all but one. Our bright-eyed, quick-witted little
cockswain, from the Boston public schools, Harry May, or Harry Bluff,
as he was called, with all his songs and gibes, went the road to ruin
as fast as the usual means could carry him. Nat, the "bucket-maker,"
grave and sober, left the seas, and, I believe, is a hack-driver in
his native town, although I have not had the luck to see him since
the Alert hauled into her berth at the North End.

One cold winter evening, a pull at the bell, and a woman in distress
wished to see me. Her poor son George,--George Somerby,--"you
remember him, sir; he was a boy in the Alert; he always talks
of you,--he is dying in my poor house." I went with her, and in
a small room, with the most scanty furniture, upon a mattress on
the floor,--emaciated, ashy pale, with hollow voice and sunken
eyes,--lay the boy George, whom we took out a small, bright boy
of fourteen from a Boston public school, who fought himself into
a position on board ship (ante, p. 231), and whom we brought home
a tall, athletic youth, that might have been the pride and support
of his widowed mother. There he lay, not over nineteen years of
age, ruined by every vice a sailor's life absorbs. He took my
hand in his wasted feeble fingers, and talked a little with his
hollow, death-smitten voice. I was to leave town the next day
for a fortnight's absence, and whom had they to see to them? The
mother named her landlord,--she knew no one else able to do much
for them. It was the name of a physician of wealth and high
social position, well known in the city as the owner of many small
tenements, and of whom hard things had been said as to his strictness
in collecting what he thought his dues. Be that as it may, my memory
associates him only with ready and active beneficence. His name has
since been known the civilized world over, from his having been the
victim of one of the most painful tragedies in the records of the
criminal law. I tried the experiment of calling upon him; and,
having drawn him away from the cheerful fire, sofa, and curtains
of a luxurious parlor, I told him the simple tale of woe, of one
of his tenants, unknown to him even by name. He did not hesitate;
and I well remember how, in that biting, eager air, at a late hour,
he drew his cloak about his thin and bent form, and walked off
with me across the Common, and to the South End, nearly two miles
of an exposed walk, to the scene of misery. He gave his full
share, and more, of kindness and material aid; and, as George's
mother told me, on my return, had with medical aid and stores,
and a clergyman, made the boy's end as comfortable and hopeful
as possible.

The Alert made two more voyages to the coast of California,
successful, and without a mishap, as usual, and was sold by
Messrs. Bryant and Sturgis, in 1843, to Mr. Thomas W. Williams,
a merchant of New London, Connecticut, who employed her in the
whale-trade in the Pacific. She was as lucky and prosperous
there as in the merchant service. When I was at the Sandwich
Islands in 1860, a man was introduced to me as having commanded
the Alert on two cruises, and his friends told me that he was as
proud of it as if he had commanded a frigate.

I am permitted to publish the following letter from the owner of
the Alert, giving her later record and her historic end,--captured
and burned by the rebel Alabama:--

New London, March 17, 1868.

Richard H. Dana, Esq.:

Dear Sir,--I am happy to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of
the 14th inst., and to answer your inquiries about the good ship
Alert. I bought her of Messrs. Bryant and Sturgis in the year
1843, for my firm of Williams and Haven, for a whaler, in which
business she was successful until captured by the rebel steamer
Alabama, September, 1862, making a period of more than nineteen
years, during which she took and delivered at New London upwards
of twenty-five thousand barrels of whale and sperm oil. She sailed
last from this port, August 30, 1862, for Hurd's Island (the newly
discovered land south of Kerguelen's), commanded by Edwin Church,
and was captured and burned on the 9th of September following,
only ten days out, near or close to the Azores, with thirty
barrels of sperm oil on board, and while her boats were off
in pursuit of whales.

The Alert was a favorite ship with all owners, officers, and men who
had anything to do with her; and I may add almost all who heard her
name asked if that was the ship the man went in who wrote the book
called "Two Years before the Mast"; and thus we feel, with you,
no doubt, a sort of sympathy at her loss, and that, too, in such
a manner, and by wicked acts of our own countrymen.

My partner, Mr. Haven, sends me a note from the office this P. M.,
saying that he had just found the last log-book, and would send up
this evening a copy of the last entry on it; and if there should
be anything of importance I will enclose it to you, and if you
have any further inquiries to put, I will, with great pleasure,
endeavor to answer them.

Remaining very respectfully and truly yours,


P. S.--Since writing the above I have received the extract from
the log-book, and enclose the same.


"September 9, 1862.

"Shortly after the ship came to the wind, with the main yard
aback, we went alongside and were hoisted up, when we found we
were prisoners of war, and our ship a prize to the Confederate
steamer Alabama. We were then ordered to give up all nautical
instruments and letters appertaining to any of us. Afterwards
we were offered the privilege, as they called it, of joining
the steamer or signing a parole of honor not to serve in the
army or navy of the United States. Thank God no one accepted
the former of these offers. We were all then ordered to get
our things ready in haste, to go on shore,--the ship running
off shore all the time. We were allowed four boats to go on
shore in, and when we had got what things we could take in them,
were ordered to get into the boats and pull for the shore,--the
nearest land being about fourteen miles off,--which we reached
in safety, and, shortly after, saw the ship in flames.

"So end all our bright prospects, blasted by a gang of miscreants,
who certainly can have no regard for humanity so long as they continue
to foster their so-called peculiar institution, which is now destroying
our country."

I love to think that our noble ship, with her long record of
good service and uniform success, attractive and beloved in her
life, should have passed, at her death, into the lofty regions of
international jurisprudence and debate, forming a part of the body
of the "Alabama Claims"; that, like a true ship, committed to her
element once for all at her launching, she perished at sea, and,
without an extreme use of language, we may say, a victim in the
cause of her country.

R. H. D., Jr.

BOSTON, May 6, 1869.

Book of the day: