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of the principal offenders sharp, quick, terrible, and without the formulas of
legal proceedings and the dispersion and flight of the more notorious ruffians.
A short reign of peace and order, then a repetition in a new form of the
disorders of 1850 and 1851. The era of vulgar ruffianism was followed by
that of municipal corruption. The thieves and cut-throats, entrenching them
selves within the precincts of the City Hall, made war upon the life of the
community. Again the people rose in righteous anger. Instead of suspending
the Tweeds and Connollys of 1856 from office, they suspended them from
second storey windows. The remedy was harsh, but it was effective ; it was
extra-judicial, but it brought order out of anarchy. The Vigilance Committee,


having fulfilled its mission, dissolved, never to reappear. Henceforward San
Francisco became one of the most quiet, law-abiding, well-governed cities in
the world." *

The last sentence in this quotation can hardly be accepted as true.
That San Francisco is a city of wonderful wealth and energy, that it contains

public edifices which
J] would do no discredit
to "any city in the
world," that, remember
ing what it was twenty
years ago, its present
peace and order are
marvellous : that Judge
Lynch did his extra-
judicial work so well
that property and life
are now fairly secure
all this must be ad
mitted. But every news
paper contains reports
of deeds of violence far
in excess of those in
European cities. Row
dies and loafers hang
about the corners of
the streets ready for
any crime. After night
fall, just off the main
thoroughfares, are
gambling dens, rum-
holes, and dancing
saloons, where no man's
life would be safe. The
detective officer whom
I employed to conduct
me through the purlieus of the Chinese quarter solemnly warned me against
being entrapped into any of these haunts, adding, " Many a man who has
travelled in safety all over the world has been inveigled into those places,
knocked on the head, and never heard of again." I dp not mean to imply
that this unfavourable description applies to the general character of San
Franciscan society, but only to correct the exaggeration that, "it is one of
the most quiet, law-abiding cities in the world."

* Scr titter's Monthly Magazine, July, 1875.



The growth of San Francisco has been rapid even for America. From
a mere cluster of wooden shanties, it has, in little more than a quarter of a
century, risen to the rank of a great city, with a quarter of a million of
inhabitants, and it is
estimated that at the
next census, in 1880,
it will have reached a
population of three
hundred and seventy
thousand. Nearly all
traces of the little
village which stood
upon its site in 1849

have been swept NEW clxy HALL> SAN FRANCISCO>

away. Montgomery

Street may vie with the Broadway of New York, Regent Street in London,
or Rue de la Paix in Paris in the extent and splendour of its shops and the
style of its equipages. The Palace Hotel, just approaching completion when
I was there, is said to be the largest in the world. It can accommodate


twelve hundred guests, and is said to have cost, including fittings, upwards of
four million dollars. All its furniture is not only of Californian manufacture,
but of Californian material. It has three immense inner courts roofed with


glass, a marble tiled promenade, and a tropical garden filled with exotic plants.

Grave doubts were expressed whether this immense structure can pay, and

the liability of the city
to earthquakes was given
__ as a reason against build-

ing so lofty an edifice.
But Californians seldom
care to count the cost
or to dread the future.
Having resolved "to do
a big thing," they do it,
regardless of conse

It is in San Fran
cisco that the " Chinese
question " assumes pro
minence and importance.
Soon after the gold dis
coveries, immigrants from
the Flowery Land began
to arrive. Gradually they
have been spreading
themselves over the con
tinent. They are making
their appearance in the
Eastern States. A few
may be found in Balti
more and Chicago, and
their number is increas
ing year by year. The
employes in a shoe factory
in Massachusetts having
struck for wages, the
manufacturer, having
large contracts on hand,
was compelled to concede
their demands ; but the
same night he despatched
an agent to San Fran
cisco. In three weeks he
returned with two hun
dred Chinamen, who soon became skilled workmen, and took the place of the
Americans, who were summarily dismissed. The large influx of cheap German


and Irish labour into New York has, for the present, prevented the Chinese
from gaining a footing there ; but in other eastern cities the vanguard of
the great army has arrived. In our journey westward, we meet them in con
tinually increasing numbers. At Denver the whole of the laundry work is
done by them, and many other trades are falling into their hands. In the
Canons of Colorado colonies of these thrifty and industrious people are profit
ably engaged in gulch mining on streams too poor to attract white men.
The Pacific lines of railway
were, to a great extent,
constructed by Chinese
labour, and it is almost ex
clusively employed in the
maintenance of the per
manent way. It is a curious
sight to see gangs of
Chinamen with their smooth
round faces, their pigtails
twisted round their heads,
their white wooden-soled
shoes, and dressed in blue
cotton shirts, working as
navvies, with pick, shovel,
and crowbar. In many of
the eating-houses along the
line Chinese waiters, quiet,
respectful, alert, attentive,
are a most agreeable change
from the Irish and negroes,
who swagger or dawdle
behind our chairs elsewhere.
In the towns of Nevada
and California they occupy
a quarter by themselves,
in which scores or hun
dreds of Celestials may
be seen carrying on their
trades, or placidly amusing themselves, having no intercourse with their

But it is at San Francisco that they are found in greatest numbers,
forming, it is said, a seventh of the whole population. They are crowded
together in a district called China Town. Here are joss-houses, restaurants,
gambling-rooms, opium-dens, theatres, as exclusively and characteristically
Chinese, as though it were Shanghai or Hankow, instead of an American



city. With the exception of one main street, China Town consists of a series
of blind alleys and back slums, in which the people are packed together like
negroes in a slave ship. The walls of the rooms are fitted with shelves, like
the bunks of an emigrant vessel. On each narrow shelf a Chinamen sleeps,
and many of these are never empty, being let to three persons in the twenty-
four hours, each of whom takes his turn for eight hours at a time. In the
joss-houses sticks of incense are burning and cups of tea are simmering
before the shrine all day long. Turn into an opium den : the atmosphere
is thick and heavy with a dense blue smoke. Reclining on the boards are
the wretched smokers in all stages of intoxication. Look into one of their
theatres : it is filled with men, smoking and looking on with silent interest

as the play, performed
by actors from China,
runs through its inter
minable course ; it was
begun a week or ten
days ago, and will last
for a week or ten days
more ; the orchestra,
seated on the stage,
make the most dis
cordant uproar I ever
heard ; the perform
ance is grotesquely
absurd ; the dresses are
magnificent. Here is
a restaurant : all the
food has been brought
from China rice,
dried ducks and fowls,
birds'-nests, and the
various comestibles which make up the Chinese cuisine. The transition from
the fierce energy of life which roars along the streets of the city into the
placid monotony of a civilisation as ancient as that of the Pharaohs, is almost
startling. We have passed at a single step from America to Asia.

What, it may be asked, is "the Chinese question," of which we hear so
much in this Western country ? It is how to deal with this great tide of
heathenism, pouring with an ever increasing flood into the country. Hundreds
of thousands of Chinamen have already arrived, and there are a hundred
million behind. W 7 ho can tell what proportions the immigration may assume ?
They are strangers in the land. They will not mix with the general popu
lation. They buy and sell only amongst themselves. When they have
amassed a few hundred dollars, they return to their own country with the



money they have accumulated. If they die here, they have all paid into a
fund to carry back their bones. In a country where no man will put a spade
into the ground for less than four dollars a day, they will work hard for a
dollar, and save seventy-five cents out of it. John Chinaman does not get
drunk ; he never mixes in street broils ; he tells lies, and is prone to petty
thefts, and is charged with debasing vices, but he keeps clear from violent
crimes. He is docile, industrious, patient ; makes an admirable domestic
servant. Nobody, not even a Parisian blanckisseuse^ can get up linen to
compare with him. China Town is indeed filthy beyond the filth of the


Ghetto at Rome, or the Jews' quarter in Jerusalem, but in his own person
John is always clean and tidy.

Whence then arises the bitter hostility with which he is regarded, and
the ever recurring proposals to get rid of him as a nuisance ? He makes
himself obnoxious to all classes of the community. The labourers and artisans
hate him because he reduces the rate of wages by his cheap labour.
Tradesmen denounce him because he spends nothing, but buys and sells only
amongst his own people, importing from China all articles of consumption.
Capitalists complain that, instead of adding to the accumulated wealth of the
country, he carries away with him all that he has amassed during his residence


in it. Politicians fear lest he should make his appearance at the ballot
box, and thus disturb the course of affairs by introducing an alien element.
Christians look with not unnatural alarm on the establishment in their midst
of a large heathen community, idolatrous in profession, atheistic in fact, and
addicted to degrading vices.

Regarded as a political and economical question, the fears of the
Americans seem to me to be unfounded. The fact that the immigrants do
not amalgamate with the settled residents, and that they return to their own
country, minimizes the danger of their interference with the Government,
even in those States where they are most numerous. The abundant supply
of cheap labour in the present condition of the country cannot but be an


immense advantage. The moral and religious influence 01 this immense mass
of heathenism is more serious. It is gratifying to find that the Christian
Church is taking up the matter in earnest. Missions have been established
among them which have not been unsuccessful. In San Francisco alone there
are fifteen or twenty Chinese Sunday Schools, which are well attended. The
teaching is thoroughly good and evangelical. I heard the scholars sing, " Rock
of Ages cleft for me," "Just as I am, without one plea," and ''Jesus, gracious
Saviour, hear me," very heartily, and with apparent feeling. Two mission
churches have been built, at which the attendance is very good. In one of
these a Chinese convert acts as assistant minister. It is not by legislative
enactment, but by the blessing of God upon such efforts as these that the


evil is to be counteracted. The earnest faithful preaching of " Christ crucified,"
and the inculcation of the doctrines of the Gospel, can grapple with and
overcome all the evils of our corrupt nature, "for it is the power of God
unto salvation to every one that believeth." Though the missionaries at work
in China Town can rejoice over not a few conversions, they yet feel oppressed
by the magnitude and the difficulties of the work before them, and they ask
the prayers of English Christians for that Divine aid without which the most
vigorous efforts will be in vain.

The San Franciscans are justly proud of the scenery within easy reach
of their city. Ocean and mountain and forest combine to invest it with rare


charms, which are enhanced by a delicious climate, and an atmosphere of
extraordinary purity. There are few pleasanter drives on the continent than
that to the Cliff House overlooking the Pacific. Glimpses of the Golden
Gate and its surrounding headlands are gained en route ; and then the glorious
expanse of ocean bursts upon the view, its long rollers tumbling upon the
beach, and breaking into a line of foam. Just out to sea are the Seal Rocks,
covered with hundreds of sea-lions, which bask in the sun, or glide with an
almost imperceptible motion into the water, or wriggle and clamber up the
precipitous rocks with marvellous ease. The motion of these clumsy
creatures in the water is very graceful ; but how they can climb the steep
ascent of their domicile with neither hands nor feet, but only flippers to aid
them, is a mystery.



A more distant excursion is to
the Geysers and the petrified forest.
The latter consists of scores of
conifers of great size, which have
been laid prostrate by some con
vulsion of nature, and then silicified.
One, of which only a part is ac
cessible, measured sixty-three feet
in length by over seven feet in
diameter. In many cases the bark
and even the small branches are
well preserved, and the texture of
the woody fibres, though absolutely
petrified, is distinctly visible.

Those who visit the Geysers
expecting to find intermittent foun
tains suddenly shooting up into
the air, and then relapsing into

quiescence, like those in Iceland and the Yellowstone, will be disappointed.

But if, without quarrelling with the name, we go in search of striking natural

scenery, we shall not regret our journey.

The Geyser district is one of active

volcanic disturbance, in the midst of

exquisite fertility and beauty. The ap
proach to it is vividly and graphically

described by a writer in Scribners

Monthly. " Broad natural meadows are

dotted with groves of oak, and, in the

spring months, the green levels and

slopes are spangled thick with flowers,

including the blue lupin, larkspur, purple

primrose, yellow poppy, and a profusion

of buttercups and daisies. The streams

run tinkling over gravelly beds, larks

and linnets sing joyously, flocks of

blackbirds chatter musically as they

whirl in gusty flights together, and the

clear morning air exhilarates like cham
pagne. Mount Helena is kept to the

right, revealing its sculpture boldly as it

is neared, but never losing its magic

tints. The ridges dividing a series of intervals are thickly wooded with

oak and pine, with here and there a fir or redwood astray, a madrona or



manzonita, whose smooth brown or red bark and waxen leaves make them
very striking objects. If it is spring, big clumps of buck-eye will thrust out
their bristling spears of scented bloom. Where the soil is bare it is red, except
in the valleys, where it is black or brown, while the rocks are stained with
lichens. Thus there is a constant feast of colour gold and purple predomi
nating in summer, emerald and red and violet in the spring, but always an
undertone of pearly grey, which St. Helena's cone seems to give out as the
key for the whole beautiful composition.
. . . As the road winds higher towards
Geyser Peak, it leaves the forest, and
passes through a dense thicket of chemisal
shrubbery, oak, laurels, small bays, and
ceanothus. The last, called California
lilac, is covered till late in the spring
with powdery blossoms that give forth
honeyed odours. Masses of stained and
blackened rocks, serpentine, sandstone,
and trap, rise here and there, giving the
Hearing summit a desolate look, which is
increased by the few contorted pines that
suck a feeble life from the crevices where
they grow. A narrow ridge called the
Hog's Back just wide enough for the
waggon connects two spurs of the range
at this point, separating Sulphur and
Pluton Creeks. It is the parapet of a
wall whose sides slope at sharp angles
a thousand feet ; and riding over it at
high speed one looks into a chasm on
either hand, catches breath, and hopes
the harness and wheels may be strong."

The Geysers themselves are springs,
many of which reach or approach the
boiling-point, and are strongly impreg
nated with alum, ammonia, magnesia,

* o

sulphur, iron, Epsom salts, and other
mineral substances. The Witches Caldron is a basin about twenty feet in
circumference, and of unknown depth. It is filled with liquid mud, black as
ink, and overhung with dense clouds of vapour, which rise from the seething,
boiling fluid. In Vulcan 's Steam Works and the Steam Boat Geyser, jets of
steam rush from the mountainside with a noise and force equal 'to that of
a high-pressure engine. In the Devil's Canon and the sides of the Mountain
of Fire there are hundreds of orifices, from which a dense black smoke



exudes. These are but a few of the fumeroles and boiling springs in which
the district abounds. The soil is volcanic, and full of crystals of soda,
sulphur, and other salts, which crumble into dust beneath the tread. The
hot ground under the feet, the subterranean rumblings, the throbs and thuds
near some .of the larger steam vents, the atmosphere charged with acidulous
and sulphurous vapours, the screaming, roaring, hissing, gurgling, bubbling of
the various springs, all contribute to call to mind Dante's Inferno. And the
weird impressiveness of the spectacle is enhanced by the fertility and beauty
of the surrounding scenery.

I know not how better to sum up my impressions of California, than by
quoting the words of Moses' description of Palestine : It is " a good land,
a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys
and hills ; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pome
granates ; a land of oil olive, and honey ; a land wherein thou shalt eat
bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it ; a land whose
stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass." *

* Deut. viii. 7-9.


ic 6


[HE gigantesque character of America and its people is strikingly
illustrated by the vast tracts of territory recently set apart for
national enjoyment. To say that miles are appropriated to this
purpose, where we should be content with acres, is to under
state the fact. Not only is each city providing ample space
'{ for the common use of its citizens Fairmount Park, for instance, at
Philadelphia, with an area . of three thousand acres, laid out with exquisite


taste and beauty but national parks of still greater extent are being marked
out "for public use, resort, and recreation, inalienable for all time," as the
Act of Congress phrases it. Six hundred squares miles in the Andirondacks
are on the point of being withdrawn from private ownership and occupation
on behalf of the State of New York. The whole of the Yosemite Valley,
with the neighbouring Sierra, and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, in the
State of California, have been thus nationalised. And the Yellowstone region,
containing an area of three thousand three hundred and seventy-five square
miles, has been similarly "dedicated and set apart as a great national
pleasure-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the
people." These great Western reservations are of sufficient
importance to claim a chapter to themselves.

To reach the Yosemite, we leave the main Pacific
Railway at a point about three thousand miles west from
New York, and forty-three east from San Francisco. A
branch line carries us fifty miles to Merced, a town so
modern that it has not yet made its appearance in maps
or guide-books, but whose progress has been so rapid that
it already numbers nearly three thousand inhabitants,
with an immense hotel making up a hundred beds.
Here we leave railway communications
behind us, and have to travel by stage.
for about a hundred miles more into
the valley. It was my first experience of
a vehicle peculiar to America, called a
compound concord-coach. It resembles
a large post-chaise, or funeral carriage,
accommodating three passengers on each
seat. A padded bench moves up and
down by a hinge in the middle, and
seats three more. The interior thus
holds nine persons, packed tightly to
gether. Three or four more on the roof
complete the load. The road was so rough, the pace so severe, the springs
of the coach so inflexible, that we had to cling firmly to leathern straps,
provided for the purpose, to keep our seats at all. In spite of all my efforts,
I was more than once pitched up to the roof, as we bumped against a
boulder, or dropped into a hole ; and I completed my first day's journey, a
distance of sixty-eight miles, bruised from head to foot.

In approaching Merced, we pass through five thousand acres of wheat
without a fence or division of any kind. On leaving it the road runs for
twelve miles through another unbroken field of wheat, which stretches as far





as the eye can reach on either side. A pastoral region is then traversed,

where flocks and herds roam at large over the prairie. To this succeeds a

broken and mountainous country, but
which, judging from its profuse natural
vegetation, only needs cultivation to become
a district of extraordinary fertility. The
gullies and hill-sides are gay with flowers
of brilliant colours and exquisite fra
grance. At present, however, it is almost
entirely unsettled. Observing the bark
of many of the trees to be riddled with
innumerable holes, as though they had
been the mark of rifle shots, I asked an
explanation, and was assured that it was

the work of woodpeckers, who bore these holes, and stuff them full of acorns

for a winter supply of food. An examination of one of

the trees seemed to confirm this.

As we continue to ascend, the vegetation changes

in its character. Azaleas begin to take the place of the

buck-eye, arbutus, snow-bright, and other flowering shrubs

of the lower regions. The oak, live oak, black walnut,

and other trees of the plains give way to magnificent

forests of pine, redwood, and cedar. Then the great

mining region of Mariposa, opened up by General

Fremont, is entered and passed. The scenery grows

grander and wilder. Majestic mountain

forms loom up from the horizon. The

peaks of the high Sierras cut the sky

with their keen sharp outlines. The

road skirts the edge of ravines, where

the slightest deviation from the trail

would be certain destruction. I left the

inside of the coach, and mounted to the

seat beside the driver, partly to stretch

my cramped limbs, partly to enjoy the

scenery. Our driver was dashing on at a

reckless speed, not unfrequently putting

his horses to a gallop. Every now and

then he said to me, " Hold on, stranger ;

there's an ugly hole round the next

corner." More than once, when we had

bumped against a big boulder with more than usual violence, which threatened

to pitch me into the gulf below, he half soliloquised, half apologised, " Guess



I knowed that 'ar stone, but I forgot it." At length, after thirteen hours of
this travelling, we reached Clark's Ranch, coated and choked with dust, black
and blue with bruises, and heartily thankful to have accomplished this part
of our journey with safety.

At sunrise next day I started on horseback, with a guide, to visit the
Mariposa Grove of Big Trees, which stands about ten miles from our halting-
place for the night. The road led through a vast forest, with a dense


undergrowth of flowering shrubs, which made the air heavy with their fragrance.
The pines and redwood, which have been increasing in size ever since we left

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Online LibrarySamuel ManningAmerican pictures drawn with pen and pencil → online text (page 5 of 12)