T. Butler (Thomas Butler) King.

California, the wonder of the age : a book for every one going to or having an interest in that golden region : being the report of Thomas Butler King online

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"In tbi) latter on! of t1ii3 year 1545 th« Mine;, of the Ccrro da Potcvsi were a',cidtntn!!y dUcoTcted, A«oi:dmg to
the Bccoanl of Iferrem, the discovery wtw owing to on Indian hunter, Diego HuaIcA, T%ho, in pulling up « ahmb,
observed fi'amenta <i)*pure white silver about the rjota. On oxaminatioii, the maaa wfw found to be enormoiis^ and a
very great part of the popnlatitn waa thereby drawn to the spot and employed in oxtracting; the metal. A city toon
epraog up, thongh in a district of uniiaoal aterility. The monntain wu« p.:rfijrsted ^n all eidea, and Iho produce in >
tew of the Erst y*nrs eiceeded wL .tuvjr his been recorded of the richest mines in the vrorld. The amount, of gold
onnuaUy ptodu'iod in America, between the years 1492 and 1500, wna i62,000.

W. Jacob, on thk PKiciorr* iltrtxia.



" \HJ^





PLATO. The M'hole Works of— namely, his Fifty-four Dialogues and Epistles,
translated into English by Dr. Sydenham and Thcmas Taylor, wjth copious
notes ; in which are given the substauco of nearly all the exislhig Greek
Manuscript Commeniaries on the Philosophy of Plato. 5 vols 4to Cloth
840.00. London, 1804!

NICHOLAS DE LYRA. His famous Commentary upon the Holy Bible.

JSlacfe letter, with the cloister corrections. 6 vols, folio. $30.00.

Ba.sil, printed between 1481 and ■■ 1502.

This book is famous ns havinp been the first Commentarj' tipoa the Scriptures published the invention ol printing This appears t.i have been given to the world about 40 years

naer the invention of the art. It is a great liierary curiosily.

BURNEY, CHARLES. A General History of :\Iugic, from the earliest ases to
the present period. To whicii is prefi-Ked a Dis.?ertation on tiie Music of the
Ancients. 4 vols. 4lo. Calf, fine, clean copy ; plates. $30.00.

London, 1776.

UNIVERSAL HISTORY. (The Great.) From the earliest Accounts of Time
to the Present. Compiled from original authors j and illustrated with .Maps,
Plates, Notes, Chronological and other Tabl-s, both ancient and modern.
Uniform set. 25 vols, folio. $100.00. London 1737


engraving.'?. 42 vols. Thick 8vo., half bound and cornered. (.1 complete

^ set.) !?55.00. Philadelphia, 1822 and 1842.

HUMBOLDT, A. DE. Vues des Cordilleres, et Monumens des Peuples Indi-
genes de I'Ara^riquo. 62 Magnificent colored plates — (here ought to have
been 68 — six hate been lost. <Jreat folio size. $30.00. Paris, 1810.

ROUSSEAU, J. J. Collection Complete des tEuvrf.s. 17 vols. 4to. Calf,
numerous fine^ilates. 838.00. Geneva, 1782.

BOYLE, ROBERT. The Whole Works of To which is prefixed, a Life of
the Author. 6 vols. 4to. Calf. Portrait. J^SO.OO. London, 1772.

GROSE, FRANCIS. The Antiquities of England and Wales ; with numerous
curious plates. 8 vols, 4to. Calf. $25.00. London. N. D.

HARLEIAN MISCELLANY, or a Collection of Scarce, Curious, and Enter-
taini' 'ilets and Tracts, as well in Manuecript ns in Print, found in

*''" ' '' O.xford'a Library, interspersed with llistoncal. Political , and

Critical Notes, with a Table of the Contents and Alphabetical Index.
8vols.4to. 820.00. London, 1746.

SHAKSPEARE, W. Traduit de I'Anglois, Au Roi. 20 vols. 8vo. Sheep.
,gill- ^~''JOt» Paris, 1776.

Tl.w r,, :^<h I'M M„.!,,n , ici,.. .,.. . ..„„,, lohiivf litvii piil,ii..h''ii iiy iheHiil of siitscrip-

ihe iiaiiK.B of the Kings of FrRnco and Kngland,

SHAKESPEARE, W. Tragcdio dl Shakspenre, Tradotto da Michael Leoni
(with a curious Italian engraved head of Shakspeure). 14 vols. 8vo. Paper.
*'^'^3- Verona. 1819.

ZUINGERUS, THEOD. Thcutri Humanae Vit«. 6 vols. Folio. Hogskin
binding. §24.00. 151g









" In the latter end of the year 1545 the Mines of the Cerro de Potest were accidentally discovered. According to
the account of Herrera, the discovery was owing to an Indian hunter, Diego Hualca, who, in pulling up a shrub,
observed filaments of pure white silver about the roots. On exaniination, the mass was found to be enormous, and a
very great part of the population was thereby drawn to the spot and employed in extracting the metal. A city soon
sprang up, though in a district of unusual sterility. The moimtain was perforated on all sides, and the produce in a
few of the first years exceeded whatever has been recorded of the richest mines in the world. The amount of gold
annually produced in America, between the years 149'2 and 1500, was j£5'2,000.

W. Jacob, on the Pkeciofs SIetals,





\tJC c-<^X.


R . Craioiiead, Printer. Slcrcotypcr, and
rowci-l'ress I'rinicr.






Washington, March 22d, 1850.

Sir, — In obedience to your instructions, dated the 3d of April last, I proceeded
to California by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and arrived at San Francisco on
the 4th day of June.

The steamer in which I took passage was the first conveyance that reached
California with intelligence of the inauguration of President Taylor, and thei
appointment of his Cabinet, and that Congress had failed to aid the Executive in
providing a government for the people of that territory. The greatest anxiety was
naturally felt and manifested to ascertain the cause of this neglect on the part of
the Government of the United States, and what steps duty to themselves required
them to take, in the painful and embarrassing position in which they were placed
for their protection and welfare.

A brief sketch of their position will explain the cause of this anxiety.

The discovery of the gold mines had attracted a very large number of citizens
of the United States to that territory, who had never been accustomed to any other
than American law, administered by American courts. There they found their
rights of property and person subject to the uncertain, and frequently most oppres-
sive, operations of laws written in a language they did not understand, and founded
on principles, in many respects, new to them. They complained that the alcaldes,
or judges, most of whom had been appointed or elected before the immigration had
commenced, were not lawyers by education or profession ; and, being Americans,
they were, of course, unacquainted with the laws of Mexico, or the principles of
the civil law on which they are founded.

As our own laws, except for the collection of revenue, the transmission of the
mails, and the establishment of post-offices, had not been extended over that terri-
tory, the laws of Mexico, as thoy existed at the conclusion of the treaty of Guada-
lupe Hidalgo, regulating the relations of the inhabitants of Calii'ornia with each
other, necessarily remained in force ;* yet, there was not a single volume contain-

* See American Insurance Company et al. vs. Canter, 1st Peters's Supreme Court Reports,


ing those laws, as far as I know or believe, in the whole territory, except, perhaps,
in the Governor's office, at Monterey.

The magistrates, therefore, could not procure them, and the administration of
justice was, necessarily, as unequal and fluctuating as the opinions of the judges were
conflicting and variable.

There were no fee-bills to regulate costs, and, consequently, the most cruel
exactions, in many instances, were practised.

The greatest confusion prevailed respecting titles to property, and the decision
of suits, involving the most important rights, and very large sums of money,
depended upon the dictum of the judge.

The sale of the territory by Mexico to the United States had necessarily cut off
or dissolved the laws regulating the granting or procuring titles to land ; and, as
our own land-laws had not been extended over it, the people were compelled to
receive such titles as were offered to them, without the means of ascertaining
whether they were valid or not.

Litigation was so expensive and precarious, that injustice and oppression were
frequently endured, rather than resort to so uncertain a remedy.

Towns and cities were springing into existence — many of them without charters
or any legal right to organize municipal authorities, or to tax property or the
citizens, for the establishment of a police, the erection of prisons, or providing any
of those means for the protection of life and property which are so necessary in all
civil communities, and especially among a people mostly strangers to each other.

Nearly one million and a half of dollars had been paid into the custom-houses,
as duties on imported goods, before our revenue laws had been extended over the
country ; and the people complained bitterly that they were thus heavily taxed
without being provided with a government for their protection, or laws which they
could understand, or allowed the right to be represented in the councils of the

While anxiously waiting the action of Congress, oppressed and embarras.«cd by
this state of afliairs, and feeling the pressing necessity of applying such remedies as
were in their power and circumstances seemed to justify, tlicy resolved to substitute
laws of their own for the existing system, and to establish tribunals for their proper
and faithful administration.

In obedience, therefore, to the extraordinary exigencies of their condition, the
people of the city of San Francisco elected members to form a Legislature, and
clothed them with full power to pass laws.

The communities of Sonoma and of Sacramento city followed the example.

Thus were three legislative bodies organized ; the two most distant being only
one hundred and thirty miles apart.

Other movements of the kind were threatened, and doubtless would have fol-
lowed in other sections of the territory, had they not been arrested by the formation
of a State government.

While the people of California were looking to Congress for a Territorial
government, it was quite evident that such an organization was daily becoming
less suited to their condition, which was entirely difierent from that of any of the
territories out of which the new States of the Union had been formed.

Those territories had been at first slowly and sparsely peopled by a few hunters


and farmers, who penetrated the wilderness, or traversed the prairies in search of
game or a new home ; and, when thus gradually their population warranted it, a
government was provided for them. They, however, had no foreign commerce,
nor anything beyond the ordinary pursuits of agriculture and the various branches
of business which usually accompany it, to induce immigration within their borders.
Several years were required to give them suihcient population and wealth to place
them in a condition to require or enable them to support a State government.

Not so with California. The discovery of the vast metallic and mineral wealth
in her mountains had already attracted to her, in the space of twelve months, more
than one hundred thousand people ; an extensive commerce had sprung up with
China, the ports of Mexico on the Pacific, Chili, and Australia.

Hundreds of vessels from the Atlantic ports of the Union, freighted with our
manufactures and agricultural products, and filled with our fellow-citizens, had
arrived, or were on their passage round Cape Horn ; so that in the month of June
last there were more than three hundred sea-going vessels in the port of San

California has a border on the Pacific of 10 degrees of latitude, and several
important harbors which have never been surveyed ; nor is there a buoy, a beacon,
a light-house, or a fortification on the whole coast.

There are no docks for the repair of national or mercantile vessels nearer than
New York, a distance of some twenty thousand miles round Cape Horn.

All these things, together with the proper regulations of the gold region, the
quicksilver mines, the survey and disposition of the public lands, the adjustment of
land titles, the establishment of a mint and marine hospitals, required the imme-
diate formation of a more perfect civil government than California then had, and
the fostering care of Congress and the Executive.

California had, as it were by magic, become a State of great wealth and power.
One short year had given her a commercial importance but little inferior to that of
the most powerful of the old States. She had passed her minority at a single
bound, and might justly be regarded as fully entitled to take her place as an equal
among her sisters of the Union.

When, therefore, the reality became known to the people of that Territory that
the government had done nothing to relieve them from the evils and embarrass-
ments under which they were suffering, and seeing no probability of any change
on the subject which divided Congress, they adopted, with most unexampled
unanimity and promptitude, the only course which lay open to them — the imme-
diate formation of a State government.

They were induced to take this step not only for the reason that it promised the
most speedy remedy for present difficulties, but because the great and rapidly
growing interests of the Territory demanded it ; and all reflecting men saw, at a
glance, that it ought not to be any longer, and could not, under any circumstances,
be much longer postponed.

They not only considered themselves best qualified, but that they had the right
to decide, as far as they were concerned, the embarrassing question which was
ehaking the Union to its centre, and had thus far deprived them of a regularly
organized civil government. They believed that, in forming a constitution, they


had a right to establish or prohibit slavery, and that in their action as a State,
they would be sustained by the North and the South.

They were not unmindful of the fact, that while Northern statesmen had con-
tended that Congress has power to prohibit slavery in the Territories, they had
always admitted that the States of the Union had the right to abolish or establish
it at pleasure.

On the other hand. Southern statesmen had almost unanimously contended that
Congress has not the constitutional power to prohibit slavery in the Territories,
because they have not the power to establish it ; but that the people, in forming
a government for themselves, have the right to do either. If Congress can right-
fully do one, they can certainly do the other.

This is the doctrine put forth by Mr. Calhoun, in his celebrated Resolutions of
1847, introduced into the Senate of the United States, among which is the
following :

"Resolved, That it is a fundamental principle in our political creed, that a people
in forming a constitution have the unconditional right to form and adopt the
Government which they may think best calculated to secure their liberty, pros-
perity, and happiness ; and in conformity thereto, no other condition is imposed
by the Federal Constitution on a State, in order to be admitted into this Union,
except that its constitution shall be ' republican,' and that the imposition of any
other by Congress would not only be in violation of the Constitution, but in direct
conflict with the principle on which our political system rests."

President Polk, in his annual message, dated 5th December, 1848, uses the
following language : —

" The que.-tion is believed to be rather abstract than practical, whether slavery
ever can or would e.xist in any portion of the acquired territory, even if it were
left to the option of the slaveholding States themselves. From the nature of
the climate and productions, in much the larger portion of it, it is certain it could
never exist ; and in the remainder, the probabilities are that it would not.

" But however tiiis may be, the question, involving as it does a principle of
equality of rights of the separate and several States, as equal co-partners in the
Confederacy, should notice disregarded.

" In organizing governments over these Territories, no duty imposed on Congress
by the Constitution requires that they should legislate on the subject of slavery,
wliile their power to do so is not only seriously questioned, but denied by many of
the sounde'<t expounders of that instrument.

" Whether Congress shall legi.'^lato or not, the people of the acquired Territories,
when assembled in convention to form State constitutions, will possess the sole
and exclusive power to determine for themselves whether slavery shall or shall not
exist witiiin their limits."

The people of California, therefore, acting in conformity with the views thus
expresrcd, and what seemed to be the generally admitted opinion in the States, had
every reason to su|)posc, and did suppose, that by forming a constitution for them-
selves, and deciding this question in accordance with their own views and interests,
they would bo received with open arms by all parties.


In taking this step they proceeded with all the regularity which has ever charac-
terized the American people in discharging the great and important duties of

As already stated, I arrived at San Francisco on the morning of the fourth of

The steamer in which I was a passenger did not stop at Monterey ; I therefore
did not see General Riley, nor had I any communication with liim until about the
middle of the month, when he came to San Francisco. A few days after my
arrival, his State Constitution, dated the third of June, was received.

The people acted in accordance with what they believed to be the views of
Congress, and conformably to the recommendations of the proclamation ; and
proceeded, on the day appointed, to elect members to a convention, for the purpose
of forming a constitution, to be regularly submitted to the people, for their ratifica-
tion or rejection, and, if approved, to be presented to Congress, with a prayer for
the admission of California, as a State, into the Union.

I desire here to make a brief and emphatic reply to the various unjust and most
extraordinary accusations and insinuations which have been made respectint^ the
movements of the people of California in forming their State government.

I had no secret instructions, verbal or written, from the President, or any one
else, what to say to the people of California on the subject of slavery ; nor was it
ever hinted or intimated to me that I was e.\pected to attempt to influence their
action in the slightest degree on that subject. That I never did, the people of
California will bear me witness. In that Territory there was none of the machin-
ery of party or of the press ; and it is even more absurd to suppose that any strict
influences, for or against slavery, could have been used there, than it would be to
believe that they could be successfully employed in Maryland or Georgia.

I therefore declare all assertions and insinuations, that I was secretly instructed
to, or that I did in any way, attempt to influence the people of California to
exclude slavery from their territory, to be without foundation.

The election of delegates to the convention proceeded regularly in pursuance of
the proposed mode of holding it, and as far as I am informed, no questions were
asked whether a candidate was a Whig or a Democrat, or whether he was from
the North or the South. The only object seemed to be, to find competent men
who were willing to make the sacrifice of time which a proper discharge of their
duties would require.

As soon after my arrival at San Francisco as the arrangements of General
Smith would permit, I proceeded with him to the interior of the country, for the
purpose of examining the gold region, and other interesting and important portions
of it. I did not return until the 16th of August. The elections had taken place
when I was in the mountains. I was taken ill on the 20th of that month, and
was confined to my bed and my room more than two months.

The convention met on the 1st of September. So it will be seen that I was not
present where any election was held, nor had I anything to do with selecting or
bringing out candidates ; and my illness is sufficient proof that I did not, and could
not, had I been disposed, exercise any influence in the convention, which was
sitting one hundred and thirty miles from where I was.

Some intimations or assertions, as I am informed, have been thrown out that the


South was not fairly represented in the convention. I am told by two of the
members of Congress elect from California, who were members of the convention,
that of the ihirty-scvcn delegates designated in General Riley's proclamation, sixteen
Were from slavehulding, ten from the non-slaveholding States, and eleven who were
citizens of California under the Mexican government, and that ten of those eleven
came from districts below 36^ 30'. So that there were in the convention twenty-
sLx of the thirty-seven members from the slave-holding States, and from places
South of the Missouri compromise line.

It appears, on the journal of the convention, that the clause in the constitution
excluding slavery pa.ssed unanimously.

I now proceed to give you the result of my inquiries, observations, and reflections
respecting the population, climate, soil, productions — the general character of
grants of land from Mexico — the extent and condition of the public domain — the
commercial resources and prospects — the mineral and metallic wealth of


Humboldt, in his Essay on New Spain, states the population of Upper California,
in lbi)2, to have consisted of —

Converted Indians 15,562

Other classes 1 ,300

Alexander Forbes, in his history of Upper and Lower California, published in
London, in 1839, states the number of converted Indians in the former to havo

been, in 1831 18,683

Of all other classes, at 4,342


He expresses the opinion that this number had not varied much up to 1835, and
the probability is, there was very little increase in the white population until the
emigrants fion) the United States began to enter the country in 1838.

They increased, from year to year, so that, in 1846, Colonel Fremont had little
difficulty in calling to his standard some five hundred fighting men.

At the close of the war with Mexico, it was supposed that there were, including
discharged volunteers, from ten to fifteen thousand Americans and Californians,
exclusive of converted Indians, in the Territory. The immigration of American
citi/cns in 1849, up to the 1st of January last, was estimated at eighty thousand —
of foreigners, twenty thousand.

The population of California may therefore bo safely set down at 115,000 at the
commencement of the present year.

It is quite impo.s.«ible to form anything like an accurate estimate of the number
of Indians in the Territory. Since the commencement of the war, and especially
since the discovery of gold in the mountains, their number at the mis.«ions and in
the valleys near the coast has very much diminished. In fact, the whole race
seems to be rapidly di.'^appearing.

The remains of a vast number of villages in all the valleys of the Sierra Nevada,
and among the foot-hills of that range of mountains, show that at no distant day


there must have been a numerous population where there is not now an Indian to
be seen. There are a few still retained in the service of the old Califomians, but
these do not amount to more than a few thousand in the whole Territory. It ia
said there are large numbers of them in the mountains and valleys about the head-
waters of the San Joaquin, along the western base of the Sierra, and in the northern
part of the Territory, and that they are hostile. A number of Americans were
killed by them during the last summer in attempting to penetrate high up the rivers
in search of gold ; they also drove one or two parties from Trinity river. They
have, in several instances, attacked parties coming from or returning to Oregon, in

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Online LibraryT. Butler (Thomas Butler) KingCalifornia, the wonder of the age : a book for every one going to or having an interest in that golden region : being the report of Thomas Butler King → online text (page 1 of 5)