Tinkham Chapter X

Chapter X.


The pioneers of the early '50's were very antagonistic to the foreigners. They believed that the Peruvians, Chilians, Mexicans and Chinamen would dig all of the gold and emigrate to their native land. It was the law of self-preservation that actuated the pioneer, the same law that influences the citizens of today regarding the Orientals and the Hindus.

Before the pioneers landed upon California's soil the idea of driving out the foreigners prevailed, and a correspondent writing to the Panama Star said, "If foreigners come, let them till the soil, or do any other work that may suit them--the gold mines were preserved for Americans--we will share our interest in the mines with none but Americans."

The Legislature, voicing the same opinion, declared the foreigners trespassers upon American soil and in a memorial they asked for Congressional relief. In this memorial they asserted "that during the year, swarms of foreigners had come -- worked in the mines -- and extracted thousands of dollars -- without contributing anything to the support of the government or people." They decalred that the foreign element were slaves, and they had no interest in California, except to dig and carry away its gold. The memorial also affirmed that the young men, just from home, were in danger of moral destruction in associating with the criminal foreign element, many of them just from Botany Bay, and their increasing immigration would prevent the settlement of American families and the country's prosperity would be checked.

Congress seldom gives to petitioners the relief for which they pray, especially upon the race question. The Legislature, then taking action, passed what was known as the "foreign tax law." It was a law compelling all foreigners to pay a monthly license of $20 per month. If any person refused, the collector was empowered to seize their working tools or other property. The estimate was made of 200,000 foreigners then in the mines, and it was believed that the enforcement of the tax would monthly increse the state treasury a half million dollars. They had not counted on the amount stolen by the collectors.

In some localities the foreigners protested and holding indignation meetings declared that they would oppose the collection of the tax by force if necessary (a). Wild reports were spread that the foreigners intended to attack the Americans and in haste the citizens of Columbia hastened to Sonora, four miles distant. Then came the report from a would-be joker that the Mexicans were organizing to burn Sonora and that one of the citizens of Columbia had been killed (b).

A few days later a second joker on horseback rode to all of the surrounding camps and repeated the rumor of attack. In a short time 150 men were organized, and armed with guns, revolvers, knives and swords, they marched to the Mexican camp. They found the foreigners quiet and peaceful. A second time they were "sold." With fife and drum they returned to Sonora, and visiting every whiskey saloon many became to "weary" to further march.

The time set for the collection of the tax was June 1, 1850. From all indications and reports, trouble was expected in making the collections. On that day some 300 men, forming into companies, led by the sheriff of the county and Collector Bascom, marched to the Mexican camp. The found the frightened Mexicans, their wives and children pulling down their tents and hastily packing their little property upon their mules and burros, starting as soon as possible for other parts of the land. Crowds upon crowds were already upon full retreat, the Mexicans and Chileans fleeing from the country to save their lives, as they believed. The exodus was alarming to merchants and they indignantly protested against the outrage. Many of the mining camps were entirely deserted, as the foreigners formed one-half of the mining population. Sonora lost a third of her people, and in Columbia but ten persons remains. Real estate fell fifty per cent; the mountain merchants saw bankruptcy staring them in the face, and a general stagnation of business took place.

In Stockton and Sacramento there was great indignation and excitement, especially among the merchants, for they were dependent entirely for business upon the northern and southern mines (c). At Stockton a mass meeting was held on the plaza. The president of the meeting was David S. Terry. Strong resolutions were passed condemning the law, and they asserted that it was "odious and an unjust infliction upon the mining population, an outrage upon the miners, and as a public measure its continuance was a robbery."

The merchants of Sonora passed it up to the Supreme Court. They declared it unconstitutional. The Legislature of 1851 repealed it. This repeal was published and circulated in three languages, Spanish, French and English. The Chileans, Peruvians and Mexicans understood Spanish. The love of gold was a strong in the mind of the foreigner as in the American and long before the publication of the repeal they began returning to the mines.

The race hatred between the Americans and the foreigners still continued. The ignorant, degraded whites began a series of insults, abuses and maltreatments of the foreigners, and the innocent and the guilty alike suffered. Their abuse was especially directed against the Mexicans and the Chileans, the Americans even ouraging their wives and daughters. The Mexicans, retaliating, began to rob and murder. An open warfare was declared and every crime committed, the Mexicans being considered the guilty parties. Many American criminals for a time escaped detection because of this belief. Innocent Mexicans were arrested, tried and convicted for supposed crimes, and several punished by whipping. Others were hanged (d).

One of those cases in which three innocent Mexicans came near being executed took place at Sonora (e). At that time (July 10, 1849) four Americans rode into camp bringing with them three Mexican prisoners. The Americans asserted that the "greasers" had killed two Americans at Green's Flat. When arrested they were endeavoring to burn the bodies. The Mexicans declared that the bodies were those of two Mexicans who had died. They were burning the corpses in accordance with the custom of their country.

The justice of the peace summoned a jury to give the prisoners a preliminary trial. While the trial was in progress the crowd rapidly increased. At this time a man named Thornley, ccused of murder, had been acquitted. the mob were in an angry, drunken mood, thirsting for blood, and soon they began shouting, "String them up, hang them we'll hve no mistake this time!" Surging into the courtroom they overpowered the officers. The rushing for the presumed criminals they placed ropes around the neck of each and carried them to a distant locality.

A mob jury was chosen and they were bout to try the Mexicans when the officers of the law appeared. They succeeded in getting the Mexicans and quickly took them to jail. In the meantime the mob had been gathering in numbers from the srrounding camps. Three days later an armed force of nearly 2,000 desperate, excited men, each armed with a pistol, rifle or shotgun, appeared before the jail and demanded the prisoners. The "Court of Session" at that time was sitting in Sonora. Its officers were: charles Creanor, Judge; Samuel Booker, District Attorney, and J. D. Works, Sheriff. The officials were brave men and although standing out against great odds they were determined that the Mexicans should have a fair trial. When the case was called the courtroom was crowded. The court had appointed a strong guard to protect the accused men. One of the guard accidentally or purposely dropped his revolver. It was fired. Immediately the scene became exciting. Some believed a fight was on and instantly revolvers were drawn, bowie knives flashed in the air, and the tumult became indescribable. In the excitement others attempted to leave the courtroom. In thir frantic efforts to escape chairs were broken and doors and windows smashed. An alarm of fire increased their fright. In the confusion several shots were fired at the prisoners. The trial was postponed. The mob, "going on a spree," finally returned to their camps. The Mexicans were afterwards tried and acquitted. There was no evidence whatever showing their guilt.

Sometimes the Mexicans themselves retaliated on the whites, and the bloody career of Joaquin Murietta and his gang was due in some measure to the brutality of a party of white men. At the time of his exploits Murietta was but nineteen years of age, yet he was the most daring, cool headed and quick witted desperado of any criminal of the coast. He is said to have been a handsome, light complexioned Mexican, with light brown curly hair and deep blue eyes. He was of extraordinary muscular strength, agile as a cat, a splendid horseman and a dead shot with either pistol or rifle.

During the Mexican war he was one of the famous Jurate guerrillas and in 1849 he came to California with a Mexican circus and located at Los Angeles. While there he fell in love with a handsome senorita, Rosita Felix, a daughter of Spain. The father, however, objected to the marriage of his daughter to a Mexican. The couple then eloped and were married.

Later they rode to Shaw's Flat. Joaquin there discovered rich diggings and began mining. A few days later a party of cowardly brutes came along and attempted to drive Joaquin from his claim. They asserted that "Greasers are not allowed to take gold from American ground, and you had better git." Joaquin, defending his position, said he had complied with the law and he had a right to dig for gold. The brutes then insulted Murietta's wife. When he resented this he was knocked down and severely beaten, and in his presence his young wife was outraged. The ruffians then fled. Joaquin, stifling the revengeful feelings in his mind, retired deeper into the mountains, where he hoped the Americans would not come.

Not long after this event he visited Murphy's Camp riding a horse owned by his half-brother. Again a company of toughs greeted him with the remark, "You damned greaser, where did you steal that horse?" Without waiting for a reply, they seized Joaquin, bound him to a tree and upon the bare back whipped him severely. then unfastening him they exclaimed, "Now, vamoose, and never come back to these diggings if you don't want to be hung."

Burning with a deep seated hatred because of his three great wrongs, for in the meantime the mob had hanged his half-brother, he swore that he would be revenged and a hundred Americans would pay the penalty. Organizing a band of some twenty of the worst desperadoes in the state, he began a career of robbery and murder that continued for nearly three years. His band terrorized the citizens of the mountain camps and the valley towns and they never knew when Joaquin would appear (f).

In his criminal acts he was protected by his many Mexican friends. They would send the officers on the wrong trail, act for him as spies, hide him if necessary, and at all times furnish him with the strongest and fastest horses in the country. For this he paid them liberally. They would send the oficers on the wrong trail, act for him as spies, hide him if necessary, and at all times furnish him with the strongest and fastest horses in the country. For this he paid them liberally.

the Governor offered a reward of $5,000 for the body of the desperado, alive or dead. Scouting parties endeavored to catch him, but all failed. Finally the Legislature of 1853 authorized Harry Love, a famous fighter, to organize a company and hunt down the bandit. Love and his party of twenty were as unsuccessful as the private scouters, for his movements were reorted daily to the chief.

Finally Love, by a strategic movement, succeeded. During the daylight the party would hunt for the desperado, riding in one direction only. That night they would back track. This movement confused Joaquin's informers and they were unable to follow Love. While riding in Fresno county (July 25, 1853) the posse discovered far off a suspicious smoke on the open plain. Riding towards the campers in a slow, unconcerned manner, they soon observed that it was a Mexican camp. The men were sitting around a campfire, smoking cigarettes, others playing cards upon a serape spread upon the earth.

The Mexicans believed the approaching party were travelers. Too late they learned their mistake. Immediately giving the alarm, they ran for their horses and fled. the Love party followed in hot pursuit. Murietta, who had been asleep, jumped on his horse bareback and with only a reata to guide him. William Byrnes, who had known the desperado for many years, discovered him and shouted, "This is Joaquin, boys, we've got him at last." Swift pursuit was now given to the chief. Shot after shot was fired at him, and one shot striking the horse, he staggered and fell. Joaquin quickly leaped from the wounded animal and ran. Several shots were then fired at him. Two shots took effect. He fell to the earth, exclaiming in his death struggle, "No tira mass, yo soy muerto" (Don't shoot any more, for I am dead). When his pursuers reached him Joaquin was dead. A ball had passed through his heart. The head was severed from the body. It was preserved in alcohol to show that the bandit had been killed. Later by an exhibitor it was shown about the state, "admission twenty-five cents."

In the mining camps, as we have seen, the Mexicans were shamefully abused. A similar treatment was given the Negro. The Mexican was a free man, but the colored man was regarded as a slave. He could not testify against a white man in a court of law, and prior to 1855 he could claim no rights as a free man (g).

Quite a large number of southerners brought their slaves to California. It was their object to work them in the mines or lease them for labor. So numerous were the runaways, however, and so frequently were the Negroes persuaded and assisted in their flight by anti-slavery men, the Legislature passed in 1852 what was known as the fugitive slave law. It was introduced by Senator Henry A. Crabb, a Stockton lawyer. The law authorized any slave owner who claimed a runaway slave to procure a warrant for his arrest. Any civil officer was compelled to serve the warrant and make the arrest. If in a court the slave owner proved the slave to be his property, he could take him by force if necessary from the state. Any person assisting a slave to escape was liable to a fine, imprisonment or civil damages brought by the owner.

Notwithstanding the fact that the constitution declared neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime, shall ever be tolerated in this state, this law was enforced. It remained in force until 1854. The Legislature of that year, the anti-slavery Democrats in the majority, so amended the fugitive slave law as to make it null and void after April 15, 1855.

Under the provisions of this law, in May, 1852, Justice of the Peace Fry, of Sacramento, returned a Negro to a Mr. Lathrop. He claimed that he brought the Negro to California in 1849. The boy ran away late in 1851 and his owner, learning of his residence, had him arrested. In June, 1852, three more runaway slaves were arrested. This case was taken to the Supreme Court on the ground that the law was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court at this time comprised Hugh C. Murry, Chief Justice, and Solomon Hydenfelt and Alexander Anderson, associates. They gave their decision July 30, 1852, that the law was constitutional and the slaves were given to their owners immediately, without cost. They were returned to the south and slavery.

Another case more cruel was that of the mulatto woman as reported September 24, 1852, in the San Francisco Herald. "Yesterday Justice Shepherd issued a warrant for the arrest of a mulatto woman as a fugitive slave, claimed by T. J. Smith, of Missouri. She was brought by him to California in 1850 with other slaves and a few months ago married a free Negro and ran away from Smith. Her owner learned that she was secreted on the clipper ship Flying Cloud and she was arrested, given into his possession and taken back to slavery."

The following advertisement appeared September 12, 1852, in the San Joaquin Republican: "Escape of a fugitive slave -- Mr. O. R. Rozier called upon us yesterday and stated that his slave Stephen, whom he had brought with him from Sonora and was taking back to Alabama, made his escape from the steamer Urilda, while lying at the wharf in San Francisco. Mr. Rozier is still in this city at the St. Charles Hotel, where he will be pleased to receive any information of the fugitive."

The Negro was not the only person subject to slavery, for the same Legislature, that of 1852, passed a law permitting the slavery of the Indian. It was lawful for any white man to capture an Indian, man, woman or child, and compel them to labor, the only conditions upon his part being a bond of a small sum given to the justice of the peace of the county where he resided that he would not abuse or cruelly treat the Indian. Under the provisions of the same law, Indians could be arrested as vagrants and sold to the highest bidder within twenty-four hours after their arrest, and the buyer had the privilege of their labor for a period not exceeding four months. An Indian arrested for a violation of law could demand a jury trial, yet he could not testify either in his own behalf or against a white man. If found guilty of any crime, he could either be imprisoned or whipped, the whipping not to exceed twenty-five lashes.

The Negro question occupied considerable of the time of the first Legislatures. When that body assembled in 1858, early in the session petitions were sent up asking a repeal of the Negro evidence law. This law prohibited a Negro from testifying against a white man in a court of law. It was a very unjust law. Yet the pro-slavery Democratic press strongly denounced any repeal of the law, they asserting "that no man's life or property would be safe" if the law be repealed. A bill to repeal was introduced in the Assembly but it was quickly killed in the committee room.

Another bill equally outrageous was introduced in the Assembly by A. G. Stakes, then judge of San Joaquin county. This bill "prohibited free Negroes and other obnoxious persons from immigrating to the state." It also provided that any slave escaping to this state could be reclaimed by his master without further trouble. The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 39 to 8. It also passed the Senate by a large majority and wa signed by Governor Bigler.

The last section of the law was passed to cover a special case, that of the Negro Archie Lee, who had escaped from his master while in this state. Charles Stovall in 1857 brought the boy from Mississippi, and locating at Sacramento he taught school. In the meantime Archie Lee, learning that he was free, ran away. Stovall succeeded in finding and capturing the Negro. The Negro's friends now interfered and a writ of habeas corpus was sworn out before George Penn Johnson, United States commissioner. The boy was given his freedom. Archie was again arrested by his enemies and a writ of habeas corpus issued, returnable before the Supreme Court. That profound body, Peter H. Burnett, Stephen J. Field and David S. Terry, gave the Negro to his master. According to the construction of the law, however, they declared the Negro free. This decision deeply aroused the anti-slavery whites.

Stovall took the boy to San Francisco, intending to take him back to Mississippi. The case had aroused so much excitement that Stovall traveled in a carriage by the way of Stockton to the metropolis, where he planned to quietly board the ocean liner as she passed through the Golden Gate. The Negroes of San Francisco, however, got busy and had issued habeas corpus No. 3. It was placed in the hands of the officers and they remained up all night waiting for Stovall. they expected to find him on the Stockton steamer. They found him not. Suspecting, however, that Stovall was playing a strategic game, Deputy Sheriff Thompson kept watch of the outgoing steamer. As she passed Angel Island a boat put out from the shore. In the boat was Stovall, the Negro boy and four friends. The deputy intercepted them and served upon Stovall two writs, one for Archie Lee, the other for Stovall, the latter being charged with kidnapping. Stovall and his friends drew their revolvers and Stovall exclaimed, "The boy has been given to me by the Supreme Court and I'll be damned if any state court shall take him away!"

The deputy, however, returned to San Francisco with Stovall as his prisoner. Upon a technicality of the law he was acquitted of kidnaping. The writ for Archie Lee came up before Judge Freelon on March 17th. The colored men had engaged Edward D. Baker to defend the boy. He was given his freedom. Immediately he was again arrested under the fugitive slave act of 1858. In the meantime Stovall, facing a suit for damages, had left the state. Archie was again brought before Commissioner Johnson, under habeas corpus No. 4, and was discharged. The question of slavery in California was settled.

  1. Three thousand foreigners assembled at Mormon Diggings and defying the Americans to collect the tax they threatened to burn the town if the attempt were made. In Tuolumne they raised their national flag, denounced the tax as an outrage and urged the citizens to remonstrate against its enforcement.

  2. A company of armed men was hastily formed, and led by Rochette, a lively little frenchman, carrying a large American flag, they marched from Sonora to Columbia. Upon learning that they had been sold, to quiet their excited nerves they began drinking and feasting at the expense of Charles Bassett, the supposed corpse.

  3. Even at this early stage of the game we find that the merchant capital cannot do business without the laborer. The miner would have starved without the merchant. Capital and labor are identical, not antagonistic.

  4. Under this severe law, two men were together hanged in Stockton for horse stealing. One of them was murderer who had never been caught. This was the only legal excution for stealing, as the law was repealed in 1853.

  5. Illustrating the severe and cruel punishment inflicted not only upon Mexicans, but ofttimes upon Negroes for criminal offenses, I cite one case of a sentence executed upon a Mexican at Jamestown, convicted of stealing. The sentence of the judge was a dozen lashes upon the bare back. The prisoner's back was uncovered, then he was lashed to a tree with topes and the executioner began laying on the blows. Each stroke caused the victim to cry out with pain. The brute, in his fiendish delight, laid on thirty-six blows. Then a doctor who was present commanded him to stop, fearing that murder would be committed. The Mexican then, loosened from the tree, sank unconscious to the earth. Restored to consciousness, they washed his lacerated back in no gentle manner with salt water, and the following morning they gave him but two hours to leave the town or "swing from a tree." Although very weak, the Mexican knew his persecutors would have no mercy and to save his life he succeeded in leaving the town.

  6. On one occasion he visited Marysville and, entering a saloon, began playing monte. During the play the conversation turned to Joaquin Murietta and his crimes. One of the braggarts at the table exclaimed, "I would give $1000 for a shot at Murietta." The daring bandit sprung upon the table and shouted, "You cowardly gringo, loo, I am Murietta." Before the astonished players could collect their senses, Joaquin jumped from the table, ran to his horse and quickly rode from sight.

    At a fandango one evening it was reported that Joaquin would be present. Quietly a party was organized to catch him. the would-be detectives entered the room and made inquiry of every one present if they had seen Murietta. One dancer replied to the deputy sheriff, "Yes, I have seen him, but I do not know where he is at present." The next day the deputy was chagrined to learn that he had been conversing with the much sought bandit.

    Joaquin's most daring exploit was at Stockton. Upon a house there was tacked a large poster:

    for the body of
    Joaquin Murietta

    While a number of persons were standing reading the poster a Mexican rode up. Dismounting, he wrote beneath, "I will give $10,000 myself -- Joaquin Murietta." With a quick spring he again mounted his horse and swiftly road away.

  7. In 1849 a slave owner brought his slave to California. Not wishing to take the Negro back to his native state, Alabama, he concluded to sell him by auction. An advertisement was put in the papers. The boy was purchased at $100 by Caleb T. Fay, a strong abolitionist. He gave the boy his freedom.

    A Mississippi slave owner brought several slaves from that state, he promising to give them their freedom in two years. They all ran away save one, Charley Bates, when they learned that they were already free. The owner, finding that mining did not pay, started east, taking Charley with him. On the Isthmus of Panama, Charley was persuaded to leave his master. He returned to California and Stockton with him new found friend. On the street one day he was recognized by a party who had loaned money to Charley's master. The debtor got out an attachment for the former slave as chattel property, and in accordance with the state law the Negro was put up and sold by auction. A number of anti-slavery men bought the boy for $750. He was then given his freedom.

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