The first political conventions in California were held in 1851, the Democrats assembling May 19th in Benicia and the Whigs May 26th in San Francisco. The Benicia convention was composed of a solid body of Democrats who in after years became famous in state and nation. In their platform they censured the government because it had not, as they claimed, guarded the frontier against the Indians, provided postal facilities for California nor built a mint at San Francisco. they glorified the party and declared Thomas Jefferson was its founder. Alexander Hamilton was the father of "Whiggery," declared the Democrats. The Whigs found no fault with the government for, if the Democratic platform told the truth, the President had filled all of the federal offices of California with Whigs from other states.
The Whigs in their platform favored giving subsidies to steamship companies running steamers from San Francisco to the Sandwich Islands, and to railroad promoters who would build an overland railroad. They favored a pre-emption law that would give 160 acres of land to actual settlers; that the government should preserve the mineral lands for the miners free of cost, and give to the state liberal grants of land for educational purposes.
The Democratic nominee for Governor was John Bigler (a), because of his big heart, generous nature and strong sympathy for the unfortunate (b). He was unpolished, gruff in manner and ignorant in many respects, and because of this the Southern wing of the party dubbed him a "Northern mudsill." The Southerners worked and voted for the Whig nominee, Pierson B. Reading, a man of Southern birth, a quiet, refined and educated pioneer of 1844 and a large landholder of Northern California. The miners voted for Bigler and he received 22,613 votes to Reading's 21,531 (c). It was the closest gubernatorial vote in state history.
Bigler in his inaugural address severely denounced the Chinese and recommended that laws be passed checking the immigration of "coolie labor." In only one way could such immigration be checked and those who were here forced to emigrate, and that was by taxation. Then the cry went forth from merchant and citizen, "tax the Chinese." There are two ways of persecuting a people or race, by law or by physical force. In the case of the Chinaman both ways were employed. The civilized and intelligent used the law; the ignorant and degraded made use of brickbats, stones, clubs and fire. The legislature again enforced the "foreign miners' tax," with this difference, Chinamen only were the victims. As a starter, in 1852 they enacted a law taxing all Chinese miners $3.00 per month. John kept on digging gold. Then the legislature passed a law taxing all foreigners $4 per month, the Chinaman's tax increasing yearly $2 per month. The Whig legislature of 1855 passed a uniform tax law of $4 per month.
Then came the cry for a Chinese law, and it was enacted that all aliens upon arrival must pay a $50 head tax; if not paid within three days the ship was made responsible. As this touched the ship owners' pockets, they made up a test case. "Unconstitutional," said the Supreme Court. In 1858 the legislature tried again, by passing a law prohibiting all Mongolians from landing upon California's shores. Any captain landing an alien was guilty of a misdemeanor. The ship owners again sent a case to the Supreme Court, with the same decision, "unconstitutional." That words appears to be the shibboleth of capital, the knell of labor. The legislators apparently discouraged, the subject was not again under discussion until 1860. then a petition with 8,000 signers came up from San Francisco asking the legislature to pass a "coolie bill." The petition was laid upon the table, as there were questions before them of far greater importance. The Chinese question did not again claim legislative action until 1871. We will again consider its history.
In the earlier history of the Chinese question the opposition to Chinese immigration was limited. The constitution prohibited slavery, but it said nothing about cheap labor. The merchant wanted more customers to buy his goods, the capitalists wanted cheap labor to work in the gold mines, building bridges and flumes and digging canals. The immense tule and marsh lands of the interior are splendid rice fields awaiting development. Across the water, a four weeks' journey, there is an army of cheap labor ready and willing to come and do the white man's work. Why not import and work them? It was the question asked by the pro-slavery pioneers. A bill was passed by the Assembly "to enforce the observance for labor contracts made without the state." It was intended to apply to Chinese only, and it made valid, in California, contracts made in China for coolie labor, the wages running from $8 to $10 per month. The time of servitude was not to exceed five years. Had the bill gone to Governor McDougal he would have signed it. In his inaugural he declared that the Chinese were the most desirable to adopted citizens. The Senate voted down the bill. Broderick strongly opposed it because he disapproved of slvery in any form, negro or Chinaman. Phillip Roach, one of the leading Democrats until his death in 1889, contended that cheap labor, especially of the servile class, had a tendency to degrade white labor, and a wrong to the working class was an injury to the state. This was the only bill ever introduced into the legislature in the interest of the Mongolian.
In the state election of 1854 Governor Bigler was again elected Governor. He was the only Governor twice elected to that office. Bigler's popularity was great, but that of his running mate, Samuel Purdy, was even greater. His integrity was tested and true. At that time several parties in San Francisco had planned what was known as the "big steal." It was their purpose to grab a large part of the water front, have the legislature legalize their act and give the state a few lots for salvage. the Governor, "Honest John," favored the scheme, for the state was heavily in debt and he believed if the bay were filled in a distance of 600 feet the newly made lots could be sold for a round sum and a part of the state debt paid. The Assembly passed the bill. The Senate gave a tie vote. Broderick denounced the bill, and asserted that in previous schemes of water lot extension the state hd been robbed of over $2,000,000, while Captain J. L. Folsom, Talbot H. Green and others had made millions out of it. President Purdy of the Senate had the deciding vote. He had been offered $50,000 to vote "yes," but he voted "no."
The fourth session of the legislature assembled at Vallejo in January, 1853. General Vallejo had not been able to fulfill his promises and the friends of suitable locations began agitating the removal question. Benicia, Sacramento and San Jose sought the honor, but the legislators had no love for San Jose because of their past experiences in the City Hotel. Sacramento was not favorably considered, as during one session the capitol was surrounded by water for two weeks. Benicia now held out very favorable inducements. The citizens promised to pay the entire cost of removal, give the legislature the city hall rent free, and introduce them to their twenty or thirty marriageable young ladies. The legislature voted to meet in Benicia. Wagons were provided, and February 1, 1853, the capitol equipment was moved to Benicia (d).
The legislature of February 2, 1854, met in Benicia, and the most important questions of discussion were the Senatorial and the removal question. "There is only one thing certain," said a writer, "you need not look for much legislation for the people until the capital and the Senatorial questions are settled." Sacramento had been spending money freely among certain doubtful members of the Assembly, and in spite of all of the tactics of Benicia's friends they passed the removal bill by two majority. There was a heated debate in the Senate over this question. Broderick now favored it, for Sacramento had promised him assistance in his Senatorial fight. Broderick was a power in the Senate, and February 25th that body voted for Sacramento. For the second time the legislature sailed up the Sacramento river (e) and March 1st reassembled in legislative session (f).
Five days later Governor bigler was inaugurated. The letter writers telll us that "the scene was imposing and impressive." The Helen Hensley came up to Sacramento from San Francisco with a large crowd on board, the number including the new military company, the San Francisco Blues. The Governor in his address recommended the speedy reduction of the state debt; the encouragement of education; the exclusion of coolie labor, and an amendment to the constitution, making the legislative session biennial. He declared that in one session alone the clerk hire had cost the state over $100,000. The change would save the state over $175,000.
In this session Broderick tried to force what was known as an "election bill." In the legislature of 1852 he ran for United States Senator, but was defeated by the Whigs. They at the last moment voted for John B. Weller, the Democratic nominee. Broderick's scheme was bold, audacious and startling. He sought to have the legislature pass a bill authorizing themselves to vote for a United States Senator, two years before he could take his seat. It was a very unusual proceeding, as United States Senators had always been elected the previous year. None could say that such an election was illegal and Broderick believed that if such a bill were passed his election as United States Senator was assured. The Assembly was safe for him. His Sacramento friends did not forget his work for the capital. The Senate only was doubtful. The Democrats, who had been split asunder in a political feud, now united to defeat this audacious plotter. He was not alone, for behind his political friends stood the bank of Palmer, Cook & Co. The opposition, led by Wm. M. Gwin, anxious to succeed himself, also had a strong money pull with the Panama Steamship Company. Money was freely used. Palmer offered Senator Peck of Butte $5,000 for his vote, he being opposed to the bill. Peck in open Senate declared Palmer tried to bribe him. An investigation and trial was held, but nothing came of it.
The bill was to come up in both houses March 6 and the previous day, Sunday, was a very exciting Sabbath in Sacramento. Senator Peck was a prisoner in the Magnolia hotel, guarded by friends from the Broderick men. Two days previous supposed friends had taken Peck carriage riding. Purposely upsetting the vehicle, the tried to cripple Peck so that he could not appear in his seat. Severely lamed, he hobbled back to town. Another Senator, Jacob Grewell, a Whig from Santa Clara, was also a prisoner in the Fountain house, closely guarded by Broderick men. Grewell had opposed the election bill, but had been persuaded to change his views. The Gwin faction, learning this, hastened to Santa Clara, whither he had gone, and brought Grewell back to Sacramento. The Broderick men then took possession of Grewell and kept him a prisoner.
The Assembly quickly settled the "election bill" by vote of 41 to 38. In the Senate the contest was to take place. They were nearly evenly divided upon the question, and none could tell how Lieutenant Governor Purdy would vote. When the bill was called up Broderick was present. Says an eye witness, James O'Meara, "pale, eager, nervous, but with jaws firmly set, his deep blue eyes gleaming with the fire that possessed him, and all of the forces of his mind at their extreme tension." The Senate began voting amidst the deepest silence. A hundred pens recorded every vote. The result was a tie. Samuel Purdy voted "aye." With shouts and ringing cheers, the Broderick men rushed to congratulate their leader. The victory was not yet won.
The Gwin men were extremely angry at the result and they resolved to kidnap Grewell. The friends of Broderick, suspecting such a plot, had again put Grewell under guard. The Gwin faction hired a desperate character named Allrich to kidnap Grewell. Allrich entered the room where Grewell was confined and found his watchman stupidly drunk. Putting a pistol to Grewell's head, he commanded him to follow. On the street he was quickly pushed into a hack in waiting and driven to the magnolia house. Gwin's headquarters. He was there interviewed by Henry A. Crabb, the Whig leader, who bitterly opposed Broderick. Grewell for some reason was in mortal fear of Crabb, and he promised to recant. The next day at the proper moment Grewell arose and moved a reconsideration of the election bill. The motion carried by a vote of 18 to 16. The following day the Assembly passed a bill fixing March 20, 1855, as the day for electing a United States Senator. Broderick stood face to face with his second defeat.
In the constitutional convention one of the questions which frequently came up for discussion was that of state division. The South strongly opposed the boundary of state as it now stands. The only occupation of the Southerners even as late as 1870 was stock raising. They declared that they had no common interest with the North, and they feared their large acreage of land would be heavily taxed while they received no benefit. In 1854 the legislators from the South voted for Sacramento as the permanent seat upon the promise that the state would be divided. In July of that year a paper called the California was established and devoted to state division. It asserted that all of that part of the state south of Mt. Diablo, meridian 38, north latitude, would form a part of the new state. Slavery, it declared, could not exist in the new state. In the following year a state division bill was introduced to the Assembly. The pro-slavery members tried to introduce a slavery clause. That killed the bill. The legislators from the south of the Tehachapi mountains in 1859 strongly opposed Sacramento as the capital. During their opposition they succeeded in having a law passed permitting San Luis Obispo, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara counties to vote upon the proposition of a new state. It carried almost unanimously, and through Governor Latham their petition was presented to Congress. That body rested until 1886, when Wm. Vandever, Congressman from that district, tried to revive the state division question. He was unsuccessful. The Native Sons of the Golden West stand on record as unanimously opposed to any division of state.
The sixth Democratic legislature assembled in Sacramento January 1, 1855. It was a remarkable body. It was a legislature a half centure ahead of its time. For they defied public opinion and enacted four moral laws prohibiting the most pernicious vices of the state, namely: Gambling (g), intemperance, the social evil and Sabbath breaking. At that time virtuous women were coming into the state in large numbers, and they sent up petitions requesting the repeal of the license gambling law. their prayer was heard, and April 17th Governor Bigler signed the law prohibiting any form of gambling (h).
Another vice worse even than that of gambling was liquor drinking. Liquor was drunk as freely as water, and it was sold by the quart, gallon and barrel to consumers. The liquor drinking habit began to increase to an alarming extent, and the better class of citizens began organizing temperance societies. They petitioned the legislatures to pass prohibition laws and close up the saloons. No heed was given to their prayer until 1855. In that year petitions were sent up from the women of El Dorado county, from the citizens of Tuolumne, Santa Cruz and 500 residents of Iowa hill, praying the legislature to pass a prohibition law. A bill was introduced prohibiting the manufacture of any spirituous or intoxicating liquors except for medicinal, chemical, mechanical or sacramental purposes. It was a fake bill, introduced evidently to deceive the quiet the agitation. It did not prohibit the sale of liquor. As all of the liquor was imported (20,000 barrels of whicky, 13,000 barrels of brandy, 4,000 barrels of rum, 9,000 hogsheads of beer and 3,400 cases of champagne in a single year), how would that prevent the drinking of intoxicating liquors?
The wise solons, either blind or serpent wise, bitterly fought the bill. They contended that the wine consumer should be exempt from its provisions; that each county should regulate the liquor traffic, and that the people should decide the question. The legislature so decreed. In the election, September 5, 1855, by a majority of 5,362 the people voted in favor of the law, the cities against it. Even in that day the saloon controlled politics. One measure along prohibition lines the legislature approved without any dissent. A bill was introduced, passed the Senate and was approved by the Assembly (37 to 16) called the saloon law. It prohibited the sale of liquor within two miles of the state's prison!
The next question that came up for legislative action along moral lines was a Sunday closing and amusement law (i). Citizens protesting against "high carnivals" on the Sabbath petitioned the legislature of 1852-53 to pass a Sunday law, but without effect. The mountain counties cried out for relief in 1854. The Assembly then enacted a Sunday law, 37 to 14. The Senate killed it. More petitions were sent up to the 1855 legislature. They passed a Sunday law which was signed by the Governor prohibiting all barbarous or noisy amusements, and all Sunday exhibition of shows. This law was repealed in 1883. In the meantime several state and local laws were passed. It was found impossible, however, to convict any violator of the law.
Trappers who have taken the trouble to estimate the Indian population of California have stated that never did it exceed 100,000. Diseases and petilence would at times carry the Indians off by the hundreds. Then they would increase until the next scourge came. One of these death-destroying periods was in the winter of 1832-33. A trapper, J. J. Warner, states at that time a very violent type of intermittent fever swept down the valleys of the Sacramento and the San Joaquin, destroying hundreds of Indians. The presence of the Spaniards and Mexicans in the territory did not decrease their numbers to any noticeable extent. But when the gold-seekers arrived, their frightful diseases, "fire water" and bullets, in a few years nearly exterminated the race.
The Indian, with no friend or law to protect him, was often wantonly shot down by the white man. One of these outrages was the beginning of the so-called "four years' Indian war." During this war hundreds of savages were killed and thousands of dollars looted from the state treasury. The first attached was at Volcano. A party of Indians was there digging for gold. A party of miners came along and began digging. Soon after this a miner lost his pick and he accused an Indian of stealing it. The Indian chief then started on the run for the rancheria to make inquiry about the pick. The miner, believing him guilty, raised his rifle and shot dead the chief. The Indians raised the war cry and began arming for a fight. The miners then aroused the white men of the vicinity by circulating the report that the chief had killed a white man. The whites then drove the savages from the place, killing a large number of them.
In the south, in Fresno county, the Indians made the first attack. The whites, they declared, had driven the game from their hunting ground and killed it. They ahd poisoned the streams and killed the fish, and they said they would starve if things so contineud. In January, 1850, the savages threatened to extreminate the whites if they did not leave the country. Soon after this threat they swooped down upon the miners and drove off all of their horses, mules and cattle to their mountain rancherias. Detached companies of whites were organized and the armed miners pursued the thieves. In one skirmish two members of the company from Big Oak Flat were killed.
At this time James A. Savage (j) was conducting two stores, one on the Fresno river and the other at Agua Fria. Late in December, 1860, the Indians made an attack upon the stores. Straggling into the Fresno store, as was their usual custom, as if to trade, with their bows, arrows and hatchets, they killed three of the whites. Brown, a second clerk, ws saved by a friendly Polonio Indian. He escaped and reported the news of the massacre. In the meantime the savages stripped the dead of all their clothing, broke open the safe and took all of the gold dust and hastened away, driving with them all of the horses and cattle of that vicinity. About the same time Savage's Agua Fria store was also attacked. Two men were killed and the store was robbed and Savage's wives were taken prisoners. Cassiday, a rival storekeeper, was also killed and four miners who were working upon Four Creeks.
Many depredations were made and as the Indians continued on the warpath, Governor McDougal authorized the sheriff of Mariposa county to enlist 250 men for duty. The men were to furnish their own horses and equipment and the government provided food and transortation for baggage. The Indian peace commissioners also visited Mariposa to see if they could not arrange terms of peace, as it was well known that the Indians had been abused and unjustly treated by the settlers. Indians friendly to the whites were sent to all the surrounding tribes, inviting them to come in and meet the commissioners. Some of the tribes sent their agents. The majority failed to respond; they feared the treachery of the whites. Among the latter was the Yosemite tribe. Their chief, Ten-ie-ya, told the messenger, Pon-wat-chee, that they would remain in the mountains. This settled the question with the Yosemite tribe, and it was finally resolved to drive them out of their secret fortress, then unknown to the white man (k).
Major Savage now sent a special message to Ten-ie-ya to come and see him. The old chief came, and said the tribe would come the next day. They failed to come. Then the Mariposa battalion of forty picked men was organized to march in and drive out the Yosemite tribe. The company was under the command of Major Savage and Captain Boling, and they compelled the old chief to lead the way to the Sierra fortress. Some fifteen miles from their starting point the company met a number of the tribe coming from the valley. They were loaded down with Indian goods and slowly floundering through the snow. The old chief now declared that there were no more Indians in the mountains. As there were no warriors among the Indians, Savage knew that some two hundred braves had been left behind. The old chief was permitted to return to Savage's camp. A young savage was compelled to act as guide, and the company pushed on through the snow, from three to five feet in depth. Traveling on, they reached a high cliff and the beautiful valley came into view. The battalion now began its descent, and traveling five miles along a deep and narrow pathway, on the night of May 5, 1851, they camped in the wonderful Yosemite (l). The following morning they began hunting for the braves. All that they found was the smouldering campfires of the Indians. They had retreated far back in the mountains. Remaining two days in the valley, the company returned to Savage's camp.
The Indians who had come to the upper valley were now permitted to return to their Yosemite home, as it was believed that they would give no further trouble. Immediately they began to make hostile demonstrations. A second expedition consisting in part of United States troops was now organized and scouting the country in all directions, they took several prisoners. Among the number were Ten-ie-ya's three sons, they being captured upon the cliffs now known as "Three Brothers." The next year the Indians again began their murderous work by killing five miners at work in Coarse Gold gulch. The settlers, alarmed, sent word to Fort Miller and a detachment of regulars under the command of Lieutenant Moore started in pursuit. Upon finding the Indians, five of them were dressed in the dead miners' clothing; as this was considered positive proof of their guilt, they were shot. The balance of the tribe fled far back into the mountains. Expecting that if they would push on they would find the old Chief Ten-ie-ya, the troops kept in pursuit. They were rewarded for their fatiguing work by the discovery of a new lake, Mono, and it is now so-called. The troops failed to find any Indians and returned for Fort Miller. In 1853 a fight took place between the Yosemite and Mono tribes. The Yosemite tribe was completely destroyed and the Monos, on catching old Ten-ie-ya stoned him to death.
Trouble also took place in the south. In February, 1852, a party of thirteen ferrymen living upon the Colorado river were attached and only three escaped to tell of the fate of their companions. They reported the massacre to Major Bean of San Diego. He called upon the sheriffs of San Diego and Los Angeles for assistance. Volunteers to the number of 180 at once responded, but upon reaching the spot they learned that the Indians had fled to Arizona. Word was now sent to the Governor, and he called for volunteers. A book for enlistment was opened in the California Exchange, San Francisco. So many persons made application that not half of them could be accepted. From the number enrolled two companies were organized, the San Francisco Rangers (Captain Geary) and the Allrich Rangers (Captain Daniel Allrich). They adopted a uniform of blue shirts and caps and black pants. Before they were ready to sail, word came from the south that all was quiet. The brave volunteers were disbanded.
The people's nag, he cant' be beat, It matters not how long the heat, Let the moneyed power bring on their tin, The mountain boys will rope it in. The manufacturers' groveling press May all pitch in and do their best; The working men are wide awake; And honest John will win the stake. Chorus: We're bound to run all night, We're bound to run all day, We'll bet our money on the people's nag And win on election day. --Miners' Campaign Song
Semple removed to the place from Yerba Buena, and he and General Vallejo began town building. The town was laid off and lots sold from $20 to $50 each. Semple built a sidewheel ferryboat, propelled by horse power, to run across Carquinez strait, and made a fortune. Just previous to the gold discovery over twenty houses had been erected and over two hundred lots sold.
The discovery of gold greatly increased the population, but a change of name injured somewhat the growth of the town. Semple chose the name Francisca because San Francisco was known all over the world. Many ships were chartered for that point and sailing past Yerba Buena they touched at Francisca. Benicia was then the rival of yerba Buena, and in 1847 Washington A. Bartlett, then Alcalde of Yerba Buena, proclaimed theough the "California Star" that henceforth the bay town would be known in all official documents as San Francisco. Semple was very angry because of Bartlett's action. He could do nothing, however, but swear. He then changed the name to Benicia, that being the name of General Vallejo's wife. In 1849 the army commissioners selected Benicia as the arsenal and military headquarters, and it is still in use as government barracks. It was also the storage or laying up depot of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company.
Gambling was engaged in by every class of citizens, judge, lawyer, mechanic, clerk, merchant and laborer. Gambling was carried on continously day and night, and persons have been known to lose as high as $20,000 on the turn of a single card.
As soon as the gambling law was passed, then lotteries sprung up. They were suppressed. Then the people began gambling in stocks and betting on the results of elections. These after a time were prohibited. Pool selling on race tracks was then prohibited and all the state obeyed the law save the capital city; Sacramento defiantly broke the law. In 1883 the council passed an ordinance permitting public gambling during the state fair. Again in 1888 she permitted public gambling. When Chief of Police Rodgers in 1890 declared that he would stop the game under state law, the president of the Agricultural Society endeavored to prevent him from performing his duty. There is now no gambling at the state fair.
The saloon proprietors knew well their business. There could be found all of the latest papers, warm, comfortable rooms, bars fitted up in costly style and hung with fine French mirrors, lewd pictures upon the walls, first-class musicians to play and sing, and beautiful women imported chiefly for their beauty to deal out monte, and supply drinks to customers. Thousands of men became gamblers, drunks and outcasts, they taking their first downward step in the saloon.