California - The Spanish Era
( Originally Published Early 1911 )
The Spanish era in California had its tangible be-ginning in the year 1769 with the arrival of Junipero Serra and Gaspar de Portola at San Diego. It ended, politically, toward the end of the year 1822 with the independence of Mexico when Iturbide at the head of his victorious army threw off the yoke of Spain and set up a separate Mexican empire with himself on the throne as the Emperor Augustin I. Of course California really became Spanish territory with its discovery by Cabrillo in 1542, but it was neither settled nor colonized in either Cabrillo's time or in the time of Vizcaino, one hundred sixty-seven years later. California had its beginning as an entity of civilization in 1769, and during the fifty-three years of its existence as a Spanish province it made a history all its own. It left an impression on the country which lasts until the present day and which can never be wholly effaced. From it date many of the customs of the people of California, not to speak of the fact that land titles and other important legal considerations owe to it their very existence.
During this Spanish era California was in itself a world apart from the great outside world which surrounded it. During the half century or more in which Destiny was quietly engaged between San Diego and San Francisco, Europe underwent the most tremendous throes in its history. The year that Junipero Serra began his labors at San Diego was the same year in which the great Napoleon was born on the Island of Corsica. The French Revolution rose and fell, Marengo, Austerlitz and Waterloo were fought. The little Corsican had butchered Europe into subjection to his will. His throne had been set up and had tottered to its fall. The whole map of Europe had been changed during those years when a handful of Spanish soldiers and a few Spanish Franciscan missionaries had succeeded in trans-forming California from a heathen land to a Christian province.
With the exception of San Francisco de Solano at Sonoma, all the old Missions of California were founded and established during the Spanish era. In those fifty-three years an entire savage race was redeemed from nakedness and ignorance, physical as well as intellectual poverty, and heathenism. It was the Spanish era of California that built El Camino Real—the King's Highway. It was during the same time—from 1769 to 1822—that the old pueblos which are now the great cities of Los Angeles and San Jose were founded and established.
It may indeed be said that all that California is now or all that it can ever be owes its foundation to the Spanish era. It was during those years that the state took on its present proportions, its geographical outlines were defined, its harbors surveyed and explored, its civilization grounded and its relationship to the outside world established. It was an era not great with the tramp of armies or the assembling of vast populations but it laid deep foundations and held, through sacrifice and heroism, the trails which its pioneers had blazed by land and the pathways which its mariners had dared at sea.
As far as the work of the Franciscan Missions is concerned with the Spanish era in California it is a story which stands by itself and is told in another chapter of this book. Herein shall be dealt with the civil and military features of the Spanish era, the work done by the Spanish Governors of whom there were ten, beginning with Don Gaspar de Portola and ending with Don Pablo Vicente de Sola.
Of these Governors there were at least two reallv great men and none can be fairly regarded as incompetent. They were opposed by many obstacles and had to deal with serious difficulties. On the one hand was the missionary power and on the other hand was the power of the military. There was scarcely a time when the Spanish Governors were not called upon to reconcile these two opposing forces. They did not always succeed, but a majority of them ac-quitted themselves with credit.
To clearly understand the position of a Governor of California during the Spanish era it is necessary to be informed that he stood as the direct representative of the Viceroys of New Spain whose head-quarters were in Mexico and who were in turn the direct representatives of the Kingdom of Spain on the continent of North America. Wherefore the Spanish Governors of California had not only the difficult problems of the province to solve but they had also, in many instances, to contend with the whims of a Viceroy who, by reason of his location at a great distance and his lack of frequent communication, was usually poorly informed as to California's condition and needs.
California must always remember with peculiar affection its first Governor, Don Gaspar de Portola. His term of service was very brief, lasting only about two years, with not much more than one year of actual experience in California itself, but his name is immortal in that he was the discoverer of the Bay of San Francisco, the world's greatest harbor. More-over, he was a brave and a good man, firm in the execution of the duties that were assigned to him, yet kindly of heart and gentle in his administrations. His name is forever linked with the name of Junipero Serra whose companion and friend he was. Portola needs no other patent than his selection by Don Jose Galvez to be the first Governor of California. It is due greatly to the courage and the faith of Galvez that the christianization and colonization of California were effected in the year 1769. Galvez was the Visitador General of Mexico ; the dream of a populated and civilized California was his dream, above that of all other men. Such a man was more than likely to select the best available instruments for the prosecution of any work he might have in hand. The world knows how unerring was his judgment of Junipero Serra, but it is not so familiar with the merit of Portola.
When the expedition of 1769 started for San Diego a portion of it went by sea and another portion by land. Portola and Serra were with the land party. As the party passed through Lower California it was the Governor's unpleasant duty to turn over the property of the Jesuit missionaries to the Franciscans, and the gentle and considerate manner in which this duty was performed is a clear index to the man's character. After his memorable march in search of Monterey, which resulted not in the finding of Monterey but in the discovery of San Francisco Bay, he returned to San Diego and then set back in company with Serra on the second attempt to find Monterey, which was successful. After that he did little more than to see the missionaries settle down to work. Leaving a sufficient number of soldiers for the protection of the padres, he returned to Mexico and never saw California again.
Portola was succeeded by Felipe de Barr, the second Governor of California. He took office at Loreto early in the year 1771. Governor Barn's administration was a stormy one from the beginning to the end of its three and a half years' duration. He found trouble on his hands at the very outset, or it might perhaps be better said, he made trouble for himself. Pedro Pages and Rivera y Moncada, officers in command of the military, had already begun to insist on their authority over the Missions when Barri came into authority in 1771. The idea of the Viceroy and of the Visitador General, Jose de Galvez, was that the civil and military government of California existed mainly for the purpose of protecting the Missions. Governor Barri sided in with Pages and Moncada and proceeded more or less to harass Father Junipero and the missionaries. The quarrel proceeded with considerable bitterness for a period of about two years, when Father Junipero set out for Mexico to put the case before the Viceroy. Serra walked nearly every step of the way and by the force of his great character won the Viceroy over to the missionaries' view of the matter with the result that Barri and Pages were removed from office in October, 1774.
Barri was succeeded by Felipe de Neve, the third Governor of California. The only important feature of Governor Barri's administration was the proclamation of the Viceroy, Bucareli, conferring on the Government of California authority to make land grants. This was done in 1773 with the permanent colonization of California by Spanish settlers in view. It seems that the authority to make these grants was first vested in Captain Rivera y Moncada and that in virtue of it the first private land grant in California was a concession of a lot to a soldier named Manuel Butron and his Indian wife, Margarita. The ground was 140 varas square, located at Mission San Carlos.
This man, Captain Rivera y Moncada, proved to be a prominent figure in the earlier years of the life of California. An appointment as Comandante of the military forces placed him in a strong position and it appears that he was not slow to take advantage of his power, having been a man of rather dominating and overbearing spirit. The two incidents in his career that stand out most prominently are his ex-communication from the Church by the missionaries and his quarrel with Juan de Anza, the famous Captain of Tubac. The excommunication of Captain Rivera came about through a quarrel that he had with the missionaries at San Diego over the possession of an Indian who had been charged with murder, Rivera demanded that the Indian be turned over to him for summary punishment, but the missionaries refused to surrender the prisoner on the ground that he had fled to the church for "sanctuary." A stormy scene ensued during which the missionaries held the ground they had taken and wound up by excommunicating Rivera. The Captain then hastened to Monterey for the purpose of appealing to Father Junipero, the Father-President of the Missions. On the way he does not seem to have cooled his temper and his manner towards Father Junipero, upon meeting him, was no less insolent than it had been towards the padres at San Diego.
It may be that the soldier had cause to be in a temper. The time is too far past to judge of the merits of the case. All we know is that Captain Rivera is regarded by no historian as a man of more than mediocre ability. The chances are that he overestimated his own importance and, like many other military officers of both ancient and modern times, exaggerated his sense of dignity. Father Junipero was not the man to be browbeaten, and the consequence was that Rivera obtained no satisfaction at Monterey.
It is fascinating to picture in imagination the quarrel that took place between Rivera and Juan de Anza. The old Captain of Tubac was a sturdy and noted figure in those distant times. He was the first man to blaze the inland trail from Sonora to Monterey, carrying his expedition through without the loss of a human being or an animal or any of his cattle, though he had to cross trackless deserts, and make a trail where no man had ever made one before.
It was upon the occasion of de Anza 's second visit to California that the differences between him and Rivera arose. The two met at Mission San Gabriel, where they combined their forces and marched to San Diego for the purpose of meting out punishment to the Indians who had attacked the Mission, burning it to the ground and murdering Father Jayme, in November, 1775. When San Diego was reached, de Anza with his usual forcefulness, proposed that they attack the Indians without delay. This Rivera refused to do, proposing on the contrary that they move slowly and with caution. Upon hearing this decision de Anza immediately washed his hands of the whole business and marched to Monterey. He had with him a number of settlers from Sinaloa who were to be located at San Francisco. He proposed to execute his commission at once, but to this Rivera objected also. Later on, when de Anza was proceeding south on his way to Sonora and Rivera was passing north, their two little armies camped in the Val-ley of San Antonio. A few bitter words were all that passed between the two. Rivera, through his orderly, handed a letter to de Anza with instructions to the Captain of Tubac to deliver it to the Viceroy in Mexico. The Captain of Tubac contemptuously declined to touch the letter. That swords were not drawn is the wonder of it all, but the scene must have been picturesque even as it was, with the fire flashing from the black eyes of the two Captains.
As far as the military was concerned, things were not going very well in California and it was plain to be seen that Felipe de Neve, the new Governor, could not come too soon.
Gov. de Neve arrived in Monterey in February, 1777, fully informed as to the unsatisfactory conditions that existed in California and as fully deter-mined to do all in his power to make harmony. He made friendly advances at once to Father Junipero and continued to be on good terms with the missionaries throughout his entire administration with the exception of a few disagreeable experiences which, however, had no important bearing.
Felipe de Neve was a soldier as well as a states-man, having been at the time of his appointment as Governor of California a cavalry officer at Queretaro in Mexico. His fame as a California Governor rests upon the fact that he was the founder of the old Spanish pueblos of San Jose and Los Angeles. He is also famous as the author of what was termed the "Reglamento," a complete code of legislation for the Province of California which he promulgated in June, 1779, dating it from the "Royal Presidio of San Carlos de Monterey." This code made provision for the conduct of the presidio down to the minutest detail for the support of the troops and the families connected with the military service. It also regulated the procedure for the settlement of the country, setting forth laws for the establishment and government of pueblos and towns and making rules for the promotion of agriculture, stock-raising and other branches of industry. The Reglamento was indeed a very statesmanlike document and is so regarded to this day by good authorities.
It was in the Place of the Two Shrines that de Neve erected the first legal California pueblo or town. The Place of the Two Shrines is the Valley of Santa Clara, where are the Mission Santa Clara and Mission San Jose, the only locality that can boast of two of the ancient Franciscan establishments. The pueblo was named in honor of Saint Joseph and is the present City of San Jose. Thus San Jose is the oldest legally founded city of the Golden State.
It was the policy of Spain and consequently the policy of de Neve to build towns near all the Missions. We are to remember the idea was not only to christianize California but to colonize it, as well. And the time came when Gov. de Neve received his instructions from Mexico to go ahead and erect pueblos near the various Missions as speedily as might be. Accordingly he instructed Don Jose Moraga, Lieutenant-Commandant of the Presidio of San Francisco, to march with nine soldiers skilled in agriculture and five pablodores, or settlers, to Santa Clara Valley and establish a pueblo. Moraga went forth promptly in obedience to his orders and in due time reached the spot selected by the Governor. The march from San Francisco was no more than a pleas-ant journey of two or three days. The party soon left the waters of the great Bay behind them and came at length to the banks of a little stream shaded by splendid oaks where happened to be gathered the padres of the Missions Santa Clara and San Jose.
But this was not the site selected for the new pueblo, nor had the gathering of the brown-robed friars aught to do with the coming of Don Jose Moraga or his pablodores. Yet the spot and the occasion were both interesting. The place of the streamlet and the oaks was about midway between the two Missions and was called "La Penetentia." Here, every two months, came the padres to confess their sins to one another.
Having made dutiful obedience to the Reverend Friars, Don Moraga continued farther, traveling a matter of perhaps seven miles more until he came to a curve of a bright and leaping river which was called Guadalupe. There he ordered a halt, and there he unsheathed his sword, drove its point into the rich black loam, saying : "Here, in the name of God and our Sovereign King, shall we build the Pueblo of San Jose." It was the twenty-ninth day of November, 1777.
The pueblo was carefully and duly surveyed into solars or house lots, and suertes or lands for cultivation. The first grant, a solar, was made to Ignacio Archuleta. A surprised soul would be Ignacio Archuleta could he now come back to barter in American dollars for that lone town lot which designated his household officially and immortally as "the first family of San Jose," with all the social preeminence which the title should imply.
The founding of the Pueblo of Los Angeles was even more impressive than the founding of the first pueblo. Gov. de Neve conducted the establishment in person. He first repaired from the Capital at Monterey to the Mission San Gabriel from which, on a sunny morning, he fared forth at the head of a party of soldiers, padres from the Mission, neophyte Indians and the pablodores who were to be the bulwark and the pillars of the new town. Twelve house lots were located on three sides of a Plaza, each lot having a frontage of one hundred varas and a depth of two hundred varas. The original population was arranged to consist of nine families. Suertes, or lands for cultivation, were parceled out among the nine pablodores and an irrigation ditch was surveyed from the Los Angeles River, which stream was then known by the name of "Porciuncula." The ceremonies attending the founding of the Pueblo consisted of the raising of a cross, music and singing by the Indian choruses and the firing of a volley of musketry by the soldiers. The official name given to the Pueblo was "The City of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels," the modern abbreviation of which is Los Angeles. The date of the foundation was September, 1781. A few years afterward the citizens contributed five hundred head of cattle to build the famous old Plaza Church which still stands as a Southern California landmark.
Felipe de Neve served as Governor of California from October, 1774, until September, 1782. His striking abilities were such that he became marked for a higher honor. The King of Spain decorated him with the Royal Order of Charles III, raised him to the rank of Colonel and made him Inspector General of all the troops of the Provincias Internas, which included Sonora, New Mexico, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Texas and both the Californias. This necessitated de Neve's removal to Chihuahua, where he was soon still further honored by the King with an appointment to be a General of Brigade. He died at Chihuahua in the latter part of the year 1784.
The following eight years in California, from September, 1782, until September, 1790, were uneventful. They marked the gubernatorial reign of Pedro Fages, who, it will be remembered, was for some time a Lieutenant of Infantry in command of a company of Catalonian Volunteers at San Diego. He had before served as ad interim Governor of California between the time of the departure of Portola and the arrival of Gov. Felipe de Barri. Fages was a man of no initiative, appearing to have been a good enough soldier but without much capability as a statesman. He was very energetic in fulfilling the duties of his office, writing a great many letters and making many rather fruitless efforts to place the presidios in an effective condition.
Fages seems to have burdened himself with unnecessary troubles, added to which was one real trouble in the form of a jealous and querulous wife. The Senora Fages was the first woman of any pre-tensions to come to California, and it may be said that she was the first society leader. She was possessed of a very exalted notion of the importance of her station as the wife of the Governor, and exacted rigid deference and respect to her person from all the people of the province, high and low alike. Her husband, the Governor, was undoubtedly a man of good moral character, yet the Señora frequently accused him of infidelity, while, as a matter of fact, the only distinction to which Gov. Fages was entitled is due to the fact that he insisted upon the strictest moral conduct among all the officers of his presidio and the Alcaldes of the pueblos. There is in the archives a stinging letter which Fages addressed. to Ignacio Vallejo, Alcalde of San Jose, in which the Governor unmercifully castigated the Alcalde for immoral conduct, saying that the Alcalde had been commissioned in the belief that he would suppress immorality instead of himself presenting so scandalous an example. This letter and other records show that the Pueblo of San Jose was a rather dissolute establishment and that its citizens were not in the habit of leading exemplary lives.
The administration of Gov. Jose Antonio Romeu was even less eventful than that of his predecessor, Pedro Fages. Gov. Romeu came to California a sick man, suffering from a serious disease which even Pablo Soler, the great Surgeon of the Province, could not cure. And Pablo Soler was really a great physician as well as a great surgeon. He was a learned man and sacrificed many years of his life to the welfare of the people of California. He traveled many weary miles ministering to the afflicted officers and soldiers of the presidios, the padres and Indians of the Missions, and all the people, but he could not cure the disease from which Gov. Romeu suffered. After a year and seven months in office the Governor died at Monterey, whereupon Jose Dario Arguello, Comandante of the Presidio of Monterey, Lieut. Jose Francisco de Ortega of Loreto, Lieut. Felipe de Goycoechea of Santa Barbara and Ensign Hermenegildo Sal of San Francisco gathered in council at Monterey and selected Capt. Jose Joaquin de Arrillaga of Loreto as the proper person to assume the office of temporary Governor and to act until a new Governor could be appointed.
Jose Joaquin de Arrillaga, the sixth Governor, was as all his predecessors had been, a soldier. He had distinguished himself in campaigns against the Indians. He arrived in Monterey early in 1793 and at once entered upon the duties of his office. In the few months during which Arrillaga occupied the office of Governor he concerned himself almost entirely with the presidios, endeavoring to improve their weak and extremely inefficient condition. He wrote a full report of the situation to the Viceroy and prepared for his successor an elaborate statement of the situation. Having done these things, Arrillaga did not await the arrival of his successor, but returned to Loreto. He was a very capable and painstaking official and was destined to return to California at a future time to once more sit in the chair of state.
The man who succeeded Arrillaga as Governor of California was a character upon whom the historian and the teller of tales is tempted to dwell both lengthily and lovingly. He was Diego de Borica, California's seventh Governor, a gentleman and a scholar and in every respect a most fascinating per-son. He accepted the cares of the Province reluctantly, yet he fulfilled his duties with the utmost exactness and with a tact and ability so rare and striking as to deserve for his memory a far greater renown than it enjoys.
His appointment to the exalted position of Governor of the California was a great promotion, yet it is clear that he did not welcome it. He loved good companions who were his peers in intellectual gifts and talents, and, down in Chihuahua where he re-sided, he was surrounded by a chosen circle of men whose tastes were similar to his own. He had a lovely wife and a sweet little daughter whom he loved devotedly and who were equally devoted to him. He was very happy and contented in Chihuahua. He probably was not ambitious for high honors if to secure them he must lose contentment. He knew that at Monterey he would not find the friendship that existed for him in the south and that the Señora Borica would not be so well bestowed and that the little Señorita would lose many advantages. Doubt-less he did not like to go, but he was a loyal son of Spain and did not shirk the duty that was before him. Such was his sunny nature that he made light of his troubles and bade his old friends goodby with a smile on his lips.
The new Governor, accompanied by his wife and daughter, two chosen companions and a negro servant, crossed the Gulf for Loreto, intending to make the journey to Monterey by sea. But the passage across the Gulf proved to be so violent that the good Señora and the little Señorita could no longer think of the ocean without disgust. Securing a number of good stanch mules and outfitting for an overland journey, the Governor arrived at Monterey with his household and entourage over the same trail that had been followed by Father Junipero and Don Gaspar de Portola twenty-five years previously. Father Junipero was then dead several years and in his sandals Borica found the second Father President of the Missions, Fermin Francisco de Lasuen.
At the time when Borica took up the reins of government a very bitter feeling existed between the Missionaries and the Civil and Military authorities. Years of quarrel, misunderstandings and attempted encroachments, had resulted in complete estrangement. The missionaries sent constant complaints to the Viceroy in Mexico to the effect that the soldiers not only treated them with disrespect but also interfered with their work of christianizing the Indians. On the other hand, the soldiers complained that the missionaries were grasping and arrogant and op-posed to the Government's scheme of colonization. The military authorities believed that the Indian should be treated in a manner that would fit him for future citizenship and self-reliance, while the padres contended that to do this would be to defeat the Indian's salvation. Father Junipero and all his successors, down to the last day, were emphatic in their assertions that if the aborigines were allowed to wander from the shelter of the Missions they would be corrupted morally and physically beyond all hope through contact with the soldiers and white settlers.
Owing to these conditions, Diego de Borica found the ship of state tossing upon troubled waters, but he at once poured upon those waters the oil of his consummate tact and his great, generous, gentle wisdom. It is useless to say that no abuses existed in the conduct of the Missions. It is equally useless to say that it would have been wise to adopt the plan of treatment for the Indian which Borica's civil and military predecessors had insisted upon. What faced the new Governor, therefore, was the problem of ex-tending and strengthening the country as a Spanish Province from a military and civic standpoint and at the same time not to destroy, by undue interference, the splendid work of the Fathers. To the great credit of Borica it may be said that, as far as his administration was concerned, the problem was handled with success. The disasters that came in after years both to the Crown of Spain and to the splendid dream of the Franciscans cannot be laid at the door of Diego de Borica.
Upon his arrival at Monterey the Governor found in the harbor two English vessels commanded, respectively, by Capt. George Vancouver and Lieutenant Puget, whose names have been preserved not alone by the famous memoirs which Vancouver left behind, but by the fact that Vancouver's name is permanently connected with points on the map of the North Pacific Coast, while to Puget fell the honor of giving his name to that great inlet of the sea which bears the great argosies of today into the heart of Washington with its teeming cities. It was fortunate for Borica that these gentlemen happened to be at Monterey when he arrived. They were well equipped to contribute to the easement of his state of mind. They were fine fellows and, in the interchange of social pleasantries which ensued, the lockers of their ships contributed generously. Perhaps Borica's character and the character of Father Lasuen, whom Vancouver also met, greatly influenced the kindly impression that this great traveler formed of California and which has been perpetuated in his writings.
The one great dream of Borica's administration was to erect a great industrial city in California. The city was actually founded with the flaunting of many banners and the fanfare of trumpets, but its roofs fell into the dust and it is now no more than a memory, and a very dim memory at that. The site of it was adjacent to the Mission Santa Cruz, all traces of which have also disappeared. Over the dust of both the old Mission and the industrial city which Diego de Borica founded from his fondest hope rises now the beautiful modern California city of Santa Cruz, the people of which by other ways and by other methods have accomplished that which Borica failed to do.
It came about in this way. In 1795 there were rumors of an invasion of California by France. In order to enable the province the more effectively to resist this invasion, the Marquis de Branciforte sent to California seventy-two Catalonian volunteers and eighteen artillerymen. The volunteers were under command of Lieut. Colonel Pedro de Alberni and the artillery was under command of Sergeant Jose Roca. The French invasion never took place, but the rumor proved fortunate for California from the fact that it brought to the province with the reinforcements Alberto de Cordoba, an engineer of exceptional ability and energy. Such a man was much needed in California, and Governor Borica rejoiced in the presence of Cordoba. The two became firm friends and when the danger of invasion had passed they joined their talents and energies to the end that certain enterprises long delayed might be carried out. Chief among these enterprises were the strengthening of the coast defenses and the erection of new pueblos.
While Cordoba, acting under instructions from Gov. Borica, was surveying the harbor of San Francisco, he also kept in mind Spain's original intention of establishing additional pueblos. No new towns had been founded since the establishment of the pueblos of San Jose and Los Angeles by Gov. Felipe de Neve fourteen or fifteen years before. Neither San Jose or Los Angeles had made much progress, if any. They were still nothing more than wretched little settlements the inhabitants of which were scarcely able to keep bodies and souls together. Borica believed the reason these pueblos did not flourish was because the settlers had not been sufficiently encouraged and assisted by the Government. He determined that the new industrial city which he was about to found should not lack such encouragement.
Cordoba finally reported to the Governor that in all his inspection of the country the most promising spot for the location of the proposed new city was on the northern shores of the Bay of Monterey, with-in sight of the Mission Santa Cruz. Everything necessary for the support and progress of a town was there to be found—good land, plenty of water for irrigation, timber and a safe anchorage for vessels.
It was decided that only the best class of colonists should be settled in the town. Some of them were secured in California and others were brought up from Mexico. Each colonist was given two horses, two mares, two cows, a yoke of oxen, two goats, two sheep, a musket, a plow and other necessary tools and implements. Cordoba laid out the town and built some houses of adobe with tiled roofs. The streets were arranged in straight and symmetrical lines and a system of sanitation installed. The town was called Branciforte, in honor of the Viceroy who had approved all the plans and arrangements.
Yet with all this encouragement and the generous and enthusiastic backing of Borica and Cordoba, Branciforte was doomed to failure. At the end of the first year it had a population of only forty souls. The crops had turned out well and there seemed to be no reason why Branciforte should not become all that it was hoped it would be. In the minds of the pablodores and people generally there was conceived a strange and unreasonable prejudice against the new city. They declined to settle there and those who were already inhabitants soon began to desert the place.
In a pathetically short space of time the whole enter-prise, born amid so many high hopes, was utterly abandoned. It is a strange thing that the present great cities of California appear to have sprung into existence without the premeditation of the Spanish pioneer in whose very capable hands had been en-trusted the molding of California. Despite its wonderful harbor, neither the Spanish nor Mexican era ever contemplated the existence of a great city at Yerba Buena, where San Francisco now stands. It was never thought that Los Angeles or San Jose would become anything more than yillages at best.
Cordoba, the engineer, had been sent to California solely for the purpose of strengthening its defenses, and while the town of Branciforte was still struggling to hold itself on the map this capable man was re-called to Mexico, and in a few years more, when Borica had served nearly six years as Governor of California, he also set his face to the south, having received permission to shift the burdens of his responsibilities to other shoulders. He was broken in health and perhaps shattered in spirits, owing to his inability to achieve so many things which he strove with all his remarkable talent and energy to perform. He set sail from San Diego in January, 1800, looking his last on California which he had learned to love and for whose happiness and welfare he had done so much. In the following year he died at Durango.
It was with the appointment of a successor to Borica that the California of today took on practically its present outlines, except that its northern boundary was vaguely understood. The southern boundary was fixed at a line about twenty miles south of San Diego, but the Province was supposed to extend northward as far as there was any land-even perhaps to the north pole. The Russians were north of San Francisco, but the territory was considered as belonging to Spain.
Thus for the first time an Alta or Upper California and a Baja or Lower California became distinctly established from the standpoint of civil and military government. As far as ecclesiastical government was concerned the demarkation had long been acknowledged, owing to the fact that the territory of the Dominican Order of Religious lay south of San Diego, while the territory of the Franciscans began at San Diego and extended indefinitely northward.
Borica practically chose his own successor by recommending Jose Joaquin de Arrillaga to be the eighth Governor of California. Borica induced Arrillaga to apply for the position, and wrote a strong endorsement of the application to the Viceroy in Mexico. The Viceroy, in turn, also recommended Arrillaga's appointment to the King, and in the year 1800 Arrillaga returned to Monterey to take up the duties of a position which he had temporarily exercised previously between the years 1792 and 1794. He was destined to serve longer as Governor of California than any other man who held that position under Spain either before or after his time. For fourteen long years—hard working years—was Don Jose Joaquin de Arrillaga the Spanish Governor of the Province of California. His administration was distinguished by his soldierly efforts to make California strong to defend itself against enemies from without and by the fact that he was exceptionally friendly to the Missions. Arrillaga was an intensely loyal son of the Church. He is the only Spanish Governor whose dust lies in California. He died at the lonely Mission of Soledad, July 25, 1814, and was buried there.
Arrillaga was also the first of the Spanish Governors to be clothed with full civil and military power combined. His first thought, however, was to strengthen the military defenses, which he found in a pathetically weak condition. His predecessors, try as they would and as they did, to put California in a position to withstand the attacks of an enemy, found their efforts futile. They could not secure sufficient troops from Spain to create a formidable military establishment, nor would Spain give its far-away province the money necessary to erect fortifications along the coast. The white population of California was too sparse for recruiting soldiers therefrom and the Indians were not of the proper caliber for military purposes.
When Arrillaga began his rule in 1800 there were about four hundred persons included in the military establishment of the Province. Sixty-one soldiers were divided between Santa Barbara and San Diego. Sixty-five were at Monterey and thirty-eight at San Francisco. The remainder included the Catalonian volunteers and artillerymen who were scattered up and down the coast. There was a battery at San Francisco, one at San Diego and another at Monterey, but they were sadly inefficient. It was not guns and soldiery that saved California from the attacks of invaders but rather was it the remote position which the Province occupied on the map of the then known world, coupled with the universal belief that it was an impoverished country not worth invading. The entire population of California at that time was less than thirty thousand souls, less than three thousand of whom were white. This, of course, does not include the Indians not attached to the Missions, the number of which there was no means of knowing.
The white population, however, in which may be included offspring of whites who had married Indian women, was steadily increasing. Whatever increase there was came from births. There was little or no immigration. At this time most of the whites in the north were domiciled at Branciforte, in Santa Cruz. The population of Los Angeles was two hundred sixty-nine, and that of San Jose one hundred eighty-seven, nearly all of whom were so lazy and shiftless in their habits as to place them below par even when compared with uncivilized Indians. There was a good deal of crime and disorder, especially in San Jose, which had in those far-away days a reputation as bad as it is now good, and Los Angeles was little if any better. San Francisco was nothing more than what the Mission made it, and Monterey (not including Carmelo) was purely a military post.
Towards the correction of the morals of the Province as well as the strengthening of its military defenses, Gov. Arrillaga found that he must bend himself, and he did so with a will. He began by condemning to death a soldier of San Buenaventura who had been adjudged guilty of an unnatural crime. The Comandantes of the Presidios and the Alcaldes of the pueblos were forced by the new Governor to reform the moral conduct of the people, no matter at what hazard. The result was that California began to be a better place.
It was during the time of Arrillaga that California was destined to become better known to the world at large and its wonderful possibilities more fully and more widely realized. Traders began to make frequent visits, especially Yankee traders from far-away Cape Cod and other New England ports whose ships rounded the Horn laden with goods that California longed for and which the Yankees stood ready to barter for the hides and tallow and wines and other products of the Missions. Outside of the Mission establishments there was little or no attempt at agricultural or industrial output. The white men of the Province were either soldiers or dependents upon the civil list or residents of the pueblos who did not produce enough to sustain themselves, not to speak of producing something for sale. North of San Francisco were numerous Russians who, besides engaging in fishing, now began to form agricultural communities. Other outsiders in addition to the Yankees and the Russians occasionally appeared in the parts of California, and Governor Arrillaga was very uneasy and unhappy thereat. The responsibility of holding the Province for Spain against all comers devolved on him and he would have been better pleased had all these strangers who were coming to California's shores remained away and found other countries for the exercise of their activities.
It was not so much that he was not a hospitable and courteous man by nature as it was that he feared invasion that Governor Arrillaga failed to treat strangers with cordiality. When Vancouver arrived at Monterey a second time the Governor gave him plainly to understand that he was not welcome. But strong as was the feeling against Vancouver and other English visitors, it was much stronger against Americans, although a treaty of friendship which defined boundaries and navigation between the United States and Spain had been duly proclaimed. Arrillaga and his people still preserved a haughty exterior.
This attitude was distinctly in contrast with the kindly attitude which Diego Borica, Arrillaga's predecessor, had shown. When, at one time the Yankee ship Otter, Capt. Ebenezer Dorr, had visited Monterey and surreptitiously left some of its sailors behind, Borica had given them work and had treated them kindly.
In February, 1803, the American Brig Lelia Byrd anchored in the port of San Diego. The Comandante of that presidio immediately placed a guard on board the brig, ordered the captain to supply himself with necessaries with the shortest possible delay, and commanded the brig to leave the harbor. But the Yankees, who had come for otter skins, were determined to get them. The captain sent out a boat stealthily by night to do some trading. The Comandante seized the members of the party and made them prisoners.
In the morning the Americans on board the ship promptly landed in San Diego and rescued their fellow countrymen at the point of their pistols. The brig then wisely put out to sea, but as it was passing Point Guijarros, the fort opened fire on it from its nine pounders. The Americans returned the fire but no harm appears to have been done either on land or sea. Yet the adventure became famous though its only result seems to have been to bring Yankee and English and Russian ships in ever increasing numbers to the ports of California, thus adding to the already heavy burden that lay upon the shoulders of Don Arrillaga, the loyal Governor.
But as far as the Russians were concerned, a pleas-ant and romantic incident happened which greatly relieved the strain on Governor Arrillaga. The main object of the Russians was to engage in the fur trade. For the purpose of establishing a post at the mouth of the Columbia River, M. de Resnoff sailed down the coast from Siberia in 1806. Bad weather and other untoward conditions drove his ships far beyond the point of his destination and he ultimately put into the harbor of San Francisco. A courteous letter was dispatched to Arrillaga at Monterey, candidly stating the purpose of the visit. Arrillaga re-plied, bidding the Russians welcome. While in the port, de Resnoff fell violently in love with Concepcion Arguello, daughter of the Comandante of the presidio. They were engaged to be married and out of the incident a very good feeling sprang up between the Russians and Spaniards. De Resnoff set forth for his native land to acquaint the Czar of his purpose and to negotiate a pact between the Russians and the Spaniards' of the Pacific Coast of North America. Upon his return he was to marry the lovely daughter of the Comandante, and great hopes in consequence were entertained by Governor Arrillaga and everybody concerned. But in crossing Siberia de Resnoff fell from his horse and was killed, the news leaving his dark-eyed sweetheart at the Port of Saint Francis inconsolable. Thus were dreams of love and dreams of empire shattered.
It was also during the time of Governor Arrillaga that the first revolt against the power of Spain began in Mexico, but the disaffection did not reach California, although knowledge of it had been borne along the sea. W hen Charles IV abdicated the throne of Spain in 1808 and was succeeded by Fernando VII (the news reaching California the following year), Arrillaga repaired to the Mission San Carlos and there, in the presence of the Franciscan padres and officers of the Royal Navy, knelt before the great crucifix in the church, placed the cross of his sword on the Bible and swore that he would bear true allegiance to the new monarch, pledging thereto his sacred honor and the last drop of blood in his veins.
Came then in 1810 the message that Miguel Hidalgo, the patriot priest of Mexico, had buckled his sword around his priestly robe and had taken the field at the head of the Aztec people for Mexican independence. This news had no effect on Arrillaga or the people of California, who remained intensely loyal to the Crown of Spain, and there can be no doubt that had Arrillaga lived to see the day when the victorious Mexicans came to California to demand its surrender he would have refused, while life was in him, to haul down the flag of his king. But he did not live to see that day. He passed from this earth in the year 1814, within the sunny portals of Soledad, in the sixty-fourth year of his age.
In the year's interim which occurred between the death of Arrillaga and the arrival of Sola, the tenth and last Spanish Governor of California, Jose Dario Arguello, the Comandante of Santa Barbara, occupied the office of Governor. He was the same Arguello whose daughter, Concepcion, captured the heart of the gallant Russian officer, M. de Resnoff, at San Francisco several years before.
And, in passing, as the memory of the grace and beauty of Concepcion Arguello rises before us from the ghostly mists of the past, we are reminded that California had by this time, in the year 1814, come to have many beautiful daughters. The white men of aristocratic birth and breeding whose destinies had been cast with California had reared about them not only beautiful daughters but handsome sons. These sons and daughters intermarried with other sons and daughters with the result that in the presidios and pueblos and on the great ranchos lying between the Harbor of the Sun and the Valley of the Seven Moons the foundations were laid of those great California families the names of which, through thou-sands of descendants and old landmarks, cluster with many tender memories around the fame of California to this day.
When Arguello had served about a year as Governor of the Province, his successor, the renowned Pablo Vicente de Sola, the tenth and last Spanish Governor of California, arrived at Monterey with his entourage from Mexico. Sola was a native of Spain and intensely loyal to the Crown, his loyalty accentuated and strengthened by the disloyalty and the spirit of revolt then blazing into fury throughout New Spain. But California was an exception, the whole Province being as loyal to the King as was Sola, himself. When the new Governor arrived at Monterey he found himself in an atmosphere much to his liking, and he was welcomed as no man had ever been welcomed before in that place.
It had required nearly three months for the new Governor to make the sea voyage from Mexico to Monterey, where he at last arrived safe and well, August 30, 1815. Sola was then fifty-five years old and was the stately product of a life-long career of military and diplomatic training in the service of the King. His fame as an intense Loyalist was well known in the Province in which he came to rule. The wealth, the beauty and the very flower of all California were waiting to greet him when his ship anchored in the bright waters of Monterey and he stepped from his shallop upon her cypressed shores.
From far and near were gathered the troops to the presidios, cavalrymen mounted on the finest horses in the world, the Catalonian infantry in their leather jackets, the high officers plumed and in slashed breeches, velvet and laced and bucklered with golden swords; the cowled, brown-robed Brothers of St. Francis who had trudged from San Diego, San Luis Rey, San Gabriel, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco and all the Mission hospices that stood then, in the days of their glory, each one day's journey apart from the other on the sun-swept stretches of El Camino Real. There also were the beautiful women of Alta California gowned in silks and velvets and jeweled with the pearls that the Indian divers had brought up from the depths of the sunset sea. And, lastly, the pick of the Indian neophytes from the far-flung Mission shelters, bands of Indian choristers, Indian musicians and singers taught by the padres to draw exquisite music from flute and viol; the dancing girls of Monterey with castanets and, peering from the dim aisles of pine and cypress, were the dark eyes of the still unregenerated Gentiles of a savage race who had not yet been gathered into the warmth and kindliness of the fold.
As Sola stepped ashore the cannon from the heights of the presidio thundered their welcome from their iron throats; the troops were drawn up in a long line saluting the new Governor as he passed; at the door of the Royal Church of San Carlos of Monterey the dignitaries of the California Missions awaited him, arrayed in gorgeous golden vestments, with little dark-eyed Indian acolytes swinging censers at their feet. As a loyal son of the Church, Sola's first act was to bow at the altars of his fathers in attendance upon the solemn Mass which was conducted that day in Monterey with all possible pomp and ceremony.
In the afternoon there was a carnival of games and fiestas in the new Governor's honor. There were Spanish and Indian dances ; all the sports known to the time were engaged in for his edification and de-light. Not the least thrilling number on the program was a tremendous encounter between a bull and a grizzly bear. At night there was a great banquet and a ball at which the Indian musicians furnished the music. Monterey was aflame with thousands of lights; bonfires burned from the darkness of the swinging hills. Had Pablo Vicente de Sola been the King himself, his welcome to Monterey could not have been more glorious.
The next day Governor de Sola was escorted by the Padres and the multitude across the green hill that lies between Monterey and Carmelo. As he ascended the brown highway he looked back and had his first view of the Bay of Monterey lying in the golden sunlight in the embrace of the hills, a scene that no man seeing ever can forget. Onward he passed through the pines with the deep, haunting voice of the sea following him all the way. He knelt at the stations of the cross which had been erected on the road that was called the Road of Calvary. At the end of the fifth mile he was descending the opposite slope of the hill, the waters of the little Bay of Cannel were dancing in the distance, and suddenly he saw the bright river flowing to the sea and the Church of San Carlos de Carmel in its beauty rising from the emerald bosom of the upland. At the Mission a great host of Indian neophytes awaited him in gala attire and the bells rang out their sweet tones of welcome. With bared head the Governor entered the beautiful church, approached the altar and knelt above the ashes of Junipero Serra, Lasuen and Juan Crespi, the great-souled Franciscans who had wrested California from the darkness of heathen-ism and savagery.
Although Sola's rule as Governor began so pleasantly, the eight years of his administration were destined to prove unhappy for himself as well as for his King. Fate had reserved for Governor Sola the ignominious task of surrendering the power of Spain in California to the victorious revolutionists of Mexico.
Sola's troubles began immediately. The Russians at Fort Ross and Bodega on the coast north of San Francisco were constant thorns in his side. The Muscovites appeared to be determined to colonize the northern portion of the Province as well as to use it for a hunting and a fishing-ground. The Governor received instructions to drive the Russians out of the country, and there is no doubt he would have made the attempt had not invasion from another quarter intervened. The best he could do was to send the Franciscans out to extend their line of Missions, resulting in the establishment of San Rafael and San Francisco de Solano at Sonoma, but it may be that his fears regarding the Russians were groundless. Certainly they did everything they could to show a spirit of friendship for the Spaniards. They were extremely deferential and courteous in all their acts and aided the Franciscans with contributions of both money and ornaments in the erection of the Mission at Sonoma.
But the Spanish rulers and settlers of California could not get over their dislike and distrust of all strangers. When Alexander Kofkoff, the Russian officer in charge of affairs at Fort Ross, came down to San Francisco in 1815 to transact some business, Luis Antonio Arguello, the Comandante of San Francisco, wrote a bitter letter to Governor Sola against the Russians, saying that their presence in the country was an insult to the Spanish flag. And this same Arguello was the brother of the beautiful Concepcion whose troth had been plighted to Resnoff, the Russian, in other and happier days.
In these times, however, the Spanish power believed itself to be most seriously threatened by Mexican revolutionists and other revolutionists from South American countries who had thrown off the Spanish yoke. Every now and then these people would make their appearance in the harbor of Monterey and in other ports along the California coast. Added to this was the ever present fear of Yankee traders. The Governor made it his business to visit the various presidios, where he harangued the troops and strove as best he could to impress them with a proper sense of their duty in case the threatened dangers were realized. He went so far as to instruct all the people as to the course they were to pursue in the event of an invasion from any enemy whatsoever. Non-combatants were instructed to retire to the interior immediately upon notice of attack, driving the cattle and horses with them and carrying as much supplies as possible. The Spaniards knew they could not defend the coast against a strong at-tack because of the weakness of the defenses, but they believed they could still hold their ground by retiring to the interior and fighting from the vantage point of a superior knowledge of the country.
In the latter part of the year 1818 the Spaniards of California found at their doors the trouble they so long had feared. Two privateers came into the harbor of Monterey demanding the surrender of the country. They were Buenos Ayres insurgents. Monterey refused to surrender and a battle took place. It was a good hot fight while it lasted, and it seems that both sides were whipped, for the Spanish finally abandoned Monterey and retreated to the interior, while the enemy, rather bady hurt and crippled, put out to sea, never to return. The Spaniards then came back to Monterey and busied themselves strengthening their fortifications that they might be the better prepared for a future attack.
The Buenos Ayres privateersmen after their warm experiences at Monterey ran into Santa Barbara under a flag of truce. They promised the inhabitants there that they would go their way and not molest California again, but they did not keep their promise. Reaching San Pedro harbor, the Commander, a Frenchman named Bouchard, landed a number of his men whom he marched southward for the purpose of raiding the Mission San Juan Capistrano. They were intercepted on the way by Ensign Santiago Arguello with thirty men from the presidio of San Diego and completely routed. On this occasion Father Luis Antonio Martinez greatly distinguished himself. He appeared at the psychological moment at the head of thirty-five of the stoutest of the Indians of San Luis Obispo to aid Arguello.
The invaders lost their courage, scurried for their ships and put out to sea as fast as sails could carry them.
Things went on from bad to worse and California continued in a feverish state of excitement until the climax came in 1822 when the ship San Carlos appeared in the harbor of Monterey flying a flag of green, white and red with an eagle and a crown in the center—a strange flag, indeed, and too new to have found a place on the chart of national colors. The Comandante and the troops of Monterey prepared immediately to pour destruction on the heads of the strangers. Governor Sola, who had received private advices of the final success of the revolution in Mexico, issued a command that the strangers be allowed to land and convey whatever message they had to present. A boat manned by oarsmen gaily uniformed put off from the ship and landed their leader, who presented himself to the Comandante of Monterey and addressed him as follows : "I am the Canon Augustin Fernandez de San Vicente. I have come from the Imperial Mexican Capital with dispatches directed to the Governor of this Province, Don Pablo Vicente de Sola. I demand to be conducted to his presence in the name of my Sovereign, the Liberator of Mexico, General Don Augustin de Iturbide."
The hour when Spanish dominion in California was to end had come. Sola knew it well. His fortress was ready to fight, and to fight to the death, but the Governor fully realized how unnecessary and unavailing bloodshed would be. There was nothing to do but to accept the inevitable—nothing but to strike the colors. Assembling the people and the soldiers, Pablo Vicente de Sola, last of the King's men, ad-dressed them in solemn words. He told them what he knew to be the situation and advised them to accept with him the authority of Mexico. The garrison murmured but finally submitted to the Governor's admonition. The flag of Spain was hauled down, never to be raised again in California, and in its place was hoisted the tri-color of the new Empire of the South, where for a brief time Don Iturbide was sitting on his new throne. California now became a Province of Mexico, and the Spanish era, which had not been without great deeds and much honor, was irrevocably closed.
The loss of California was doubtless considered among the least of the calamities which befell Spain when the days of evil were thick upon her. She did not then know, as now she knows, that when this great, golden stretch of a thousand miles of the Pacific Coast of America slipped from her grasp she had deep reason to mourn. She did not foresee the days that were to be when the alien and the stranger would wring from the shining streams and the sun-lit hills of California stupendous treasures of gold. She was not granted the vision of a California which was destined to be a greater country than Spain had itself ever been within her own confines.
Yet, the Spain that once owned and dominated half the earth could not have held California indefinitely. Sooner or later it had to be that this brightest of jewels would fall from her crown. All that can be said is that had Spain known the wealth of California she would have made a sterner effort to retain it in her possession.
California can never be otherwise than proud of her history as a Spanish province. The Governors who ruled the territory during the Spanish era were invariably men of high moral characters, who carried out with conscientious energy the policy of the fatherland in a far distant and isolated part of the world.
Nor was it a mistake of either judgment or policy that lost California to Spain whose scheme of conquest and colonization was without a flaw. First, there were the Missions for the care and education of the Indians; next came the presidios for the protection of the country; then the pueblos. Under this threefold system, California would ultimately have prospered and developed into a great and happy country as surelv as it has now done under a different system and a different race of people.
But, with the passing of Spanish dominion and authority in California, all that was Spanish did not disappear. Spain's language, her customs, the blood of her splendid people, her traditions and her religion still linger on the dusty highways and flame from the embers of the past to soften the asperities of modern thought and action. Nor can the day ever come when the memories of Spain will wholly depart from the new, bright empire which Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first to sight from the decks of his daring ships on that dim and distant morning of 1542.