California - Celebrated "Pious Fund"
( Originally Published Early 1911 )
In order to preserve a reliable and readable statement of the celebrated "Pious Fund of California," the history and ultimate disposition of which has been the subject of such wide-spread discussion, the following narrative, deposited by John T. Doyle in the archives of the California Historical Society, is here reproduced:
From the time of the discovery of California [Lower], in 1534, by the expedition fitted out by Cortes, the colonization of that country and the conversion of its inhabitants to the Catholic faith were cherished objects with the Spanish Monarchs. Many expeditions for the purpose were set on foot, at the expense of the Crown, during the century and a half succeeding the discovery, but though attended with enormous expense, none of them was productive of the slightest result. Down to the year 1697 the Spanish Monarchs had failed to acquire any permanent foothold in the vast territory which they claimed, under the name of California.
The success of the Jesuit Fathers in their Missions on the northwestern frontier of Mexico, and elsewhere, induced the Spanish Government as early as 1643 (when fitting out an expedition for California under Admiral Pedro Portal de Casanate), to invite that religious order to take charge of the spiritual adminstration of it, and the country for which it was destined; and they accepted the charge; but that expedition, like all its predecessors, failed.
The last expedition undertaken by the Crown was equipped in pursuance of a royal cedula of December 29, 1679. It was confided to the command of Admiral Isidro Otondo, and the spiritual administration of the country was again entrusted to the Jesuits, the celebrated Father Kino being appointed Cosmografo Mayor of the expedition.
Various circumstances conspired to delay its departure, and it only sailed on the 18th of March, 1683. Many precautions had been taken to ensure its success, but after three years of ineffectual effort and an expenditure of over $225,000, it was also abandoned as a failure, and at a junta general, assembled in the City of Mexico, under the auspices of the Viceroy, wherein the whole subject was carefully reviewed, it was deter-mined that "the reduction of California, by the means here-to-fore relied on, was a simple impossibility," and that the only mode of accomplishing it was to invite the Jesuits to undertake its whole charge, at the expense of the Crown. This proposition was made; but it would seem that the conduct of the royal officers, civil and military, must have contributed to the previous failures, and probably for that reason it was declined by the society; although the services of its members as missionaries were always freely placed at the disposal of the Government.
Individual members of the society, however, animated by a zeal for the spread of the Christian faith in California, proposed to undertake the whole charge of the conversion of the country and its reduction to Christianity and civilization, and without expense to the Crown, on condition that they might themselves select the civil and military officers to be employed. This plan was finally agreed to, and on the 5th of February, 1697, the necessary authority was conferred on Fathers Juan Maria Salvatierra and Francisco Eusebio Kino, to undertake the reduction of California, on the express conditions : 1st, that possession of the country was to be taken in the name of the Spanish Crown, and 2d that the royal treasury was not to be called on for any of the expenses of the enterprise.
In anticipation of this result, Fathers Kino and Salvatierra had already solicited and received from various individuals and religious bodies, voluntary donations, contributed in aid of the enterprise. The funds thus collected were placed in their hands, in trust, to be applied to the propagation of the Catholic faith in California, by preaching, the administration of the sacraments of the church, erection of church edifices, the founding of religious schools, and the like ; in a word, by the institution of Catholic missions there, under the system so successfully pursued by the Jesuits in Paraguay, Northern Mexico, Canada, India, and elsewhere.
At a time when California is coming into the enjoyment of the benefactions of more modern philanthropists, and we are paying honor to the still living and recently deceased benefactors of our State, it is not unfitting to give the names of the earliest and most important contributors to- the fund on which the conquest of California and its. reclamation from the dominion of the savage were founded. They were Don Alonzo Davalos, Conde de Miravalles and Don Mateo Fernandez de la Cruz, Marquez de Buena Vista, who gave $1000 each. By their example others were induced to subscribe, and, in a short time, $15,000 more were made up, $5000 in cash and $10,000 in promises. Don Pedro Gil de la Sierpe, treasurer of Acapulco, offered the use of a galiot to transport the missionaries to their destination, and the gift of a small boat or launch. Considering the remoteness and isolation of the field, it was determined to establish a separate special fund or capital, the income from which should form a permanent endowment for the missionary church. Towards this latter object the first recorded contributions seem to have been by the congregation of N. S. de los Dolores, of the City of Mexico, which contributed $10,000, and Don Juan Caballero y Ozio, who donated $20,000 more, besides giving Father Salvatierra the comforting assurance, that in any unforeseen emergency, he might draw on him for whatever money he needed, and he would honor his drafts, large or small.
This endowment fund, commenced by the pious liberality of the society and the individuals just named, was increased by subsequent donations. The capital was invested as securely as possible, and as an income of $500 per annum was deemed necessary for each Mission, and five per cent, was the then current rate on safe investments, a capital of $10,000 was made the basis of each new Mission founded.
I suppose it soon became the correct thing for a wealthy Mexican to found a Mission in California; and as the founder was allowed the privilege of having it called by a name of his own selection, gentlemen so disposed had the satisfaction of recording their preferences. It seems to me I have seen some-thing that my scientific friends would probably call a survival of this notion, in modern fairs for charitable or religious purposes, where a sword is voted to a favorite soldier, or a walking cane to a popular clergyman, a contribution of some small sum constituting the title to a vote.
These sums of money forming a considerable capital, held on investment, received, by common consent, the name of "The Pious Fund of the Missions of California," or, more briefly, the "Pious Fund of California."
In the first half of the last century there was living in Mexico a gentleman of great wealth and large ideas, whose name has already been mentioned, the Marques de Villa Puente. His wife, the Marchioness de las Torres de Rada, was also possessed of great wealth, and she entirely shared the sentiments of her husband. He was a patriot as well as a man of sincere and earnest piety, and as he was probably the most munificent patron of the Pious Fund, it is fitting some account should be given of him. I translate from Alegre 'a History of the Society of Jesus in New Spain the following notice of him under the date of 1739:
"The chronicle of events in California for this year would be incomplete if we failed to mention the irreparable loss which that country sustained, of its most distinguished benefactor, the illustrious Jose de la Puente, Pena y Castrejon, Marquis of Villa Puente, who might indeed with propriety be termed the fountain and treasury of kindness to our whole society and to the Christian world. It may with truth be said of him, that there was in his day no pious enterprise to which he failed to contribute, thanking the Almighty for every opportunity of doing good to the poor. It was also specially the rule of his conduct, in contributing to relieve their temporal wants, never to forget the spiritual comfort of their souls. By this means be became in his life time, and remains to this day, the apostle of many people and nations, which the establishments and missions founded by him daily redeem from the darkness of infidelity and sin. In Africa, besides remitting at various times large sums of money for the ransom of Christian captives, he founded, in Algiers, an hospital under the care of the Franciscan Friars, for their succor and spiritual comfort. In Asia, at great expense, he succeeded in alleviating the vexatious annoyances to which, in the kingdoms of China and Japan, innumerable Christians were continually subjected for the faith of Jesus Christ. For the support of missionaries and catechists, and the building of churches in those countries, he sent on different occasions more than $100,000. In Macao he founded a house or cradle of mercy, for the rescue of foundlings, who, according to the barbarous custom there prevailing among the poor, are daily found ex-posed in the streets. For the same purpose of supporting ministers and catechists, be remitted enormous sums to the Kingdoms of Travancor, Ternate, Madure and Coromandel, thus supporting those flourishing churches, which but for such timely succor were in frequent danger of being overwhelmed by the continued hostilities of those pagans. In the Philippines he founded a Presidio of Boholan Indians as a protection against the attacks of the Mahomedans, which prevented the spread of the gospel. He built in the East Indies the Church of Pondicheri, and remitted to Jerusalem large sums of money for the ornament of the holy places, and the security of pious pilgrims.
"In America, besides continued daily alms to the afflicted and poor, numerous dowries bestowed on virtuous maidens, chapels and pious works of the same nature, and others less costly, he expended over $80,000 in building the convent of St. Joseph of the barefooted Franciscan Friars, at Tacubaya, and over $200,000 in missions, vessels, and other necessities of California. He founded in Pimeria (Arizona) the two missions of Busonic and Sonoydad, changing the name of San Marcelo, by which the latter was formerly known, to that of San Miguel, from devotion to the latter Saint. He contributed $10,000 towards the founding of the college of Caracas, and $10,000 more to that of Havana, and another $10,000 towards founding a house of religious exercises in Mexico. The Missions of Nayarit of Moqui and New Mexico were not a little indebted for his support. In Europe he defrayed the whole expenses of the investigations preceding the beatification of the venerable Father Luis de la Puente; he rebuilt and re-endowed the college of santander; built and endowed the college and church of the cave of Manresa—the scene of the penance of our Father St. Ignatius, and the cradle of the Society. He laid the foundation of a college of missionaries at the house and castle of Xavier, in the kingdom of Navarre: served his Majesty, Philip V., with a regiment of five hundred and seventy men, armed and maintained at his own expense, for nearly a year and a half, in acknowledgment of which service his Majesty offered him the vice-royalty of Mexico, an honor which he declined, preferring to all other things, the tranquillity of his own conscience.
"In his extreme old age, he made a pilgrimage to the house of Nazareth, and the city of Loretto, clad in a garment of coarse cloth, and under a vow not to shave his beard until he had offered up his devotions at that sacred place. There he made most munificent offerings to the Holy Virgin. Throughout his journey he distributed profuse alms. He went then to Rome, and in the College Jesu, went through the religious exercises of our Father, St. Ignatius. He returned to Spain, offered in Zaragossa most costly gifts at the church and image del Pilar, and sought hospitality in our imperial college at Madrid where, having three days before given away, in alms, all the rest of his property, even down to his cloak, he finally gave himself to the Lord, by seeking to be admitted into the Society. Having made his vows with tenderness and devotion, to the edification of the whole court, he died on the 13th day of February, 1739."
The next important contribution to the Pious Fund after that of the Marquis was, I believe, made by the Duchess of Gandia. I have never obtained a copy of her will, but its provisions are to be inferred from the brief notice of it in Clavigero's "California." He said that the good lady, having heard an aged domestic who had served as a soldier in California recount the sterility of that country, the wretched condition of the Indians there, the hardships and apostolic labors of the missionaries, etc., concluded that she could do nothing more pleasing to God than to devote a portion of her wealth to the support of these Missions, and she therefore directed in her will that the capital set aside to provide annuities for her servants should, as the life estates fell in, go to the Missions of California. He adds that the sums obtained by the Missions from this legacy had amounted in 1767, to $60,000, with as much more to come in on the termination of the remaining life estates.
On May 29, 1765, Dona Josepha Paula de Arguelles, a wealthy lady of Guadalaxara, executed her will, by which she bequeathed, after other provisions, one-fourth of her residuary estate to the Jesuit College of St. Thomas Aquinas, in Guadalaxara, and the other three-quarters to the "Missions in China and New Spain." She died about a year and a half thereafter. The Jesuits at that time, pressed by a storm of obloquy in Spain and Portugal, renounced under the will, and the heirs of the deceased lady brought an action to have her declared intestate as to all her property, except a trivial legacy. By the time the action was tried, the Jesuits, in whose hands at the time of the making of the will the Mexican and Philippine Missions were, had been expelled from all the Spanish dominions and all their property seized by the Crown.
The Crown accordingly intervened in the action just mentioned, claiming on behalf of the Missions. The Monarch as "Parens Patriae" recognized the fiduciary character of the bequest, and as the former trustee had been put out of existence, claimed to succeed to the duties, and consequent rights of that position. The litigation was long and arduous, and went finally before the council of the Indies, on appeal from the Audencia real of Mexico. I have a copy of the judgment. By it the decedent is declared intestate, as to the quarter of her property bequeathed to the college, the beneficiaries having renounced as above mentioned; but as to the three-fourths bequeathed to the Missions, the bequest was sustained, and the money placed at the disposal of the Crown, for the fulfillment of the trusts. One-half of these three-fourths was therefore aggregated to the Pious Fund, and the other half was devoted to Missions in the Philippine Islands. The amount of the contribution was about $240,000. I have not been able to trace any other very large contributions to the Pious Fund, or I would gladly chronicle the names of the donors. There were probably many contributions of importance and many more of moderate amounts. The contributors, however, have fallen into oblivion like the "mute inglorious Miltons" we have heard of.
To return to the enterprise of Fathers Kino and Salvatierra, we find associated with them in the projected conquest Fathers Juan Ugarte and Francisco Maria Piccolo. The former of these was, it seems, possessed of decided financial and administrative ability; he was a most zealous missionary, and his great stature and herculean personal strength inspired the Indians with a corresponding respect for his doctrine and preaching. Another instance of the truth of the proverb, "La raison du plus fort," etc. Some droll stories are told of him in this connection; but this is not the place for them. He was not long suffered to remain in personal charge of a Mission, but was transferred to the position of procurator, or financial agent of the missionary establishments, at the City of Mexico, where his financial ability was exercised in the care, investment, and disbursement of the funds. Father Piccolo was a scion of a noble Italian family; a scholarly man, and master of an elegant and perspicuous style, as his letters from California—some of which are printed in the "Collection des lettres Edifiantes at Curieuses"—show.
Father Kino was unable to accompany his associates to the scene of their labors, and the Mission was commenced by Fathers Salvatierra and Piccolo, who were subsequently joined by Father Ugarte. It would not be out of place here to follow these heroic men in their apostolic labors. Father Salvatierra embarked at the mouth of the Yaqui River, in a crazy little schooner, and after what was deemed a short voyage of nine days reached [Lower] California. Landing in an unknown country, remote from all supplies and communications, the intrepid missionary, accompanied by a corporal and five men, with three Indian servants, deliberately aimed at no less an object than the spiritual conquest of the whole peninsula, and the country to the north of it, up the coast as far as Cape Mendocino. He was followed in a few weeks by Father Piccolo. The chronicle of the obstacles they surmounted, the privations, sufferings and perils to which they and their subsequent companions were exposed, and in which some of them cheerfully perished, and of the success they finally achieved, is as full of romance, interest and instruction as any in the annals of the New World.
Besides the chief object of bringing the native population into the fold of the Church, which was ever kept steadily in view, the Jesuit Fathers never lost sight of the interests of learning and science; they faithfully observed and chronicled all that was of interest, in any branch of human knowledge, or capable of being useful to the colony or the mother country. It is a hundred and twenty years since the Jesuits were expelled from Lower California, yet to this day, most of what we know of the geography, climate, physical peculiarities and natural history of the peninsula is derived from the records of these early missionaries. By kindness and instruction they gradually overcame the hostility of the native tribes and during the seventy succeeding years gradually extended their Missions from Cape San Lucas up the peninsula, to the northward, so that at the period of their expulsion they had established those already mentioned, and these, with that of San Fernando du Villacata, founded by the Franciscans in May, 1769, on their march to San Diego, were all the Missions of Lower California.
At this time the interior of Upper California was unexplored and its eastern and northern boundaries uncertain. The outline of the coast had been mapped with more or less accuracy, by naval exploring expeditions fitted out by the Crown, and by the commanders or pilots of the Philippine galleons, which, on their return voyages to Acapulco, took a wide sweep to the north, and sighted the leading headlands, from as far north as the "Cabo Blanco de San Sebastian," down to Cape San Lucas. The whole coast, as far north as Spain claimed, was called by the name of California. The terms Upper and Lower California came into use afterwards.
The "Pious Fund" continued to be managed by the Jesuits, and its income applied according to the will of its founders, and the Missions of California remained under their charge down to 1768, in which year they were expelled from Mexico in pursuance of the order of the Crown, or pragmatic sanction, of April 2, 1767. Their Missions in California were directed by the Viceroy to be placed in charge of the Franciscan Order. Subsequently a Royal Gedula of April 8, 1770, was issued, directing that one-half of these Missions should be confided to the Dominican Friars; in pursuance of which, and a "Concordato" of April 7, 1772, between the authorities of the two Orders, sanctioned by the Viceroy, the Missions of Lower California were confided to the Dominicans, and those of Upper California to the Franciscans. The income and product of the "Pious Fund" were thereafter appropriated to the Missions of both Orders.
The Church, when first established in Upper California, was purely missionary in its character. Its foundation dates from the year 1769; in July of which year, Father Junipero Serra, a Franciscan Friar, and his companions, reached the port of San Diego, overland, from the frontier Mission of Lower California, and there founded the first Christian Mission and first settlement of civilized men, within the territory now comprised in the State of California. Their object was to convert to Christianity and civilize the wretched native inhabitants, sunk in the lowest depths of ignorance and barbarism. In pursuit of this they exposed themselves to all perils and privations of a journey of forty-five days across an unexplored wilderness, and a residence remote from all the conveniences and necessaries of civilized life, in the midst of a hostile and barbarous population. Father Junipero and his followers established Missions among these people, from San Diego as far north as Sonoma, at each of which the neighboring tribes of Indians were assembled and instructed in the truths of the Christian religion and the rudiments of the arts of civilized life.
The Missions were designed, when the population should be sufficiently instructed, to be converted into parish churches and maintained as such, as had already been done in other parts of the Viceroyalty of New Spain ; but in the meantime, and while their missionary character continued, they were under the ecclesiastical government of a President of the Missions. Father Serra was the first who occupied this office, and the Missions were governed and directed by him and his successors, as such, down to the year 1836.
The decree of pragmatic sanction expelling the Jesuits from the Spanish dominions directs the seizure into the hands of the Crown of all their temporalities. Under this provision, the Crown took all the estates of the Order into its possession, including those of the "Pious Fund"; but these latter, constituting a trust estate, were of course taken cum onere, and charged with the trust. This was fully recognized by the Crown, and the properties of the "Pious Fund," so held in trust, were thereafter managed in its name by officers appointed for the purpose, called a "junta directiva." The income and product continued to be devoted, through the instrumentality of the ecclesiastical authorities, to the religious uses for which they were dedicated by the donors.
On the declaration of Mexican independence, Mexico succeeded to the Crown of Spain as trustee of the "Pious Fund," and it continued to be managed, and its income applied as before, down to September 19, 1836, when the condition of the Church, and of the missionary establishments in California, seemed to render desirable the erection of the country into a diocese or bishopric and the selection of a bishop for its government. In compliance with the known rule of the Holy See not to consent to the erection of new bishoprics in countries acknowledging the Catholic faith, without an endowment adequate to the decent support of the bishopric, the law of the Mexican Congress of September 19, 1836, was passed, which attached an endowment of $6000 per year to the mitre to be founded, and conceded to the incumbent when selected, and his successors, the administration and disposal of the "Pious Fund."
In pursuance of the invitation held out in this enactment, the two Californias, Upper and Lower, were erected by his Holiness Pope Gregory XVI, into an episcopal diocese, and Francisco Garcia Diego, who had until that time been President of the Missions of Upper California, was made bishop of the newly constituted See; as such he took upon himself the administration, management and investment of the "Pious Fund" as trustee, as well as the application of its income and proceeds to the purposes of its foundation, and for the benefit of his flock.
On February 8, 1842, so much of the law of September 19, 1836, as confided the management, investment, etc., of the fund to the bishop, was abrogated by a decree of Santa Ana, then President of the Republic, and the trust was again devolved on the State; but that decree did not purport in any way to impair or alter the destination of the fund; it merely devolved on government officers the investment and management of the property belonging to it, for the purpose of carrying out the trust established by its donors and founders.
On October 24, 1842, another decree was made by the same authority, reciting the inconvenience and waste and expense attending the management of the various properties belonging to the "Pious Fund," through the medium of public officers, and thereupon directing that the property belonging to it should be sold for the sum represented by its income (capitalized on the basis of six per cent. per annum), that the proceeds of the sale as well as the cash investments of the fund should be paid into the public treasury, and recognized an obligation on the part of the government to pay six per cent. per annum on the capital thereof thenceforth.
The property of the "Pious Fund" at the time of that decree of October 24, 1842, consisted of real estate, urban and rural; moneys invested on mortgage and other security, and the like. The greater part of the property was sold, in pursuance of the last mentioned decree, for a sum of about two millions of dollars. The names of the purchasers are stated by Mr. Duflot de Mofras, in his "Exploration du Territoire de L'Oregon et de la Californie," to have been the house of Saraio and Messrs Rubio Bros.; but notwithstanding the solicitude for the welfare of the Church and the advancement of the missionary cause so clearly expressed by the President, in the recital of motives, etc., which precedes his decree, such was the disposition to detraction then prevalent in the Mexican metropolis, that there were not wanting people mean and jealous enough to insinuate that the President himself had what is popularly called an underground interest in the purchase.
Besides the property, real and personal, belonging to the fund, it was a creditor to the State in amounts aggregating over a million and a quarter of dollars. For with all their enormous wealth, the Spanish monarchs were from time to time excessively impecunious, and the power to use trust funds without immediate accountability sometimes led them, as it has led many another man before and since, to misappropriation; and so they occasionally would put their hands into the treasury of the "Pious Fund" and abstract some of the cash. "How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds, makes deeds ill done." Such, however, is the punctiliousness of the Castilian character, that for whatever sums he borrowed, the king always insisted, like Micawber, on giving his note of hand. I have a memorandum of the dates and amounts of these, but they are not really interesting. Mexico having become independent of Spain, with a sense of honor creditable to the men who then controlled her destiny, made haste to recognize her obligation for so much of the public debt of Spain as belonged to the Viceroyalty, and in the treaty of peace between the mother country and the emancipated colony, concluded December 29, 1836, this acknowledgment—already solemnly pronounced by the law of June 28, 1821 was formally repeated.
Perhaps it will surprise many to learn that the payment of the interest on the capital of the fund was not always punctually made by the government of Mexico. In fact, it was sadly neglected, and although on a very few occasions some small payments were made on account—by orders on the Custom House, sometimes even countermanded before they took effect—yet these were so insignificant as to become what the mathematician terms a negligable quantity. Mexico, how-ever, like Spain, always insisted on honestly giving her note for what she borrowed; it is charitable, therefore, to assume that her poverty, and not her will, consented to its non-payment.
At the time of the seizure of the "Pious Fund" by Santa Ana, the agent and attorney in fact of Bishop Diego, in the City of Mexico, was a venerable old gentleman called Don Pedro Ramirez. His probity of character, blameless life, and venerable years, commanded the respect of even the rough soldiers whom Santa Ana made use of in his violations of the laws of the country. From what I have been able to learn of him, I judge that even Marshall St. Arnaux or Bazaine himself would have felt constrained to treat him with deference. He was a man of method, too, and a careful manager. During the brief period of his stewardship, he succeeded in terminating most of the varied litigations in which the "junta directiva" had involved the fund, had paid off its floating debt, cancelled unprofitable leases, and otherwise had made the property productive. When General Valencia (Santa Ana's officer), informed him of his orders to seize the fund, and rescue it from the evils of this sort of private administration, the old gentleman thought it his duty to protest, however vainly, against the proceeding. He did protest and had quite a lively correspondence with General Valencia. The latter, however, was more of a soldier perhaps than a diplomatist, and presently threatened, after the manner of Brennus, to throw this sword and belt into the scale. Don Pedro, however, stood firm for a recognition, at least of his position, and insisted on delivering the property according to an inventory of "Instruccion Circumstanciada," in which the exact state of the fund, the properties, the rents, mortgage investment, etc., were all set out, and in deference to his age and character, and I think I may add, to his pluck, the General consented and the delivery was so made. The ship was sinking, but the old apoderado, like the heroic victims of the Birkenhead disaster, was determined to maintain his honor to the last and go down with ranks dressed, and to the word "Attention." He drew up his "Instruccion Circumstanciada" in duplicate, delivered one copy duly authenticated by himself to General Valencia, and transmitted the other to his principal, with a copy of his correspondence preceding the final surrender, and thus the capital of the "Pious Fund," after about one hundred and sixty years of separate existence, was engulfed in the maelstrom of the Mexican Treasury.
The fund had so long ceased to yield any substantial support to the missionaries that its final absorption made no appreciable change in their circumstances or in the resources of the Missions. The younger men had known nothing of it, and the elder ones remembered it only in connection with the "good old times" when things were better managed than they are now. Its origin was lost in antiquity, no papers existed in the Mission archives relating to it, and it came ere long to be practically forgotten.
When the California State Government was formed, there was a tradition in the country that such an institution as the "Pious Fund" once existed, and that Santa Ana had abolished or confiscated it; that was about all. In 1851, the State Legislature appointed a committee of enquiry on the subject, which examined all the old inhabitants as to what they knew of it, but was in the end compelled to report that all they could discover was that there had been such a fund, and that it amounted to a very large sum, but as to where it came from, how it arose, what it was, or what became of it, they could discover nothing. It was "one of those things no fellow could find out."
In 1853, Archbishop Alemany, then Bishop of Monterey and successor to Bishop Diego, brought me a small package of papers, which he had found in the archives of his predecessor in office, saying that they related to the "Pious Fund," and he desired me to look them over and see whether he had not some claim against either Mexico or the United States, for indemnity or compensation by reason of Santa Ana's acts of 1842. I read them over and amongst them found the "Instruccion Circumstanciada" of Don Pedro Ramirez, a copy of Santa Ana's decree and some other scraps, which gave me some idea of the matter, not very clear, but sufficient to build on. Subsequently in 1857, the Bishop renewed the subject, and retained me in conjunction with another gentleman, now deceased, to endeavor to obtain for the Church whatever she was entitled to in this connection. Thenceforth I began to read Mexican and Californian history to see how much could be discovered in printed publications about the "Pious Fund." And here Don Pedro Ramirez's methodical discharge of duty proved of incalculable value to me. His "Instruccion Circumstanciada" named each piece of property, urban or rural, which he delivered over. Among them were the haciendas of "Guadaloupe" and "Arroyo Sarco," the purchase of which I found mentioned in Venegas as far back as 1716, and those of "San Pedro Ibarra," "El Torreon" and "Las Golondrinas," which are named in the Marquis de Villa Puente's deed. These names enabled me to identify the property and trace its acquisition. The labor of investigation soon became itself a pleasure, and, in the succeeding ten or eleven years, I picked up—a scrap here and another there—the material of the history I have here recounted. I had not indeed any sanguine hope of ever establishing any claim for the Bishop, but, if opportunity ever presented, I was pre-pared to open my case upon very short notice, and in the meantime I had had a deal of pleasure in making the preparation. I had renewed my acquaintance with Cortes, Alvarado and Sandoval; become intimate with Mendoza, Bucarelli, Revilla-Gigedo and Galvez, got acquainted with Fathers Salvatierra, Ugarte, Kino, Serra, Palou, Verger and Crespi, and altogether had succeeded in introducing myself to a most agreeable circle of society, concerning which my only regret was that so few of my contemporary friends knew them or appreciated their worth. The professional interest which first led me to take up the study gradually faded away, and the historical interest became broader. The Bishop ceased to cherish, and finally dismissed from his mind the hope of recovering anything on account of the "Pious Fund"; my associate counsel, absorbed in other affairs, public and private, forgot all about our retainer, and I had ceased, myself, to think of the case in connection with any legal proceedings.
On Sunday, March 28, 1870, I casually took up a New York paper and my eyes fell on a paragraph stating that "Wednesday, the 31st instant, would be the last day for presenting claims to the Mixed American and Mexican Commission then sitting in Washington." I was away from the city at the moment, and no conveyance could be obtained before the next day. The "Pious Fund" as a case in my charge had so long appeared a hopeless one, that I had not even noticed that a claims convention had been agreed on between the two governments. I hurried to the city next morning, soon got hold of the convention of July 4, 1869, and read it. Demands under it were limited to injuries to persons or property committed by either Republic on the citizens of the other, since the date of the treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo, February 22, 1848. It was clear that the wrong done in seizing the "Pious Fund" and taking it into the public treasury in 1842, could not be made the subject of reclamation under the convention. I read it again, with the mental inquiry, "Is there no way to bring our claim under this treaty?"
The time for deliberation was very short. My client was away in Europe; his Vicar General knew nothing whatever of the matter. My associate was in Washington evidently oblivious of the whole affair; there was nothing but to decide on my own responsibility and act at once. I determined to waive all claim for the property of the fund, treat Santa Ana's decree as a bona fide purchase of it, at the price and in the terms indicated in its text, and demand damages for the non-fulfilment of the contract by the payment of the installments of interest accrued since the treaty of Guadaloupe Hidalgo. I sent a telegram to Washington outlining the claim, and desiring it to be filed with the commission, and by the following Wednesday had the satisfaction of learning that my message had been received and the claim seasonably presented.
The details of the litigation would have only a professional interest and I omit them. The case was defended, at first by the late Caleb Cushing, and after his appointment to the Spanish Mission, by Don Manuel Aspiros, a gentleman whose historical and professional attainments it would be difficult to find a rival for. The two commissioners differed in opinion, and the case being referred to Sir Edward Thornton, then British Ambassador in Washington, as umpire, he gave me an award for the half of the accrued interest belonging to Upper California, amounting to the sum of $904,070.79.
The above concludes Mr. Doyle's excellent and authentic statement of the celebrated case. But there is more to follow. Mexico paid the first installment January 31, 1877; the second, January 31, 1878, and the last January 21, 1890. And the Holy See apportioned the award among the dioceses and religious orders.
Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco—successor to Arch-bishop Alemany—within a month and a half from the last-mentioned date, invoked, through his counsel, the diplomatic intervention of the United States Government to secure the payment of the. interest from 1869, the fact of the debt and the trust having been established by the decision of Sir Edward Thornton. The representations of the United States Minister to Mexico were ignored for six years, until the letter of General Clayton, Minister to Mexico, dated September 1, 1897, brought an answer from the Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs. In that letter the American Minister distinctly styled the matter res judicata, that is, decided once for all by the former arbitral court. The prolonged diplomatic correspondence ensuing therefrom resulted in the protocol of May 22, 1902, signed by John Hay, United States Secretary of State, and Senior de Aspiros, Mexican Ambassador at Washington, by which the entire matter was submitted to the Permanent Court of Arbitration under the Hague Convention of 1899.
The United States chose as her arbitrators Sir Edward Fry of England and Professor Theodore de Martens of Russia. Mexico appointed Mr. Alexander Lohman of Holland and Senator Guarnaschelli of Italy, but the latter resigning on account of his son's death, Professor Asser of Holland was chosen in his stead. These four settled on Mr. Matzer, President of the Danish Chamber of Deputies, as the fifth member of the Board, of whom not a single individual was a Catholic. September 13, 1902, the case was formally opened, and October 13, 1902, a unanimous decision was rendered in favor of the Church. Mexico was condemned to pay $1,460,682 in Mexican currency within eight months as the interest due up to February 2, 1902. Moreover, to use the very words of the award : "Mexico will pay_ _February 2, 1903, and every following year on the same date forever, annual payment of $43,050 of the money of the legal currency of Mexico." The decision did not compel Mexico to pay in gold. The first payment was made June 16, 1903.
The whole question, in a nutshell, was admirably stated by Garret McEnerney in his argument before The Hague Tribunal, as follows :
"When Mexico made her decree of October 24, 1842, she promised to pay six per cent. upon the capital of the Pious Fund for the uses and purposes to which the fund had been dedicated by the donors. This engagement was no mere gratuity. There was not only a sufficient but an ample consideration for the promise. She incorporated the entire Pious Fund into her national treasury. The least she could do in honor was to promise to pay interest upon the fund. Mexico not only agreed to pay the interest, but she agreed to pay it to the religious objects specified and intended by the donors of the fund, which were the conversion of the natives of the Californias, Upper and Lower, and the establishment, maintenance and extension of the Catholic Church, its religion and worship in that country, "At the time she made the engagement Mexico sustained the relation of a trustee to the beneficiaries and to the fund... . Her promise, therefore, is to be read in the light of her duty as trustee. The promise which Mexico made was to pay an annuity in perpetuity. Her promise was also to pay it to certain religious purposes to be accomplished in Upper California, and certain religious purposes to be accomplished in Lower California. Upon the cession of Upper California to the United States for a consideration of $18,250,000, the obligation to pay the equitable portion due for application to the religious purposes to be accomplished in Upper California was not canceled. It survived for the benefit and behoof of the inhabitants and citizens of the ceded territory, whose American citizenship, as it was to be thenceforth, entitled them to demand performance through the interposition of the United States."