Page images
PDF
EPUB

1838.]

PROCEEDINGS OF THE RUSSIANS.

363

[ocr errors]

is this demand, the Russian minister of foreign affairs, Count Nessel

rode, did not attempt to offer any reply, contenting himself simply with declaring that his sovereign was not inclined to renew the

fourth article, as it afforded the Americans the opportunity of fur| nishing the natives on the coasts with spirituous liquors and fire-arms;

though no case was adduced in support of that assertion. Thus the matter rests; the American traders being excluded from visiting any of the coasts of the Pacific north of the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes, on the ground that those coasts are acknowledged by the United States to belong to Russia, whilst the latter power, by its treaty with Great Britain in 1825, directly denies any rights, on the part of the United States, to the coasts south of that parallel.

The Russian government also refused the same privilege to British vessels after 1835, and moreover opposed by force the exercise of another privilege claimed by the British under the treaty of 1825, namely, that of navigating the rivers flowing from the interior of the continent to the Pacific across the line of boundary therein established. In 1834, the Hudson's Bay Company fitted out an expedition for the purpose of establishing a trading post on the large river Stikine, which enters the channel named by Vancouver Prince Frederick's Sound, between the main land and one of the islands of the north-west archipelago claimed by Russia, in the latitude of 56 degrees 50 minutes. Baron Wrangel, the Russian governorgeneral, having, however, been informed of the project, erected a block-house and stationed a sloop of war at the mouth of the Stikine; and, on the appearance of the vessel bringing the men and materials for the contemplated establishment, the British were warned not to attempt to pass into the river, and were forced to return to the south. All appeals to the treaty were ineffectual, and the Hudson's Bay Company was obliged to desist from the prosecution of the plan, after having, as asserted on its part, spent more than twenty thousand pounds in fitting out the expedition.

of inference, as the convention of 1824 contains nothing more than a negation of the right of the United States to occupy new points within that limit. Admitting that this inference was in contemplation of the parties to the convention, it cannot follow that the United States ever intended to abandon the just right, acknowledged by the firs: article to belong to them, under the law of nations; that is, to frequent any part of the unoccupied coast of North America, for the purpose of fishing or trading with the natives. All that the convention admits is, an inference of the right of Russia to acquire possession by settlement north of 54 degrees and 40 minutes north; and, until that possession is taken, the first article of the convention acknowledges the right of the United States to fish and trade, as prior to its negotiation."

The British government immediately demanded satisfaction, from that of Russia, for this infraction of the treaty; and, after some time spent in negotiation between the two powers, and between the two companies, it was agreed that the part of the continental coast extending from the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes, northward, to Cape Spenser, near the 58th degree, which was assigned to Russia by the treaty of 1825, should be leased, by the Russian American Company, to the Hudson's Bay Company, for ten years from the 1st of June, 1840, at an annual rent, to be paid in furs. The difficulty was thus ended, to the advantage of all parties; the British gaining access to a long line of coast, without which the adjoining territories of the interior would have been useless, while the Russians derive a much greater amount from the rent than they could have otherwise drawn from the coast.

The charter of the Russian American Company was renewed, in 1839, for twenty years, without any modifications worthy of note. The company was then in a prosperous condition; its operations were daily extending, and the value of its stock was constantly increasing.

The license, granted to the Hudson's Bay Company, in 1821, to trade, in exclusion of all other British subjects, in the countries owned or claimed by Great Britain, north and west of Canada and the United States, expired in 1840; but another license, containing some new and important provisions, had been accorded by the government, on the 30th of May, 1838.* Thus the company was bound, under heavy penalties, to enforce the due execution of criminal processes, by the officers and other persons legally empowered, in all its territories, and to make and submit to the government such rules and regulations, for the trade with the Indians, as should be effectual to promote their moral and religious improvement, and especially to prevent the sale and distribution of spirituous liquors among them. It is moreover declared, in the grant, that nothing therein contained should authorize the company to claim the right of trade in any part of America, to the prejudice or exclusion of the people of “any foreign states” who may be entitled to trade there, in virtue of conventions between such states and Great Britain ; and the government reserves to itself the right to establish any colony or province within the territories included in the grant, or to annex any portion of those territories to any existing colony or province, and to apply to such colony any form of civil govern

See both the licenses in the Proofs and Illustrations, letter I.

1822.)

CALIFORNIA SUBJECT TO MEXICO.

365

a

ment, independent of the Hudson's Bay Company, which might be deemed proper. Whether this last provision was introduced with some special and immediate object, or with a view to future contingencies, no means have as yet been afforded for determining. The British government, however, insisted strongly on retaining the above-mentioned privileges; and it is most probable that the Columbia countries were in view at the time, as the remainder of the territory included in the grant, and not possessed by the company in virtue of the charter of 1669, is of little value in any way.

In California, few events worthy of note occurred during the whole period of fisty years, from the first establishment of Spanish colonies and garrisons on the west coasts of that country, to the termination of the revolutionary struggle between Spain and Mexico. Before the commencement of the disturbances, the missions were, to a certain extent, fostered by the Spanish government, and supplies of money and goods were sent to them, with regularity, from Acapulco and San Blas; but, after the revolution broke out, these remittances were reduced, the missionaries lost their influence over the natives, and the establishments fell into decay. Upon the overthrow of the Spanish power, in 1822, California was divided politically into two territories, of which the peninsula formed one, called Lower California ; the other, or Upper California, embracing the whole of the continental portion. By the constitution of 1824, each of these territories became entitled to send one member to the National Congress; and, by subsequent decrees, all the adult Indians, who could be considered as civilized or capable of reasoning, (gente de razon,) were freed from submission to their former pastors, had lands assigned to them, and were declared citizens of the republic. These seeming boons were, however, accompanied by the withdrawal of nearly all the allowances previously made for the establishments, and by the imposition of taxes and duties on all imports, including those from Mexico. The authority of the missionaries thus dwindled away, and those who had been long in the country either returned to Mexico or Spain, or escaped to other lands: the cultivation of the mission farms was abandoned, and the Indians, freed from restraint, relapsed into barbarism, or sunk into the lowest state of indolence and vice.

Whilst the number of civilized Indians in California was by these measures diminished, the white population was at the same time somewhat increased. Immediately after, and indeed before, the overthrow of the Spanish authority in that country, its ports became the resort of foreigners, especially of the whalers and traders of the United States, who offered coarse manufactured articles and groceries in exchange for provisions, and for the hides and tallow of the wild cattle abounding in the country. This trade was at first carried on in the same irregular manner as the fur trade with the Indians on the coasts farther north ; as it increased, however, it became more systematized, and mercantile houses were established in the principal ports. The majority of the merchants were foreigners, English, French, or Americans: in their train came shop and tavern-keepers, and artisans, from various countries; and to these were added deserting seamen and stragglers from the Missouri and the Columbia.

This state of things was by no means satisfactory to the Mexican government; and orders were given to the commandant-general of Upper California to enforce the laws prohibiting foreigners from entering or residing in the Mexican territories without special permission from the authorities. Agreeably to these orders, a number of American citizens were, in 1828, seized at San Diego, and kept in confinement until 1830, when an insurrection broke out, headed by a General Solis, which they were instrumental in subduing; and, in consideration of their services, they were allowed to quit the country. The trading expeditions of Ashley and Smith, of which accounts have been already presented, at the same time gave great uneasiness to the Mexican government, and were made the subjects of formal complaints to that of the United States.

These circumstances, with others of the same nature then occurring in Texas, served to delay the conclusion of treaties of limits, and of amity, commerce, and navigation, between the United States and Mexico; which were, however, at length signed and ratified, so as to become effective in 1832. By the treaty of limits, the line of boundary from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific, which was settled between the United States and Spain in 1819, was adopted as separating the territories of the United States on the north from those of Mexico on the south; and the latter power accordingly claims as its own the whole territory west of the great dividing chain of mountains, as far north as the 42d parallel of latitude.

The Mexican government likewise endeavored to prevent the evils anticipated from the presence of so many foreigners in California, by founding new colonies of its own citizens in that country. Criminals were to be transported thither ; but although many were

1837.)

REVOLUTION IN CALIFORNIA.

367

thus sentenced, few, if any, ever reached the place of their destination. A number of persons, of various trades and professions,

. were also sent out from Mexico in 1834, to be located on the lands of the missions in California; but, ere they reached those places, the administration by which the scheme was devised, had been overthrown, and the new authorities, entertaining different views, ordered the settlers to be driven back to their native land.

These new authorities that is to say, General Santa Anna and his partisans - determined to remodel the constitution, under which Mexico had been governed, as a federal republic, since 1824. What other form was to have been introduced in its stead, is not known; for, in the spring of 1836, at the moment when the change was about to be made, Santa Anna was defeated and taken prisoner by the Texans at San Jacinto. Those who succeeded to the helm being, however, no less averse to the federal system, it was abolished in the latter part of the same year, and a constitution was adopted, by which the powers of government were placed almost entirely in the hands of the general congress and executive, all state rights being destroyed. This central system was opposed in many parts of the republic, and nowhere more strenuously than in California, where the people rose in a body, expelled the Mexican officers, and declared that their country should remain independent until the federal constitution were restored. The general government, on receiving the news of these proceedings, issued strong proclamations against the insurgents, and ordered an expedition to be prepared for the purpose of reëstablishing its authority in the revolted territory; but General Urrea, to whom the execution of this order was committed, soon after declared in favor of the federalists, and the Californians were allowed to govern themselves as they chose for some months, at the end of which, in July, 1837, their patriotic enthusiasm subsided, and they voluntarily swore allegiance to the new constitution.

Since that time, the quiet course of things in California, was, during several years, disturbed by only one occurrence worthy of being mentioned; namely, the capture and temporary occupation of Monterey by the naval forces of the United States, under Commodore T. A.C. Jones, of which the following brief account will suffice. This officer, while cruising on the South American coast of the Pacific, received information which led him to believe that Mexico had, agreeably to a menace shortly before uttered by her government, declared war against the United States; and, being determined

« PreviousContinue »