Page images
PDF
EPUB

CALIFORNIA ANNEXED.

313

Dent, her aged father, at her side. What are now known as great state dinners do not severely tax the hostess. The guests are so arranged that each lady is only called on to converse with her next neighbor, and thus an agreeable evening is passed and many pleasant acquaintances formed. The President is seated opposite Mrs. Grant, about the middle of the table, generally between two of the loveliest or most distinguished ladies, while Mrs. Grant is flanked by the two most eminent men, foreigners or natives, among the company. At the President's private dinners the same order is preserved, only that there is less restraint, and more of the freedom of the family.

In that delightful book, "Sir Henry Holland's Recollections," just published, there is a sketch of one of the famous leaders of British society, Lady Holland, which shows what peculiar qualities were required when the wife, so to speak, is empress of the household. Like Lady Blessington, Lady Holland is a historical character, and if there are any who resemble her in these days they have not perhaps the same opportunities for display and distinction.

[April 7, 1872.]

LXVI.

An attack upon the policy of the Mexican war and the annexation of Texas always disposes me to direct attention to the results of the conquest or purchase of California and the opening of our way to the Pacific on the thirty-second parallel. When Robert J. Walker, who was perhaps the most active engineer of the annexation scheme, wrote his celebrated letter in its favor, he pleaded with prophetic ken for its effect on the whole country. The future vindicated his views, and gave him an opportunity to resist, on a broader field and with resplendent

O

disinterestedness, the efforts of the Disunionists to use their new advantages for the overthrow of the Government. The slaveholders gave quick and earnest support to the Texas programme, and they sent their best material into the war against Mexico, but they soon realized that freedom could spread as well as slavery, and that the more it was distributed the stronger it was. They met a fearful fall when they tried to divide California in 1850, so as to reserve half of it for the peculiar institution; and they were still more disappointed when California refused to follow them in their spoliation of Kansas in 1855, '56, '57; and later still, in 1861,262, when the Pacific State, set apart as an outlying fortress of slavery, became one of the chief bulwarks of the Union.

But I did not sit down to write politics, or to show how Providence overthrows the best-laid plans of ambitious men, but to restore to the memory of my readers some of those who figured in the early days of California. These were all in the prime of life, most of them young, and all of them seeking their fortunes. They came from various sections. Young Fremont, who in his twenty-seventh year explored the South Pass, and afterward penetrated to the Rocky Mountains and the Great Salt Lakes, and still later unfolded Alta California, the Sierra Nevada, the valleys of the San Joaquin and the Sacramento, was the first United States Senator after the war and the ratification of the treaty of Guadaloupe-Hidalgo. This was in 1850, when he was thirty-six years old. I remember him well, his quiet manners and his youthful figure. His colleague, Dr. William M. Gwin, of Mississippi, who had grown to be a veteran in the bitter conflicts of the South, where he had held any

number of places, emigrated to California, like the rest, to better his condition, and was made a Senator in Congress in 1850 for six years. He was then just forty-five, full of vigor, resources, busy, continuous, and resolute, not over-scrupulous, and intensely ambitious. His wife was exactly the mate for such a man; fash

CALIFORNIAN REPRESENTATIVES.

315

ز

ionable, liberal, dashing, generous, and full of Southern partialities. Their house was as hospitable as plenty of money and pleasant people could make it. George H. Wright was then a Representative in the House in 1850–51. He is now a resident of Washington, and a sound Republican. In 1852 Milton S. Latham came to Washington as a Representative from California. He was just twenty-five when he took his seatma handsome boy, who, after a short career in Alabama, had emigrated, in his twenty-third year, to the Golden State. He was modest and graceful, made a good sophomore speech, was never violent, and soon conciliated great favor. Few men have enjoyed more of the world's smiles and favors, and few deserved them more than this young man. He was clerk of the Recorder's Court of San Francisco in 1850, district attorney in 1851, Representative in Congress in 1852, and declined a re-election ; was Collector of the Port of San Francisco in 1855, elected Governor of California in 1860, and three days after his inauguration chosen a Senator in Congress for six years. He was always moderate in his politics, though a Democrat; liked Douglas and Breckinridge; was a close friend of Andy Johnson, and never “fell out," I believe, with Hotspur Wigfall or dogmatic Toombs. He was even and genial to all; had no angular points, and made money

with the ease of a fortune's favorite. He is now living at San Francisco, a millionaire at forty-five, having had an experience of a quarter of a century unusual in any man's history, with perhaps as many years before him in which to increase and enjoy his large possessions. Of a widely different type was E.C. Marshall, who went forth from Kentucky to California about the same time, and sat in the House with Latham as his colleague. He was a genius; impetuous, blind, reckless; a true scion of a gifted and eccentric race. Some of his speeches were gems; but he had no system, and wasted his gifts lavishly, while the more prudent Latham carefully garnered and added to his. Then came the big-brained James A. McDougall, born in New York, thence removing to Illinois, and in 1850 settling down in California, where, after other service, he was chosen to succeed Latham in the House. What a handsome fellow he was in 1853, in his thirty-seventh year, and how he flamed in debate! He ought to be living to-day, and would be if he had been a little less selfish. John B. Weller, of Ohio, transplanted himself to California in the exodus of 1846, succeeded Fremont in the Senate in 1851, and was afterward Governor of the State. He is, I believe, still living in California. Thomas J. Henly, of Indiana, belonged to the same emigration. He made the longest and best stump speeches I ever heard, and could hold a crowd together for four hours at a stretch. Broderick, “the noblest Roman of them all," I think, in the mines as early as 1845. He fled from New York and its deg. radations, and dug for a living in the gulches; but he was soon called forth to lead in the formation of the constitution of the new State, and to sit in and preside over the State Senate. Chosen a Senator in Congress in 1856, and refusing to sanction the treachery of Buchanan on the Kansas question, he was killed in a duel by a Southern Secessionist in September of 1859. John Conness, one of the disciples of Broderick, was one of the first emigrants to California, and served in various public positions till he was chosen a Senator in Congress in 1863.

The gold discovery, following directly after the conquest of California, stimulated the rush from the old States, North and South. That revelation made the ancient Spanish settlement the seat of a new American empire. It seemed a providential sequel to a great national event; and you will note how the men I have named were moulded and mastered in the developments of the times. Every one of them left home a pro-slavery Democrat, with the exception of General Fremont; and they were either forced into sympathy with the rebellion, and with its collapse closed their political career, or took bold ground against the rebellion, and so live in the gratitude of posterity.

[blocks in formation]

California is no longer an outpost of slavery or Democracy. New men have succeeded the pioneers; men like Cole, Sargent, and Lowe. The bad influence that ruled the State has passed away. The old, slow ocean passage has yielded to the genius of the rail. Continents make treaties by telegraph and interchange commodities by steam. Distant nations are made neighbors, and thoughts that could only be spoken or written for a few, twenty years ago, fly in an instant into millions of minds in the remotest regions. The ideas of Broderick and Baker and Starr King survive the evil sophistries of Gwin and Weller, and leaven the whole mass of dogmas that came so near losing for us a country.

[April 14, 1872.)

LXVII.

IN 1853, when President Pierce nominated James Buchanan as Minister to England, the Senate was on the point of adjourning without confirming the Pennsylvania statesman, and he positively refused to accept unless he was confirmed. Hon. Richard Brodhead, a Senator in Congress from Pennsylvania, since deceased, was an opponent of Buchanan, and it was difficult to secure his vote for the new Minister ; but Mr. Marcy,

: Secretary of State, and the President, finally succeeded in conciliating him, and J. B. was put through, and began to prepare for his mission. His first solicitude was to secure a competent Secretary of Legation, and he asked me if I had any such person in view. I said I had not; knowing that Mr. Buchanan was not easy to please in such matters, and believing that in the choice of his confidential assistant he ought to act for himself. Shortly after this conversation, however, I visited New York, and met a gentleman whose talents and address seemed

« PreviousContinue »