« AnteriorContinuar »
were taking of such qualities, Such a book as Richard H. Dana's Two Years Before the Mast, chronicling the visit of a Boston vessel on the coast trading for hides in 1835-36, did more than anything else to store the American mind with a knowledge of the life of the coast. A year or two of rebellious wavering, of conspiracies that did not by any means always bring blood, of depredations by the Indians that were reminders of the savage past, these were the variations upon the monotony of a life that had not yet become very closely connected with distant communities.
A change took place about 1840. Foreigners, from having been lookerson when their vessels chanced to enter the ports, now began to assert their national presence, and they speedily grew as a body to be more important personages in the coast affairs than their Mexican neighbors. These conditions necessarily drew the attention of such foreign governments as had fleets to show themselves often in the California waters. England held a Mexican indebtedness which could but suggest the thought that the cession of California would satisfactorily cancel it. The man Sutter, a Swiss wanderer, became a prominent character as early as 1840. The Russian governor, Wrangell, at Sitka, feeling it necessary to aggrandize the Ross settlement and to strengthen Russian claims to the coast, endeavored to induce Mexico to make cession of San Rafael and Sonoma; but he hoped against fate. Thus baffled, he found a better policy in abandoning the Ross settlement, and the property was bought by Sutter in 1841.
There had been for three hundred years occasional intimations of gold being found in these coast regions, but apparently all these were rather figurative expressions than sober records. The earliest actual finding of gold took place, as Bancroft asserts, in the Los Angeles district in 1842, and then accidentally.
It was not the chance of gold-mining that as yet made California attract the attention of three great powers. France had wrested from Mexico her dues at Vera Cruz, and she had no stronger expectation, if the severance with Mexico came, than that as a Catholic nation she could appeal as their natural succorer to the new Californias. England had not forgotten the money she had lent, and California in perhaps a few English minds was thought of as an equivalent. The United States, having settled her northern boundary disputes in the Webster-Ashburton treaty in 1842, was quite ready to press towards the south and west. Commodore Jones on the coast in an American feet was over-zealous in the cause, and, seizing Monterey, displayed there the American flag. The time had not come, and the United States apologized for the act.
The overland immigration from the United States continued, and when the governor of California heard a little later of the annexation of Texas to the United States, and of the war likely to grow out of it, he was warned to be prepared, and it was no relief to his anxiety that Americans still came straggling along into his province, and that a certain American army
1 These clews are gathered in Bancroft's California inter pocula, ch. 2.
officer, Frémont by name, was making observations within the boundaries of the province, and that the Oregon trail had found also an outlet in the California valleys. It was not quite sure how far the American government was to be seen in all this; but it was soon known that when Slidell was sent as minister to Mexico to treat for a determination of the Texan boundary, he was commissioned to buy California if he could; and if he could not, there were other measures not unknown to American ambition.
The chance was soon offered. The shots on the Rio Grande opened the war of the United States and Mexico. In the early months of 1846 Frémont and Gillispie were in the province, — the one bearing despatches to Thomas 0. Larkin, who exerted himself so to compass the condition of affairs that from his vantage.ground as American consul, and as a man of character, he could watch and direct the change of allegiance with as little violence as possible. Frémont had other purposes, and so he brought on a crisis, and uniting with Commodore Sloat at Monterey, the conquest was completed, as has been told in another volume. While these events were taking place, there was in most minds little hope that California could long remain Mexican. The American party was much the strongest, irrespective of its military and naval succor ; and events rushed too rapidly for men like Pico to make an effectual appeal to England. It is Bancroft's opinion that the belief often entertained, that England was simply anticipated in her purpose of seizing the coast by the precipitation of the Americans, has no warrant in fact.
It is necessary, in order to complete this survey of the Spanish rule in middle America, to glance briefly at the provinces of Central America. In the regions of Guatemala, Nicaragua, and neighboring parts, there had been the same occasion for the New Laws, and the same influences were equally potent as at the north in bringing about their repeal. There was also in the history of Central America much the same instability of political wisdom. The brothers Cartreras revolted in Nicaragua in 1550, and were de. feated. Honduras offers little to engage our attention. Ecclesiasticism in Chiapas and elsewhere was much the same thing that it was in Oajaca or further north. Las Casas for a while, and Manoquin down to his death in 1563, are the central figures in this detail.
On the Isthmus there was an element which gave to life some contrasts in the vagrant Cimarrones, as the negro slaves were called, who fled into the thickets, and, banding with the Indians, infested the routes of travel, fought with poisoned arrows if encountered, and robbed the treasure trains when they could. They made themselves a king, Bayano by name, and it took Ursua two years to reduce them to terms, and then they had proved valiant enough as foemen to be made freemen for a reward, which they got 1 J. D. Whitney in his United States (Boston,
2 Vol. VII. p. 409. 1889) says: "With Fremont's work the epoch 3 See ante, Vol. III. p. 65. of geographical exploration closed, and that of proper cartographical work began ” (p. 437).
in 1574. Yet four years later (1578) they rose again, and adroitly allying themselves with the English buccaneers then swarming on the coast, they defied all power that could be brought against them, and remained a terror for many years.
What with this harassing of the towns and with the corsairs on the coast, it was hardly possible for the Panama settlements to grow, and a decided retrogression marked their history.
The story of English Elizabethan seamanship is full of lawless depredation on the two coasts of these lower parts of middle America. Drake was here in 1572, dealing his sudden blows with the help of the Cimarrones; Oxenham, in 1575; and Drake again, in 1577, on that famous voyage in the Pacific, startled the country round with his guns, as he made his great capture of treasure in Panama Bay.
For a century and more the history of these waters, bordering the Isthmus on the east and on the west, is largely the story of the buccaneers. In 1601 Captain William Parker attacked Porto Bello.2 In 1623 James I of England granted San Cristóbal, or Saint Kitt's, to one Thomas Warren, and it became the rallying place of all the English and French freebooters in their ravages upon the Spanish trade and territory.3 It mattered little under what flag the marauders sailed; French and English were alike to be dreaded, and both governments kept faith with pirates if they only plundered the Spaniards. No one of these sea-rovers acquired a name more dreaded than
1 See ante, Vol. III. ch. 2; and the bibliogra- scription of the Spanish West Indies (London, phy of Drakeana.
1740). 2 Parker's own narrative is in the Geog. De- 3 Eugène Sue, Hist. de la marine française
(Paris, 1835), i. 357.
* This is Benzoni's sketch of the native fashion of dancing in Nicaragua and neighboring regions (edition of 1572, p. 105).
Fort Ance du Cwet Loun
CABB TERRE FRANÇOISE
de ani de Porcy
Ince der Papillono. Parove
Bourg de la bafie Terre
From Labat's Nouveau Voyage (Paris, 1722), vol. v.
BASSE TERRE FRANÇOISE
Ince du Marigot
Prinde der Saliner
Mine di orgent
For an anglow
Rarine de Guillou
Riviere de Pentecoste
Efchelle de deux Lieues.
Avec privilege du Roy.