Dorothy Sloan – Books

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<p>First page of Message</p>


UNITED STATES. PRESIDENT (Taylor). Message from the President of the United States, Communicating Information Called for by a Resolution of the Senate of the 17th Instant, in Relation to California and New Mexico [caption title]. [Washington, 1850]. Bound with (as issued): Index to Executive Documents Printed by Order of the Senate of the United States During the First Session of the Thirty-First Congress, 1849-’50. Washington: Wm. M. Belt, 1850. [1-3] 4-43 [1, blank]; [17] 18-952 pp., 5 maps (of 7), lacking Map of Oregon and Upper California from the Surveys of John Charles Fremont and Other Authorities Drawn by Charles Preuss...; and Sketch of General Riley’s Route through the Mining Districts July and Aug. 1849. Vol. 9 of 14. 8vo (23 x 15 cm), original full law sheep, red and black gilt-lettered leather spine labels. Front board separated, lower hinge cracked, repaired with old grosgrain cloth tape, binding worn, stitching loose, text block split. Occasional light foxing, 1 map separated. With blind stamp of Baker Library on title page.


[1] Map of Fort Hill Monterey California Reduced by Scale from Lieut. Warner’s Field Map made in 1847. By P.M. McGill, C.E. Lithr.Ackerman... (32 x 22.5 cm).

[2] [Untitled sketch of San Francisco Bay] (30 x 32.5 cm).

[3] [Untitled map of Lower California]...Ackerman Lithr.... (30 x 32.5 cm).

[4] Plan No 2 Sketch of Port Escondido Lower California. Ackerman Lithr.... (31 x 22 cm).

[5] Plan of the Route of the Expedition of Major Beall, 1st Drag’s for the Relief of the Wagons of Mr. F.X. Aubrey against the Apache Indians...H.R. Wirtz...Ackerman Lithr.... (23 x 14 cm).

First edition (31st Congress, 1st Session, Senate Rep. Com. No. 18; (Cowan and Plains & Rockies give the Senate issue priority). Cowan I, p. 40; II, p. 875 (#419). Garrett & Goodwin, pp. 323-24, 420, 422. Holliday 152. Howell 50:230. Howes C53. Huntington Library, Zamorano 80 14. Kurutz, 106. Plains & Rockies IV:179b:1. Becker remarks that although the Senate and House issues resemble one another in their contents, upon close examination the two volumes actually complement one another. He goes on to set out the differences. Rittenhouse 558. Wheat, Books of the California Gold Rush 31. Zamorano 80 #14.

Gary F. Kurutz notes:

This thick government compendium contains a wealth of information on the annexation of Alta California by the United States, the changeover from Mexican to American rule, the transition from military to civilian government, and the earliest days of the Gold Rush. It systematically documents the work of the federal government in the newly won territory from 1847 to 1849. It opens with a brief statement by Mexican-American War hero President Zachary Taylor, which touches on California’s desire to be admitted to the Union as a state. The federal publication then proceeds with a plethora of official proclamations, reports, circulars, and letters from virtually every important American official in California including Washington Bartlett, Walter Colton, R.B. Mason, Bennet Riley, Jonathan Drake Stevenson, Joseph Folsom, Stephen Watts Kearny, William Tecumseh Sherman, John C. Frémont, Henry W. Halleck, and E.R.S. Canby. Because of its importance to national affairs, the government ordered the printing of 10,000 copies.

The first part of this official publication details the establishment of a provisional military government following the cessation of hostilities with Mexico. It traces the fascinating but temporary amalgamation of Mexican and American law and grapples with such complex issues as land ownership and local governance. To provide background and context, this publication added in an invaluable series of appendices giving the English translation of several Spanish and Mexican laws and regulations concerning governance of the province beginning in 1773; provisional regulations for the secularization of the missions promulgated by Governor José Figueroa on August 9, 1834; and Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado’s regulations respecting the missions dated January 17, 1839. In short, it encapsulates the legal history of Hispanic California. This is supported by Brevet Captain H.W. Halleck’s detailed analysis of “laws and regulations governing grants or sales of public lands in California.” Such information would later prove essential when the U.S. government challenged the validity of Spanish and Mexican land grants in the early 1850s.

When rumors of a great gold discovery reached military headquarters in Monterey, the government dispatched officers to investigate the commotion. Because their reports and maps are included in this federal publication, it necessarily becomes one of the essential works on the Gold Rush. The most important and influential of these is Colonel Richard B. Mason’s famous report on his tour of the gold fields dated August 17, 1848. Vividly written, it is one of the earliest accounts to describe the effects of gold fever on the local population and one of the first to mention the use of that great symbol of the Argonauts, the cradle or “rocker.” Upon visiting Mormon Island, he writes: “The hill sides were thickly strewn with canvass tents and bush arbors. The day was intensely hot; yet about two hundred men were at work in the full glare of the sun, washing for gold, some with tin pans, some with close-woven Indian baskets, but the greater part had a rude machine known as the cradle. The discovery of these vast deposits of gold has entirely changed the character of Upper California.” At Coloma, he received a tour of the diggings by the discoverer himself, James Marshall. Mason’s report was read around the world, republished dozens of times, and appended to several Gold Rush books. Seeing the immediate future, he recommended establishing a mint in San Francisco.

Mason’s electrifying narrative was followed up by two other significant reports by Brevet Major Persifor F. Smith and Brevet General and Military Governor Bennet Riley. Smith’s letters from the Isthmus of Panama written in January 1849, concern the intense excitement of the California news and the hundreds of anxious gold seekers waiting to catch a steamer to San Francisco. Smith further expressed the need to stop Mexicans and other “foreigners” from taking the gold out of California. His alarm over non-Americans working the placers eventually led to the infamous Foreign Miner’s Tax. Major Smith, upon arriving in San Francisco, noted the number of enlisted men who had deserted their posts for the diggings. On August 30, 1849, a year after Mason’s golden sojourn, General Riley summarized his tour of the mines. He saw firsthand the harsh reality of hunting for gold and warned of exaggerated accounts. Riley touched on the tension between American and Hispanic miners and criticized “any class of men” who attempted to monopolize the gold fields. In a later report, he, like Smith, told of the difficulty of retaining his low-paid troops when the placers beckoned.

General Riley, acting as military governor, quickly discerned the extraordinary transformation in California brought about by the gold mines and the rushing in of thousands of Argonauts. California, he realized, swirled in chaos and needed a stabilizing civilian government. Miners and their suppliers were clamoring for civilian rule and some even threatened to form a Pacific republic. This House document includes many of his letters and proclamations calling for the formation of a civilian government and election of a civilian governor. He reported on the progress of the Constitutional Convention held in Monterey and presented the text of the new state constitution. This government document concluded with reports on the establishment of postal service in California.


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