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The Beginnings of San Francisco from the Expedition of Anza, 1774 to the City Charter of April 15, 1850 With Biographical and Other Notes by Zoeth Skinner Eldredge (Copyright, 1912 by Zoeth S. Eldredge San Francisco Printed By John C. Rankin Company 54 & 56 Dey Street New York).

                [Bear Flag excerpts with italics added by the BFM]

            In September 1845 the Mexican government sent to California positive orders prohibiting the entry of Americans from Oregon or Missouri. Immigrants were summoned to appear before the prefect and the comandante- general. The order was read to them and the immigrants protested that their intentions were lawful; that they had not been informed that passports were necessary; that it was impossible to cross the mountains during the winter, and they promised that if permitted to remain until spring they would obey the laws in every particular and would then go away if license was denied them. Castro considered the hardship to the women and children if the immigrants were compelled to leave the department during the winter season, and he compromised his duty with the sentiment of hospitality so strong in the breast of every Californian and granted them temporary permits, taking bonds to insure their good behavior and their departure in the spring, should license to remain be refused. Meanwhile they were to remain under surveillance of the Vallejos at Sonoma and Napa and of Captain Sutter on the Sacramento. It does not appear that this matter was carried any further--certainly the settlers did not leave California--and Bancroft says that both General Vallejo at Sonoma and Salvador Vallejo at Napa treated the settlers with great benevolence, without which they could not have gotten through the winter.(*) (* Several of these men took part in the Bear Flag affair the following June) How well the consideration of the California officials was requited by the Americans is told in the story of the Bear Flag revolt. Encouraged by the presence of Captain John C. Fremont, of the United States topographical engineers, a party of armed Americans under Ezekiel Merritt, took possession of the town of Sonoma on June 14, 1846, made prisoners of General Vallejo, his brother Salvador, Lieut.-Colonel Prudon and Jacob P. Leese, sent them under guard to Sutter's fort, raised the Bear Flag, and proclaimed the "California Republic." Fremont, with a party of sixty armed men, was engaged in an exploring expedition and had come into California to rest and recruit his men. Obtaining permission to encamp for that purpose in the San Joaquin valley, he had brought his men into the Salinas, to the very doors of Monterey. In consequence of this move and in obedience to orders from Mexico, he was directed by the authorities to leave the department at once. Fremont chose to consider this an insult, and withdrawing to the summit of the Gavilan mountains, he erected fortifications, raised over them the American flag, and announced his purpose to hold the position or die in defense of it.(*) Later he withdrew to the Sacramento valley and started for Oregon, but returned in May to the upper Sacramento, and remained quiet, watching the movements of the disaffected settlers. He was asked to take command of the contemplated rising but declined to commit himself, though he afterwards claimed to be the head and front of the revolt, and that Merritt and other leaders among the Americans were acting under his instructions.(**) Moving nearer to the "seat of war," Fremont and his party were encamped at the embarcadero on the Sacramento river when the prisoners were brought before him. He declined to receive them. General Vallejo demanded to know why and by whose authority he had been arrested and dragged from his home. Fremont denied that he was in any way responsible for what had been done, declaring that they were prisoners of the people who had been driven to revolt for self-protection. The prisoners were taken to Sutter's fort where they were imprisoned for two months. Thus did the foreigners return the kindness and forbearance of the owners of the soil. Of all the Californians, Vallejo was most friendly to the Americans, was favorable to American ascendency, and believed that the best interests of his country lay in its absorption by the United States.[31] (* "If unjustly attacked we will fight to extremity and refuse quarter." Fremont to Larkin, March 9, 1846) (** Fremont: Memoir of My Life i, 509) In the spring of 1846 the Mormons driven from Nauvoo began their western pilgrimage, and Sam Brannan, Mormon preacher and elder, sailed from New York with about two hundred saints for San Francisco. Believing that the United States government would take California the Mormon leaders laid before the Washington authorities a proposition to colonize that country with ten or twelve thousand Mormons, then at Nauvoo, and bring forty thousand more from the British islands, giving the president assurance that the patriotism and fidelity of the Mormons to the United States government could be fully relied upon. Meanwhile the war with Mexico broke out and General Kearny was ordered with his command from Fort Leavenworth to California by the Santa Fe route. The offer of the Mormons was rejected, but Kearny was authorized to enlist from among the Mormons who desired to go to California, five companies of one hundred men each, for one year's service. The vanguard of the Mormon advance had now reached Council Bluffs, on the Missouri river, and here the men were enlisted. This was the Mormon battalion which, under Lieut. Colonel Philip St. George Cooke, reached California in January 1847. The founders of the "California Republic" were beginning to feel somewhat uneasy regarding the fate of their undertaking when on the 7th of July 1846, Commodore Sloat landed his men at Monterey, raised the United States flag, and took formal possession of California. This terminated the embarrassment of the Bear Flag party. The movement had been an ill-advised one, an unnecessary and utterly unwarranted interference with a people from whom they had received nothing but kindness and hospitality. Their conduct at this time and later created such a feeling of antagonism towards Americans as made difficult the pacification of the country. The better class of Californians had long realized the fact that the province would be infinitely better off under either English or American rule and would have accepted the change with relief. General Kearny says in his official report from Monterey March 15, 1847.(*) * * * "The Californians are now quiet, and I shall endeavor to keep them so by mild and gentle treatment. Had they received such treatment from the time our flag was hoisted here, in July last, I believe there would have been but little or no resistance on their part. They have been most cruelly and shamefully abused by our own people--by the volunteers (American emigrants) raised in this part of the country and on the Sacramento. Had they not resisted they would have been unworthy the name of men.[32] (* Executive Doc. No. 17, H. of R. 31st Cong. 1st Ses. p. 284) I cannot, in this place, go into the history of the Conquest. With the return of peace the country settled down to the quiet life of a rural people. Everything was peaceful and dull, until suddenly, when no man expected, there came a change of transcendent magnitude.


April 4, 2007

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