Washington Bartlett

16th Governor, Democrat

Inaugural Address

Delivered: January 8, 1887


With profound gratitude to the people who have elevated me, by their voluntary suffrages, to the Chief Magistracy of the great State of California, I assume the office, invoking Divine assistance, and relying upon the generous support of my fellow-citizens.

It is with a grateful heart that I contemplate the fact that our country is at peace with all nations, and that it is enjoying unwonted prosperity.

After a retirement of nearly quarter of a century, the Democratic party is again in power, and the government is being administered according to the precepts and upon the principles of Jefferson, Madison, and Jackson. The bitterness engendered by civil war is fast giving place to fraternal love, under an equal and just administration of Federal affairs, and I believe the day is not far distant when political division on sectional lines will be unknown in this country.

It is proper, and in accordance with usage, that I should indicate, at this time, the policy which shall govern me in the administration of my office.


The subject which most vitally affects the material prosperity of a large section of the State is irrigation, and it is plain that the time has arrived when wise legislation—the adoption of a comprehensive system adapted to the wants of the country—must be formulated and put in operation.

I make no doubt that the wisdom of the Legislature will be equal to the duty devolving upon it, and that a just solution of this vexed question will be found.


The failure of the several Acts of Congress to limit and restrict the immigration of Chinese to this State, has justly created a widespread feeling of discontent among our people, and a demand for the adoption of more stringent measures against their coming, including the abrogation of the Burlingame Treaty. This treaty has wrought great injury to the Pacific States and Territories, by encouraging the coming and settling in their midst of several hundred thousand people of an inferior race, radically dissimilar in physical, mental, and moral constitution. Their presence prevents the immigration of free white laborers, and causes a deep feeling of dissatisfaction and discontent to prevail among the white laboring classes. While every one within the jurisdiction of the State is entitled to and should receive the protection of the laws, still the policy of admitting in such large numbers a race who are distasteful to our people, detrimental to our prosperity, and calculated to breed trouble, cannot be upheld, and it is to be hoped that the National Government may heed the remonstrances that have been made and afford the necessary relief.


The attention of Congress should be immediately called by the Legislature to the defenseless condition of the principal harbors and of the cities of the State, and our Senators and Representatives be supported in their efforts to obtain adequate appropriations from the National Treasury to construct proper defenses and equip them with modern ordnance. In the event of a rupture of the peaceful relations now existing between the Great Powers of Europe, it would be extremely difficult for the United States to maintain a strict neutrality, and preserve its friendly relations with the several belligerents unless in a military condition strong enough to make its neutral rights respected.


The second biennial message of Governor Stoneman, transmitted on the sixth instant to the Senate and Assembly, taken in connection with the reports of the Controller and Treasurer, show an unfavorable condition of the finances of the State, and such as to demand prompt action, if the credit and honor of the commonwealth are to be maintained. His Excellency states that the expenditures during the two fiscal years ending June 30, 1886, exceeded those of the two preceding years by $2,622,591.74. That although the rate of taxation, for State purposes, was raised from 45.2 cents in 1884, to 56 cents in 1886, the expenditures exceeded the receipts by a considerable sum, thus leaving unpaid and unprovided for, a large number of bills and claims.

I am aware that appropriations aggregating $526,000 were made for charitable purposes and the publication of school books, yet the astonishing fact remains that the ordinary expenses of the government during the last two years exceeded those of the previous two years by nearly $2,100,000!

No one is more jealous of the State's honor and credit, more opposed to a credit system, and all the evils which it entails, than myself, but before placing additional burdens upon the people I would advise that scrutiny be made into the items of expenditure, and the expense accounts of the several State institutions, with the view to retrench and reform. "A penny saved is a penny made," is a homely and true adage.

Raising additional money by increased taxation is not the only way to enable the State to carry on the government and meet its engagements. Extravagance and waste in the management of the public business should be discountenanced, not only because it necessitates the placing of unnecessary burdens upon the people, but because it impairs their ability to bear the burden by lessening the value of their property. It is demoralizing to the public sentiment by fostering loose ideas of honesty and fair dealing.

The policy of permitting the State's expenditures to exceed its receipts, or income, in a time of peace and prosperity like the present, cannot be defended, and should be speedily changed.


The National Guard is entitled to the generous support of the Government, and should be kept in a state of efficiency and readiness to maintain the civil authorities. The peace and quiet of the State, and the safety of our institutions, depend upon our ability to promptly suppress all uprisings against the law, and to protect life and property. Recent passing events in this and other States teach us that a turbulent and disorderly element has lately come into the country, which is inclined to resort to the most diabolical methods in order to gratify its revenge, or show its contempt for our laws and institutions. With such people reason has no sway, and they can only be reached by the strong arm of the law, supported by a sufficient physical force. The National Guard of California commands the respect of its fellow-citizens, and will always be found ready to preserve the peace and protect life and property. The unprotected condition of our principal seaport and commercial city, is another reason why the National Guard should be cherished, and a military spirit cultivated among our people.


From the report of the State Superintendent of Schools you will learn the present condition of the different schools of the State, as to their number, the number and age of pupils, their finances, the number of teachers, with their average salaries, and many other important details.

I desire to call your special attention to that part of the report which refers to work schools, or industrial training. The subject is becoming one of absorbing interest to all good citizens. The success which has followed the establishment of such schools in St. Louis, Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York, proves that they are meeting a real want in the community.

It is admitted by the more thoughtful and philosophic educators that the present system of public schools is based too largely on the old scholastic systems of learning. Our most scholarly men, the educators of our country, from the Presidents and Faculties of our Universities to the public school teachers, are, from the nature of their position, removed from the active business pursuits of the great mass of the people, and cannot be expected to instruct their pupils in arts and trades of which they themselves have little knowledge or experience. Their education has made them love learning in the abstract more than the sciences, as applied to daily life. Their influence tends to foster a love for books and literary or professional life, so that the majority of their students who are able to graduate, aspire to the professions of law or medicine, or other scholarly pursuits.

The great mass of our public school children are obliged to assist their parents when they leave the grammar schools, so that the primary schools are really of the very greatest importance, in their education.

It is generally conceded by those who have studied the subject most thoroughly, that Froebel's method of training all the faculties of the child, is the most perfect of any that has been yet devised.

Hence, it seems to me, that the students at the State Normal Schools should be thoroughly instructed in this system, so that in due time all parts of the State could be supplied with primary teachers, competent to lay the foundation for a thorough education, developing the mechanical and artistic faculties, as well as the purely intellectual.

The efforts already being made by the people for establishing manual and technical schools should also be liberally encouraged. The technical departments of the University should be made as valuable as possible to the people throughout the State. It would be well to offer special inducements to public school students to arouse a greater interest in the industrial arts and sciences.

The vast agricultural, manufacturing, and mining industries of the State need the most enlightened treatment, in order to compete in the markets of the world. It is but just to those who are to conduct these interests in the future that they should be prepared in as full a measure as possible to meet such great responsibilities. I would suggest, therefore, that your Committee on Education should make a thorough investigation as to the wants of the people in the way of better industrial training, and the best way of meeting those wants.

There would seem to be no limits to the natural resources of bountiful Nature in our State. All we need is skill to develop them. All the governments of Europe are making great efforts to educate their people. Schools of weaving and pottery, of chemical products, of dyeing, of all kinds of manufactures, in fact, are now in successful operation in Germany, Austria, and France. England is following their example.

American laborers are already feeling the presence of sharp competition, so that in self-defense we will soon, as a nation, be compelled to exercise all our powers to meet the requirements of the age and maintain the proud supremacy which American laborers have hitherto held in the world. California has always generously rewarded labor; let us liberally provide now, for the best education of the children of laborers, so that our Golden Gate may ever be hospitably open and the white sails of commerce carry, not only grains and fruits, and the raw products of the State, but the ingenious and artistic productions of skillful hands and cultured, fertile intellects.


Legislation is needed to correct abuses prevailing in the management of corporations. No corporation should be permitted to issue bonds for any purpose until its entire capital stock is paid in, and only then in order to raise funds with which to carry out the objects of its organization. Instances are not infrequent where corporations with only a small fraction of their capital paid in have mortgaged their franchise, etc., by the issuance of bonds before scarcely a start or beginning was made in the building of their works. As these bonds are sold at a discount (greater or less, according to the supposed value of the franchise), a debt largely in excess of the amount actually required for the purposes of the corporation is fastened upon the company, on which the public is asked to pay the interest and sufficient in addition thereto to afford a dividend upon the capital stock at its market or par value. If the statute prohibited the issuance of bonds until the capital stock was all called in and paid for, there would be fewer fictitious corporations formed, and a narrower field for the display of the peculiar talents of a certain class of sharpers, while the public would be protected against unjust exactions.

Contracts for the sale of shares in corporations on margins, or to be delivered at a future day. are declared void by the State Constitution; nevertheless it is notorious that such sales are openly made in the Stock Boards doing business under franchises granted by the State. This manner of dealing, particularly in mining stocks, is most mischievous, and should be prohibited by law. In fact, the business of buying and selling shares of mining companies needs regulating, and certain practices of the brokers or dealers in these shares should be made felonies and punished as such. As at present conducted, the business fosters the gambling spirit among the people, and leaves them at the mercy of the speculative and dishonest broker through whom all transactions must be made. A broker should be compelled to report immediately the numbers of the shares of any stock he has purchased for his client, so that the particular shares might be identified and traced, and he should be held to account for the identical shares bought, upon pain of being prosecuted for felony. The recent failures among this class of brokers and the disgraceful disclosures as to their modes of transacting business, demand legislative interference and a speedy reform.

The Bank Commissioners have several times called attention to the delay in the settlement and final distribution of the assets of suspended and bankrupt banking corporations among their depositors and creditors. A number of savings banks have been in course of liquidation for five, six, and eight years, and are still renting offices and paying salaries to clerks, attorneys, etc., with little or no business to transact. A general law compelling the managers of all suspended banks to wind up the business of the bank within three years, or in default thereof to turn over all its assets, books, etc., to the Bank Commissioners would, in my opinion, be in the interest of' creditors and depositors and tend to inspire confidence among the people.

General laws should be passed regulating the laying down of electric wires in the cities and towns of the State, also pipes and other conduits for conveying steam, salt water, and hot air, and regulating the sale and distribution of steam and hot air to the public or to those whose premises abut on the streets in which the pipes are laid. The system in vogue of granting to each applicant the right to erect poles and stretch wires along the streets is becoming an intolerable nuisance in several of the cities of the State. To compel the placing of these wires under ground without providing a plan whereby the wires of several companies might be laid in one and the same conduit, would greatly aggravate the nuisance and throw a great burden upon property owners in the shape of increased expenditures for street repairs. And I am satisfied that a limitation ought to be placed upon municipal corporations in regard to granting franchises or privileges to use the public streets by railroad and other corporations and private persons. No franchise should be granted for a longer term than twenty-five years, and none extended until it has expired, or within one or two years of its expiration. Such a prohibition would prevent, in the next twenty or forty years, the giving away of franchises which, in the City of San Francisco alone, are worth millions of dollars.

I trust that the Legislature just convened may speedily get to work and industriously labor to perform the duties devolving upon it. Many important subjects of legislation imperatively demand solution at its hand, and the session being limited to sixty days, there is no time to waste in idle debates, or useless adjournments; and in order to avoid unpleasant consequences and of being misunderstood hereafter, I deem it proper to state that I shall not deem every failure of the Legislature to perform some duty as creating such an "extraordinary occasion" within the meaning of the Constitution, as will necessitate or justify the Governor in calling an extra session of the Legislature. On the contrary, I shall accept such non-action as deliberate, and shall leave the responsibility with the negligent members and their several constituencies, the people of their respective counties.

Elected upon a platform and by a party pledging its candidates to an honest and economical administration of the affairs of the State, I recognize the force and wisdom of the obligation, and intend to administer the office of Governor upon business principles, in a business-like manner, and hope to receive the assistance of all those elected at the same time, and acting under the responsibility of the same or similar pledges.

The distinguished soldier whom I succeed as Governor will take with him into retirement, from the cares and responsibilities of office, the good wishes of every citizen of the State for his continued health and prosperity; and I trust it will be one of the first, as it certainly will be one of the most pleasing of my official duties, to urge upon the National Government the justice of his claim to be restored to his rights and pension as a retired officer of the United States Army. General Stoneman having resigned in order to enter the civil, service of this State, it is eminently fit and proper that the people of California should see to it that he suffers no loss from obeying their behests and entering their service.


In conclusion I desire to state that whatever annoyance and inconvenience were occasioned by the postponement of my inauguration until to-day, is more than repaid, so far as I am personally concerned, by the fact that I enter upon the discharge of the duties of my office on the eighth of January—a day ever memorable in the history of our country, and intimately associated with the fame of that great soldier, patriot, statesman, and Democrat, Andrew Jackson. I hail it as a happy omen, for it was upon the eighth of January, 1883, that I was first inaugurated Mayor of the City of San Francisco.