GENTLEMEN OF THE SENATE AND ASSEMBLY:
"Since the adjournment of the Legislature we have passed through many scenes; some of melancholy, and some of pleasing character. Our cities have been visited by fire, pestilence and flood, and the whole State has passed through a severe monetary crisis, producing extensive failures and great pecuniary embarrassment. We have lost many most valuable citizens by that modern scourge, the cholera, which for the first time visited our shores during the past fall. Under all these untoward circumstances, our population has rapidly increased, our wonderful resources have been greatly developed, and improvements have everywhere marked the progress of an energetic people. California has been admitted to her equal station among the free States of our great confederacy, and her Senators and Representatives are now heard in the national councils. We have great reason to be thankful to Him, who, in his wisdom and kindness mixes the evil and the good, and scatters thorns as well as flowers along the path of national and individual existence.
The application of California for admission into the Union gave rise to long and bitter protracted discussions in both branches of Congress, such as has never been before witnessed in that body. The fearful state of passionate excitement that followed these circumstances and recriminations, at one time seriously threatened a dissolution of the Union, and called for the dispassionate exertions of the great statesmen of all parties.
The people of California, in forming their Constitution, in the simplicity and sincerity of their hearts had supposed that they had adopted the most unobjectionable and effectual mode to allay excitement in reference to the question of slavery. They had acted upon the long-known and well-established principle of the South, that slavery was simply a domestic institution, with which the General Government had nothing to do, and which must be either prohibited or permitted by each State for herself. In the exercise of their right to form a Constitution for themselves not repugnant to the Constitution of the United States, they had prohibited slavery within the limits of the State, not supposing that they should thereby give offence to any portion of their fellow-citizens of other States.
Perhaps in the varied history of all mankind there has never occurred an instance of such rapid and surprising progress in all that constitutes true independence and greatness, as that made by the American people, under the blessings secured by that great charter that makes us one nation. From distant, oppressed, and dependent colonies, we have risen in the short space of three quarters of a century to the first rank among nations. We have now a secure foothold upon the shores of the Pacific, and a new ocean, and a more extended and brilliant career lie open before us, if we shall only have the wisdom and energy to improve the advantages of our position. To be harassed, under such circumstances, with civil discord at home, is most unfortunate, indeed; although our present state of national greatness and felicity might possibly have been obtained without the Union, still it becomes a wise and prudent people to let more than well done alone; and this they have done, and will continue to do.
The events through which our country has recently passed have again proven the virtue and intelligence of the American people, and conclusively shown their ardent and unfaltering attachment to the Union and to Liberty. If our people, born in republican America, well accustomed to self-government and unshackled by old long established monarchial institutions and customs interwoven with all the frames of society, should yet, under these most favorable circumstances, be unable to preserve the Union and perpetuate our free institutions, then it would afford a melancholy but conclusive proof that republican systems of government are in their very nature impracticable and transitory, and the friends of human happiness and freedom could indulge but one regret-that our fathers wasted their blood and treasure for a purpose so delusive, and that there exists a solitary record in the world to show how much they were mistaken.
The portentous state of things that existed six months ago, it is hoped, has passed away forever; and our fellow citizens of every section of our country once more united in the bonds of fraternal kindness, are ready again to march forward in the path of improvement, progress, and greatness. California will be ready to do her part. She will readily forget the opposition made to her admission, and her people will not remember the aspersions cast upon their motives and character, but she will ever be foremost in all affairs to secure prompt, equal, and exact justice to each and every section of our country. She will know no North, no South, no East, and no West, but, only our whole country; and if she has been the innocent but unfortunate cause of an excitement deeply to be deplored, she will henceforth make amends to the Union by her devotion to it, by her love of justice, and by the spirit of conciliation and kindness, she will ever exhibit towards all her sister States.
From her distant but commanding position – separated as she is from all local causes of excitement – she will be able and always willing to exert a great and salutary conservative influence in the Legislative councils of the country.
Since the adjournment of the Legislature repeated calls have been made upon the Executive for the aid of the Militia, to resist and punish the attacks of the Indians upon our frontier. With a wild and mountainous frontier of more than eight hundred miles in extent, affording the most inaccessible retreats to our Indian foe, so well accustomed to these mountain fastnesses, California is peculiarly exposed to depredations from this quarter. The various small towns upon the confines of California have no political organization, and no regular government among them. The influence their chiefs have over them arises from that personal popularity gained by superior prowess in war, or wisdom in council; there is, therefore, no reason to suppose that there has been any regular or well-understood combination among them to make war upon the whites. They are all, however, urged on by the same causes of enmity, and the result has been, that at almost all points upon our widely-extended and exposed frontier, hostilities, more or less formidable, have occurred at intervals, and many valuable lives have been lost.
Among the more immediate causes that have precipitated this state of things, may be mentioned the neglect of the General Government to make treaties with them for their lands. We have suddenly spread ourselves over the country in every direction, and appropriated whatever portion of it we pleased to ourselves, without their consent and without compensation. Although these small and scattered tribes have among them no regular government, they have some ideas of existence as a separate and independent people, and some conception of their right to the country acquired by long, uninterrupted, and exclusive possession. They have not only seen their country taken from them, but they see their ranks rapidly thinning from the effects of our diseases. They instinctively consider themselves a doomed race; and this idea leads to despair; and despair prevents them from providing the usual and necessary supply of provisions. This produces starvation, which knows but one law, that of gratification; and the natural result is, that these people kill the first stray animal they find. This leads to war between them and the whites; and war creates a hatred against the white man that never ceases to exist in the Indian bosom.
This state of things, though produced at an earlier period by the exciting causes mentioned, would still have followed in due course of time. Our American experience has demonstrated the fact, that the two races cannot live in the same vicinity in peace.
The love of fame, as well as the love of property, are common to all men; and war and theft are established customs among the Indian races generally, as they are among all poor and savage tribes of men, as a means to attain to the one, and to procure a supply of the other. When brought into contact with a civilized race of men, they readily learn the use of their implements and manufactures, but they do not readily learn the art of making them. To learn the use of new comforts and conveniences, which are vastly superior to the old, is but the work of a day; but to acquire a knowledge of the arts and sciences, is the work of generations. Like the people of all thinly populated but fertile countries, who are enabled to supply the simplest wants of Nature from the spontaneous productions of the earth, they are, from habit and prejudice, exceedingly adverse to manual labor. While the white man attaches but little value to small articles, and consequently exposes them the more carelessly, he throws in the way of the Indian that which is esteemed by him a great temptation and a great prize; and as he cannot make the article himself, and thinks be must have it, he finds theft the most ready and certain mode to obtain it. Success in trifles but leads to attempts of greater importance. The white man, to whom time is money, and who labors hard all day to create the comforts of life, cannot sit up all night to watch his property; and after being robbed a few times, he becomes desperate, and resolves upon a war of extermination. This is the common feeling of our people who have lived upon the Indian frontier. The two races are kept asunder by so many causes, and having no ties of marriage or consanguinity to unite them, they must ever remain at enmity.
That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct must be expected. While we cannot anticipate this result but with painful regret, the inevitable destiny of the race is beyond the power or wisdom of man to avert.
Situated as California is, we must expect a long continued and harassing irregular warfare with the Indians upon our borders and along the immigrant routes leading to the States. Although few in numbers, and unskilled in the use of fire arms, they seem to understand all the advantages of their position; and they consequently resort to that predatory warfare, most distressing to us, and secure to them. They readily flee before every considerable force called out to meet them, and retire to their haunts in the mountains, where it is vain for us to pursue. As time is to them of no value, they can readily content themselves to lie in wait for weeks at secure points, ready to attack small parties of miners remote from assistance. From their irregular mode of warfare and the features of the country in which they wage it, there is reason to believe that they will prove far more formidable than is generally supposed; and that in the end we shall lose man for man in our encounters with them.
Considering the number and mere predatory character of the attacks at so many different points along our whole frontier, I had determined, in my own mind to leave the people of each neighborhood to protect themselves, believing they would be able to do so, and that a regular force would not find employment in the field. In two instances only have I deviated from the rule I laid down for the government of my own action. In these cases the attacks were far more formidable, and made at points where the two great emigrant trails enter the State. These attacks occurred at a period when the emigrants were arriving across the plains with their jaded and broken down animals, and themselves destitute of provisions. Under these circumstances, I deemed it due to humanity, and to our brethren arriving among us in condition so helpless, to afford them all the protection with the power of the State. I was well satisfied that the Indians would direct most of their efforts against the emigrants, as they would readily learn that they could be more successful in such attacks; and that if successful in the beginning, these attacks would be annually renewed, and the emigration of each succeeding year more and more exposed to robbery and murder. It occurred to me that it was the wisest and most humane policy, under the circumstances, to afford prompt assistance at the commencement of this system of plunder, and thus give the Indians a timely check, which would at least be likely to exert a salutary influence over them for some time to come. Had it once been known to our fellow citizens east of the Rocky Mountains, that the Indians were most hostel and formidable on the latter and more difficult portions of the route, where the emigrants themselves would be least capable of self-protection, and that the State of California would render no assistance to parties so destitute, the emigration of families to the State across the plains would have been greatly interrupted and retarded. With all our efforts, we may expect in a few years to see all the tribes between this and the western borders of Missouri hostile, and engaged in a regular system of plunder and murder. The opportunities and temptations are too great to be long withstood by these destitute and wandering people.
The first of these attacks was made on the 23d day of April last, at the confluence of the Gila and Colorado, where Glanton and a party of thirteen men had established a ferry across the latter stream. The attack was preconcerted, sudden, and unexpected and successful, that eleven of Glanton's party, including himself, were killed on the spot, and only three were able to escape, one of whom was wounded. It is possible that Glanton's party may have been guilty of some impropriety that gave immediate offence to the Indians; but the true motive no doubt arose from that jealousy which the Indian entertains of the white man, and which would naturally be aroused by the establishment of a ferry near the point where the Indians had a ferry of their own across the same stream. However this may be, the attack was excessive and unjustifiable, and amounted to a decided and serious act of war.
The papers communicating intelligence of this melancholy event, consisting of the sworn depositions of the three men who escaped, the proceedings of a meeting of the people of San Diego, and a letter from the Hon. Abel Stearns, Judge of the Court of First Instance for Los Angeles, were received at the seat of government on the 23d May, during my temporary absence at Sacramento City. On the 1st day of June orders were issued to the Sheriff of San Diego to call out twenty men, and to the Sheriff of Los Angeles for forty, who were directed to rendezvous at Los Angeles on the 22d June, or as soon thereafter as practicable, and were placed under the command of Maj. General Bean. Subsequently the number was increased to one hundred men. General Bean was instructed to let the company select its own commander, and to direct "the officer in command to proceed promptly to the ferry upon the Colorado, and pursue such energetic measures as might be necessary to punish the Indians, bring them to terms, and protect the emigrants on their way to California." He was also instructed that when the objects contemplated should have been accomplished, the company should be discharged, and that much must be left to the discretion of himself and the officer in command, which they would have to use according to circumstances. Subsequently I learned, from unofficial sources that the Indians had not proved so hostile to the emigrants, travelling the route, as had been anticipated – that troops of the United States would be sent to the scene of disturbance, and that the expedition had failed the impossibility of procuring the requisite number of men. I received no official report from General Bean, which I supposed was owing to the distance and the difficulty of communication; and under the circumstances, I did not then deem any order from me to disband the troops either proper or necessary.
From a communication written by Gen. Morehead on the 15th August, addressed to the Hon. Richard Roman, and received by him about the first of September, I was led to the belief that a party of militia were in the field under his command. I immediately issued an order to Maj. Gen. Bean, dated September 4th, to have them disbanded. All the orders issued by me to that officer, I am informed from private sources, were received by him; and yet I have received from him no official report in reference to the expedition.
The other instance in which I deemed it my duty to order out a portion of the militia of the State, occurred in the County of El Dorado, in the vicinity of Ringgold. From a communication written by William Rogers, Sheriff of that county, and dated the 23d of October, 1850, addressed to the Executive, as well as from other sources, it appeared that the Indians had sent off their women and children – had assembled in considerable numbers, and had killed several miners, and wounded and robbed several of the emigrants. On the 25th of October, I issued an order to William Rogers, directing him, as Sheriff of that county, to call out two hundred men armed and equipped; to cause them to assemble at as early a day as practicable, and when assembled, to permit them to elect their own commander. The officer in command was instructed to proceed to punish the Indians engaged in the late attacks in the vicinity of Ringgold, and along the emigrant trail leading from Salt Lake to California. He was further directed to afford all the assistance in his power to the emigrants and other travelling the route, and not to keep more men under command than might be indispensable to accomplish the object intended; and to disband them at the earliest day, when the same should be accomplished. Under the call of the Sheriff, some two hundred and fifty men were mustered into service, who elected William Rogers as their commander. Not having authorized the call but for two hundred men, and deeming the services of the other necessary, I refused commissions to the officers of the last company received into service by Maj. Rogers.
The forces were divided by Maj. Rogers into smaller parties, and sent in different directions, and had different skirmished with the Indians, in which some sixteen of their number were killed, and three of Major Rogers's command – the brave Col. McKinney, Dr. Dixon, and a Delaware Indian.
On the 15th November orders were issued to Major Rogers to reduce his command to one hundred men, and to make a further reduction whenever circumstances would justify such a step. This order was promptly obeyed; and subsequently, as I learn from unofficial sources, the remainder of the troops were disbanded by Maj. Rogers.
Although the troops were not able to accomplish any brilliant achievements owing to the features of the country and the character of the foe, still they performed some hard service, and their efforts have secured peace in the vicinity, and protected the wearied emigrants. Had no determined resistance been made, the Indians would doubtless have become emboldened from this apathy, and would most likely have committed depredations far more serious.
In my former message to the Legislature I recommended the necessity and propriety of excluding free persons of color from the State. I then expressed the opinion that there was but one "of the two consistent course to take in reference to this class of population – either to admit them to the full and free enjoyment of all the privileges guaranteed by the Constitution to others, or exclude them from the State." Subsequent observation has but confirmed this opinion.
I am aware that it is a subject of great delicacy, and one that cannot be touched without exciting the prejudices and sensibilities of men; and yet it is a question that must of necessity be met and should be calmly and justly considered. While the Legislator should entertain the most enlarged and liberal views, and should act upon all questions without hostility or partiality for or against any of the community, he is stilled forced by a desire to accomplish practical good to respect the honest prejudices of men, which are not in his power either to mitigate or remove.
Our Constitution excludes this class of persons from the right of suffrage, and from all offices of honor or profit under the State; and our laws exclude them from serving on juries, and from appearing as witnesses against a white man. Although it is assumed in the Declaration of Independence, as a self-evident truth, that all men are born free and equal, it is equally true that there must be acquired as well as natural abilities to fit men for self-government. Without considering whether there be any reason for the opinion entertained by many learned persons that the colored races are by nature inferior to the white, and without attaching any importance to such opinion, still it may be safely assumed, that no race of men, under the precise circumstances of this class in our State, could ever hope to advance a single step in knowledge or virtue. Placed by our institutions and our usages (stronger than law) in a degraded and subordinate political and social position, which but reminds them at every step of their inferiority, and of the utter hopelessness of all attempts to improve their condition as a class, they are left without motive to waste their labor for that improvement which, when attained, brings them no reward. However talented, wise, and virtuous, they are not permitted to enter the race for fame; and if they should acquire wealth, not being permitted to testify against a white man, even in a criminal case, they are left in many cases without actual protection, to be plundered with perfect impunity. They have no ideas and no recollections of a separate national existence – no alliance with great names or families – no page of history upon which are recorded the glorious deeds of the past – no present privileges – and no hope for the future. To expect any race of men thus situated to make any sensible improvement as a class, is the wildest dream of the imagination, and utterly incompatible with all our sober experience.
That there are excellent and intelligent person of color is doubtless true; but our legislation must regard them as a class, and not as individuals. While our laws professedly admit all of this class to reside in the State, they are so framed as effectually to exclude the better portion; for surely there can exist no intelligent and independent man of color, who would not promptly scorn the pitiful boon we offer him of a residence in the State, under conditions so humiliating.
The practical question then arises whether it is not better for humanity, and for the mutual benefit of both classes, that they should be separated? Is it not better for the colored man himself? I am sure, that were the question put to the more intelligent portion of this class, they would unhesitatingly say at once: "Either give us all the privileges you claim for yourselves, or give us none. Make us equal, or keep us separate." As all experience has demonstrated that it is for the mutual benefit of the parties to separate even husband and wife when they cannot live happily together, so it is the best humanity to separate two races of men whose prejudices are so inveterate that they never mingle in social intercourse, and never contract any ties of marriage.
If the measure recommended can be justified in the State of Ohio, there are still more powerful reasons applicable to the peculiar condition of California. We have here a mixed population from all the world. We have here a mixed population from all the world. We have here the Southern man, with his particular opinions and feelings in reference to this class, and the Northern man, with opposite sentiments and usages; and the presence of this people among us has already resulted in death in some instances, and will continue to produce a state of embittered feeling between our fellow citizens from different portions of the Union, and prevent that cordial unanimity so necessary to the happiness of our community. As was anticipated, numbers of this race have manumitted in the slave States by their owners, and brought to California, bound to service for a limited period as hirelings. We have thus, in numerous instances, practical slavery in our midst.
That this class is rapidly increasing in our State is very certain. If this increase is permitted to continue for some years to come, we may readily anticipate what will then be the state of things here, from what we see now occurring in some of the free States. We shall have our people divided and distracted by those distressing domestic controversies respecting the abolition of slavery which have already produced so much bitterness between different portions of the Union. When those who come after us shall witness a war in California between two races, and all the disgraces and disasters following in its train, they will have as much cause to reproach us for not taking timely steps, when they were practicable, to prevent this state of things, as we now have for reproaching our ancestors for the evils entailed upon us by the original introduction of slavery into the colonies. We have the warning voice of experience – they had not.
I would call the attention of the Legislature to the propriety of amending the twenty-first section of the eleventh article of the Constitution, which provides that "all laws, decrees, regulations, and provisions, which from their nature require publication, shall be published in English and Spanish."
This provision of the Constitution must remain in force under every change of circumstance, until amended, and the Legislature can exercise no discretion, but is forced to carry it out in its true spirit and intent. The necessity and propriety of publishing the laws in Spanish, it occurs to me, should have been left to the judgment and liberality of the Legislature to be governed by circumstances, and should not have been made a permanent Constitutional provision.
From the best estimate I have been enabled to make, the translation of the present statutes into Spanish, and their publication in that language, will cost the State from forty to fifty thousand dollars. It is difficult to procure correct translations, and so many delays have for occurred in publishing them in that language, that they are not yet ready distribution. When distributed they will impart very little information to those for whom they are designed, for the reason that the statutes form but a small portion of the law that affects the daily transactions of business. The great mass of every community do not derive any knowledge of the law from the reading of Statutes, but from intercourse with intelligent men, and especially from witnessing legal proceedings in Court. These must necessarily be in English as they cannot be in both languages. We have now, or soon will have, as many citizens in the State who alone speak the French or German language, as we have of those who speak the Spanish. To publish all the laws in all these different languages would be almost impracticable. Besides it would be of very doubtful utility. To speak the one common language forms a strong tie between citizens of the same State; and so long as the laws are published in different languages, so long one great incentive to learn the prevailing language is taken away, and the causes of a separation of different classes of our fellow citizens must continue.
I would earnestly invite the attention of the Legislature to the urgent necessity of amending the criminal laws of the State in several particulars. The original criminal jurisdiction in cases of felony is confined to the District Courts. These Courts are only required to hold certain terms in each county at different periods of the year, with long intervals between. There are very few prisons in the State, and the expense of detaining prisoners from one term to another is exceedingly oppressive upon some of the counties; and these circumstances, joined to the impossibility of procuring the attendance of witnesses in cases where the trials have been delayed, have rendered the administration of the Criminal Laws of the State, especially in the mining counties, almost wholly impracticable. As administered, our laws have afforded no protection to the innocent, but have given great encouragement to offenders. Some more prompt, decisive, and efficient mode of enforcing the Criminal Laws of the State must be adopted, or the great ends of criminal punishment cannot be attained. I would under the circumstances, suggest the propriety of conferring criminal jurisdiction upon the Courts of Sessions for some of the counties, requiring them to hold frequent regular terms and also called terms at any time when necessary to try a criminal, and giving the right of appeal as in other cases.
The punishment generally inflicted by our criminal statutes in cases of felony not capital is fine and imprisonment. These punishments taken together, or singly, for very obvious reasons, have little or no practical effect under existing circumstances. I would therefore recommend that other modes of punishment be adopted. For grand larceny and robbery I would suggest the punishment of death. This severe punishment I would not recommend as a permanent one, to be continued when the State shall have her county prisons and her penitentiary; but such has been the frightful increase of these crimes, since the adjournment of the Legislature, that I know of no other mode of punishment, under present circumstances, that would be at all likely to check the evil, and prevent our citizens from taking justice into their own hands. The crime of grand larceny, in stealing horses and cattle, has become so common, in many places, as to diminish their value fifty per cent. In some instances whole bands of tame cattle have been stolen, and farmers have lost all their teams, and been compelled to abandon their business in consequence. A firm and determined stand should be taken by the Legislature, and all the good citizens of the State, to extirpate these prevailing crimes. In the early periods of new communities, it has often been indispensably necessary to adopt more severe modes of punishment than would be justifiable in better regulated and older States. The State of Tennessee was infested at an early day, with bands of horse thieves, and she was forced to adopt capital punishment in such cases; and a few years' rigid and prompt execution of the law effectually checked the commission of the crime.
By an Act of the Legislature parties to contracts are allowed to bind themselves to pay any rate of interest they may agree upon, and the Courts are bound to enforce the contract. In support of the principle involved in this measure, it has been often urged that money is but an article of commerce; and that, as such, if lenders have a right to charge any interest for the use of it, they surely have the same right to stipulate as to the rate to be charged as the landlord who rents out a house or a farm; and that the law has no right to interfere, but should enforce the contract in the one case as promptly as in the other.
However simple and apparently unanswerable this plausible theory may be, all experience had demonstrated its ruinous practical effects upon communities; and therefore it must be wrong in principle. I apprehend the error consists in considering money as simply an article of commerce, when it is in truth a standard of value, made so by law, and must be received in satisfaction of all debts.
The credit system itself is sufficiently dangerous, but when connected with an extravagant and unlimited rate of interest, produces irreparable ruin to a large portion of the community. Few men rightly calculate the legitimate effects of paying a high rate of interest for money. If an individual borrows a considerable sum of money at a high rate of interest, and should not be able to pay it when due, the accumulation of a few months' interest puts it forever beyond his power to pay. He sees himself ruined for life – makes no further efforts to pay – leaves his creditor to sustain the loss of both principal and interest, while the borrower himself becomes a hopeless idler, and from thenceforward a useless, if not an evil member of society. If each individual stood alone, unconnected with others, there might be some truth in the principle assumed; but the State has an interest in the protection of individuals, as the prosperity or ruin of individuals makes up the prosperity or ruin of the whole. If a practice be injurious to public morals, or public policy, it is the right of the State to restrain it.
The idea that competition among lenders would reduce the rate of interest to a fair and just standard, such as the legitimate profits of business would justify, seems to be delusive. Our own sad experience in California has conclusively shown that competition among lenders does not diminish the rate of interest; but the rates now asked, and the amount of security now demanded, are equal to, if not greater, than those required one year ago. I cannot but express the opinion that the late monetary crisis in California has been more the legitimate result of the oppressive rates of interest charged than of any other one cause. The result in many, if not in most cases, had been ruin to both lenders and borrowers. If the system is permitted to continue for some years longer, the productive industry of the State will be seriously crippled.
By the Act of the Legislature in reference to Notaries Public, the Executive is authorized to appoint as many Notaries for each county as he may deem necessary. As Justices of the Peace are not empowered to take the acknowledgments of deeds and other instruments, having no seal with which to authenticate the same, and as Notaries only reside in the town and cities, it is exceedingly inconvenient for persons at a distance from the residence of a Notary to procure the authentication of instruments, especially where females are parties. It is difficult for the Executive to know what number of Notaries may be required for each county, and more difficult for him to know the character and qualifications of the applicants. And when appointments are made, the incumbents change their residence so frequently, that it is almost impossible to keep a sufficient number in office in some of the remote counties. I would therefore suggest, that the law be so amended as to require Notaries Public to be elected in the same manner as Justices of the Peace, and required to reside in the respective townships; the number to each township to be determined by the County Court, or the Court of Sessions.
In pursuance of the Act authorizing the Executive to appoint Commissioners of Deeds, appointments have been made for many of the States, the incumbents to reside at the principal commercial points. To appoint a Commissioner for each county in every State in the Union would be a laborious task, if not impracticable at this distance; and yet where appointments are made at only one or two points in each State, people who reside at a distance from the Commissioner would be compelled to incur much expense before they could avail themselves of his services. It is difficult for the Executive to know the character and qualifications of the different applicants, especially as those most meritorious are not always the most active in procuring recommendations. These officers, when appointed, are not subject to the control of the State authorities where they reside, and they are beyond our reach, and practically irresponsible for any malfeasance in office; and the present system must, in the end, lead to great abuses.
The laws of different States in relation to taking and certifying the acknowledgment of instruments and the depositions of witnesses, are substantially the same; and if the effort were made in a spirit of enlightened liberality, it is thought that the uniform law upon these subjects might be adopted by the different States, containing the same provisions in reference to instruments and depositions to be sent out of the State. This system, if once adopted, would avoid the evils of the present one, and afford much greater facility and security for the transaction of this kind of business. The law might be so framed as to be operative between all the States adopting it; and a few years' experience would demonstrate its practical benefits, and thus ultimately secure its adoption by all. It would form another link in the golden chain that binds together the States. California has a special and particular interest in this matter, at this period of her history, as her people are from every State in the Union, and have left behind them friends, relatives, and property, in almost every village and neighborhood in the Republic.
The beneficial effects of a system of direct taxation have already been seen in the increased impulse given to our agriculture during the past year. The large tracts of land have, in many cases, been subdivided, and smaller portions sold to agriculturists, who have thus become permanent and prosperous residents. The agricultural resources of California are much greater than have usually been supposed, and are equal to those of most of the States. In the language of one of her most intelligent citizens, "her fertile valleys and rich prairies are capable, when cultivated, of producing an untold store of agricultural wealth."
In pursuance of an Act of the Legislature defining the duties of the Surveyor General, it was expected that that officer would be enabled to embody in his report much useful statistical information, in reference to the geography and agriculture of the State. For reasons stated in his report, he has not been able to do so. This information would have been exceedingly useful in the present infant state of that branch of industry. The climate and soil of California are peculiar, and the mold of cultivation best adapted to them is consequently very little understood. The result has been that the most incorrect views have been entertained by most persons in reference to these matters. While the opinion has generally been indulged, that irrigation was indispensable to the success of the farmer, the past year's experience has shown that all the grains, and nearly all the garden vegetables can be grown in great abundance without it.
Were it not for the fact that our State is embarrassed in her finances, I should recommend the establishment of a separate and distinct Bureau of Statistics; but as the duties of the Surveyor General are not so onerous as to prevent his attention to this subject, and as they are, from their nature, somewhat connected with it, I would recommend the continuance of the provision requiring him to collect information from the different County Surveyors.
In connexion [sic] with this subject, I cannot but express my regret that the Legislature (owing to a difference of opinion as to the best mode) failed to carry out that wise and humane provision of the Constitution which was designed to protect from forced sale a certain portion of the homestead of all heads of families. This provision is peculiarly appropriate to California, and is another evidence of the wisdom and enlightened liberality of the framers of our excellent Constitution. Without families it is impossible for any State or community to exist and prosper. This provision, if carried out in the same enlightened spirit in which it originated, and especially if followed (as it is hoped it will be) by an Act of Congress making grants in limited quantities to actual settlers upon the public lands, will soon fill up our State with energetic, industrious, and virtuous families, who will thus secure a permanent home, not dependent upon the fluctuations of trade and business. There can be no doubt but that the practical operation of this just and liberal provision will be eminently beneficial to both debtors and creditors, as it will have a tendency to check the excesses of the credit system, and make the credit of individuals, as it should ever be, more dependent upon their integrity, capacity, and industry, than upon the amount and value of the property they may temporarily control.
I may deem it my duty to call to the attention of the Legislature to the necessity of a general reduction in the salaries of officers whose compensation is fixed by the Legislature. It is not in the power of the Legislature to reduce the salaries of most of the present State officers during their continuance in office; but any reduction made will affect their successors.
The present rate of compensation, as fixed by the last Legislature, was perhaps too high under the then existing circumstances; but however this may be, since that time a great reduction has taken place in the prices of labor, both manual and professional, in property and rents, as well as in the expenses of living, and a corresponding reduction, it would seem, should be made in salaries. It is contrary to the genius and simplicity of a republican Government, to pay extravagant salaries. While an officer should be allowed such compensation for his services as will afford him a plain, decent support, he should not be allowed such a salary as would amount to a speculation, in a case where there is no risk incurred. The opinion entertained by many that high salaries will secure the services of men of superior merit, is not correct in all cases. High salaries excite more the cupidity of men than their patriotism; and more of that class succeed in obtaining office, when salaries are high, than when they are at a fair rate. When salaries afford a certain but only a moderate living to incumbents, their duties are discharged with an eye to the approbation of their constituents, and to the acquirement of honest fame, motives more powerful in securing a faithful discharge of official duties than the desire of high salaries.
In this connexion [sic] I would suggest the propriety of reducing the fees of clerks, recorders, and other officers. The rates at present allowed are exceedingly oppressive upon those who seek justice in our Courts. Cheap and speedy justice is one of the cardinal maxims of Republican Government; but when the Courts are only open by the payment of exorbitant costs in advance, it is better for men to suffer wrong than to seek redress.
At the late general election there was elected a Superintendent of Public Instruction. It will be necessary to pass an Act prescribing his duties, and fixing his compensation. Under existing circumstances, before any of the public lands to which the State will be entitled have been assigned to her, and while we have so few families in the State, and our population is so unsettled, it may be practicable to establish any general system of free schools, or to endow any university. But the time must soon arrive when we shall have both the families and the means to adopt and carry out such a system. In the meantime it might be made the duty of the Superintendent to collect useful statistical information, to be reported annually to the Executive, and by him laid before the Legislature at each regular session.
By the provisions of the second section of the ninth article of the Constitution, "all estates of deceased persons, who may have died without leaving a will or heir, shall remain a perpetual fund, the interest of which shall be inviolably appropriated to the support of the common schools throughout the State." It would be wise to make some efficient provision, by law for the security of such funds, and for lending them out by responsible officers. I would recommend that they be deposited in the State Treasury, and invested in State securities.
I take great pleasure in referring to the passage by Congress, at its late session, of the Act granting swamp and overflowed public lands to the several States in which they may be situated. By this law the State of California will be entitled to immense bodies of fertile land bordering on the bays of San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun, and upon the rivers San Joaquin and Sacramento. These lands, it is thought by many intelligent persons, when properly drained and cultivated, will produce bountiful crops of rice, and perhaps of sugar-cane.
For want of the necessary surveys and plats, no estimate approaching towards accuracy can be made as to their extent and quantity, and a considerable time must elapse before their limits can be defined. It will be expedient for the Legislature, at an early period, to adopt some permanent line of policy in reference to the disposition to be made of these lands, and the proceeds arising from them, after deducting the necessary expenses of the levees and drains.
Without the passage of this Act, the right of eminent domain which resides in the State would entitle her, upon general principles, to all the lots in the City of San Francisco, covered by ordinary high tide, so soon as the same should be reclaimed from the dominion of the sea. By this Act, however, every doubt may be considered as removed; I would therefore recommend that these lots be ceded to that city upon such conditions as may be just. I would also recommend that the right of pre-emption be granted to actual settlers upon these lands, on such equitable and liberal terms as may best promote their rapid improvement and cultivation.
Under the Joint Resolution authorizing the Governor to procure a suitable rock, to be contributed by the State to the Washington Monument, I caused notice to be published in the public prints asking information and soliciting proposals from individuals. Having received no proposals, I found it necessary to employ a special agent for this purpose. The agent employed was William L. Smith, Esq., who proceeded to the South Mines, and succeeded in procuring a beautiful specimen of gold-bearing quartz, from the quarry of Messrs. Jackson and Elliston. It was placed in the care of the Hon. John Bidwell and Henry A, Schoolcraft, Esq. I cannot but mention, in this place, the generous liberality of Messrs. Howland, Aspinwall & Co., who transported the rock from San Francisco to New York City, and of Messrs. Adams & Co., who conveyed it from thence to Washington City, free of charge. It was delivered it to our delegation in Congress, who delivered it to the President of the Washington Monument Association.
The past year has witnessed the rapid improvement of our cities, and the increasing development of our great commercial resources. Our trade with all the world, and more especially with China, the islands of the Pacific, and the northwest coast of America, has greatly increased in amount and importance, and our principal commercial points have already assumed the beautiful forms of regular cities. The people of California are destined to become a great commercial people; and every obstacle that has a tendency to shackle and trammel commerce, without a corresponding benefit, should be removed by the Legislature, so far as that body may have the power. With this view, I recommend an entire repeal of the act establishing quarantine regulations at San Francisco. These regulations have proved a vexatious burden to commerce, while they have been impotent for good. I would also recommend a thorough revision of the act creating a Marine Hospital and a Board of Health at that point. I would also recommend the repeal of the act establishing a Superior Court of that city, and the passage of an act creating additional District Courts. The people of San Francisco not only pay their proportion of revenue to support the Judiciary of the whole State, but they are compelled, in addition to this, to pay the entire expenses of the Superior Court. I take it to be clear that the people of every portion of the State are right entitled to as many Courts, created and paid by the State, as may be required to administer justice. Where a Court is required to enforce mere local ordinances, not common to the whole State, it constitutes an exception to the general rule; but the Superior Court has as much civil jurisdiction as the District Courts, and consequently comes within the general rule.
As the law exists, it is a matter of doubt whether appeals lie from the decisions of Justices of the Peace to the Supreme Court. Although the amount involved in each case tried before these inferior Courts is small, except in cases of Forcible Entry and Detainer, yet they make up in number what they lack in amount. The principles, and the aggregate amounts involved in these cases, are of as much importance to the community, as those arising in civil cases brought in the District Courts. As appeals only lie to the County Courts, there can be no uniformity of decision; and what will be law in one county, will not be law in another.
The late period of the Session at which California was admitted into the Union, and the press of other business, occasioned by the long and protracted debates in both Houses upon the disturbing question of slavery, prevented Congress from passing acts for the establishment of a Mint at San Francisco, and for refunding to the State the duties collected in California previous to the recognition of our State government. For the want of a Mint the industry of the State has been severely taxed, and we have been forced to become tributary to other portions of the world to the amount of millions.
The Act of Congress passed in the beginning of the year 1849, extending the revenue laws of the United State over California, was perhaps the most extraordinary act ever passed by that body, and was a plain and palpable violation of the most prominent principle, the disregard of which by the mother country led to the American Revolution. If there was one single principle well understood, and inflexibly cherished by the heroes of that great struggle, it was the self-evident truth that taxation could not rightly exist without representation. In other words, that both the government and the governed have some rights, which rights are mutual, and the exercise of the one depends upon the exercise of the other; and that while it is the duty of the citizen to pay his taxes, it is equally the duty of the government, at one and the same time, to afford him protection in his person and property.
One cannot contemplate the astonishing provisions of that act without the most painful regret. It extended the Revenue Laws over California, not only without representation in Congress, but without giving or allowing us any government at all. The act imposed up us burdens, but extended to us no benefits. It practically, although not in terms, placed the judicial and ministerial power in the same hands; thus making the Collector of the Port of San Francisco both the collecting officer and the judge of the law, in cases in which he had a direct interest himself; and when the injured party complained, he was mocked with a delusive show of justice, by being referred to the distant and inaccessible Courts of Oregon and Louisiana; a provision about as equitable and just as the practice of Great Britain in transporting our people across the Atlantic to be tried in England, for alleged offences committed in the Colonies. Not a single case, to my knowledge, among the many decisions of the Collector, the correctness of which was called in question, was ever taken to the Courts either of Oregon or Louisiana, for the very plain and simple reason, that justice in such cases would have cost more than it would have been worth when attained.
The history of all governments having colonies has shown how natural and usual it is for the mother country to oppress, and at the same time neglect, a distant and helpless people. It is so natural and easy for legislative bodies, as well as for individuals, to form prejudiced and disparaging opinions of others at a distance, and thus to find pretexts for oppressive exactions, while benefits are conferred with great reluctance. The fruits of these exactions never fail to reach the seat of the oppressor, while the indignant complaints of the oppressed fade and vanish in travelling over the intervening distance, and are never heard nor regarded.
The act in question forms another strong and irresistible evidence of the truth of the great republican maxim, that an oft and frequent recurrence to first principles is indispensably necessary to the preservation of our institutions in their original purity. California will always be among the most devoted to this just sentiment; and while she has the honor and happiness to remain a member of the Confederacy, she will strenuously insist that justice be meted out to her, by refunding the moneys thus unjustly collected. This she owes to herself – to her own honor – but above all to sacred principle and to the Union.
This act seems to have been passed at the close of the session, when there was not sufficient time for calm and deliberate reflection; and since the date of its passage, the attention of Congress has been almost wholly taken up with the consideration of other measures of more immediate and pressing importance. To doubt that justice will yet be done California, is to doubt the justice of Congress; and to doubt the ultimate justice of Congress, is to doubt the justice of the American people, their capacity for self-government, and the perpetuity of our institutions.
The question of revenue and expenditures, so important to individuals, families, and States, will necessarily occupy much of your attention. Of the temporary State loan there have been issued bonds to the amount of two hundred and ninety thousand one hundred dollars, of which the sum of nineteen thousand four hundred and fifty dollars has been redeemed, leaving outstanding on the 15th December, 1850, the sum of two hundred and seventy thousand six hundred and fifty dollars, upon which interest had accrued to the amount of seventy-one thousand eight hundred and thirty six dollars and four cents, making the sum total of the State Debt created under the act authorizing a temporary State loan, amount to the sum of three hundred and forty-two thousand four hundred and eighty-six dollars and four cents. In addition to this, there were unredeemed Comptroller's warrants to the amount of one hundred and forty-two thousand nine hundred and seventy-four dollars and twenty-four cents, which, added to the outstanding three per cent. bonds, and the interest due upon them up to December 15, would make the sum total of the State Debt on that day four hundred and eighty-five thousand four hundred and sixty dollars and twenty-eight cents. The total amount of receipts into the Treasury up to the 15th December, amounted to the sum of three hundred and twenty-four thousand nine hundred and seventy-four dollars, while the expenditures up to the same period amounted to the sum of four hundred and forty-seven thousand one hundred and fifty-three dollars and eight-five cents; leaving an excess of expenditures, over and above receipts, of one hundred and twenty-two thousand one hundred and seventy-nine dollars and eighty-five cents. The estimated receipts for the second fiscal year, ending on 30th day of June 1851, amount to the sum of five hundred and nineteen thousand five hundred and fifty dollars; while the estimated expenditures under the present rates of compensation, amount to the sum of four hundred and ninety-five thousand seven hundred and forty-seven dollars, leaving an excess of receipts over expenditures, of twenty-three thousand eight hundred and three dollars. But should the expenditures be reduced, as suggested by the Comptroller, to the sum of two hundred and eighty-nine thousand two hundred and three dollars and fifty cents, and the receipts into the Treasury equal the estimates, then there would remain a balance in the Treasury, on the 3oth day of June, 1851, of two hundred and thirty thousand three hundred and forty-six dollars and fifty cents, applicable to the payment of the State Debt.
The act for the better regulation of the mines met with serious opposition in various portions of the State, and the amount of revenue derived from this source fell far short of what was confidently anticipated. Under the act there was collected and paid into the Treasury up to the 15th December, the sum of twenty-nine thousand seven hundred and thirty-one dollars and sixteen cents; and the further sum of nine thousand nine hundred and forty-one dollars yet remains in the hands of L.A. Bensançon, the former Collector of Tuolumne County.
The necessity of convening the Legislature for the purpose of passing an act to procure a loan for the State, was seriously urged upon my attention, and the subject received all the consideration its great importance demanded. Extra sessions of the Legislatures of several States, as well as of Congress, have been frequently called, and not one of them, to my knowledge, has ever equaled the expectations of its friends. The only result that is ertain to follow an extra session of a legislative assembly is a heavy amount of additional expense, while the benefits are matters of doubt. In the present case, whether a quorum of both Houses could have been obtained, admitted of some question; and whether, when assembled, a majority of both Houses could have agreed upon a bill for creating a State loan, was more than problematical.
Our Constitution only authorized the Executive to convene the Legislature upon "extraordinary occasions;" and to guard against the abuse of power, the Governor is required to "state to both Houses when assembled the purpose for which they shall have been convened."
From this language, as well as from the nature and reason of the case, the "extraordinary occasion" contemplated by the framers of the Constitution must be some new and very important event, such as the happening of war, or other serious cause, arising after the adjournment of the Legislature, and which could not have come under its consideration while in regular session. The propriety of authorizing a loan in addition to the temporary State loan of three hundred thousand dollars, was elaborately discussed in the Legislature before its adjournment; but the bill did not pass. It is true that the State was not then admitted into the Union, but that event was confidently anticipated. It is also true that the act imposing a tax upon foreign miners had not then been tested, and had not then failed; and the present financial condition of the State was not then foreseen. But the mere deficit in the revenue was not, in my opinion, such an "extraordinary occasion" as required an extra session of Legislature. The condition of the Treasury of the United States, at the time President Van Buren convened Congress, in consequence of the suspension of the Deposit Banks, was certainly as critical as the present situation of our State Treasury; and yet the result proved the action of the President in that case to have been unwise and unnecessary.
But there were other powerful reasons, founded upon principle, that had their due share of influence in forming my opinion upon this question. To have effected a loan it would have been necessary to issue bonds running some fifteen or twenty years, and bearing a high rate of interest. Capitalists, knowing that the money was only wanted to defray the current expenses of the civil administration, and not for the purposes of constructing some great, permanent, and profitable improvement, which itself would probably afford the means of ultimate reimbursement, would have demanded these conditions.
The practice of contracting State debts, especially for the mere purpose of defraying the ordinary expenses of the State Government, and when these debts are not to be paid until after the lapse of years, is one of pernicious tendency and of evil example, and would seem to be a plain violation of just and honest principle. Most of the States have contracted debts for the purpose of internal improvement; but few of them have borrowed money to defray ordinary expenses. There is a vicious principle in the practice of putting our burdens upon posterity without their consent. Those who have the liberty to contract debts should bear the responsibility of paying them. It would be exceedingly convenient for individuals, as well as States, to enjoy the happy privilege of contracting debts for their own use and benefit, while the burden of their payment would be thrown upon the shoulders of others. If such a system could once be successfully adopted, it would be found so easy and so tempting that there would remain no check and no limit to the evils to be entailed upon future generations.
The expenses of the Convention which framed the Constitution having all been paid the only use the State had for the money to be obtained by loan, would have been to defray ordinary and present expenses. If for instance, the State had borrowed one million of dollars, every dollar of it would have been expended to pay our present expenses, and would have saved us, of the present day, that amount of taxation; but the payment of this debt would have been postponed for years, and forced upon others against their will and without their consent, while they would have received none of the benefits and would have the expenses of the State accruing in their own time to pay besides. While we are complaining, and justly too, that Congress has taxed us without representation or government, thus imposing upon us the burdens without giving us the benefits of government, we are urged to commit the same violation of principle, by borrowing money and expending it for our own temporary purposes, and at the same time putting the entire burden of payment upon our successors; thus in effect taxing them without bestowing any corresponding benefit in return.
It may be said that we confer benefits upon posterity, and they ought therefore to pay our debts. But it is plain that we shall confer no greater benefits upon them than those we have received from our ancestors, and no greater than they will confer upon their successors; and if we have the right to place our burdens upon them, they in their turn will have the same right to place their burdens upon the next succeeding generation; so that each existing generation, one after the other will have the right to borrow money to defray their own daily expenses, and to put the task of payment upon their successors to the end of time.
Had the Legislature been convened, and a loan obtained, it would have precipitated the State into a system of extravagance which would have been difficult to lay aside. In two years from this time, the State would have been in a condition as much embarrassed as at present, if not in a worse condition. There can perhaps no greater misfortune befall a young State than a large surplus in the treasury produced by a loan. It puts the people and the government upon delusive hopes, and starts a system of expenditures that cannot be sustained and continued. Young States, like young and inexperienced individuals, never cease expenditures while there is money in the treasury; and seldom stop while they have any credit left. The time must come when the State expenditures must fall within the limits of her income, and the sooner this is brought about the better for all parties in the end. It would, perhaps, be best for her to adopt a system of rigid economy at the commencement, so as to be certain to come within their limits.
As the Legislature has now no Constitutional power to borrow money, and as there are no cash funds in the treasury, the question arises how the current and necessary expenses of the State are to be paid. I would recommend that the present rate of taxation upon real and personal estate be continued, and that a reasonable reduction be made in the rate of the capitation tax. This latter tax has been generally considered too high, and this feeling has materially diminished the amount of revenue expected from that source. Were the rated less, a much larger amount could be collected. I would also recommend that Comptroller's Warrants be made by law receivable in payment of all State dues; and that the law requiring that officer to draw these warrants be amended, as suggest by him in his able report. These warrants may fall below their par value, but being made receivable in payment of the State dues, they will be absorbed by the incoming revenue, and the circumstance will facilitate the collection of taxes, and prevent any great depreciation in the value of the warrants. If the whole amount issued should be less than the amount of the State revenue, then they will rise nearly if not quite to par value. To bring about this desirable state of things, I recommend a rigid system of retrenchment in the expenditures of every department of the State. It occurs to me that the most rational, just, and certain mode of getting out of debt, is to make more, expend less, and borrow none. I also recommend a reduction of the rate of taxation imposed on property sold at auction. A larger amount of revenue can be collected from this source, it is thought, were the rated reduced. As at present established, the rates are so high as to materially diminish the amount of sales.
The attempt to administer the State Government during the past year has been attended by many difficulties. To start a new system, under ordinary circumstances, is no easy task – but no new State has ever been encompassed with so many embarrassments as California. Our people formed a mixed and multitudinous host from all sections of our widely extended country, and from almost every clime and nation in the world, with all their discordant views, feelings, prejudices, and opinions; and thrown together like the sudden assemblage of a mighty army, had not time to compare notes or interchange opinions. Besides this, a majority considered themselves only temporary residents, and had therefore no permanent interest in sustaining the State Government. Serious resistance to the to the execution of the laws was threatened in some instances, and a very unfortunate disturbance occurred at Sacramento City, in reference to which it would be improper to express an opinion, as the facts of the case will be inquired into by the competent judicial tribunals.
The first session of the Legislature had more difficulties to meet than perhaps the Legislature of any other State. That body had no beaten road to travel, no safe precedents to follow; California required a new system, adapted to her new and anomalous condition. What that new system should be, time and experience could alone determine. With the experience of the past year before us, we may be enabled to make some useful and necessary amendments. I have suggested such as have appeared to me the most important. It will be doubtless necessary to amend the acts of the last session in many other respects; but I would respectfully suggest the propriety of making no amendments except where manifestly requires. The people have now become accustomed to the laws as they are; and by making but few amendments, a heavy amount of expense may be saved to the State.
The report of the Comptroller, herewith submitted, contains many valuable suggestions, to which I would respectfully invite your attention.
In conclusion, I would make but one other suggestion, more important than any yet made, because it concerns the virtue and honor of our community. The fourth section of the first chapter of the "act to regulate proceedings in civil cases," is in these words: "Sec. 4. No action shall be maintained for criminal conversation or for seduction."
I recommend an entire repeal of this section, that the law may throw around the chastity of our wives and daughters that protection which ought to be afforded by the laws of every civilized country in the world.