John Bigler

3rd Governor, Democrat

Second Inaugural Address

Delivered: January 7, 1854

(First Inaugural Address - January 8, 1852)


Having subscribed the solemn oath required by the Constitution, at the commencement of a term of office, I avail myself of the occasion to express my profound gratitude to the people of California, who, after the most rigid scrutiny into all my official acts, have a second time, by their free suffrage conferred upon me the highest office in their gift. At the commencement of my first term, conforming to revered custom, I took occasion to proclaim the principles which should be my guide in the administration of the government, as well as to explain the more important measures believed necessary to the rapid development of our vast resources.

The principles then set forth, and the measures advocated, are still cherished and approved; — time and experience having demonstrated, as far as tested, their entire practicability and correctness.

On this occasion, I may be permitted to assure my fellow citizens, that hereafter, as heretofore, all my energies will be steadily exerted to secure, not only a faithful and efficient, but an economical administration of the State Government. And if, heretofore, there has been a failure to accomplish desired objects, and effect radical reforms, I entreat you to remember, that in the only manner authorized by the Constitution, I have, again and again, performed my duty in the premises, by urging upon the immediate representatives of the people, the great importance of adopting judicious measures, to secure a speedy liquidation of the debt of the State, and of devising a thorough system of retrenchment and reform.

The power to abate evils complained of; — to lessen public expenditures and taxation on the people, the Constitution has wisely vested in the Legislature—not in the Executive. The Governor can, and, indeed, it is his constitutional duty, from time to time, to recommend measures which meet his approbation, and to express his views on subjects, of general importance; but here his power ceases, until his recommendations shall have received force and efficacy, by the action of the Legislature. The Executive, though often censured in relation to public expenditures, has, in fact, no further control over the Treasury, than is exercised in the approval or rejection of acts of the Legislature, appropriating public funds.

The Comptroller and Treasurer, in many matters of great importance, are the peculiar guardians of the public purse. It is the province of these officers, under the constitution and laws, to pass upon all claims against the State — to approve and reject as they deem proper, and as justice demands. With their decisions, the Executive cannot interfere, and over their judgments, in the settlement of questions between individuals and the State, he has, properly, no control.

It is believed unnecessary, however, on this occasion, to advert to the financial condition of the State, or the measures relied upon to secure the speedy payment of our existing debt. For these important details you are respectfully referred to my Annual Message.

During the past two years, our progress in improvements of every character, has more than realized the expectations of the most sanguine. The substantial wealth of the State has been more than doubled. The spirit of progress and improvement, which so distinguishes the American people, and which, in fact, has placed our country in the van of nations, has lost none of its vigor on the Pacific coast. Its benign influence has, in an incredibly short period of time, placed our adopted State on a level, in many important respects, with the oldest and mightiest of the Confederacy. But yesterday, California was a wild and uncultivated Department of a declining nation — to-day, she stands unrivalled in the wealth of her mountains—the fertility of her valleys—the importance of her growing Commerce—and in the energy and intelligence of her people. Nor are we wanting in other monuments which mark our wealth, enterprize, and prosperity. Our cities, spreading their fair proportions upon our inland seas, navigable rivers, and in our mining districts, abound in structures equal to any which adorn the emporiums of the Atlantic; —our broad acres are being rapidly subjected by the hand of culture, and our granaries and teeming warehouses attest, alike, the bounty of the soil, and the prosperity of our people.

The people of California, though greatly absorbed in the development of her unequalled mineral wealth, and in preparing for a more full enjoyment of her vast commercial advantages, have not been unmindful of other great interests. The education of the youth of the State, has been the subject of much solicitude, and, in view of the fact that the families of our citizens are daily coming to our shores and settling upon the public domain, a system of public instruction is being matured, worthy of the great Pacific State, and entirely adequate to the wants of the rising generation. Congress, with commendable liberality, has donated lands to the State, which, if properly disposed of, it is confidently believed, will yield not less than eleven millions of dollars for school purposes. This sum, judiciously applied in fostering a system of Common Schools, will be found amply sufficient to educate all the children of our State, and thus give a high character to our civil institutions. The education of the masses, is justly esteemed the ground work of free institutions, and the enduring basis of constitutional liberty. We have indeed, reason for congratulation, my fellow-citizens, that our school fund, inferior to that of no other State, promises for future generations, the intelligence so necessary to the preservation of the free institutions under which we so happily live and prosper.

In the midst of exciting scenes and general prosperity, we have not been forgetful of the demands of humanity. Owing to the great distance traversed by the emigrant, and the privations endured, many reach our borders "sick and destitute"—"strangers in a strange land." Their necessities have not been forgotten; the hand of charity has been freely extended. Hospitals for the relief of the sick and insane have been provided, and thrown wide open for their reception; large appropriations from the public Treasury have been annually made for their relief by former Legislatures, and these Asylums will ever remain monuments of the humanity and benificence of our people, and enduring evidences, that, even in the incipient stages of our political existence, suffering humanity received the relief and comfort required.

For the suppression and punishment of crime, there has been erected, during the past year, a secure State Prison. Heretofore, almost entirely dependent upon individuals and counties for the safe-keeping of criminals, there has been, comparatively, an immunity from punishment. This fact, and the no less important one, that escape was possible, emboldened the vicious and daring, and served greatly to increase crime — for, it is not so much the "severity of punishment, as the certainty of its infliction," which holds villainy in check. But now that we have a secure Prison, that escape is hopeless, and punishment certain — crime, it is hoped and believed, will rapidly diminish.

Justly proud of our adopted State, it may not be unprofitable for us on this occasion, to recur once more to the scenes, the trials, the difficulties and the eventful triumphs which marked an era in the history of the world — the birth of a new State into the American Confederacy. Springing into new life, after a lethargic sleep of centuries, California opened to an astonished world the hidden wealth of her mountains, and her flower-clad valleys gave presage of future productiveness.

For ages had her golden sands been washed from their mountain heights, and the rivulets and streams, which fertilized her plains, bore golden flakes on their resistless floods. But it was reserved for the research and energy of our own people, first to discover and then to develop the hidden wealth, which added a new field to the labor, enterprize and commerce of the world, and which, for centuries, had remained unknown to the inhabitants of the Pacific coast. Excited by the intelligence wafted to their ears from the Pacific shore, the American people, who, by their intelligence, energy, and all those virtues which exalt a nation, have acquired the right to disseminate freedom and civilization — the right to inoculate upon the decaying frame of despotism, the living principles of civil and religious liberty, led the van of that mighty concourse which set towards our golden shores; and overcoming every interposing obstacle, soon laid, broad and deep, the foundation of a great and prosperous Sovereignty.

The discovery of inexhaustible mines of gold upon the borders of the Pacific was an extraordinary episode in human affairs. It was an occurrence which involved the most important consequences to the monetary affairs of the world. It gave a new impulse to labor every where, and infused new vigor into all the departments of human industry. By increasing the rewards of labor, and the demand for its products, it gave to it a practical dignity and importance which it never before possessed. But the immediate and remote results of such a discovery are too important and varied to be enumerated here. It was however, apparent that a country possessing such advantages, and destined to exert such an influence, would speedily become an object of peculiar interest. It was apparent, also, that the wants of such a country would be uncommon, and that without the exercise of sleepless vigilance, its interests would often be jeopardized. The discovery of the precious metals was succeeded by a crisis in California, during which it was sometimes a subject of doubt whether order or anarchy would be paramount. The want of the protecting care of the General Government, which the country, on account of its geographical position, and its consequent isolation, so keenly felt — the rapid influx of immigrants from every quarter of the globe, contributed to retard the permanent establishment of law and order, and rendered necessary a well regulated government, and a rigid code of laws. For the control of a people so heterogeneous, the provisional government established in California was soon found to be totally inefficient. Police and municipal regulations—the great safeguards of society— and a general system of government, more comprehensive and more detailed in its operations, were wants which the public interests eminently demanded. Accordingly, the representatives of the people, in September, 1849, assembled in convention, and adopted a State Constitution; and, in a remarkably short period of time, after the ratification of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, by which this territory was acquired, California was admitted into the American Confederacy, and invested with all the prerogatives of a sovereign State. I need not here recur to the acclamations with which the intelligence of this event was received, or to the impressive scenes which marked its solemnization. Up to the period of the organization of the State Government, we were a community, or I might rather say, a collection of persons, to some extent without law, and without any of those securities only to be found in a stern and impartial administration of justice. The maxims and obligations of self government were too often set at naught, and society was seemingly suspended over the abyss of annihilation.

But the perils which attended the infancy and early organization of our Government have, happily, passed away; and under those restraining influences of habit, education and natural affection, which are so insensibly, but so powerfully exerted, and with which we are inspired by our liberal form of government, stability and order have risen out of chaos and confusion.

In all cases of grievance, the law has prescribed the mode of redress, and it is alike our duty, and our custom, to respect its requirements. While from our earliest boyhood, there has been instilled in our breasts, love and reverence for the free institutions of our country, we have also been taught to respect and obey that country's laws. Obedience to the laws, as a principal, forms the main pillar in the edifice which the people have consecrated to liberty.

But California is not alone dependent upon the glittering ore, which primarily attracted to her shores, thousands of men and fleets of deeply laden ships. Her soil, so prolific in mineral riches, is no less productive of all those commodities which form the staples and luxuries of the world. Emphatically the land of the olive and the vine, her fields of waving corn, and clustering vineyards on her southern slopes, bid fair soon to rival her mines of gold, and render her as renowned for abundant harvests, as she has been, and is, for stores of mineral wealth. Each year gives renewed proofs of the fertility of her soil, and increased importance to agricultural pursuits. Her geographical position, is eminently conducive to health, and favorable to the production of every article needful for consumption at home, and, in time, for exportation abroad.

In latitudes analagous with southern France and the finest wine countries of Europe, California already possesses flourishing vineyards, which will one day, no doubt, render her celebrated for every variety of wines. Her bounteous soil nourishes the olive and the fig, and fruits of every description are to be found throughout the State.

Hitherto, the unparalleled productiveness of the mines deterred the people, generally, from undertaking, what, for a time, was deemed hazardous experiments in agriculture. Again, the unsettled condition of land titles, and above all the transient and migratory character of the first immigrants who came here with no intention of making this country their permanent abode, greatly retarded the development of our agricultural resources. Soon, however, men learned to appreciate the immense natural superiority of California over the eastern portion of the American Continent. They discovered that, independently of its golden sands, it possessed a genial and healthful climate and luxuriant soil. They became attached to its beautiful rivers—its pleasant and productive valleys, and its expansive plains, and instead of quitting the country forever, as originally intended, they sent for their wives and little ones, to rejoin them in this sunny land.

The transcendent beauties of the country—the fertility of its soil, as well as its great mineral wealth and commercial advantages, were soon properly appreciated, and then commenced the flood-tide of immigration, which has since known no ebb.

Among the many flattering evidences of our prosperity and progress in agricultural pursuits, none speak more unmistakably, than the increased demand and consequent importation of farming implements of every character; they give evidence of the peaceful and lucrative calling of many of our citizens.

The advantages of engaging in agricultural pursuits cannot be too earnestly urged upon the people, and the employment of labor and capital in such a channel cannot fail to afford profitable returns. Let us hope, then, as we have every reason to expect, that not only our mountains and river sands will continue to yield their rich treasures to the hand of industry, but that our vast and unequalled commercial and agricultural resources may be so developed by the enterprize and perseverance of our people, as to elevate California in the scale of nations, and render her that populous and powerful sovereignty of the American Confederacy, for which she was so manifestly "destined by nature and by nature's God."

For the blessings of social order and general prosperity, which we now enjoy in so high a degree, I claim nothing for the government over which I have been called to preside. But to that spirit of liberty and progress so eminently characteristic of the American people, united with the intelligence and determined energy of our fellow-citizens under the blessings of Providence, we owe all our greatness and continued prosperity—and to that spirit and intelligence must we ever look for the welfare of our common country, and the perpetuity of the free institutions which have made our Union "beloved at home, and respected abroad."