Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

CHAPTER XXI.

SEIZURE OF CALIFORNIA.

BEFORE proceeding to detail the part taken by Mr. Polk and Congress, on the receipt of Taylor's announcement that hostilities had commenced, we will call the attention of the reader to the early and provident measures devised to secure, as speedily as possible, the object of these hogtilities, the ACQUISITION OF CALIFORNIA. On the 24th June, 1845, by order of Mr. Polk,“ secret and confidential" instructions were given to Commodore Sloat, commanding the United States naval forces in the Pacific. “ If you ascertain with certainty that Mexico has declared war against the United States, you will at once possess your. self of the port of Saint Francisco, and blockade and occupy such other ports as your force may permit."* This naval force consisted of five vessels, and for months it was kept on the California coast, ready to make the coveted prize at a moment's warning, and without waiting for advices from home. The Commodore with his own and another vessel were waiting at Mazatlan, at the entrance of the Gulf of California, two more were stationed off Monterey, and the fifth was at St. Francisco. So admirably had all been arranged for an immediate conquest. On the 7th June, and of course within less than four weeks after the declaration of war by Congress, the Commodore heard of Taylor's conflicts on the Rio Grande. The long expected moment had arrived, and the next day he weighed anchor and sailed for Monterey. On the 7th July, that place was once more, without resistance, seized by our forces, and Sloat, like his predecessor, Jones, forth with distributed his proclamations in English and Spanish, Where or when they were prepared, and whether they were in manuscript or print, does not appear. Two days after, St. Francisco was likewise in our possession. Sloat's proclamation reflected the determination of his employers

* See documents submitted by the President, in obedience to a call from the House of Representatives, for instructions to officers in California and the Pacific, communicated Dec. 22d, 1846. App. to Cong. Globe, 2 Bess. 29 Cong., page 45.

-Henceforward California will be a portion of the United States.

On landing at Monterey, the Commodore addressed a general order to his men in which he told them, “ It is not only our duty to take California, but to preserve it afterwards as a part of the United States, at all hazards. * It is the duty of commanders to make conquests, but not to anticipate the terms of a treaty of peace.

Yet here we find a naval captain solemnly proclaiming that the conquest he has made is never to be restored. He foresees and proclaims the annexation of California, without apparently knowing the wishes and intentions of his own gov... ernment, or without speculating on the fortunes of war. On the 13th August, Pueblos des los Angelos, the capital of the province was taken, and on the 17th August, Commodore Stockton, who had succeeded Sloat, and who styled himself Commander-in-Chief and Governor of the Territory of California," announced in a proclamation,

The flag of the United States is now flying from every commanding position in the Territory, and California is entirely free from Mexican dominion. The territory of California now belongs to the United States.” On the

* For the documents here quoted, see Ex. Doo. 29 Cong, Sess. House of Rep., No. 4.

[ocr errors]

46

en

28th of the same month, he wrote home, “ this rich and beautiful country belongs to the United States, and is FOR EVER free from Mexican dominion.” All this, it must be admitted, was quick work. On the 7th July, Monterey was taken, and in six weeks the object of the war was accomplished, the rich and beautiful country belonged to the United States.” Not a life appears to have been lost in the conquest. The Mexican government had made no declaration of war, and its whole attention was grossed by the defence of its territory on the Rio Grande. The inhabitants of California were utterly unprepared for war, and were as ignorant as Commodore Sloat himself of the action of Congress.

The rapidity with which the conquest of California was effected, was not however, entirely owing to the adroit measure of stationing armed vessels on different points of the coast, ready to make their descent the moment Taylor had succeeded in provoking hostilities on the Rio Grande. It will be recollected that the Mexican Government had been alarmed some years before at the ingress of Americans into that province, and had passed an order requiring their departure. Nor will it be forgotten that, intimidated by the bullying demeanor of Mr. Thompson, and his threat to demand his passports, the order had been revoked. The reader will call to mind that gentleman's confession of his "compunctious visitings" on the occasion, well-knowing that these foreigners were intending to re-enact the Texan game.

The alarm of Mexico was well founded. The conquest of the province was prepared and facilitated by the treasonable course of the American settlers previous to their knowledge of the existence of

The history of the rebellion in California is but imperfectly known. The only information respecting it, disclosed by the Cabinet at Washington, is contained in

the war.

the report of the Secretary of War, made 5th December, 1846, and from this document we gather the following narrative. In May, 1845, shortly before “ the secret and confidential” instructions were given to Commodore Sloat, Captain Fremont, of the United States Army, was despatched by Government on a tour of scientific exploration beyond the Rocky Mountains. He had sixty-two men under him; but the Secretary declares that the expedition was not of a military character, and that the attendants did not belong to the army. On reaching the frontier of California, the Captain proceeded alone to Monterey to solicit permission from the Commandant, General Castro, for himself and party, to pass through a portion of the province. The desired permission was granted, but after the party had entered California, Fremont received information from Americans, that Castro was preparing to attack him with “a comparatively large force of artillery, cavalry and infantry, upon the pretext that, under the cover of a scientific mission, he was exciting the American settlers to revolt.” This was indeed marvellous intelligence, and most marvellous means did the scientific Captain take to remove the groundless suspicions of the Californian General. Instead of making his way out of the province as fast as he could, and proceeding upon the business entrusted to him by his Government, “ he took a position on a mountain overlooking Monterey at a distance of about thirty miles, entrenched it, raised the flag of the United States, and with his own men sixty-two in number, awaited the approach of the Commandant-General." But the Captain, however valiant, did not depend solely on his sixty-two men to resist the artillery, cavalry, and infantry of Castro; for the Secretary tells us, the American settlers were ready to join him at all bazards, if he had been attacked ;' and hence we discover his motive for taking a military position at a convenient distance from Monterey. This was in March, 1846. After waiting some time for the anticipated attack, but nothing occurring to furnish a pretext for commencing hostilities, he proceeded, without the slightest molestation from the Government, on his route to Oregon.

In Oregon, he was annoyed by hostile Indians, who, as the Secretary informs us, but without condescending to furnish a particle of proof, “ had been excited against him by General Castro." Again the Captain received alarming intelligence, but from what source does not appear, “ that General Castro, in addition to his Indian allies, was advancing against him with artillery and cavalry at the head of four or five hundred men !” He also heard that " the American settlers in the valley of Sacramento were comprehended in the scheme of destruction, meditated against his own party.”—“Under these circumstances (continues the Secretary), he determined to turn

upon his Mexican pursuers, and seek safety both for his own party and the American settlers, not merely in the defeat of Castro, BUT IN THE TOTAL OVERTHROW OF THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT IN CALIFORNIA, AND ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INDEPENDENT GOVERNMENT IN THAT EXTENSIVE DEPARTMENT.”

Here let us pause a moment, to reflect on the utter atrocity and profligacy of a design which the Secretary of War ostentatiously parades before the world. Admite ting the truth of the ridiculous rumors said to have reached Fremont, it is very evident, that he was perfectly confident that the combined strength of his own party and that of the American settlers, was abundantly sufficient for their own protection, since he relied on it to overturn the Mexican authority and to establish an independent Government. He, a commissioned officer of the

THE

« AnkstesnisTęsti »