Juan Bautista Alvarado, Governor of California, Part I
JUAN BAUTISTA ALVARADO, GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA. JUAN BAUTISTA ALVARADO was born at Monterey on February 4th, 1809. He was the son of Jose Francisco Alvarado, a young official of Spanish blood who came to the country about the time of Diego de Borica, and Josefa, his wife, a sister of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Before he was a year old he lost his father, but was carefully reared by his mother, who, after a widowhood of some years, married Jose Ramon Estrada. As the boy grew up, he displayed unusual thirst for learning. His opportunities were scanty; but he managed in various ways to pick up crumbs of knowledge, everyone being ready to help a lad who was so anxious to help himself. His zeal attracted the attention, among others, of Governor Sola, who found a pleasure in conversing with him, and encouraging his desire for instruction. Their first meeting appears to have been at the school for white children, kept at Monterey by Miguel Archuleta, an old sergeant, who had received such learning as he possessed from the missionaries. It did not extend beyond a little reading and writing.
Sola, who was a man of some culture and appreciated the value of education, visited the school, and asked to be shown the books which the pupils were reading. He was handed the catechism, the worship of the virgin, the lives of a couple of saints, and a few other religious publications. Archuleta boasted that he had two scholars-pointing to Alvarado and Vallejo-who were sufficiently advanced to sing a mass. Sola answered that this was all very well, but that boys who were smart enough to sing a mass ought to be taught something else. He then directed Alvarado to come to his house, and there placed in his hands a copy of "Don Quixote," saying: "For the present, read this: it is written in good Castilian"; and so long after that as Sola remained in California, he furnished him books, and, as it were, superintended his education. They would often go out together, walk along the beach, or on the hills, or under the huge trees, and talk about the heroes and historic characters of former times. There were very few books in California, except such as were to be found in the mission libraries, and these were almost exclusively of a religious character. Scattered among the dull mass, however, there were a few of more interesting and instructive contents. At San Francisco, the nearest approach to these were a geographical dictionary, the laws of the Indies, and Chateaubriand.
San Juan Bautista there was a copy of "Gil Bias." At San Luis Obispo there were twenty volumes of travels, and twenty volumes of Buffon's natural history. At San Gabriel there were a" Life of Cicero," "Lives of Celebrated Spaniards," Goldsmith's "Greece," Venegas's "California," "Don Quixote," "Exposure of the Private Life of Napoleon," and even Rousseau's "Julie." And so, here and there, even at the missions, food for the mind was to be found. The missionaries, however, did not look with favor upon any reading except that of a strictly orthodox description. Alvarado, on one occasion, managed to get hold of a copy of Fenelon's "Telemaque," but was excommunicated for reading it. After that, he revenged himself by reading in secret everything he could lay his hands on. In 1834 a doctor named Alva brought from Mexico several boxes of miscellaneous and scientific books. But the missionaries seized them; had them turned out in the middle of the plaza, and, with all the ceremonies of the church, consigned them to the flames. But though it was difficult to follow his pursuit of such knowledge as he acquired, he, by degrees, gathered a considerable amount of information. His mind tended towards politics and public affairs; and among historic characters of whom he had heard and read, he elected Washington as most worthy of imitation, and chose him as his model.
Alvarado's first important office was that of secretary of the territorial deputation, to which he was elected at the age of eighteen, in 1827. After upwards of six years of labor in that employment, he asked to be allowed to retire, and was relieved by vote on June 26, 1834, at the same time receiving the thanks of the deputation for his faithful and efficient service. In the meantime he had also, since 1830, filled the office of an accountant in the Custom House at Monterey, to which was added that of treasurer in 1834; and in I 835 he was elected, and took his seat as fourth member of the deputation. As a member of the legislative body, he was the most active and influential that the territory had ever had. In June, 1836, Chico, who was then Governor. of California, urged upon the deputation the necessity of having an agent at the city of Mexico, who would watch over and attend to the interests of the country better than any of the delegates to Congress had seemed able to do; and the deputation, approving of the proposition, named Alvarado as its first choice.
The expulsion of Chico and subsequent disturbances, which finally resulted in the declaration of the Free and Sovereign State of Alta California, intervened; and Alvarado, who was the soul of the movement, from leader of the revolution became governor of the new State; and the opportunity of finding a proper field for his talents at the center of the Republic, thus for a moment opened, was again, and as it proved, forever closed. The new governor, being by the act of his appointment named commander-in-chief of the military forces of the State, was advanced to the rank of colonel; and the previous appointment of Vallejo to the office was abrogated.
On December 20, 1836, Alvarado, having taken the oath and been installed into office, issued his first State paper, under the title of "The citizen, Juan B. Alvarado, colonel of the civic militia, superior political chief of the first canton, and governor of the Free and Sovereign State of Alta California." It was a very important document. It gave notice to the inhabitants of the State, that the constituent congress had just vested in him extraordinary powers to support the new system by any and all possible means. In other words, Alvarado, in the very start of his gubernatorial career. was, to all intents and purposes, a dictator, and held the destinies of the State entirely in his own hands. He was, however, not a man to abuse his authority or render its exercise offensive; nor is it likely that there would have been any opposition to his rise, if it had not beef for the old jealousy entertained by Los Angeles against Monterey, in reference to the question of the capital. The whole country from Sonoma to Santa Barbara cheerfully acquiesced in the action at Monterey, and accepted Alvarado as governor. But Los Angeles, to whom probably no system not recognizing
it as the capital, and no governor residing in the northern part of the country, would have been acceptable, was dissatisfied and refused its adherence. Alvarado, as soon as he was informed of the stand taken by Los Angeles, sent word that the new government was under the absolute necessity of requiring its obedience, and possessed the necessary resources for waging war, if it should unfortunately be compelled to resort to force. There was some interchange of correspondence, until finally, on January 17, 1837, the Los Angeles municipality, by its ayuntamiento, appointed Jose Sepulveda and Antonio Maria Osio commissioners to carry on further negotiations upon its part; and at the same time it adopted a series of resolutions defining its position. In the first place, it expressed its desire to avoid the effusion of blood, but declared its determination at any sacrifice to preserve its fidelity to the laws and its obligation to its sacred oaths. In the next place, while the plan of Monterey assumed to declare the territory independent of Mexico, Los Angeles, on the contrary, gave notice that it would in no manner consent to such independence, though radically opposed to the centralist or any other than the federal system. In the third place, the apostolic Roman Catholic religion was the only religion recognized at Los Angeles, and justice demanded that, as hitherto, no opinions contrary to it should be tolerated. In the fourth place, no individual or authority should be questioned as to political doctrines entertained previous to any arrangement that might be made; and, finally, any arrangement to be made was to be understood to be merely provisional, subject to the future action of the supreme government of Mexico, and intended on the part of Los Angeles merely to prevent the shedding of blood.
On the same day, Sepulveda issued a proclamation designed to rally the population in support of the ayuntamiento, and especially to excite their prejudices against the Monterey principles of religious toleration. Alvarado had, in the meanwhile, marched southward with a hastily gathered military force, among which were some riflemen; and he established his camp within sight of San Fernando. What he desired and demanded was the submission of the country; but he cared very little about the words in which such submission was couched. So far as religious prejudice was concerned, he was willing to leave prejudice to prejudice. If Los Angeles was ready to accept the new system, it made no difference that it talked against it, or put its acceptance on the ground of a desire to prevent bloodshed. It was the substance, not the appearance, of the thing that he was interested in.
Accordingly, an arrangement was soon effected; Los Angeles submitted; Alvarado was satisfied, and on February 5 he quietly marched with his forces into the capital of the southern can ton. A few days afterwards he dismissed his riflemen, posted Lieutenant-Colonel Jose Castro with thirty men at San Gabriel, and returned northward. An interesting incident is said to have occurred at Los Angeles just before Alvarado left there. The ayuntamiento, previous to the amicable arrangement referred to, had collected a force of some four hundred men, and, for the purpose of meeting expenses, had raised a fund of two thousand dollars. When the arrangement was completed, and the Los Angeles force disbanded, Alvarado proposed to the ayuntamiento that, if any of that money remained, it should be advanced as a loan to the State. This was assented to; and the treasurer of the fund was sent for, and directed to pay over any unexpended balance.
To Alvarado's utter amazement, the treasurer handed over seventeen hundred and eighty-five dollars. Alvarado asked if it were possible that two hundred and fifteen dollars could have been laid out for the expenses of four hundred men. The treasurer answered that the accompanying accounts showed exactly, item for item, that such had up to that time been the outlay, and added that there had been no waste. Alvarado replied, that if the treasurer had been an ordinarily honest man, his accounts would have shown a very different result; that his conduct in office richly deserved the punishment about to be inflicted upon him; and, that in view of all the circumstances, he was sentenced to proceed at once to Monterey and take charge of the customhouse.
A man, said the governor, who could manage the war fund of Los Angeles in that manner, was the right man to manage the finances of the State. At this the treasurer was as much astonished in his turn as Alvarado had been. Such appreciation he had never before met with. But, though he was thankful for the honor that was tendered, he replied that he could not possibly accept it. Not only did his private business absolutely require his presence at Los Angeles, but he had no desire to hold office under the general government. He had often observed that there was little or no thanks for honesty in public employment. If he were in charge of the custom house, all the merits in the world would not prevent him from finding himself at any time superseded by an unexpected dispatch and the arrival of a successor. He was much obliged for the compliment, but he did not want public employment, either as the head of the custom house or in any other position.
As soon as Alvarado got back to Santa Barbara, he issued a call for a meeting of the California congress at that place. It convened on April 11. There were present, beside himself, Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Noriega, Antonio Buelna, Manuel Jimeno Casarin, Jose Ramon Estrada, and Francisco Xavier Alvarado. The object was to pass upon the late transactions. It readily approved everything that had been done; and, for the purpose of carrying out the spirit of the treaty or arrangement with Los Angeles, it decreed that the governor should prepare and transmit to the supreme government at Mexico a petition for the reestablishment of the federal system, and the recognition of California as a sovereign federal State, free to administer its own internal concerns.
A few days afterwards, Alvarado addressed the Los Angeles ayuntamiento, announcing the action of the congress, and complimenting the Los Angeles people upon the interest manifested by them in the cause of liberty, and the good faith shown in upholding the terms of the treaty recently agreed upon. On May 10 he issued a general address to the people of the State, informing them of the action that had been taken, congratulating them upon the success of the new system, and encouraging them to look forward upon the prosperity of California as assured. But of all the official papers emanating from his pen during this period, the most remarkable was a proclamation issued at Santa Barbara, on July 9. In it, he no longer called himself governor of the "Free and Sovereign State of Alta California," but governor of the "Department of Alta California."
The difference, which might not, at first sight, appear of any importance, was very great. It was much more than a difference in mere names; it represented a difference in things; it, in itself, indicated a complete revolution. There can be no doubt that Alvarado would have been willing to become the second Washington of a new, free, and independent nation on the Pacific. But he was not a visionary. He soon perceived that there was a very great difference between the Californians and the Anglo-Saxon colonists of the Atlantic side of the continent. He saw that what was practicable for the latter, reared as they had been in a school of freedom and inured to energetic struggle, was entirely out of the question for the former. It became plain to him that the only chance of preserving California for the people of his own race and blood, was to preserve it as a part of the Mexican nation.
A revolution had taken place in his own mind, and he made it a revolution in the country by a stroke of his pen. A fitting opportunity had presented itself in the arrival of news from Mexico, that, on December 30, 1836, the Mexican congress, in dividing the national territory, had made a single department of the two Californias, and that on April I7, 1837, General Anastasio Bustamante, after the capture of Santa Anna by the Texans, had become constitutional president of the republic. Alvarado had already opened communication with the central government, by transmitting the proceedings of the congress at Santa Barbara; and he now seized the opportunity of wheeling California again into line under the Mexican flag and sovereignty, by quietly dropping the name of " Free and Sovereign State," and adopting that of " Department." It is rare to find, among the proclamations and pronunciamientos either of Mexico or California, anything worth preservation on its own account; only here and there, as a general rule, can a word or a sentence, or sometimes a paragraph, be found, that is of sufficient interest to transcribe; and then, chiefly on account of its extravagance.
But Alvarado's paper, besides its historic value as a political document, was remarkable as the work of a native Californian, only twenty-eight years of age, who had substantially educated himself, and, so far as everything that was liberal was concerned, had educated himself in secret. Styling himself the citizen Juan B. Alvarado, Governor of the Department of Alta California, and addressing all. its inhabitants as his fellow citizens "compatriots," he said: " Liberty, peace, and union are the triune intelligence by which our destiny is to be governed. Our arms have given us the first; a wise Congress will secure to us the second; and upon ourselves alone depends the third. But, without union, there can be no permanent liberty or peace.
Let us, therefore, preserve indissolubly this union the sacred ark in which lies enshrined our political redemption. War only against the tyrant! Peace among ourselves! "The solidity of a building consists in the union of its parts. A single stone displaced from one of its arches causes the columns to topple, and precipitates into ruin a fabric, which, if the materials composing it remained united, might mark the age of time. Such is the effect of disunion upon a physical edifice; it is in no respect different in its ruinous effect upon the moral edifice of society. "
The territory of Alta California is immense in extent. Its coasts are bathed by the great ocean, which, by placing it in communication with the nations of the world, gives encouragement to our industry and commerce, the fountains of wealth and abundance. The benignity of our climate, the fertility of our soil, and, I may be permitted to add, your suavity of manners and excellence of character, are all so many privileges with which the Omnipotent, in the distribution of his gifts, has preferred it. What country can enumerate so many conjoined advantages as ours? Let us see that it occupies as distinguished a place in history as it occupies upon the map.
"The constitutional laws of the year '36 guarantee the inviolability of our rights, and even extend them beyond our moderate desires. The august chamber of the nation's representatives is ready to listen to any legislative proposition we may present to it, calculated to promote our well-being and prosperity. Our votes may avail in favor of the deserving citizen whom we may deem worthy to fill the supreme national magistracy. And what more can you wish? The same laws assure us that we will not again become the spoil of the despotism and ambition of another tyrant like Don Mariano Chico.
The Department of Alta California can henceforth be governed only by a son of its soil, or one of its own citizens. "Yes, my friends, the enthusiasm and joy caused in you by the promising outlook is entirely just. I, myself, feel the same emotions of pleasure. There is no need any longer to do yourselves the violence of restraining your rejoicing. Let it have scope, and join with me in exclaiming: Long live the nation! Long live the constitution of the year'36! Long live the Congress which sanctioned it! Long live liberty! Long live union!" The halcyon day of peace, tranquility, hope, and prospective reconciliation with the central government, thus pictured by the new governor, lasted only from July until the end of October.
During this time, Alvarado was gradually drawing the people nearer and nearer together, and closer and closer to the administration at Mexico. Suddenly, and as unexpectedly as thunder from a clear sky, came word that Carlos Antonio Carrillo had been appointed governor of California in his place. In other words, notwithstanding the ability he had displayed in rising to prominence, the disposition he manifested to preserve the country for the republic, and the general popularity he enjoyed amongst all classes of the people, he was unceremoniously and without notice set aside for an untried man, whose only recommendation, so far as was known, consisted in being the brother of Jose Antonio Carrillo, late delegate to the Mexican congress.
When Alvarado heard of it, he was, doubtless, forcibly reminded of the conversation he had had with the treasurer of Los Angeles, and fully appreciated how much truth was mixed up in the asperity of that philosopher's remarks on the subject of public office-holding.
The news of Carrillo's appointment was contained in a letter from the late delegate, Jose Antonio Carillo. It was dated at La Paz, in Lower California, on August 20, 1837. The late delegate had reached that point on his way homeward with his brother's appointment in his pocket, when his wife, who accompanied him, fell sick of a malarial fever, called the tepie, or San Blas tertian; and, finding that he would be unavoidably detained for some time, he wrote to Alvarado, as well as to his brother Carlos, the information which he had expected to deliver in person. In his letter to Alvarado, he assumed a patronizing air, and addressed him as "my esteemed Bautista." He reminded him of their old friendship, hitherto never interrupted, and then launched out into a discussion of the subject which he had at heart. He had seen in Mexico, he said, the pronunciamiento of Monterey and the various proclamations that had been since issued, and was therefore aware of the unpremeditated revolution that had taken place. He would not deny or dispute the good faith of its authors, and much less that they had weighty reasons to be provoked and disgusted with the government ever since the death of Figueroa; nor would he deny or dispute the indifference and neglect with which the supreme government had treated California, even almost to its utter ruin.
But all this was as nothing, compared with the evils that must necessarily result from the revolution which had been started, and which was no less inconsiderate and unwise than impracticable and impossible of eventual success. This was especially the case, in view of the fact-and he assured Alvarado that it was a fact-that the Mexican government had resources in abundance, and was prepared to send a force of a thousand armed men to reduce California to obedience. And what, he exclaimed, would become of California, even supposing it could accomplish its independence? Could Alvarado, and the gentlemen who were associated with him, suppose that it could exist without a union with some other power? A moment's reflection would suggest the answer, No. Under such circumstances, were not the Californians, with their revolution, exposing themselves to ridicule? There were many other reflections connected with the subject, he went on to say, which he might make; but he did not deem it proper to commit them ,to paper, and would reserve them until he should have the pleasure of embracing him. In the meanwhile, he would repeat that the supreme government had prepared an expedition of a thousand soldiers, which it was ready to pour into California, and that, though its special object would be the seizure of the persons of the chief movers of the revolution, the whole country would grievously suffer.
Such a soldiery, without interests in the land, was like a swarm of locusts, and would leave nothing untouched. He had, however, exerted himself, and succeeded in obtaining for the present a suspension of the enterprise. He had done so by means of a compact, entered into on his part with the government, that an hi'o del pals, or citizen of the country should become governor in the person of his brother, Carlos Antonio Carrillo (a copy of whose appointment he had the satisfaction of transmitting) and that the new governor should, without the necessity of arms or force from the capital, restore the department to its normal condition of law and obedience. It would thus be seen, he continued, how much he had done, not only for the country, but also for the chief movers of the revolution. It was plain that their best course of action was to accept without hesitation the invitation that would be made them by the new governor; or, still better, to voluntarily make the first advance, trusting to the generosity of the Mexican government, which was incapable of acting contrary to what was decorous, and in accordance with the spirit of the arrangement he had effected. If, however, the further interposition of his own friendly influence should be required, he pledged his solemn word to return to Mexico, and obtain from the government all the necessary guarantees in favor of their persons, their property, and their employments. And in the confidence that upon his arrival in Alta California the whole business would be satisfactorily concluded as he proposed, he requested an answer to his communication.
Accompanying the foregoing letter was one from Carlos Antonio Carrillo himself, dated San Buenaventura, October 25, I 837. He addressed Alvarado as "my dear nephew, Juanito." He protested that he had not sought the position of governor; that his appointment was due entirely to the favor and good will of President Bustamante; and that, recognizing his own unfitness for the office, he would, in his administration, have to rely upon the counsel and advice of his relatives and friends. He was happy to state that, owing to the intervention of friendly powers, there was no longer any danger of war with the United States; and that, owing to the good offices of his brother, Jose Antonio, at Mexico, no armed force, for the time being at least, would be sent to California.
Alvarado, upon receiving information of the appointment of Carrillo, was disposed to relinquish the government into his hands; but, under the circumstances in which he was placed, and in view of the great change in the position of affairs which had recently taken place, he asked a sufficient delay to receive advice from Mexico, in answer to his last communications. But this Carrillo would by no means consent to. He demanded an immediate delivery of the administration, and hinted that disobedience would be very sure to lead to discord and difficulty. It was very evident, from the tone of peremptoriness he now assumed, that his feelings in regard to the governorship must have materially changed since his first letter to Alvarado. He had then been indifferent. The office, as he claimed, had been thrust upon him; now, he was not only willing, but anxious, to fill the chair of State, and be addressed by the title of Excellency. But the "amado-beloved," the "estimiado-esteemed," the "querido -cherished," nephew-for all these endearing epithets were used-was not to be moved either by threats or cajolery; and it soon became plain, that, if Carrillo was going to become governor in fact, before Alvarado was willing to relinquish the office, he would have to fight for it.
In January, 1838, Jose Antonio Carrillo, having reached Alta California and found that his scheme of making his brother governor had not succeeded any better than his previous scheme of making Los Angeles the capital, thought of trying the effect of diplomacy, and invited Alvarado to a conference, with a view to an accommodation and compromise. At the same time, he made advances to Alvarado's principal friends and supporters, Castro and Vallejo. But strategy and intrigue were of no more avail than cajolery and threats. Nothing now remained for the Carrillos, if they expected to accomplish their object, but an appeal to arms. They and their adherents accordingly began marshaling their forces. Juan Bandini, ex-delegate to congress, Captain Pablo de la Portilla, Ensign Macedonia Gonzales, and almost all the men of prominence in the southern part of the country, made themselves busy. Sectional feelings were stirred up. It was a fight of the South against the North; and every southern man, without reference to what he may have thought of the merits of the quarrel, was obliged by his social ties and virtues, if for no other reason, to take part with his neighbors and friends. In a very short time, numbers of troops gathered at different points; and hostilities commenced.
No sooner had the Carrillos thus thrown down the gage of war, then Alvarado unhesitatingly accepted it. He immediately gathered a body of troops, whom he hastily dispatched southward under the command of Juan Bautista Alvarado, Governor of California. Jose Castro, and soon afterwards himself followed with another body. His plan of campaign was, by activity and celerity, to crush the insurrection, before it could make headway. In accordance with his instructions, Castro hastened by rapid and forced marches, resting only at night, and then only for a few hours, until he reached and seized the Rincon, a narrow pass where the high range of mountains eastward of Santa Barbara strikes down to, and, so to speak, juts over the ocean, leaving the only practicable road for miles along the sands of the beach at the foot of the cliffs. In topographical position the place was a sort of Thermopylae. A small force there could prevent a northern army from passing south, or a southern army from passing north. It was the key of the situation. The Rincon was but a short distance north of San Buenaventura, which was the headquarters of Carrillo's forces and was then occupied by a large portion of his troops under command of Juan de Castafieda.
They reposed there in fancied security, supposing their enemies far enough away, and intending, when the rest of the southern troops had joined them, to march north and fight their battles on northern soil. When, however, Castro found the Rincon unoccupied, not even a sentinel being in sight, he posted a few men there, and then pressed on with his main body and an eight-pounder cannon to San Buenaventura. The dawn of the next morning found him entrenched on a hill overlooking Castafieda's camp. Nothing could have exceeded the latter's astonishment and mortification, to thus find himself completely surprised and entrapped.
Castro demanded an unconditional surrender. Castafieda answered that he had been ordered to hold the place, and he was unwilling to evacuate unless granted all the honors of war. Castro replied that he would open fire. Castafieda rejoined that he should act as he thought best. The battle of San Buenaventura, if battle it can be called, which followed this interchange of missives, was extraordinary in the length of time it lasted and the little damage that was done. It resembled a mock battle with blank cartridges. Each party wanted to frighten his adversary, but seemed unwilling to hurt him. Castro finally succeeded in running Castaheda off. In his report to Alvarado, written on March 28th, the third day after the fight commenced, Castro wrote: "I have the pleasure of informing your Excellency that after two days of continuous firing, and with the loss of only one man on our part," (and, he might have added, none on the other), "I have routed the enemy, and by favor of the night, they have fled in all directions."
He went on to say that he was then occupying the field of battle with his artillery, and that he intended to send a company of mounted infantry and another of cavalry lancers in pursuit of the runaways. The next day he wrote that he had captured most of the fugitives, taken away their arms, and with the exception of the leaders, set them at liberty. Among the captured leaders were Jose Antonio Carrillo, the prime mover of the insurrection, Andres Pico, Ignacio del Valle, Jose Ramirez, Ignacio Palomares, and Roberto and Gil Ybarra. These persons Castro sent under a guard to Santa Inez, where they were placed at the disposition of Alvarado, who arrived the same night from the north. He, on his part, ordered them to be conducted to Sonoma, thus removing them out of his way, and at the same time avoiding exciting the desperate feeling of opposition among their friends, which would have been the sure result of any extreme measures. Meanwhile Castro, after the rout of San Buenaventura, marched to and established his camp at San Fernando. On April 1st, he wrote to Alvarado that a number of the citizens of Los Angeles were desirous of having a conference, with the object of putting a stop to the war, and if possible, closing the door to the ruinous evils which threatened the country; and he added, that his own breast was animated with the same sentiments.
On April 8th, he wrote again, but in a more warlike spirit. He said he had offered terms of pacification to the enemy, but they were deaf to anything like reason and insisted upon the same claims that had induced them to take up arms. He, therefore, was only waiting for reinforcements, to advance; and he had no fear but that the success of his arms in the blow that remained to be struck would be no less glorious than under Providence it had hitherto been. A week later, Alvarado, who had marched to San Fernando, addressed a letter to Carlos Antonio Carrillo, in which, after speaking of the acts of hostility committed by his armed crowd of vagabonds, he adjured him to separate from the caniaille and join him and his friends in a lasting union for the security of the country. But Carrillo had gone to San Diego, for the purpose of recuperating from the defeat of San Buenaventura. News soon came that he proposed making a stand at the Indian pueblo of Las Flores, near San Juan Capistrano. Alvarado marched thither immediately, and, as Castro had done at San Buenaventura, planted himself on a hill over looking the place.
He lost no time, however, in any interchange of missives, but opened fire at once with his cannon. A few shots drove Carrillo from the Indian huts of the town into a cattle corral; but, finding his position there still more exposed than in the town, he stole away, and made his escape. As his departure left his troops without a head, and, in fact, without an object to fight for, they soon surrendered; whereupon Alvarado told them to return to their homes, and cautioned them to beware of insurrection for the future, or they might fare worse. The affair at Las Flores finished the war.
Alvarado returned to Santa Barbara, where, on May 27, he issued a proclamation announcing the termination of hostilities. He also announced the receipt of recent news from Mexico, that, in the conflict that was going on there between federalism and centralism, federalism was making rapid strides. This was especially the case in Sonora, which, under General Jose Urrea, had established its old federal State sovereignty. At the same time, he addressed a communication to the authorities of Los Angeles, that, until farther advices from the supreme government, he would expect of them the obedience that was due to his government. He seems to have supposed, and with good reason, that a simple reminder of their duty from a governor who had exhibited such vigor and had so signally triumphed, would be sufficient. But he said nothing of the kind; nor, though he lived in an element of boasting and braggadocio, is there to be found in his letters and papers anything like vainglory in reference to himself or his exploits, or any abuse of his enemies. In speaking of Carrillo, especially, he was uniformly kind and courteous.
That unfortunate gentleman found his way to his home, not far distant from San Buenaventura. He was allowed to remain there, under the guard and surveillance, so to speak, of his wife. He was not exactly a prisoner; but the lady became surety for his good behavior, and he, on his part, under took that he would not again disturb the public peace. He had not been there long, however, before a foolish report reached him that he was liable to be shot. Though he wrote to Alvarado and Castro that he could not believe the report, it evidently rendered him very nervous; and about the middle of August, seizing an opportunity which was furnished by his son-in-law, William G. Dana, he managed to escape in a launch used for sea-otter hunting, and sailed for Lower California.
Meanwhile, the prisoners, Jose Antonio Cariillo and others, who had been sent to Sonoma, reached that place, and were turned over to Vallejo, who occupied the position of comandante-general. Though Vallejo had refused to join Alvarado at the beginning of the revolution, he no sooner heard of his success than he became a strong adherent; and Alvarado, upon rising to power, advanced him to high position. In the subsequent military operations, Vallejo took no active part; but when he heard of the battle of San Buenaventura, he exulted in what he called the glorious action and heroic valor of the North-Californians. Afterwards, when the prisoners were sent to him, he still further exhibited his partisanship by refusing to speak to them. It is even said that he would give them no food, except such as only excessive hunger could compel human beings to eat. It is related that on one occasion, a compassionate woman of Sonoma, who had noticed their sufferings, sent a boy with a couple of melons, but that the comandante ran up and smashed them on the ground, at the same time ordering the sentinel to admit no food, except such as he himself saw proper to allow.
Antonio Maria Osio, who vouches for the truth of these incidents, introduces his account of them by stating that when Alvarado sent the prisoners to Sonoma, he remarked, that if he sent them to the devil they would not get what they deserved, and he therefore sent them to Vallejo! And he concludes his observations upon the subject, by saying that Alvarado knew whereof he spoke, and did not equivocate. It is possible that these accounts of Vallejo's action toward the prisoners are exaggerated; but it is certain that he counseled exiling them from the country. He charged that their object in trying to get hold of the government was to rob the mission properties; and he argued that, on account of their high position and consequent great influence, it was dangerous to allow them to remain in the territory.
However this may have been, Alvarado had no idea of proceeding to extremities; and after a few months of confinement, he allowed them to be released. Among the persons who figured in the troubles preceding Alvarado's rise, was Andres Castillero, afterwards noted as the discoverer of the New Almaden quicksilver mine. He was an adventurer, who had come to the country with Governor Chico. Having a little smattering of medical knowledge, he found employment as an army physician; but without confining himself to any regular business, he held himself ready for any new enterprise, and mixed in all the political agitations that were going on. Being a man of bright perceptive faculties, when the controversy between Alvarado and his enemies arose, he was not long in deciding upon the side which he would espouse. He sought an interview with Alvarado, and proposed to go as an agent on his behalf to Mexico, and use his endeavors to make an arrangement in his favor with the central government. Alvarado, who was as quick in recognizing talents as Castillero had been, immediately closed with the proposition, and on the first opportunity Castillero was sent off, duly accredited. At Mexico it seemed to make very little difference who was governor of California, so long as the country retained its allegiance to the republic. The President had the power to name anyone; but on June, 1838, he announced that he was willing to appoint whomsoever the people desired, and suggested that some expression of preference should be made by the junta, or deputation of the department. Castillero, who had been instrumental in procuring this concession, soon afterwards procured a still further one, in the formal appointment of Alvarado as political chief or gobernador interino, and was himself appointed a commissioner, and directed to return to California and see the orders of the government carried out. He reached Santa Barbara on his return about the middle of November, bringing not only Alvarado's commission, but an appointment of Vallejo as comandante-general, thus legally confirming both in the offices they had hitherto held only by revolutionary title. He also brought a general amnesty for political offenses of all kinds committed in California, and thereby effectually closed the door to further troubles on account of what was past. Alvarado, being now Governor by indisputable right, issued a new proclamation, dated Santa Barbara, Nov. 2 1, 1838, in which, after complimenting Castillero, he briefly announced the action of the supreme government, and pledged himself, in the performance of the duties devolved upon him by his new appointment, to omit no care and to shrink from no sacrifice that might be necessary for the welfare of the department. On December Io, he issued another proclamation, calling upon the people, in view of the approaching elections for officers of the department, to bury in oblivion every kind of personal resentment, and keep singly in view the future peace and advancement of the country. On January 17, 1839, he issued a third proclamation, calling for an election in accordance with the law of November 30, 1836. This law, which had hitherto had no effect in California, was intended to carry out the new system of government adopted by the Mexican constitution of 1836, and provided for the election in each of the departments into which the Republic had been divided, of a new legislative body, to be known as a departmental junta, as well as a representative to the national Congress.
As has already been stated, the two Californias under that system had been, in December, 1836, erected into a department; and in June, 1838, when a new division of the republic into twenty-four great departments was made, they were again declared to constitute one of them, to be known as the "Department of the Californias." It was for this reason that when Alvarado received his appointment of Governor from the supreme government, he became Governor not of Alta California alone, but also of Baja California, or in other words, of the Department of the Californias. The proclamation of January I7, 1839, ordered the election, in March following, of an electoral college, to meet at Monterey in May; and directed that San Francisco, San Jose, Branciforte, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, and San Diego, each should elect one member.
It also provided for a representative from Baja California; and soon afterwards Alvarado addressed a communication to the acting political chief of that portion of the department to take the proper measures for an election there. At the same time, while thus busying himself with providing for the future, he had the satisfaction of receiving and publishing two interesting documents relating to the past. One was from Jose Antonio Carrillo, and the other from Carlos Antonio Carrillo, his late rival, who had returned to Alta California. Both referred to the recent political convulsions, and the orders brought by Castillero from the supreme government, putting an end to them. Both expressed themselves satisfied with Alvarado's appointment, and both tendered their unreserved adherence and obedience to him as legitimate governor.
All the disturbances that had agitated the country having thus at length been quieted, and disaffection not only disarmed but even reconciled, Alvarado turned his attention to his civil office, and soon put it in working order. He rose at four o'clock in the morning, and labored by himself until seven, when he breakfasted. After breakfast his secretary arrived, and the two continued to work until the business of the day was completely finished, the governor carefully reading and supervising everything that was done. He exhibited in,4he cabinet the same energy that he had displayed in the war council and on the field. Osio, who was not disposed to be over laudatory, summed up his merits in this respect by saying that, in point of activity and sedulous attention to the duties of his office, criticism itself could never justly find fault. To give complete effect to the orders received by the hands of Castillero from Mexico, and, by a strict compliance with all their provisions, to restore California to its old position as an integral and loyal part of the Mexican republic, Alvarado, as soon as circumstances would allow, called an extraordinary session of the old territorial deputation. This body, though about to be superseded by the new departmental junta, was still the only legislative authority of the country. It was the same territorial deputation which, at the end of 1836, upon the expulsion of Gutierrez and the proclamation of the free and sovereign State of Alta California, had resolved itself into the constituent congress of the new State; but afterwards, when Alvarado made up his mind that the only safety of the country was to remain a part of the Mexican nation, and the name of "free and sovereign State" was dropped, the name of "constituent congress" was also dropped, and the old name of deputation readopted. The body met at Monterey on January 25, 1839. There were present, besides the governor himself, Antonio Buelna, Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Noriega, Jose Ramon Estrada, and Antonio Maria Osio.
Manuel Jimeno Casarin came a few days afterwards. Pio Pico was detained at San Luis Rey by sickness. Alvarado opened the sessions with an address, in which he stated the objects to be: first, the nomination of aterna or list of candidates for the office of gobernador propietario of the department of the Californias; secondly, the division of the department into districts, and of the districts into fartidos or sub-districts; thirdly, the determination of the number of justices of the peace; fourthly, the fixing of the salaries of the prefects, and, lastly, the regulation of the approaching elections. The next day he called attention to the urgent-necessity of proceeding at once to the division of the department into districts and sub-districts, and the appointment of prefects and subprefects over them; and at the same time he presented a plan of division which was immediately referred to a committee, and the next day reported back with approval and adopted. The department was thereby divided into three districts; the first extending from the frontier of Sonoma to the ex-mission of San Luis Obispo inclusive, with the pueblo of San Juan de Castro, as the ex-mission of San Juan Bautista was then called, as its capital; the second extending from San Luis Obispo to San Domtingo, south of San Diego inclusive, with the ciudad or city of Los Angeles as its capital; and the third extending from San Domingo to San Jose del Cabo inclusive, with La Paz as its capital.
The northern and central districts were each divided into two sub-districts, the first at the rancho de Las Llagas, near the present town of Gilroy, with San Juan de Castro as capital of the first or southern sub-district, and the "Establishment of Dolores" as capital of the second or northern one; and the second divided at San Fernando, with Santa Barbara as capital of the first or northern sub-district, and Los Angeles of the second or southern one. The third district was left undivided, until further information should be obtained as to what arrangement would best suit that part of the country. In the foregoing plan, Alvarado had fixed upon the "Establishment of Dolores" as the capital of the most northerly of the sub-districts.
This " Establishment " was the ex-mission of Dolores, sometimes called the "Pueblo of Dolores," and sometimes the "Pueblo of San Francisco." The mission had, in point of law, been converted into an Indian pueblo, the same as the other missions of the country; but in point of fact, no organization as such pueblo had ever taken place. Still, being ordinarily spoken of and regarded as a pueblo, it was named as the capital, much to the dissatisfaction of the old and regularly organized pueblo of San Jose. The latter, in compliment to the new governor, had adopted his name, and was then generally known as "San Jose de Alvarado"; but this, as it appears, was not regarded by him as a sufficient reason to prefer it to the more central location of Dolores.
However this may have been, the people of San Jose protested against Dolores, and presented a formal demand of the honor of being made the capital of their own pueblo. Alvarado declined to make any change, but reserved the subject as a proper matter of consideration for the action of the next departmental junta. The principal object of this division of the department into districts and sub-districts was for judicial and police purposes. Under the Mexican law of December 29th, 1836, each district was to have a prefect, nominated by the governor and confirmed by the general government, who was to hold office for foyer years, and whose duty it was to be to maintain public tranquility in subjection to the governor; execute departmental orders; supervise ayuntamientos, and regulate everything pertaining to police; and each sub-district was to have a sub-prefect, nominated by the prefect and approved by the governor, whose duties should be similar to those of the prefect, and who was to act in subjection to him. There were to be ayuntamientos in the capital of the department, in every place where there had been such in 1808; in seaports having a population of four thousand, and in every pueblo having a population of eight thousand inhabitants. These ayuntamientos were to consist of alcaldes, or magistrates, regidores, or councilmen, and sindicos, or collectors, elected by the people; the number to be determined by the departmental junta, but not to exceed six alcaldes, twelve councilmen and two collectors, for any one ayuntamiento.
The ayuntamientos were to watch over the public health, prisons, hospitals, public benevolent institutions and schools; over roads, highways, and bridges; over the administration of public moneys raised by taxes, licenses, and rents of municipal property; also to promote agriculture, industry, and commerce, and to assist in the preservation of public order. The alcaldes were to have judicial jurisdiction in what were known to the civil law as cases of con ciliation, in oral litigations, in preliminary proceedings both civil and criminal, and in such cases as might be entrusted to them by the superior tribunals. In places not large enough for ayuntamientos, there were to be justices of the peace, proposed by the subprefects, nominated by the prefects and approved by the governor, the number to be determined by the departmental junta; and their duties and jurisdiction were to be similar to those of the alcaldes and ayuntamientos in the larger places. The next business taken up by the deputation was the nomination of candidates for the office of gobernador propietario, or what had then begun to be called that of constitutional governor. In accordance with the law upon this subject, three persons were to be named, out of whom the president of the republic was to choose that officer.
The vote was taken on March 6, and resulted in the choice of Juan Bautista Alvarado for the first place, Jose Castro for the second, and Pio Pico for the third. The terna or list containing these names, and in the order indicated, was immediately transmitted to Mexico; and, after some further business of less general interest, the junta adjourned. As soon as it had done so, Alvarado, to comply promptly with the duty devolved upon him of nominating prefects, named Jose Castro for the first district, Cosme Pefia for the second, and Luis Castillo Negrete for the third, and sent the nominations to Mexico with those for governor. It does not appear that Alvarado indulged in any remarks upon his nomination. Though he had managed public affairs with skill and success, guided the revolution to a safe issue, not only disarmed but reconciled his enemies, and brought discordant elements into harmony, he had nothing to say. But his silence did not prevent his friends from congratulating him and themselves upon the happy effects of his policy. Jose Castro, in particular, upon taking possession of his office of prefect, was profuse in his expression of satisfaction.
He rejoiced in the reestablishment of order; the consummation of his desires in seeing a son of the soil wielding the destinies of the country; the respect which the general government had been induced to manifest for California, and the prospect of a prosperous future, which the prudence, ability, and patriotism of the new governor rendered so flattering. Of the prominent friends of Alvarado, there was one, however, who had or soon found much to complain about. This was Vallejo. He was comandante-militar, or military commandant of Alta California, and had been confirmed as such by the general government. There can be no doubt that he owed his position more to Alvarado than to any special service he had performed; but this did not prevent him from feeling and expressing very great dissatisfaction with various things that Alvarado did or omitted to do. On one of these occasions the governor had found it advisable to discharge certain officers and soldiers from the military service, and he did so without asking Vallejo's advice. This roused the comandante's ire, and he protested loudly. On another occasion, not long afterwards, a soldier at Santa Barbara was tried and punished for some offense by a civil magistrate; and this again touched the comandante's dignity. He claimed that the jurisdiction over soldiers belonged only to his department; and he characterized the whole proceeding as an outrage upon what he called the "divine right of the military."
But most of all was the comandante's spirit fired by the apathy of Alvarado under the taunts of France. In 1839, news came that France had declared war against Mexico and bombarded Vera Cruz; and the French newspapers boasted that the French flag would soon flutter from the southernmost Mexican seas to the northernmost ends of the Californias.
Whatever Alvarado may have thought, he did not deem it necessary to make any reply to these boasts, but remained silent. Vallejo, on the' other hand, finding that the government had nothing to say, determined to show that he, at least, was not disposed to submit tamely to such insults. He accordingly, on June I2, 1839, from his headquarters at Sonoma, issued a furious proclamation against the French government, charging it with attempting to tarnish the glories, outrage the rights, and imperil the liberties of the Mexican nation. He therefore called upon his fellow citizens to unite with him and march to the defense of the country; and he promised them a glorious victory over the haughty invader, who had so impudently sought to overwhelm them with opprobrium. But, unfortunately for the prospect thus held out of giving France a thorough drubbing, the ink with which this vengeful proclamation was printed was scarcely dry when further news arrived that an honorable peace had been concluded between Mexico and the king of the French.
Whether it was the project of chastising France, as indicated in his proclamation, or whether it was the feeling not entirely wanting to epaulet-wearing gentry in general, which regards the military as the most deserving branch of the public service, it is unimportant to inquire; but it is certain that Vallejo, in his zeal to magnify his own department and subordinate every other interest of the country to its advancement, annoyed Alvarado a great deal with ill-timed and exorbitant demands. He had previously urged the foundation of a military establishment at Santa Rosa, and had taken some steps towards founding it; but he now insisted upon attracting the undivided attention of the government to military affairs, and rendering the whole country tributary, so to speak, to the comandancia-general. Finding that Alvarado was not disposed to yield to his demands from Sonoma, he went to Monterey and procured an interview; but he was no more successful in face-to-face solicitations than by letter. He returned to Sonoma in high dudgeon; talked of carrying his complaints to the capital at Mexico; insisted that the country was on the swift road to ruin; and pronounced the peace and tranquility of the department delusive, and destined to be of short duration. Meanwhile, the terna, or list of nominations for governor, together with other communications from Alvarado, reached the general government at Mexico.
They proved entirely satisfactory to the administration there. On August 6, the minister of the interior announced the termination of the revolution in California as due to the efforts of Alvarado and Castillero; and the next day, in further recognition of Alvarado's services, and in approval of the choice of the people, President Bustamante appointed him gobernador Propietario, or constitutional governor of the department, or, in other words, of the two Californias. News of the appointment reached Monterey in September. There was general satisfaction with the appointment throughout the country, and Los Angeles was especially loud in its demonstrations. The ayuntamiento of that place appointed a day of jubilee in honor of the event; and when the name of the new constitutional governor was formally announced, it was greeted with cheers and hurrahs from the entire population. A salute of thirty-three guns was fired; and there was a grand illumination at night. Alvarado himself, however, was unable to take part in any of the festivities. He had begun to suffer from a series of attacks of illness, which frequently obliged him to relinquish business; and on this occasion, one of them not only kept him confined to his house, but prevented him from taking possession of the government under the new appointment until November 24, 1839, on which day he was sworn in and resumed labor.
At the same time with news of Alvarado's appointment as constitutional governor, came also news of the confirmation of Jose Castro as prefect of the first district, and Luis Castillo Negrete as prefect of the third. The nomination of Cosine Pefila, who had been named prefect of the second, was not approved. This, however, may have been because of Pefia's bad health, on which account he had, soon after his nomination, transferred the office to Jose Tiburcio Tapia, first alcalde of Los Angeles, who exercised it in his place. Among the functions of the office of prefect, one of the most important was the supervision over alcaldes and justices of the peace, who exercised in substance all the judicial power of the country, and some of whom acted as judges of first instance. Castro, however, being essentially a military man, devoted his attention almost exclusively to military affairs, and soon after his appointment as prefect, busied himself with a proposed campaign to quell Indian disturbances on the southern frontier.
Negrete and Tapia, on the other hand, attended more especially to their supervisory duties; and Tapia in particular is entitled to the credit of not flinching in this delicate kind of business. Finding that one of the alcaldes of Los Angeles winked at infringements of the laws of that place against selling liquor on Sunday, he promptly arraigned and punished him by a sound fine for his neglect of duty. In this, however, he but followed the example of Alvarado, who had treated the justices of the peace at Monterey in the same manner for a similar neglect of duty a short time previously. In March, 1839, the primary elections of that year were held in accordance with the proclamation of the governor. The electoral college, then chosen, met at Monterey on May 1, and elected Andres Castillero delegate to the Mexican Congress, and Antonio Maria Osio substitute.
Two days afterwards, it elected, as members of the new departmental junta, Manuel Jimeno Casarin, Jose Tiburcio Castro, Anastasio Carrillo, Rafael Gonzalez, Pio Pico, Santiago Arguello, and Manuel Requena, with Jose Castro, Jose Ramon Estrada, Ignacio del Valle, Carlos Castro, Ignacio Martinez, Jose de Jesus Vallejo, and Antonio Maria Pico as substitutes. The junta, thus elected, met at Monterey on February i6, 1840. Alvarado presented a long and interesting message, in which he sketched the condition of the country, and pointed out the various branches of public affairs that needed legislative attention. Among these he specified general police regulations; the demarkation of municipal lands, it appearing that Monterey alone had its com mons marked out; regulations concerning justices of the peace and ayuntamientos; the encouragement of agriculture and commerce, and particularly of public education; the organization of a superior tribunal of justice, and the arrangement of a proper system of public finances. The junta proceeded to consider the recommendations of the governor, and, as a matter of prime importance, elected Juan Malarin, Jose Antonio Carrillo, Joss Antonio Estudillo, and Antonio Maria Osio, ministers of justice, and Juan Bandini, fiscal.
There was, however, much delay in completing arrangements for the court which they were to constitute; and it was not fully organized until some time afterwards. Towards the end of March, Pio Pico disturbed the general harmony by introducing his pet proposition to change the capital from Monterey to Los Angeles. It was a subject which had already caused much contention, and was destined to cause much more. He claimed that the supreme government, in 1835, had ordered the city of Los Angeles to be the capital, and demanded that its decree should be complied with.
Jimeno Casarin replied that a later decree had authorized the executive of the department to locate the capital where it thought proper; that the executive, by refusing to make any change, had virtually fixed it at Monterey, and that the supreme government, by directing all its communications to that place, had very plainly recognized it as the capital. After much discussion, and on a close vote, Pico's proposition was rejected, and ordered returned to its author. This action was exceedingly distasteful to that individual; he became disrespectful and obstreperous, and when called to order, withdrew in disgust and declared that he would not return. This conduct on the part of Pio Pico, and certain recent action on the part of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who, on account of his disgusts, already referred to, was scheming against the administration, and similar action on the part of Jose Antonio Carrillo, who, though just named second minister of justice, was entirely dissatisfied, and took occasion to publicly abuse the government, induced Alvarado to call an extraordinary and secret session of the junta, on April 1, for the purpose of settling accounts with those persons. When it convened, he made a statement of what had occurred, and remarked that, though the government regarded the schemes of its enemies as of small importance, yet it might be prudent to take some measures of precaution against them; and that, at all events, it was due to the junta to vindicate its dignity against their insults.
The subject being referred to a committee, consisting of Casarin and Arguello, they reported that Vallejo was evilly disposed but afraid of taking responsibilities; that Carrillo, when appointed minister of justice, was supposed to be an adherent of the government, as he had publicly professed, but if he were unwilling to perform his duties as a good citizen, he ought to be punished as a bad one; and that as to Pico's contemptuous conduct, it should be left to the discretion of the Governor to apply such fine and other correction as he thought proper. They further reported and recommended, and the junta ordered, that, in view of possible disturbances by Vallejo or the others, the Governor might at any time call for such armed force and take such other measures as he should find necessary to sustain the honor and dignity of the government, at the same time providing for the equipment and pay of any such force as might be raised. The prompt action of the junta accomplished the object designed.
Vallejo, the first offender, immediately changed his tone. Though he complained that his services as comandante, on account of the want of forces, were useless to California, he protested that he was ready with his single sword to augment the ranks of the country's defenders, and that the junta and the government could always count upon him to defend their honor and integrity. Pico, the next offender, was, at the suggestion of the Governor, summoned before the junta in such a manner that he did not deem it safe to resist; and, upon his submission and apologizing for his conduct, the fine and punishment, which would have otherwise have been imposed, were withheld. Carrillo, the third offender, was subsequently arrested at Los Angeles for alleged conspiracy, the specific charge being that he had incited rebellion against the departmental government in favor of his brother Carlos, and in connection with Ensign Macedonio Gonzalez, of Lower California. There was a great noise made over the affair, and many official papers written in regard to it. He indignantly denied the charge, and insisted that his accuser was none other than a low and despicable foreigner, by the name of Joaquin Pereira, a Portuguese doctor, who was entirely unworthy of credit. Though his friends offered bail for his appearance, he was kept under a strict guard until an investigation could be had. It then appeared that his characterization of his accuser was substantially correct. The government was, at any rate, not disposed to be severe, and soon allowed him his personal liberty; and a year or two afterwards, when the troubles that gave rise to his arrest were almost forgotten, it not only acquitted but expressly restored him to his former good name, fame, and reputation.