The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Pious Fund of California

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Edition of 1920. See also Pious Fund of the Californias on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

PIOUS FUND OF CALIFORNIA, an endowment fund dating from 1697 and created from voluntary donations and subscriptions received or solicited from various benefactors and religious bodies, chiefly in Mexico, to be applied to the propagation of the Catholic faith in California. The first chief contributors who each gave $1,000 were Don Alonzo Davalos, Condé de Miravalles and Don Mateo Fernandez de la Cruz, Marquez de Buena Vista. By their example others were induced to subscribe and in a short time $15,000 more were made up, $5,000 in cash and $10,000 in promises. On 5 Feb. 1697 the necessary authority was conferred on Fathers Juan Maria Salvatierra and Francisco Eusebio Kino of the Jesuit order, to undertake the invasion of Caiitornia on the express conditions: 1. That possession of the country was to be taken in the name of the Spanish crown, and 2. That the royal treasury was not to be called on for any of the expenses of the enterprise. Don Pedro Gilde la Sierpe, treasurer of Acapulco, offered the use of a galliot to transport the missionaries to their destination, and the gift of a small boat or launch. Considering the remoteness and isolation of the field, it was determined to establish a separate special fund or capital, the income from which should form a permanent endowment for the missionary church. Toward this latter object the first recorded contribution is from the congregation of Nuesah Signora de los Dolores, of the city of Mexico, which contributed $10,000 and Don Juan Caballero y Ozio who donated $20,000 more, besides giving Father Salvatierra the satisfactory assurance, that in any unforeseen emergency, he might draw on him for whatever money he needed and he would honor his drafts, large or small. This endowment fund, commenced by the pious liberality of the society and the individual just named, was increased by subsequent donations. The capital was invested as securely as possible and as an income of $500 yearly was deemed necessary for each mission and 5 per cent was the current rate on safe investments, a capital of $10,000 was made the basis of each new mission founded. From 1698 to 1757 13 missions were founded on the peninsula and these sums of money forming a considerable capital, received by common consent the name of “The Pious Fund of the Missions of California,” or more briefly, the “Pious Fund of California.” In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from the Spanish dominions; the Pious Fund was seized by the Crown and transferred to the Franciscans under whom from 1769 to 1823 the 21 missions in upper California were founded. On the declaration of Mexican independence, Mexico succeeded the Crown of Spain as trustee of the Pious Fund and it continued to be managed and its income applied as before, down to 19 Sept 1836, when the Mexican Congress passed a law attaching an endowment of $6,000 per year for the erection of a bishopric and conceded to the incumbent when selected and his successors, the administration and disposal of the “Pious Fund.” On 8 Feb. 1842 this law was abrogated by a decree of Saoia Ana and the capital of the Pious Fund after about 160 years of separate existence “was engulfed in the maelstrom of the Mexican treasury.” Not, however, before Don Pedro Ramirez, the venerable agent and attorney of the fund, had drawn up in duplicate his detailed “instruccion circunstanciada” of the properties, and the Mexican government had stipulated to pay to the Church 6 per cent in perpetuity on the principal. The war of 1847 between the United States and Mexico resulted in the transfer of Upper California, and Mexico ceased paying interest. In 1868 the Roman Catholic Church in California made a claim, based on Don Pedro's data for 21 years' interest — nearly a million dollars — and after seven years a commission at Washington, D.. C, gave a decision that the interest of the fund should be equally divided between the Church in Mexico and in California and that Mexico should set aside half of the annual payment. This was the famous Sir Edward Thornton decision. The Mexican government paid the award decreed by Sir Edward, but did not pay anything after. In 1902 the matter was brought before the Hague International Court for arbitration. The decision was given that the Mexican government shall pay to the government of the United States in the claim on behalf of the archbishop of San Francisco, $1,420,682.67 in money of the legal currency of Mexico, a sum covering the total payment of annuities due from Mexico, namely, the annual payment of $43,059.99, and that the Mexican government shall pay to the United States on 2 Feb. 1903 and every following year of the same date forever, annual payment of $43,059.99. Consult Doyle, T. T., ‘History of the Pious Fund of California’ (San Francisco 1887).