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Figueroa Arrives

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:21 pm    Post subject: Figueroa Arrives Reply with quote

THE dual rule of the territory came to an end by the appointment of Don Jose Figueroa, for many years the comandante-general in Sonora, to the governorship at Monterey.

After a journey full of adventure, involving a revolt of his troops en route, and the theft of his money-chest, with funds assigned to California, Figueroa reached the capital in the middle of January, 1833.

With him came ten Franciscan friars—all Mexicans —from the college of Zacatecas. Among them came Francisco Garcia Diego y Moreno, heading the group. At the end of seven years, he was to become California's first bishop (1841).

The arrival of the new governor at Monterey and the ten Zacatecans was a matter that caused Fr. Abella at San Carlos Mission to ring the bells in rejoicing, and celebrate a solemn High Mass in thanksgiving for their safe arrival in the capital. But no records have been found that detail the form of reception accorded the new governor.

Undoubtedly, he was formally received by the garrison at the Presidio, the customary salutes fired and a baile grande given in Casa del Gobierno (Government House), or in the Customs House—side by side in the Plaza del Muelle.

He probably directed his luggage to the governor's residence at the west end of the Presidio, near El Cuartel.

To Peter Corney, recording member of the Bouchard insurgents, we are indebted for the information that the governor's official residence stood "back of the soldiers’ barracks, at the west end of the Presidio, and the house of the lieutenant-governor stood at the east end.” (1818.)

Echeandia was again at his old tricks—forcing the hand of the newly appointed governor, before the latter's arrival. As Bancroft tells it: "Echeandia had the assurance to meditate the enforcement of his decree by preparing, on November 18, 1832 [Figueroa did not arrive until January, 1833], a supplementary reglamento, as if events during the past months had been a mere temporary interruption of his plans."

It became clear now, that California was divided against itself. One group, bold, resourceful, determined, with wealth almost within its grasp; the other mildly militant, wanting most of all to be permitted to enjoy life in peace on their ranches-all but the padres, who protested to the end. Figueroa, it will be seen, was facing a difficult situation.

Would Zamorano surrender his high office without trouble? It was clear to him that Zamorano had been generally acceptable as head of the northern government, from Sonoma to San Fernando, thus embracing three of the four Presidios, Thus Zamorano had the troops at his command. Moreover, in the Pico-Zamorano controversy, Monterey had organized a military company in defense of the young commander's cause.

But Captain Zamorano gave Don Figueroa (who undoubtedly had Victoria's troubles in mind) the surprise of his life by surrendering the office and all its appurtenances with all possible speed and courtesy. Figueroa rose to the occasion by appointing Zamorano his secretary.

One of the first acts of the new governor was to forward to the Supreme Government a full account of the Echeandian revolt against Victoria—Zamorano and other reputable eye-witnesses furnishing the details. Needless to remark, the report in no way fitted the chief conspirator's version of the affair nor that of his colleagues. An early version of "War Guilt.”

Then, to balance things, and to set himself right with the other side, the governor granted amnesty to Pico, Echeandia and the other rebels. The clemency, however, was declined, without thanks.

In the meantime, an important document arrived in Monterey for Figueroa from Lucas Alaman, Mexican Minister of Foreign Relations. It carried a copy of the proclamation issued by Echeandia, pointing out its flagrant violation of the property division clause in the Secularization Act of the Spanish Cortez (1813), upon which the former governor claimed to base his procedure. In part, Alaman says: "It is to be noted Echeandia not only did not proceed in a matter so delicate in obedience to the laws on the subject; but, taking a course opposite and contrary to the decree of September 13th, he established agents, of whom the law knows nothing, in order that they might interfere with the administration of the temporalities; notwithstanding that the law requires that the Indians should themselves designate those who are to manage their haciendas; and that the lands should be divided among them.”

Notwithstanding the minister's protesting document we see Figueroa issuing from Monterey the Prevenciones Provisionales— regulations for the gradual emancipation of the Indians at all the Missions (July 15, 1833), The Proclamation was designed to become operative provisionally—that is, until approved by the Mexican Congress. Why wait for Mexico?

The document sounds sane enough in spots, and workable among a people who for generations had walked the ways of civilization. But among California Indians, many of whom were in their first generation of discipline, it is a piece of speculative writing, manifestly impracticable and unworkable, even if it were honest, which it was not.

Briefly stated, the provisions of this face-saving document runs thusly:

1. The jefe-politico to determine the number of Indians to be emancipated at each Mission, the time for action, and to appoint the comisionados to execute the provisions.

2. Candidates must have been twelve years or more Christians, married, or widowers with children; with knowledge of agriculture or of some trade, and with an aptitude for work. Selection to be made by the comisionado, conferring with the friar.

3. The candidates to remain subordinate to the authority of the missionaries.

4. The emancipated to receive seed for their first sowing and for a year the customary rations on condition that the Indians assist the Mission during planting and harvesting, but so rotating as not to work a hardship either on the Mission or the Indian.

5. Comisionado and the friar together to find suitable spots as near the coast as possible, where the emancipated may form a pueblo, when there is a sufficient number of families to warrant it. They are to receive lots proportionate to the size of the pueblo upon which to build their houses, these to form streets and a plaza.

6. The new pueblos to be attached to the nearest municipality of military command, to take over police power, embellishment and order.

7. As the emancipated cease to be minors, they are to be considered on terms of equality with others in elections and to hold municipal office, if competent and of good conduct. From them, according to ancient Spanish law, are to be appointed an alcalde, two regidores, a sindico procurator, to be entrusted with the economic government of the pueblo, but to remain subject, in the matter of administration of justice, to the judges of first instance and superior tribunals.

8. Houses to be built at once, and to be enclosed with fruit-trees or other useful trees.

9. Missionary and comisionado to assign the best lands near the pueblo to each family for a field; and to the pueblo itself, grazing lands and two caballerias of land for propios [land rented out for revenue by the ayuntamiento—all in the name of the Mexican government.]

10. Fields to be two hundred varas square, and common grazing lands in proportion to the livestock, up to two sitios. [A sitio usually was one square league.]

11. Products of the land and property of the propios to be used to maintain church worship, schools, public buildings, etc.—the property to be administered by an alcalde elected for four years among the Indians, under the surveillance of the friar, and the approval of the jefe-politico. Accounts and reports to be prepared by the alcalde.

12. Comisionado and friar to render reports of new foundations, with details.

13. The jefe-politico to grant titles to land and to issue licenses for marking cattle. [Beginning of registering of brands.]

14. 15. Each family to receive from the Mission property two mares, two cows, two ewes, with implements, etc., subject to the judgment of the friar and comisionado as to the ability of the Mission in question to meet the requirements.

16. One hundred cattle and twenty-five horses to be given for the propios, if the Mission has sufficient stock to do so. Otherwise what it can spare.

17. Each individual will mark his animals. They are to be tended in common for two years by persons appointed by the alcalde. a] For one year no animal can be sold nor killed, nor afterward, all of the stock of any individual. Penalty, a return to community life at the Mission. b] They will enjoy in common the use of water, grass, wood, etc., assigned for egidos or pasturage. [This right existed down to the American occupation.]

19. The land to be the property of the individual to whom it is assigned, or to his heirs; but it cannot be divided nor transferred.

20. No mortgage, lien or mortmain title can be put upon the land, under penalty of confiscation. [Grim joke!]

21. The emancipated must aid in the common work of the pueblo on ditches, dams, corrals, rodeos, constructing church and other buildings. They must also mark the boundaries of their fields with useful trees. [Beautification thus early as a running-mate of utility.]

22. Land left vacant by death, without heirs, reverts to the nation.

23 The emancipated who may neglect their work or stock, or who abandon their homes "to give themselves over to idleness, vice or vagabondage" will be submitted to discipline by the alcalde and the missionary, who may re-assign them to the Mission. Two warnings are to be issued, however, before drastic measures are to be adopted.

24. The authorities will be responsible for the exact enforcement of these regulations and will be responsible for infractions if known and not prevented.

If sincere in his belief that such a method of secularization could—or would—be carried through, with a well organized clique waiting to seize the lands, Figueroa was a simple soul. Some history students believe him to have been sincere in the beginning; but partly because he was ill, and partly because of an overwhelm¬ing desire to please—and a liking for his $4,000 a year job—he went gently over to the banditti. He had become one of them.

August 9, 1834, still another "Reglamento Provisional" Adopted by the legislative assembly, and signed by Figueroa and Zamorano, secretary, declaring that Mission San Carlos be united with Monterey, as a first-class curacy, the groupings varying in the different Missions, Presidios and Pueblos. (The union of Carmel Mission and the Presidio Church was thus the work of the State, not of the Church.)

The last blow had been struck. Now to witness the ruin of the establishments, and the beginning of the homelessness and helplessness of the neophytes.

The "Act of Secularization" having been duly published, comisionados were appointed to take an inventory of each Mission, accompanied by the resident missionary thereof.

That of San Carlos was taken by Fr. Jose Maria del Real, friar in charge, and Jose Joaquin Gomez, comisionado.

The property of the Mission, including livestock, totaled $46,022, 14 reales, 10 granos-this after several years of stagnation. "The church building was valued at $10,000. The furniture, sacred vessels, vestments and the library, were valued at $10,217 (Engelhardt).

A distribution now of the posts of comisionados among the lovers of "God and Liberty." Pio Pico secured the richest plum, Mission San Luis Rey, through his colleague, Bandini. Gomez, as we have seen, was awarded San Carlos. Jose Tiburcio Castro took over San Juan Bautista, and Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo became lord of Mission Solano (Sonoma)—a fine berth, the whole north-of-the-bay country coming under his sway. Juan Bandini, soon to figure in the Hijar-Padres colonization scheme, went to Mission San Gabriel. Carlos Carrillo took over San Buenaventura. Thus the clique was well provided for. They accordingly began to grow rich in land and cattle. Of this group, Vallejo became the most talked-of for his hospitality. He could afford to be generous with property that belonged to others.

Let Hittell speak for the results of the plan he had so eloquently aided and abetted: "Meanwhile the work of secularization was going on. It furnished a rich harvest for those engaged in it. No charge of corruption, or unlawful gain was made, or could have been made against Figueroa himself; and there may have been a few others engaged in the work equally clear of offense. But the great mass of the commissioners and other officials, whose duty it became to administer the properties of the Missions, and especially their great number of horses, cattle, sheep, and other animals, thought of little else than enriching themselves at the expense of the padres' years of heart breaking, patient labor.

"A few years sufficed to strip the establishments of everything of value and leave the Indians, who were in the contemplation of the law, the beneficiaries of secularization, a shivering crowd of naked, and so to speak, wanderers, upon the face of the earth." The advocate of the plan thus honestly confesses its failure. From the bandits' point of view, a huge success. The Indians and their teachers, the padres, were out, and the Bandinis, Vallejos, Picos, Castros and Alvarados were in. From poor soldiers or settlers they soon emerged rich rancheros, whose wealth dazzled incoming Americans and other foreigners, who, of course, knew nothing of its source.

As could be foreseen, the Indians refused to work. Why should they? What about the "sacred rights of man" they had been hearing about from Vallejo and the rest? To prove themselves free, many left their houses and fields, and went off to the mountains, the women and girls from the monjerios following. Cattle were everywhere stolen and killed, to obtain the hides—the principal merchantable article in the territory. To be free was to be free.

As for the Mission buildings, who was there now to repair the tiles on the roof, and rebuild the disintegrating walls? Not the padres, for they were too old, and too heavy of heart. Destruction and greed everywhere —youth gone, health gone, resources gone, their neophytes disorganized and adrift, the Mission building falling for want of workers. And the American rancheros everywhere complaining of the deeds of marauding Indians, drunk with "liberty" and the white man's firewater. To hasten the end, tiles and adobes of the Missions were stolen right and left for houses and corrals by the settlers who were invading the "land of promise," Such was "secularization" in California.
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