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Mexican Plots And Counterplots

 
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:21 pm    Post subject: Mexican Plots And Counterplots Reply with quote

IT MUST BE understood from the first that, while the republican government at Mexico had appropriated the Pious Fund belonging to the Missions, and had determined upon the secularization of the California Missions—but upon lawful secularization—the initiative in the latter was taken by the young California politicos in power.

Governor Victoria, it will be recalled, had banished Padres to Mexico as an undesirable citizen.

When going aboard the brig at Monterey, the young adjutant-inspector vowed he would return to finish the work he had begun. The Missions would some day be his to control.

A persuasive fellow, he soon won the the friendship of Jose M. Hijar, a Mexican of wealth and influence. A timely shift of the political cards brought a friend of Padres to the top—Valentin Gomez Farias, Acting-President of Mexico.

At the same time, came a letter from Governor Figueroa, asking to be relieved of office because of ill-health. Details dovetailed perfectly.

As Padres had held the office of adjutant-inspector in Monterey, being next in rank, he would take over the military command of the territory. And to complete the picture, Hijar received the appointment of jefe-politico from the complaisant Farias.

Now the stage was set for the greatest colonization scheme since Anza's day, to tie in with the secularization scheme. Hijar was appointed director of the project; Padres, sub-director.

And to further strengthen the plan, Juan Bandini reached Mexico at the psychological moment. He had come to attend the Congress, substituting for Carlos Carrillo. Just in time to cooperate. The "Three Musketeers” in California history.

"Largely," says Engelhardt, "by the influence of the supplementary decree of November 26th, providing for such measures as might be necessary to assure colonization and to carry secularization into effect, by using in the most convenient manner the revenues from the Pious Fund.." This explanation is symbolic of the whole scheme.

The Pious Fund—bequests and gifts to the Missions —had already been appropriated by the Mexican Government, with the proviso that the revenues would be used for the benefit of the Missions and los Indios."

Now the revenues were to be appropriated by a band of legitimized adventurers.

Many excellent persons joined the colonists, eager to proceed to the "Land of Milk and Honey," under what would seem to be propitious auspices. The personnel ranked higher than any other group of arrivals. Bancroft insists upon their superiority, offering as examples Ignacio Coronel and his family, Augustin Janssens, and Augustin Olivier. And in Monterey, Jose Abrego is offered in support of the verdict. Not only persons of resources, but men and women of considerable culture and some of marked ability. On the other hand, we have the report of the Englishman, Alexander Forbes, then at San Bias, "that they were of every class of persons, except that which would be useful, for there was not an agriculturist among them. They consisted of artisans and idlers, who had been made to believe that they would soon enrich themselves in idleness in this happy country." (From the revenues of the Pious Fund?)

The colonists left Mexico City in April, in high spirits, arriving at San Bias, July 23rd. From here they embarked for California, August 1st, sailing in two vessels—one of which had carried Napoleon Bonaparte from the Island of Elba, rechristened the Natalie, Juan Gomez, master. They arrived in Monterey in time to greet the New Year (1834), during the celebration of which the vessel drifted ashore, there to end her days. (Her bones reposed in the sands until recently, when her "knees" and other timbers were presented to the Customs House Museum.)

If the plans of the Echeandians had been vicious, the plans of the Hijar-Padres-Bandini combination were doubly so. In the latter plan, no provisions whatever were made for the neophytes, the owners of the land, nor for the missionaries—not even the politician's gesture to disarm criticism.

Meantime, rumors had spread in Mexico that the project was not what it had been represented to be. They reached the ears of the newly elected President Santa Ana, who, upon investigation, dispatched messengers to San Bias, hoping to intercept his departing countrymen. But the ships had already sailed.

"Governor Figueroa must not surrender his office to these men" said the president to his secretary.

A reward of $3,000 was immediately posted for the man who would reach Monterey before the colonists.

Three thousand dollars was a considerable sum in those days, even in "Mex."

A likely young caballero was chosen from among the flock of candidates.

He rode into Monterey, September 11, 1834, a bit weary, just forty-five days from Mexico City.

Governor Figueroa now had the papers from the president in his hands, ordering him not to surrender his office—military or civil. He would stand his ground. That in spite of his five-feet-two.

Two weeks later, Padres sailed into the port of Monterey with the colonists who had elected to make their homes at the capital, or in its outlying country.

Familiar with the swagger of young Mexican officials, we can well believe young Padres presented himself with grave dignity to Don Figueroa, demanding the office of military governor.

The governor countered with President Santa Ana's orders. Padres was stunned. A shift in presidents had not been reckoned with.

Not to be flouted by the quick action of the new president, Padres presented his credentials as assistant director of colonization, and demanded assistance for his people.

Figueroa declined, on the ground that he held no instructions from Mexico that would warrant his taking action.

In the middle of October, Hijar, with a number of colonists, added to the difficult situation by arriving from San Diego. A long trek. His plans for his inauguration as civil governor were uppermost in his mind.

Figueroa received the visitor with characteristic courtesy, unrolled Santa Ana's communication once more, revealed its contents, and gravely bowed.

"Very well," thought Hijar, "if I cannot be governor of the territory, at least I will be governor of the Missions." So he unrolled his appointment as Director of Colonization and presented it to Figueroa, demanding that the Mission property be turned over to him at once, in accordance with Article I, in his instructions from Farias.

A few days later, Figueroa presented the matter to the legislative assembly at Monterey for decision.

When the facts were laid before the members—that Padres and Hijar had demanded that the Missions be turned over to them and their Mexican colonists—the former friends of Padres vehemently repudiated him. "Such effrontery! by what right?"

Don Mariano Vallejo, Don Antonio Osio, and Don Juan Alvarado were loudest in the denunciation of their former comrade and guide. Righteously indignant, they condemned the procedure as an outrage against the friars and the Indians. A close call for Vallejo and his associates.

The legislative assembly promptly rejected the claims of the Mexicans. Sonoma was offered the colonists as a good place in which to settle, but finally each settler was permitted to choose his own place of residence—the right that should, of course, have been the Indians!

The colonists, though considerably disillusioned, found the country all that had been promised; and before long, they were numbered among the storekeepers, carpenters, smiths, and cattlemen of the country—in the main, good material in a new land.

As for the ring-leaders, Padres was banished for the second time. This time it "took." Hijar, wiser considerably than before, shared the order of banishment with his young associate; sailing on the Rosa, March 25, 1835, with few at the "Pier of Stones" to wave them farewell. As things turned out, Hijar was glad to leave the country where his plans had so completely miscarried, and return to his family in Mexico.

It was in May of this year that the attempt to move the capital to Los Angeles was put forth by Don Jose Antonio Carrillo, delegate from California to the Mexican Congress. The body in Mexico passed a decree reading "The Pueblo of Los Angeles in Alta California is erected into a city, and it will in future be the capital of that territory."

The news reached Monterey in October, though it was not published until two months later.

Nothing—not even the bombardment of the town by Bouchard—threw the people into such a fever of excitement.

The ayuntamiento was hurriedly called together, meeting on October 12th. The members were Jose Antonio Carrillo (absent in Mexico), Jose Maria Estudillo, Jose Castro, Juan Alvarado, Manuel Jimeno Casarin, Antonio Buelna, a substitute in the person of Salvio Pacheco, and Jose M. Maldonado, secretary.

After much grandiose speech-making, it was declared that "the report of the territorial congressman was based on selfish interests," and the body voted vigorously that Monterey remain the capital of the province—the seat of government from the beginning, and the official seat of the governor. A report of the town council procedure was sent to Mexico, where the matter apparently died in the files.

Thus terminated in failure the first definite attempt to move the capital from Monterey. When Echeandia and Pico served as governors, they had remained in the south, it is true. But always a representative of the executive department occupied the Government House at Monterey, from which the paraphernalia of office— papers, records, seals, maps, etc., were never moved. Until after the Gold Rush, when San Jose made a formal bid for the capital, at the Constitutional Convention at Colton Hall in the winter of '49, Monterey remained the seat of government for the department. And for a considerable period, capital of both Alta and Baja California.
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