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Politicos Getting Foothold

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:21 pm    Post subject: Politicos Getting Foothold Reply with quote

AGAIN a "Pronunciamentol" In it, the framers declared their intention of awaiting the decision of the Supreme Government before proceeding further in the matter of secularization. Also that "they would accord the missionary fathers respect, decorum, and the security of the property intrusted to their care.” Merely a gesture.

Now for the deferred legislative assembly and their chance to enact measures necessary for the completion of their schemes! No time to be lost.

It met in Los Angeles, instead of in Monterey, attended by Pio Pico, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Antonio Osio, Santiago Arguello, Jose Joaquin Ortega, and Thomas Yorba, with Juan Bautista Alvarado the secretary, as before.

Its first enactment was the unanimous approval of Victoria's resignation. Pio Pico, senior member of the assembly, was named as civil governor—jefe-politico. And Echeandia was named provisional military commander. A neat plan, to appease two ambitious men, both clamoring for leadership, which procedure the reglamento was said to uphold.

But the division of authority and honors pleased the new military chief not at all. He thundered that the civil and the military powers were one and indivisible, and that he would refuse to recognize the senior member of the assembly as civil governor.

A bit hard on Pico, who had served his chieftain well in many difficult situations. But, after reflection, he decided the game was hardly worth the candle, and allowed himself to fade out of the picture.

Another revolt—almost!

Captain Agustin V. Zamorano, Monterey Presidio, was about to start a little revolt of his own, claiming to represent the Supreme Government. He demanded that he be recognized as civil governor, until Mexico would send a regular successor to Victoria. Some gentle lover of peace stepped in at this point and suggested that, in the interregnum, Zamorano preside over the northern part of the province, and Echeandia over the southern part. The suggestion was accepted, and Zamorano put his little revolt back in his pocket.

It may be of interest here to interject an example of the type of communication the Pico-Vallejo-Osio party framed for Mexican consumption (Memorial to the General Government):

"The chief causes of the grievous evils under which the country has suffered are, first: The presence in the territory of the Spanish missionaries: secondly: The condition of slavish oppression in which the neophytes are held, under the detestable Mission system: and thirdly: The union of the military and political commands in one and the same person. On account of this union, the missionaries, who exercise great influence over the military chief, wield the same power over the political chief, and therefore manage, despotic as they are, to keep down the Indian population by a union of authority and force. The missionaries are thus enabled, with impunity and at their own arbitrary will, to inflict punishments upon the neophytes, and to scourge them publicly; nor has it ever been known that their so-called paternal feelings for their spiritual flock have ever shrunk from exercising their tyranny. They possess, though for what reason is not known, the power to act in this respect as they please; for they are countenanced in everything they do by orders of the military chief, under whose authority they carry out their determinations, even their whims. They accomplish their object with the aid of the corporal and four soldiers, who are supported in the Missions, and fulfill whatever the missionaries direct/. More of the same.

Hittell sets forth this pronunciatnento as a true statement of facts. Still striving to build up a case for Alvarado—incidentally for his associates. On the other hand, Bancroft says of the same proclamation: "Truly, Pico, Vallejo, and Osio were becoming very radical re-publicans and ardent patriots, according to the Mexican ideal. However, they were angry at the time, and were declaiming for effect in Mexico.” Angry that Victoria had upset their apple-cart.

In the meantime, the Bustamante government in Mexico had requested Fr. Duran, then acting Presidente, to obtain from the Fathers their opinions on a plan providing for the "emancipation of the neophytes, and the distribution of the Mission estates on a basis which insured the continuance of Divine Worship at each establishment; the support of a certain amount of community property with which to found new Missions in the north and east.” (In the interior valleys.)

Only the replies of three friars are extant. But the burden of them all is that it would be impossible for the neophytes to manage their properties on their unguided initiative. Subsequent evidence proves the correctness of their judgment.

Of the situation now, Fr. Engelhardt reports from the Franciscan archives at Santa Barbara Mission, as well as from other sources in California, Spain and Mexico: "Every one of the Mission fathers sighed to be relieved of the administration of the property created by means of hard labor of the friars and the neophytes; but they wanted the real owners to enjoy what was theirs, and not the covetous, indolent and unscrupulous white chiefs to control it. For thus standing between the helpless Indians and the conspirators, the missionaries were reviled in the most outrageous manner. They objected only to confiscation—not to secularization—as is evident from everything they wrote. [On file.] On the other hand, the turbulent leaders cared nothing for the welfare of the Indians, otherwise they would have applauded the efforts of the missionaries, instead of hampering them in every possible way." Land-grabbers have never been noted for solicitude for those whom they planned to rob.

You may ask, "Were not Pico, Alvarado, Vallejo and Echeandia members of the Church?" Yes, as children. Pico boasted that he knew his catechism from end to end. But evidently the moral demands of the Church were too restrictive as they grew into manhood, and the Church went overboard; unless it became expedient to make an impression by the use of perfunctory religious phrases, prated piously.

A few pertinent points in the Proclamation are analyzed by Fr. Narciso Duran of Mission San Jose, one of the ablest men in the territory, according to Bancroft, that bring the Echeandians further into the open:

"Why should Mission San Carlos, since turned into a pueblo, be required to change its name to Carmelo? [To confuse evidence, of course.]

"Since San Gabriel and Carmel are turned into pueblos, why are they not granted their own independent town councils instead of subjecting them to one that is strange to them? This is contrary to the old Law of Secularization [Spain, 1813], which says the Indians must have their own ayuntamientos; and that through these everything must be disposed, relative to the administration of their property.” Incontestably true.

Again, "The ranchos the Missions possessed generally are large centers, especially for sheep and cattle. Now we see they are to be under a sub-commissary; he is subject to the comisionados of the Mission, and they again are to be under the town council of the whites, who look upon the Indians' intellect as inferior to theirs. It seems they are tending to this; the estates which are the sole property of the Indians shall pass over to the control of the people, called and recognized as people of reason.”

The next article in the communication brings to mind the matter of the pueblo lands of Mission San Carlos de Borromeo de Monterey, among others. They are thus designated: "Farming and grazing lands, which by constant use down to the date of swearing to independence, or by approval of the territorial government, they have cultivated and occupied, are to remain the property of the pueblos, which will be composed of their neophytes and of such other Mexicans as may wish to settle in them.” Particularly interesting now to Monterey, whose vast pueblo lands, roughly from the Salinas River to the hills that separate Carmel from Monterey, ultimately passed into Anglo-Saxon hands for a mess of pottage, through a bankrupt and complaisant ayuntamiento. The lands have never been recovered.

Thus far, the territory was struggling along under Zamorano, administering the north from Monterey, and under Echeandia from the south—Pio Pico considerably annoyed at having fallen between the stools. Zamorano must have exhibited a friendly spirit toward the friars in their struggle to hold off the land bandits, judging from the bitterness with which they attacked him. He stood well, however, with the prospering rancheros and townspeople, outside the political clique.
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