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La Perouse And Vancouver

 
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Joined: 27 Nov 2007
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:24 pm    Post subject: La Perouse And Vancouver Reply with quote

A DISTINGUISHED visitor, Jean Francois de la Perouse, sailed into the Old Capital in the spring of 1786, on a tour of the world, gathering information, scientific and geographical, for the French government. His ships were the Astrolabe and the Boassole. The Old World, you see, was growing curious about this far-off land on the sunset sea.

His arrival was celebrated by manifestations of Spanish colonial hospitality. Let him tell his own story:

"After traversing a small plain covered with herds of cattle [now the city of Monterey] we ascended the hills, and were struck with the sound of several bells announcing our arrival, of which the friars had been apprised by a horseman, whom the governor had detached for that purpose.

"We were received like lords of a parish, when they make their first appearance on their estate. The Presidente of the Missions, in his cope, the holy water sprinkler in his hand, waited for us at the door of the church, which was illuminated as on great festivals. He conducted us to the high altar where Te Deum was sung in thanksgiving for the happy success of our voyage.

"We repassed, on going out of the church, the same row of male and female Indians, who had never quitted their post during the Te Deum; the children only had removed a little, and had formed groups around the friars' house, which is in front of the church, as are also the different storehouses, [New adobe building on the east end of the garden, leading to the church,] On the right hand stands the Indian village of about fifty cabins, which serve as dwelling-places for seven hundred and forty persons of both sexes, including their children, which compose the Mission of St. Charles of Monterey [now the field of the Walker ranch].

"Their cabins are the most miserable to be met with among any people. They are round, six feet across, by four in height; some stakes, the size of an arm, fixed in the earth, and which meet in an arch at the top, compose the timbering of it. Eight or ten bundles of straw, very illy arranged over the stakes, defend the inhabitants, well or ill, from rain and wind, and more than half the cabin remains open when the weather is fine. Their only precaution is to have two or three bundles of straw on hand by way of reserve.

"All of the exhortations of the missionaries have never been able to procure a change in their general architecture of the [Indians of the] two Californias. The Indians say that they like plenty of air, that it is convenient to set fire to their houses when they are devoured by too many fleas, and that they can build another in less than two hours. . .

"The color of these Indians, which is that of Negroes, the house of the religious, their storehouses, built with brick and pointed with mortar; the floor of earth, upon which they press the grain; the oxen, the horses; in a word, everything reminded us of a habitation in San Domingo, or any other West India colony. The men and women are assembled at the sound of the bell; one of the religious conducts them to work, one to church, and to all their other exercises.

"The Indians, as well as the friars, rise with the sun, go to prayers and to Mass, which last an hour; and during this time there is cooked in the middle of the square, in three large kettles, barley meal, the grain of which is roasted, previous to being ground; this species of boiled food, which the Indians call atole, and of which they are very fond, is seasoned neither with salt nor butter and to us would be a very insipid mess.

"Each cabin sends to take its proportion for all its inhabitants in a vessel made of bark. There is not the least confusion or disorder and when the coppers are empty, they distribute that which sticks to the bottom to the children who have retained the lessons of catechism.

"This meal continues three quarters of an hour, after which they all go to their labors; some go to plough the earth, with oxen; others to dig in the garden; in a word, everyone is employed in different domestic occupations; and always under the supervision of one or two of the friars.

"The women are charged with but little else but the care of their housewifery, their children, and roasting and grinding the several grains. This last operation is very long and laborious, because they have no other means of doing it but by crushing the grain with a cylinder [mano] on a stone [metate]. M. de Langle, a witness of this operation, made the friars a present of his mill, a greater service could not have been rendered them, as by these means, four women would in a day perform the work of a hundred, and time enough will remain to spin the wool of their sheep, and to manufacture coarse stuffs.

"But at present, the religious, more occupied with the interests of heaven than temporal welfare, have greatly neglected the introduction of the common arts. They are themselves so austere that they have no chimneys in their chambers, though winter is frequently severe there; and even the greater anchorites have never lived a more edifying life."

Thus, in sixteen years, over seven hundred Indians from surrounding rancherias had been weaned from their wild life and turned into the ways of industry, producing what they ate and wore. The friars had acquired the languages of the Indians—it differed in every locality—and now the Indians were able to understand, even to speak, the Spanish language. They had been taught to sing the simpler songs of the Church and to grasp, however feebly, some of the simple truths of the Christian faith. And above all, the family—one wife and one husband—had been established, in the Christian sense. That was the hardest hurdle for the neophyte to negotiate, as, before they came to the Mission, the men were permitted, by tribal custom, as many wives as they desired, each wife bringing with her all her sisters, even her mother, to her lord and master, to share her rights and duties. And there was no hesitancy in casting off a wife or husband when the relationship ceased to be interesting; and to take on another, and another, as the spirit moved. The children usually adhered to the mother.

It appears to most students that those first sixteen years at the Monterey Mission produced astonishing results, accepting La Perouse's own report of what he saw. But La Perouse can hardly be said to have been unbiased. What did he expect to find in the way of "common arts," in less than two decades, after centuries of barbarism? He admits that they had abandoned their pagan habits, and were feeding and clothing themselves by their own labors. Their first step up.

The next foreign visitor to Monterey of importance was Captain George Vancouver, of the British navy.

The arrival of the foreigner in the harbor occurred at an opportune time. The construction of the new stone church was about to proceed, the major objective of the friars for several years. Obviously the dignity of the capital Mission must be maintained.

Vancouver dates this visit as of December 2, 1792, with another in November and December, 1794.

With Vancouver came an artist, J. Sykes, who made drawings of what he saw. These are the first plates that enable us to glimpse the condition of the buildings toward the end of the century.

Fray Fermin Francisco de Lasuen, who succeeded Fray Palou as Presidente of the Missions, reports that one Manuel Esteban Ruiz, master mason and stone worker, had arrived in Monterey to direct the work of cutting the stone for the new church. Six months after his arrival, actual construction began. According to Vancouver, it was 1792; according to Fr. Lasuen, 1793.

The British skipper writes:

"In consequence of a very polite invitation (Sunday, December 2nd) I paid my respects to the Mission of San Carlos, accompanied by Senor Quadra, Senor Arguello [acting-governor], Senor Camano, Mr. Broughton, and several other English and Spanish officers.

"This establishment is situated about a league to the southeast of the Presidio of Monterey, The road between them lies over some steep hills and hollow valleys, interspersed with many trees; the surface is covered with an agreeable verdure; the general character of the country is lively, and our journey was altogether very pleasant.

"The usual ceremonies of introduction being over, our time was pleasantly engaged in the society of the Padre Presidente, and his two companions, the priests regularly belonging to the Mission of San Carlos, who attended us over the premises. These seemed to differ little from those at San Francisco or at Santa Clara; excepting that the buildings were smaller, the plan, architecture and materials exactly corresponding.

"In their granaries was deposited a pretty large quantity of different kinds of grain before noted in other establishments, to which was added some barley, but the whole was of an inferior quality, and the return from the soil by no means equal to that of Santa Clara. Here also was a small garden on the same confined scale.

"An Indian village is also in the neighborhood; it appeared to be small, yet the number of inhabitants under the immediate direction of the Mission was said to amount to eight hundred, governed by the same charitable principles as those we had visited before. Notwithstanding these people are taught and employed from time to time in many of the occupations most useful to civil society, they had not made for themselves any more comfortable habitations than those of their forefathers; nor did they seem to have benefited by the instruction they had received.

"Some of them were at this time engaged under the direction of the fathers, in building a church of stone and mortar. The former material appeared to be of a very tender, friable nature, scarcely more hard than indurated clay; but I was told, that on being exposed to the air, it became hardened, and is an excellent stone for building. The lime they use is made from seashells, principally from the earshell, of large size and in great numbers on the shore.

"After we had satisfied our curiosity in these particulars, we rode around the neighborhood of the Mission. It was pleasantly situated, and the country, agreeably broken by hills and valleys, had a verdant appearance, and was mostly like that in the vicinity of Monterey, with many clumps and single trees, mostly of the pine tribe, holly-leaved oak and willows; with a few trees of the poplar and maple, and some variety of shrubs that greatly incommoded our traveling, which was chiefly confined to one of the valleys, and within sight of the buildings. Through this valley, a small brook of water, about knee-deep, called by the Spanish Rio Carmelo, takes its course, passes the buildings of the Mission, and immediately empties itself into the sea.

"On our return to the convent [Mission monastery], we found a most excellent repast, served with great neatness, in a pleasant bower constructed for that purpose in the garden of the Mission.” Thus, Vancouver discovered a refinement scarcely to be looked for in so remote a corner of the world—one so recently come under the influence of civilization. But the friars were men of education and culture. And culture will find its outlet. Little, however, is made by either explorer of the library at the Mission, which had already begun to grow into an institution; nor is there mention of the excellent paintings and carvings, and of exquisite textiles—laces, embroideries and silk vestments—that had come to the Mission from Spain and Mexico. Nor of the embossed silver appurtenances of the altar, many of them work of superior craftsmanship, some of which are still in service, both at the Monterey church and at the Mission over the hill.
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