The Mexicans here, are a peculiar people, not only in reference to their intelligence, government, and all other particulars before mentioned, but also in reference to their manners and customs. The lower order of them live in mere huts, the walls of which are constructed of poles, which are set upright, side by side, one end being permanently fixed in the ground; the other ends are attached with raw hide ropes to a pole, which is placed horizontally on each side of the walls thus constructed, and about six or seven feet from the ground. The four walls being, thus erected, poles are then placed transversely from one wall to the other, which are covered either with hay, flags, or cornstalks, constituting the roof, when the hut is completed, having neither floor nor chimney. The second and higher orders, occupy such buildings as those which have been described upon a former page, most of which are also without either chimneys or floors. No furniture is generally found in or about the houses of the lower orders, excepting here and there a raw bullock's hide spread upon the ground, which, together with a blanket or two, constitutes their beds and bedding. Their clothing generally consists of nothing more than a shirt and a pair of, pantaloons, yet some of them also have a kind of rude, primitive hat, and sandals. The chase and servitude to the higher orders, furnish them a livelihood; they subsist almost entirely upon meat, fish, oats and edible roots. Those of the second and higher orders, who reside in the interior, although they have "adobie" houses, yet they generally have neither beds, chairs, tables, nor any other furniture, excepting such beds as those before described, and a raw hide spread upon the ground, which constitutes a table, with a few stools or bullock's heads, which answer as chairs. Their apparel consists of a shirt, a pair of pantaloons, some kind of a hat and shoes, or sandals, in addition to which, some have a pair of breeches and a blanket, with a perforation in the middle, through which they put their heads, and thus form, as they think, a very convenient coat or cloak. Meat, fish, beans, bread and fruit, constitute their food. But they subsist chiefly upon the former, as a matter of preference. Should you call at the residence of one of these Mexicans, even of the highest class residing in the interior, you would not only be received very kindly, but you would also be annoyed with continued proffers, of all the luxuries which they possess. And should you remain until noon, a large quantity of beef will be roasted before the fire, which, when done, will be attached to a few sticks, which are driven into the ground for that purpose, in the middle of the room, when you are invited to sit down with them, and partake of the rich repast; at the same time, you are offered a stool or beef's head as a substitute for a chair, if there happens to be one convenient, if not you are expected to sit upon the ground. Being thus located, you now commence the dissection and mastication of the half, or quarter of a beef, as the case may be, with which you are now confronted; but in this operation, you labor under the disadvantage, of having none of the ordinary instruments, used upon such occasions; hence you are under the necessity of using your pocket knife, or such other knife as you may chance to have in your possession. Among some of these people, in addition to the roasted beef, you would also be furnished with a little bean soup, and, perhaps, some bread; but they all view plates, knives and forks, and the like, as mere useless appendages. Should you call upon those of the lower order, with the view of obtaining a dinner, the presumption is, that the whole affair would result in a disgusting failure, if not on their part, in an attempt to procure something for you to eat, at least, upon your part, in your attempt to eat what they have succeeded in procuring; but whatever they have, they will readily offer you, with much apparent anxiety to accommodate. The higher order of those who reside in the different towns, and at the missions, generally live very well, much, in fact, as the foreigners do, who are equally abundantly supplied with all the necessaries and luxuries of life, as citizens of our own country, or those of any other. All classes of the Mexicans are unusually kind and hospitable to foreigners, as far as it relates to their reception and treatment as guests. Whatever attention and kindness you may receive at their hands, while, guests, and however long you remain with them, they will receive no compensation, but to your proposition to remunerate them, they invariably reply, "God will pay."
Labor of all kinds is performed by the Indians and the lower order of the Mexicans, but those who are not bound in servitude to others, labor very little, as a competency of food and raiment is readily acquired, with very little exertion. Among all classes, oxen are principally used for the draught, drawing by their horns, instead of their necks, as in the ordinary manner; a strong piece of timber about as large as an ordinary yoke, is placed upon the necks of the oxen, just back of the horns, to which it is permanently attached, by means of a raw-hide rope. To the middle of this new-fashioned yoke, a strong raw-hide rope is affixed, to which the cart, plough, or whatever else is to be drawn is attached, when all is in readiness for actual service. Those oxen, yoked in this manner, draw most extremely large draughts, but by no means as large draughts as they could draw, if yoked in the ordinary manner. -- The plough, which is in use among the Mexicans, is certainly among the most simply constructed, and cheapest of farming utensils being, generally, a mere forked stick, one prong of which, being pointed, answers, as the share, and the other having a notch cut at the end, to which a rope may be attached, constitutes the beam, while the main stalk, extending back a few feet from the union of the two prongs, constitutes the handle. This is the California plough, which is in general use, throughout the entire country; but as an improvement upon this plough, some of the Mexicans construct one in a different manner, though with the same regard to cheapness, being two sticks of timber, so attached as to form a plough very much like that just described; and designed only as a substitute for that, when a natural fork cannot be conveniently found. -- Horses are seldom used otherwise than as saddle-horses, but we frequently see large draughts, drawn by them, which, instead of being harnessed in the ordinary manner, are put under the saddle, the girth of which is drawn extremely tight when one end of a strong raw-hide rope, is attached to the stone, wood, or whatever else is to be drawn, while the other end is firmly attached to the pommel of the saddle. Every thing being thus arranged, the Mexican, with his heels loaded down with ponderous gingling spurs, now mounts his steed, to whose sides he plies his heels with such pointed exactness, such force and confused gingling, that, as the only alternative, he leaps and darts away with his immense load, notwithstanding in its very great ponderosity. With horses harnessed in this manner, it is quite common to see Mexicans on their way to market, their vehicles being a dry bullock's hide, to which one end of a long, rawhide rope is attached, the other end of which, is attached to the pommel of the saddle, of their riding horses. Upon this hide, thus dragging upon the ground, are heaped vegetables, fowls, and whatever else they may have in readiness for the market, as well as two or three, women and children, which, from all appearances, are not designed for the market, or, at all events, it would seem that they would not sell to a very good advantage, without the preparatory expense of a thorough scouring. Upon arriving in market, I have frequently seen these inventive geniuses, with their strange omnibuses, and omnifarious loading, passing about from place to place, until they disposed of all their load, excepting that part of it which partook somewhat of humanity, when they also disposed of their extraordinary vehicles, and returned to their homes as they best could, some on horse back, some on foot, and others, I knew not how, unless by "steam," to raise which, they appeared to be making some efforts, which I thought, would most likely succeed. These are the vehicles in common use, among the Mexicans, but many of the foreigners, as well as some of the higher order Mexicans, have carts, wagons, and even carriages, but these are very seldom seen, and especially the latter; as traveling is, as yet, almost entirely horseback and by water, the former of which methods, is, however, much the most generally adopted, both by the Mexicans and foreigners.
As we are passing, perhaps the reader would be pleased to notice the proceedings of a Mexican alcalde's court. An individual, wishing to institute proceedings in one of their courts, for the recovery of a demand, applies to the alcalde for that purpose, who, instead of issuing a summons, despatches a servant post haste, to the residence of the defendant, informing him, that his attendance at the alcaldes' office, will be required on a certain day, to answer the complaint of the plaintiff; and that, if he do not appear at the time and place designated, the alcalde, will proceed to the determination of the matter exparte. The day thus fixed upon arrives, and the parties appearing, his honor, now interrogates the defendant in reference to his delinquency, when he proceeds to offer such excuse as may occur to him, setting forth his reasons for not having made payment previously, or he commences to curse his antagonist most vociferously; and insulting and abusing, him to every extent, declaring absolutely, that he will not pay him, which is the "general issue" in Calfornia. According to the rules of practice in the alcalde's court, the plaintiff is now entitled to the floor, which he takes with the greatest eagerness, when he commences to answer all the excuses and arguments of the defendant, or to repel his insults, by more direct, and more numerous insults, as well as by more vehement, and more profane cursing. If the proceedings have taken the latter course, his honor has nothing to do, but to weigh the insult and profanity, and give his judgment according to the preponderance, as it may be found in favor of the plaintiff or the defendant; but if they have taken the former course, his honor proceeds to determine, as to the weight and validity of the defendant's excuses, which are thrown into the Mexican's scales of justice, with the plaintiff demand; and, as before, the decision is according to the preponderance. In weighing and determining causes as above, much less depends upon the quantum of insult, profane cursing, the validity of the excuse, or the justness of the demand, than upon the weights which are employed, which are usually of gold, sometimes, however, they are of silver, but when those of the latter metal are used, they are made much heavier, the proportion between those of the latter and former metal, being nearly as sixteen to one. These weights are always employed upon such occasions, and they are furnished, for that purpose, either by the party himself, or by a friend; in English they are called bribes, and it is now reduced, by experience, to an absolute certainty, that he that will not bribe, can not succeed at law, in a Mexican alcalde's court. At law, I say, I mean the game above alluded to, which, perhaps, partakes as little of law as it does of divinity. A foreigner of respectability, informed me, that he found it necessary in one instance, to resort to the law for the recovery of a demand, which he held against a farmer, who was amply able to pay him at any time, if he was so disposed. In order, therefore, to regulate his disposition, this gentleman applied to an alcalde, who immediately issued his warrant, (an athletic servant,) and soon the delinquent was ushered into the alcade's august presence, where he commenced to offer his numerous excuses, the principal of which was, that his cattle were not sufficiently fattened for the slaughter-house, and, consequently, to kill them then, would subject him to a very great loss. The kind hearted, lenient judge, now appeared to symphathize greatly with the defendant, which, however, was the effect of the golden weights, which had already been thrown into the scales, which were now, evidently, preponderating in the defendant's favor. The magnanimous judge, pausing a few moments, but finding no disposition on the part of the foreign gentleman, to apply either the golden or silver weights, now asks the defendant, when his cattle will be so fattened as to enable him to kill them and discharge the plaintiffs demand, to which the defendant replies, that he thinks they will be amply fattened in about twelve months; "very good" replies the alcalde, "let the cause stand continued until next autumn." The parties now, severally, returned to their homes, the defendant much elated with his triumphant success at law, and the plaintiff, laboring under the sting of his unexpected defeat, is perfectly disgusted with every thing that bears the name of law, alcalde, or defendant. But the year soon rolls around, and the parties again appear before his honor, the dignified and bribed alcalde, who, immediately, proceeds to propound the same questions to the defendant, as before, in reference to the fitness of his cattle for the slaughter-house. Although the defendant did not give the same answer as before, yet he gave one, which more clearly exhibited the baseness, and contemptible meanness of both himself and the perjured alcade, which was, that his cattle were sufficiently fattened, but that he was unable to procure sufficient laborers. The parties now again returned to their respective homes, the defendant rejoicing in "the glorious uncertainties of the law," and the plaintiff, more fully than ever, convinced of its tendency to obstruct justice, and to promote villainy and crime; and, hence more fully than ever, determined to have no more to do with either law, alcaldes, or defendants.
The chief amusements of the Mexicans, are their fandangos or balls, cock-fights, and bull and bear-fights. The fandangos, or balls, are conducted among these people, much in the same manner, that they are elsewhere, or so nearly so, at least, that there is nothing connected with them, which I shall particularly notice, although there are many very extraordinary and interesting scenes, that occur upon these occasions, which might be so described, as to afford some amusement, yet, as their description would afford no important information, I pass them unnoticed. The cock-fights are always attended by large concourses of people, especially upon the Sabbath, when not only the common people, but also the officers of the government, as well as the priests, all of whom march in solemn procession, directly from the church, after divine service, to the cockpit, where they anticipate much from the approaching exhibition of inhuman cruelty. Various opinions are now entertained and expressed, as to the probable success of the various game cocks; and all is high joy, noisy merriment, among the priests and all others, the latter of whom, are frequently heard to utter the most vehement, exulting, and triumphant shouts of acclamation and joy, with repeated and vehement outcries of , "huzza, for the priest's cock!" The bull-fights are much the most common amusements, and it is almost incredible, with what ardor and zeal, the citizens of all classes, and of both sexes, crowd together, at these inhuman scenes of cruelty and blood. In the vicinity of every town of any importance, there is a vast arena in the form of an amphitheatre, designed for sports of this kind, which is circumscribed by a strong post and rail, or board fence, around the exterior of which, are successive circular seats, rising above one another to the height of fifteen or twenty feet, and of sufficient extent, to accommodate several thousand persons. Timely notice is always given of these bull-fights, and a general attendance, universally follows; savoring so strongly of barbarity, cruelty and indolence, it could not fail to attract the attention of the admiring thousands, of those semi-barbarians. The governor with all the principal officers, together with the priests, always occupies the highest seats upon such occasions; and their smiling approbation, especially of the priests, whether drunk or sober, is always considered a much higher encomium, than the thundering plaudits of all the surrounding multitude. And the priests are quite certain to laugh, whether there is any thing to laugh at or not, especially, if their merriment has been sufficiently excited by the enlivening and inebriating draughts, to which they are accustomed. Upon these occasions, you will frequently see, one fourth of all the Mexican population present, occupying the various seats before described, which, when thus occupied, are covered with an extensive awning. Being thus arranged and accompanied by a band of music, or, rather, of noise, and the bull-fighters, having marched into the arena, the signal is given, and the bull is loosed, when the fight commences. Some of the bull-fighters are on foot, others are on horseback, the latter being generally well trained in equestrian exercises, and all being armed with swords, spears, or lances, they now commence action, either on the offensive or defensive, but generally, on the defensive; for usually, the moment the bull is turned loose he makes a most furious charge, either upon the footmen or horsemen, when he receives repeated lacerations, from both spears and lances. If he attacks a horseman, his repeated assaults are resisted by the horseman, until a footman comes to his aid, who thrusts a spear or lance into him, from behind, and, at the same time, exhibits a red flag, and thus his attention is diverted from the horseman, who would otherwise have been an easy prey. His attention is now turned to the footman, who is in a similar manner, relieved either by a horseman or by another footman. This scene is repeated from time to time, and, until the fatigued and wounded bull moves slowly away to one side of the arena, as if desirous of avoiding further conflict, when a most tremendous burst of applause resounds through the air, amid which the priests are heard, loudly exclaiming, "non potest fieri melius! non potest fieri melius!" as well as heart could wish! as well as heart could wish!
These repeated and continued plaudits, excite the pride and renew the energies of the tormentors, who proceed to the renewal of the bloody scene, but the indisposition of the bull to renew the contest, appears to afford a serious obstacle, yet the ingenuity of these cruel tormentors, readily invents the means of arousing his last and dying energies. Hundreds of squibs and crackers, are now brought, which are attached to one end of wires the other ends of which are pointed and bearded, which are then thrust into the neck, shoulders, and back of the sinking animal; but he is so far exhausted, that he entirely disregards them, until fire is applied to them, when the incessant cracking, hissing, smoking and blazing, arouse all his declining vigor. He now shakes his head most furiously, amid the firing, smoking confusion, then bellowing aloud, and distending his tongue, as if calling into requisition all his powers, he plunges and leaps at his antagonist, and striking the horse, prostrates him, rider and all upon the ground, amid the deafening shouts of the multitude, and the vociferous exultations of the priests, who are heard above all others, loudly exclaiming; "prospere procedit opus! prospere procedit opus!" the business goes on well! the business goes on well! But, in the mean time, the bull is goring and lacerating his fallen victim, with the greatest fury; and soon it is found that the horse is dead and that the rider, from the fall of the horse upon one of his legs, and the successive blows of the bull's head and horns upon the other, is unable to maintain an upright position; but by the aid of a few of his brave comrades, he makes good his retreat, when the very heavens resound with thundering shouts and vociferous peals of laughter from the excited multitude, who appear to be entirely indifferent, which of the animals succeeds, whether those in quadruped or human form. This scene is also enjoyed to every extent by the priests, who are now heard exclaiming most vociferously, "exitus acta probat," all is well that ends well, which they repeat time after time, not only with the view of evincing their extreme delight, but also with a view of exhibiting some proofs of their more than ordinary learning. The attention of all is, again turned to the offending bull, upon which repeated assaults are made, both in front and rear, and he is soon dispatched, when one end of several strong ropes, is attached to his hinder legs, and the other, to the pommels of the saddles, and he is soon dragged out of the arena. But soon another bullock is brought in, and the same inhuman scene is again performed, which is followed by similar circumstances, and so on continuously, until five or six bulls have been thus inhumanly tortured and slain, when the whole multitude disperse, amid the most indescribable confusion, and return to their respective places of abode, with ample topics of conversation for many months to come. The "bear-fights," as they are called, are conducted in a manner, quite similar to that just described, the only difference being, that those human or , rather, inhuman combatants, the Mexicans, are not called into requisition. The combatants in these conflicts of death, are a bear and a bull, which are turned into the arena together, the bear being, generally, turned in first, where he is permitted to remain alone, until all things are in readiness for the fatal combat, when the bull is also brought in, upon which, the bear rises slowly upon his hinder legs, and sits upright, until he is assailed. The bull, casting wildly about the arena, soon perceives his powerful antagonist, when he curbs his neck, and moves slowly towards him, turning first one side towards him, then the other, until he approaches near him, when, at once, he darts forward, and thus engages in mortal combat. The result of these conflicts is, invariably, either that the bull strikes his adversary with such irresistible force, that he is thrown upon his back, and the horns of the bull are thrust into him with such force, and in such quick succession, as to leave him lifeless in a very few minutes, or, that the bear, acquiring some advantage in the outset, gives him such tremendous blows -with his paws, as to dash him to the ground, when, continuing the assault, his horned adversary is soon, and easily, rendered a lifeless prey.
The market, trade, and commerce will now be briefly noticed, when I shall have done with California. There is, at this time, an ample market, in all the various portions of this country, for all the surplus products of whatever kind; and this market is certain and uniform, being subject to none of those fluctuations, to which our market, in all portions of the states, is subject. Wheat has uniformly sold, in all portions of this country, for about one dollar per bushel, which it is now worth; corn is worth fifty cents per bushel; beans one dollar per bushel; and potatoes fifty cents per bushel; cattle are worth from one, to five dollars per head; horses from three, to ten dollars; sheep, from one to two dollars; and hogs from one to three dollars; hides are worth from one to two dollars each; tallow from two to five cents per pound; beef from one to three cents per pound; butter from five to twenty cents per pound; and flour from five to eight dollars per barrel; which prices, with very few exceptions have remained the same for successive years. The Hudson's Bay Company, and the Russians, at present, afford an ample market for all the wheat, which is, as yet, grown in this country; and they, as well as the American merchants, afford an extensive market for the furs, hides, and tallow, as well as much of the beef, butter and vegetables, yet for the latter, especially the beef, butter and vegetables, the ships of war and the whale ships, afford the most extensive and valuable market. The increasing emigration, however, will afford an extensive market for most of the surplus grain, as well as for many cattle and horses, sheep and hogs, for many years to come; yet the market, for all the products of the country, will ultimately, found in the South American States, the various islands of the Pacific, the Russian settlements, China and England. The very great variety of the productions, will require a variety of markets, producing the tropical productions, it requires a northern market; and as it produces the northern productions, it requires a southern market. The staples will eventually be, beef, pork, fish, various kinds of grain, flour, woo1, hides, tallow, furs, lumber, cotton, tobacco, rice, sugar, and coffee, as well as coal, iron, and various other minerals. This very great variety of productions will afford the people of this region, all the means of subsistence within their own country, will vastly enhance its wealth, and add, in an eminent degree, to the prosperity and happiness of the people.
The trade of this country is chiefly carried on at the different towns, where, considering the extreme newness and unsettled state of the country, it is already very extensive. At each of the towns before enumerated, there are several stores, at which an extensive business, is daily transacted, which is found to be very lucrative. All kinds of dry goods, groceries, hardware, and cutlery, are much dearer here, than they are either in Oregon or the States, being sold here, at prices, about five hundred per cent higher, than they are in either of those countries, which is owning to the imposition of excessive, and unparalleled duties upon imports. The enormous amount of duties, that is annually received by the government, or, rather, the prodigal officers of the government, notwithstanding the innumerable leaks, is estimated at two hundred thousand dollars. Wages of labor, both for mechanics and ordinary hands, are very high those of the former being from two to five dollars per day, and those of the latter, from one to three dollars per day. The cause of wages' being so very high, is attributable to the fact, of their being so very few mechanics in the country, and the great aversion to industrial pursuits, which has, heretofore existed, in that country. This aversion to industry, evidently arose, from the fact of their being no apparent necessity to labors or, in other words, from the unparalleled facilities, which here exist for acquiring a competency, and even a superfluity, by the easy process of doing nothing. Indians are readily employed, and, in any numbers, at the trifling expense of merely furnishing them such clothing, as a course tow shirt, and a pair of pantaloons of similar cloth, and with such food as meat alone, or whatever else you may feel disposed to furnish them; for any thing, which you might feet disposed to provide for them, would be preferable to the crickets and grasshoppers, upon which they have formerly subsisted. There are several foreigners, who have from one, to four hundred of them employed upon these terms; and when thus employed, should they leave their employer, without just cause, he is authorized to retake them, wherever he may find them, in whosesoever service they may be engaged. It is usually understood, that slavery does not exist, in any form, in any portion of the Mexican dominions, yet the natives, both in California, and several other portion of that country, and in truth, in all portions of it, are in a state of absolute vassalage, even more degrading, and more oppressive than that of our slaves in the south. Whether slavery will, eventually, be tolerated in this country, in any form, I do not pretend to say, but it is quite certain, that the labor of Indians will, for many years, be as little expensive to the farmers of that country, as slave labor, being procured for a mere nominal consideration.
Considering the very short space of time, which has elapsed, since the different governments have, turned their attentions to this country, and the very little which is, as yet, known in reference to it, its present commerce is scarcely paralleled; some conception of which, may be drawn from what has been said upon a former page, in reference to its extensive imports and duties. Fifteen or twenty vessels are, not infrequently, seen in many of the various ports at the same time, displaying the national flags of all the principal powers of the world. Merchant vessels of the United States, England, France, Russia, and Mexico, as well as the ships of war, and the whale ships of the four former governments, are to be seen at almost any time, in the different ports of this country, and of all of which, there are frequent arrivals and departures. The ships of war, which cruise in the Pacific, touch very frequently at the various ports of this country, for the purpose of obtaining fresh supplies of water, and provisions, and maintaining the rights of their respective governments, as well as for the purpose of capturing, now and then, a small town, or seizing, here and there, upon an island of the Pacific. The merchant vessels are much the most numerous, and are, chiefly, those of the United States, which arrive in that country each spring, and depart for the States every autumn or winter. Arriving in the spring they are engaged in the coasting trade, until the latter part of the fall, or the early part of the winter, when they depart for the States, with cargoes of hides, tallow, or furs, which have been collected during the previous year. About one half of the merchant vessels, engaged in this trade, always remain in the country, engaged in the coasting trade, while the residue return to the States. England, or France, for the purpose of renewing their stock of goods. Several of these vessels usually belong to the same houses, either of Boston or New York, which always keep a number in the country, while they employ others, constantly, in exporting the products of California, and importing goods for that trade, which they dispose of at most extraordinary prices. The whale ships touch at the various ports, for the purpose of obtaining supplies of provisions and water, and also for the purpose of trade with the inhabitants. Besides the ships and vessels above enumerated, there are numerous others, as well as various barques and brigs, which annually touch at the various ports of this country, not only from the States, England, France, and Russia, but also from the Sandwich Islands, the Russian settlements, and China.
The foregoing will enable us to form very correct conclusions, in reference to the present and future commerce of this infant country, the former of which, considering the newness of the country, and the sparseness of the population, is scarcely equalled, and, if the present may be considered as a prelude to the futures the latter is destined, in a very few years, to exceed by far, that of any other country of the same extent and population, in any portion of the known world. We are necessarily driven to this conclusion, when we consider the vast extent of its plains and valleys, of unequalled fertility and exuberance; the extraordinary variety and abundance, of its productions, its unheard of uniformity, and salubrity of climate; in fine, its unexhausted and inexhaustible resources, as well, as its, increasing emigration, which is annually swelling its population from hundreds to thousands, and which is destined, at no distant day to revolutionize the whole commercial, political, and moral aspect of all that highly important and delightful country. In a word, I will remark that in my opinion, there is no country, in the known world, possessing a soil so fertile and productive, with such varied and inexhaustible resources, and a climate of such mildness, uniformity and salubrity; nor is there a country, in my opinion, now known, which is so eminently calculated, by nature herself, in all respects, to promote the unbounded happiness and prosperity, of civilized and enlightened man.
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