THE WAMBOUGH LETTER brings this "History of the Conquest of California" down to about the commencement of hostilities between the United States and Mexico, in 1846. Before this state of war between us and his own government was known by Gen. Castro, then the actual head and commander of the Mexican authorities in California, (it appears by Mr. IDE'S statement), Castro had taken himself and his dilapidated military forces across the Bay, on his way to Mexico, and had thus "escaped due punishment for the murder of Fowler and Cowey". Thus it also appears, that on or about the 5th of July, when the new "administration" took possession, and the "change of government" was accomplished, the civil and military authority of Mexico had been thoroughly "wiped out"--California was not, and had not been, from the 15th of June to the 5th of July, under Mexican rule. She was, what her rude "national" Flag had from day to day proclaimed, "THE CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC."
During these twenty days there was no obstruction, by a conflicting party, to the exercise by the Bear Flag Government, of its entire functions and prerogatives of National Independence.
For a greater part of this time, and especially at its close, it was, as Mr. IDE truly remarks, "in quiet, and for the time, in undisturbed possession of all California north of the San Joaquin River. All that was necessary was to have pursued our victory, to have made it complete." These facts and considerations (we think, from our stand-point), warrant the conclusion, that on the 4th of July, 1846, the "Bear Flag Government" had effectually conquered California--had, to all intents and purposes, wrested that province from the mother country: and would have maintained that stand with "complete success," had there been no "unwarrantable interference" from outside quarters, and without a change of 'administration' or Flag, until she had voluntarily applied, as she eventually did, for admission as one of the States of the American Union.
Those who were well acquainted with the subject of this memoir well know, that he was not the man to "put his hand to the plow and look back." As in scaling the Nevada Mountain, the year before, on his way with his emigrating train to the "land of promise", he undertook a job which his companions thought impracticable, but which proved a notable success, so did he succeed most wonderfully in another far more adventurous undertaking, which not only his boon companions but his outside friends at first view deemed impracticable.-- Although better qualified by education and experience to wield the broad-axe and hammer than the sword and helmet of the "commander", yet, when by accident the latter were put into his hand, what he lacked in skill for their use, he made up by sleepless vigilance and indomitable courage, resolution and perseverance --such as initiated the command, "Now take the Fort !"
Mr. IDE was respected by his neighbors and acquaintance. He took a lively interest in their welfare, as by reference to pages 25-6 of these 'Sketches' it is stated that he 'took great interest in politics; and, while in Madison, O., he wrote a great many articles of agreement for his neighbors, and was often consulted by them on occasions of disputes occuring between them about rights of land, division-lines, and other misunderstandings'--thus acting as a genial and mutual friend, without fee or reward, as 'a peace-maker' among them.
He started in the race of business-life, at the age of twenty-one, with no other 'capital' than a pair of stalwart arms and hands, and by the use of them, and a judicious investment of the fruit of their labors, at the age of about 56 be was in possession of what he considered a "competency of this world's goods", for himself and family--as he then stated in a letter to one of his brothers at the East.
But it was 'otherwise ordered' than that he should remain here long to enjoy this "competency."
He died at Monroeville Cal. on the 19th of Dec., 1852, aged 56 years, 7 months and 12 days, after an illness disabling him for the duties of his office of only about one week. He held, at the time of his decease, the office of County Judge for Colusi Co., by election, and, by appointment, he officiated as Judge of Probate, County Treasurer, County Surveyor, County Clerk,--and, exofficio, as County Recorder, and County Commissioner. We understand the sallary and perquisites attached to all these offices amounted to about $ 2,000 per annum.
His county, (I am informed by a California correspondent) was at that time nearly as large as the State of New Hampshire. He held these several offices, (or a great part of them) about 20 months, to the day of his decease.-- My correspondent adds: "By the exercise of his influence, sound judgment and financial tact, he kept the county free of debt, at a time when extravagance and misrule, in most of the other counties, were piling up debts which are burdens upon the people's shoulders to this day. The County of Colusa had no jail at the time Judge IDE was appointed, and no money with which to build one. There was no very convenient way for confining persons brought there for trial, in criminal cases, without the expense of day and night keepers. In the spring of 1852 Mr. Ide related to a friend who called on him, what he did to obviate this inconvenience, somewhat as follows: 'I have tools which I brought with me over the Plains, and some I brought by steamer, on my last trip from the East. I will get some good bar iron from San Francisco, and some bolts, and will build a cage with my own hands.'" And this writer adds: "He did so, with some assistance by the local smith, perhaps. He drilled the bars and bolted them together; thus making a safe and durable cell for the confinement of prisoners. He placed this cage under the dense and comfortable shade of a monster oak in front of a building which, at that time, and for that place, was a 'first-class Stage Hotel, and the county Court House'. No guard was required, and it needed no ventillation. It was a healthy as well as a secure place for detaining the accused while awaiting trial. It was a success--a necessary and inexpensive structure, saving the County much expense in the line of public building. Some years afterwards, when the County Seat was removed from Monroeville, this cell or cage was also moved; and even now, after the lapse of so many years, it is doing duty as a cell in the splendid new brick Jail, at Colusi, Colusi County."
In further response to the Editor's inquiry, this correspondent writes: "Some thought Judge IDE'S death was hastened to give opportunity for robbery. I do not think so. It is true there I were suspicious circumstances in relation to his last sickness, which gave credence to such a belief in the minds of some of his friends. He was living away from his family; his wife having died about two years previously, and his children residing at a great distance on his Rancho, were none of them with him during his short confinement with the small pox. He had the key of the county safe under his head at the time of his death, I have been told. The man who attended him during his sickness took said key and robbed the safe. It was known at the time how much money there was in the safe belonging to the County. The thief was pursued--finally caught, and all the County's money recovered--but no more. Mr. Ide was known to have money of his own in the safe, but how much no one knew. None of his money was recovered; and the thief, by the connivance of some one who was, perhaps, his confederate in the plunder, escaped the second time, and was never re-taken.
"Mr. IDE was buried at Monroeville, where was once the site of Colusi Co. Court House, but at the present day there are no buildings there, and the land they stood on is occupied as a wheat field."
Mr. IDE'S plan for "civil service" rules, under his "administration", as explained by his third stipulation of principles, (see page 145), which were to prevail under the new government, for the time being, at least, viz: that its prominent public offices should be occupied by that class of philanthropic, patriotic citizens who could not be enticed by the love of money "to corruption, fraud and dishonor", shows that he was a full-blooded radical politician, of the strictest sect of the present day: but with this difference of development: while the modern 'radicals' preach high-toned patriotism, and practice the contrary, he practiced what he preached--for we are credibly informed that, for his month or more indefatigable labors while organizing the "Bear Flag Government", and, superintending its operations, and for his four or five months' services under Capt. Fremont, in his expedition down the coast in pursuit of Don Castro and his handful of men--for all these public services, "civil and military", he never asked or received of the Californian or of the United States' government, any compensation for his time, if, indeed, his necessary personal expenses while in the U. S. service were provided for him.
Mr. IDE was a man of temperate, industrious and frugal habits, and of an enterprising business propensity. Soon after his arrival in California he purchased a three-mile-square tract of land, situated in the pleasant valley "at the head of navigation", on the Sacramento River, some 130*19* miles above the city of Sacramento, on which he afterwards made extensive improvements. During the early stage of the "gold excitement", he and his oldest son and a son-in-law spent a few months "in the mines"; and they then retired "for good" from that branch of industry--satisfied with an amount of about $ 25,000, as the result of their labors therein.
We have not not hand the data from which to gather much information as respects his private pecuniary affairs; but will, on this point, quote a few sentences from a letter of his to a brother, in 1851, then living in Illinois. "I do not seek more wealth; but simply wish to exchange what I have for cash, that I may leave California once for all. I sell slowly-- not half as fast as my stock increases. I have collected about $ 6,000 since I came home.*13* I have tried to sell out all, at once; but few persons have the means to buy 1000 head of cattle, 150 horses, and 30,000 acres of land. My cattle are appraised at $ 30, oxen $ 75, each, horses at $ 70, and land at 25 cents per acre*--making some $ 50,000. The tax is one per cent--the snug little sum of $ 500, which is more than one-tenth the revenue of the County--from all of which not a farthing's benefit is derived by any person except office-holders-- two-thirds going to defray State expenses."*14*
We have now about concluded these "biographical sketches of the life" of a useful citizen, whose premature death was a severe loss to his surviving children, a large circle of relatives and friends, as well as, (prospectively), to any community in which his future lot might have been cast. He was the poor man's friend and adviser--and, in every sense of the word, a sincere Christian.
We propose to devote a considerable portion of the remaining pages of this volume to extracts from Mr. IDE'S letters to his friends, after he had been sometime a resident of California.
The casual reader--not a relative, or an acquaintance of his--will find many interesting incidents of pioneer life briefly treated of in these extracts--always bearing in mind, that the letters they are taken from were written for the friendly eye of the recipient, only.
But we will first introduce, as more particularly connected with his relation to California as a devoted advocate of its "Freedom and Independence", extracts, at considerable length, from an "Address to the Citizens of California", which, on account of his previous connection with them in their privations and struggles, he thought it proper and incumbent on him to send them.