Go back to Chapter 12



BUT it is proper to return to the history of events in the order in which they transpired.

Every moment that could be prudently spared from the duty of overseeing the guards, at very short intervals, (as most of the men had been deprived of sleep, and some of us for five days and nights in succession), was devoted to writing--as we had no clerks or printing establishment.

The remainder of the night was spent in drawing up such articles of agreement and treaty stipulations, as were most likely to enlist the good will of all good citizens of California, without respect to the circumstance of any peculiar origin of its inhabitants.

These treaty stipulations were based on the independent right, self-existent in every individual, to cast off at pleasure any former obligation to governments, that experience might demonstrate as unproductive of the best good of the governed; and to remain isolated, if consistent with their circumstances and pleasure:

or, if necessary to secure protection and peace in the enjoyment of that just Liberty which is, ever was and ever will be the immutable birth-right of all men, to associate themselves voluntarily for the present necessity, under such regulations as may best guarantee the protection sought. * * *

But not to stop to make our last appeal in behalf of equal Liberty, we will simply inform you that, in addition to the preceding statement, the stipulations provided, First: That no individual division of the public property should be allowed, but that such should be sacredly held as security for the faithful payment of the just value of such articles of provisions as necessity demanded for the common support of such as should, without pecuniary consideration or hope of other reward than the consciousness of having freely given their devoted services to the cause of Independence, and the establishment of such government as the good sense and wisdom of the people of California might desire. Secondly: That Commerce should be free--that no impost should be levied or collected--that frauds and crimes only should be taxed, and that without license! Thirdly: That, the supreme direction of the affairs of Paternal government should be entrusted to those alone, whose generous philanthropy and patriotic regard for the welfare of their children, in common with the rest of their fellow-countrymen, and the race of men in general, would enable them willingly and cheerfully to do so, without enlisting the corrupting influence of the love of money. That no governor, president, legislator, member of assembly, council-man, or Senator, (if you please), should ever be enticed to corruption, fraud and dishonor, by the love of money. Fourthly: That all involuntary taxation of the virtuous, industrious, self-governing freemen of California, or any other people whom we would account worthy of our fellowship, should never be allowed or practiced--that whenever taxation shall be necessary, (except as punishment for the infraction of the moral principle of honesty, justice and equal rights) it shall be between contracting parties equally free to choose or refuse. Fifthly: No persons shall ever be compelled, contrary to their free will, to bear arms, or otherwise to serve the cause of Liberty:

for that would prove that its people were unworthy of its blessings; or, that those blessings were no longer worth enjoying. And, lastly:

All good friends, (Spaniards and native Californians), who had taken a solemn oath that they were pleased to support our Independent principles and Flag, were on their part, according to their request, excused from bearing arms against any of their brethren who might not understand, or believe in the sincerity of our professions, or our determined resolution to make a virtue of the stern necessity which had compelled us to assume responsibilities so unusual and unlooked-for; and voluntarily promised that they would write to their friends and acquaintances throughout all the country, and inform them as to the nature of our intentions, and persuade them not to resist us; and they further voluntarily agreed to furnish us with any supplies of provisions, or other articles we might stand in need of for the public service, on the conditions we had proposed ;--and, further, it was stipulated and agreed that receipts should in every case be given, signed by the Commander of the garrison; and that no gift, not even the smallest trifle, should be accepted by any of the soldiers, individually or collectively, lest it should be infered that, in some event, extortion, through fear of violence, should have been practiced.

It was not without the greatest difficulty that these stipulations could be interpreted to the understanding of the first Alcalde of the District of Sonoma; and still more difficult to make him see how and by what magic the wheel or postule of government was to be made to operate without the aid of the love of money.

It became necessary to dissect each sentence, and reduce it to its simplest form, ere it could be interpreted into Spanish, and by another interpreter changed back to English again, which was considered necessary in order to any certainty of understanding.

There was another difficulty of no inconsiderable magnitude, which was a want of proper understanding on the part of many of our own men, of the policy or principle of action necessary for success. That portion of our little band of heroes who at first enlisted for plunder and flight to the States, who proposed to tear down and pillage the house of Gen. M. G. Vallejo (as it was known that he had charge of a large amount of money in his house) still earnestly contended that a Spaniard had no right to liberty, and but very little right to the enjoyment of life.

You will not, therefore, dear Sir, be surprised to incredulity, we hope, when you are informed, that after a portion of the men had exhibited the most surprising vigilance in capturing all the Spaniards, and even some others whose love of freedom was considered questionable, and thrusting them indiscriminately within the walls of the callaboose; that after the Alcalde had been taken from thence by the Commander--not without the most earnest remonstrance on the part of a large portion of our "Independent Freemen"--that after they had witnessed the assurance that the said Alcalde gave of his approbation of our cause; after they had refused their consent to the publication to the world of our intentions, lest it might be the means of hastening our indiscriminate destruction; when you are informed that the release of one man was sufficient to fill them with consternation--to fill their minds with distrust as to the sagacity and ability of their leader to conduct an enterprise fraught with such terrible consequences ;--we add, when you are also informed that it became necessary to conduct these friendly negotiations without the camp, and without the full knowledge of the garrison you will not be surprised that it was by a great sacrifice of feeling on their part, that the garrison continued their Commander in office.

But on the other hand it was acknowledged that no fault could be found with his watchful care in providing for the maintenance of that security of "persons", now become so apparently necessary; and, as he was the only man then present that could command with that determination and decision necessary to insure obedience, it was again agreed, that until a more suitable man could be found, he should be sustained.

Early in the morning of the 15th of June it was deemed necessary to send an ambassador to the Bay, to carry the letter heretofore spoken of to Commodore STOCKTON, if he were then arrived; and if not, to deliver it to him who should be highest in command in the U. S. Navy then present. But as no man might be found willing to risk his life in going to the Bay, of San Francisco (to Yerba Buena) simply to carry a letter, it became necessary to make other and more important business. It is necessary and right, sometimes, to take advantage even, of the fears, as well as of the bravery of those with whom we have to do. That the fears of the men of the garrison, after the first moments of excitement had subsided had prevented, and would continue to prevent desertion, and to bind them close to the loaded cannon, and to the 250 loaded muskets, was easy to understand; but how to compel an individual, by the same fear, to travel 50 or 60 miles through an enemy's country, was a problem not so readily solved.

The men of the garrison were accordingly summoned to attend, and the circumstances of our situation were recited ;--positions upon the neighboring hills were pointed out, where Gen. Castro might plant his cannon; and, in case of the want of a sufficient supply of powder, we might be greatly annoyed: and the men of the garrison were informed that a letter had been prepared for Commodore STOCKTON, and a volunteer was necessary to carry it, and take charge of anything that might be sent back in return.

William Todd, whom circumstances afterwards proved to be a brave man, volunteered to go--who was conducted on his way immediately by the Commander of the garrison, beyond the guard lines, where he received the said letter and full information in relation to the existence of the Proclamation and treaty stipulations, which had been partially made known to the Alcalde before refered to, and the hopes of the Commander were communicated in relation to the same. He was then charged in relation to his journey; and, withal, to be sure not to ask for anything from the men or officers of the ship where he delivered the letter, as the letter contained all the business of his mission; but simply to take whatever (if anything) was put into his hand, and be sure to make his way back by another route than the one he pursued thither.

The balance of the 15th, the 16th and 17th, was spent in translating and re-translating the simple elements of the articles of the treaty of peace and amity, and of the Proclamation, by so many of the men as could be spared from the general oversight of the garrison.

The men were divided into 4 night guards of 6 men each, and into 8 day guards of 3 men each. One half of the men were at all times, by day, employed in camp duty--the other half guarded and slept; and the Captain, who was never counted anywhere, served as officer of the day and night. The camp service consisted in cleaning the muskets, providing wood for cooking, bringing in provisions and cooking. Roast beef, fried pan-cakes and cold water served us for rations.

We received no intelligence from abroad the first four days; and such had been the vigilance with which our camp was guarded that none were known to approach it near enough to be at all acquainted with our means of defence, and to escape. Every opportunity was embraced to make ourself and our plan of government known and approved by our prisoners; for which purpose we took occasion to make them understand it was necessary to detain them a few days.

On the evening of the 17th came back Wm. Todd, and with him Lieut. Missroon, of the U. S. ship Portsmouth, bearing a letter from his Capt. J. Montgomery. He was bearer of verbal dispatches, which for prudent reasons were not written, but refered to and authorized by written documents from Captain Montgomery.

It appeared on investigation, that our messenger, after having delivered the letter, and waiting some time, and nothing was said about any powder, thought it necessary, notwithstanding his orders not to ask for anything, to inquire if any powder was to be sent; and the letter, which was written to be read before the garrison, contained the following sentence :-- "Although we have ample means to defend ourselves from any attack that can be made on us by Castro, by the use of small arms, we have not a sufficient quantity of powder to withstand for any considerable length of time, an attack by the use of cannon".

Thus, under these unfortunate circumstances, it was easy for our good Capt. Montgomery to mistake the real design of the letter, (which it is true was written in haste, but with care), and which contained no intimation that we desired of him the slightest assistance--no, not "so so much as one charge of powder"--which to have asked would have been the begging our own destruction, and inviting that unwarrantable interference we feared, and which afterwards ingloriously arrested our progress, defeated our plans--caused disobedience of our orders, and ourself to be bitterly, and, else, justly reproached by more than a hundred of our companions who knew us only by our Proclamation--who had secretly organized under Weaver, Bird and others on the south side of the Bay--waiting in vain, because of the disobedience of our orders, for that assistance which it was abundantly in our power to have given--whereby Castro's main army would have been suddenly and wholly defeated.

But to reserve this part of our history for the leading subject of another division, we will rehearse from recollection Capt. Montgomery's answer to our said "Letter of notice", which he unfortunately not only failed to understand, but failed, for nearly six months, to deliver to Commodore STOCKTON.

Capt. Montgomery's letter bore date June 16th--and, after the usual compliments, went on to say, that he was "here as the legal representative of the Government of the United States of America--having in charge the proper interests and peace of its citizens engaged in commerce," etc., and it was more than his gallant ship was worth to give us so much as one charge of powder. He responded, very handsomely, to the sentiment that it is right, on every proper occasion, to resist oppression by all honorable means; and that it was the settled policy of his Government always to acknowledge any authority they might find in power, without considering the legitimate rights of the contending parties--said he was happy to learn by my messenger, that we had, by Proclamation, secured the proper rights and peace of the inhabitants of Sonoma and country around, and hoped that the same humane course of conduct would characterize all our future operations.

Capt. Montgomery closed his letter by saying he had not time to communicate all he would say in answer to my letter; that he was in expectation of important news from Mexico or the United States, and refered us to any explanations Lieut. Missroon might make, which were thereby made a part of his communications to me.

Lieutenant Missroon, after we were quietly seated in a room by ourselves, read the said letter, and went on to explain and say that, as officers of a Government at peace with Mexico, to assist, or in any way to interfere in any revolution that might be going on in any country where they might be present, would justly subject their Government to dishonor, and themselves to be disgraced and driven from the service of their country: but that, in the event of war with Mexico, his Captain had instructed him to say that he would supply any amount of ammunition we might be in need of, and would also place the half of his men under my command, and coöperate with his ship against the common enemy. He then asked for a copy of the Proclamation of the 15th. He was informed that we had no clerks to perform our writing, and that one would be handed him at the time of his return. He thanked me, and said he would direct the clerk of the ship to copy and circulate it. He took his leave, and agreed to meet me at sunrise, at my room next morning.

I gave charge of the guards, for the first time, to Capt. Sears and Lieut. Ford: after writing until 11, went quietly to rest for the first time since the 8th of June, and slept until sunrise. These matters are of trivial importance; but they show how much labor was performed in order to avoid what was conceived to be a dishonorable act.

Go forward to Chapter 14