Go back to Chapter 15



ON the 1st day of July came three men from the opposite side of the Bay, and informed us that all the Americans and other foreigners were up and doing to spread our Proclamation, and that a company of 100 were already collected in its support, and requested us to send them arms. A boat was provided, and arrangements made to mount a small piece of artillery on board the boat, so as to secure the safe conveyance of a party of 12 men in charge of 100 muskets; but before these arrangements were complete, Capt. Fremont returned to Sonoma, and so advised as to defeat the measure.

It now wanted only two or three days to the 4th of July, and our order for the immediate embarkation of the 12 men with the arms, to the assistance of our friends, at the head of whom was Weaver, Bird and others, could not be enforced, because Capt. Fremont was opposed to it, and the measure was postponed until after the 4th. The 4th came like other days.

Two hundred and seventy-two men had signed our roll. We were in quiet, and for the time, in undisturbed possession of all California north and east of the San Joaquin River. We had taken possession of Yerba Buena and spiked the cannon there. All that was necessary was to have pursued our victory, to have made it complete.

It may have been considered very important, to the interests of the United States to have prevented the crossing of the Bay by our forces, and the consequent union and coöperation with our friends there, who had assembled in support of our Proclamation of the 15th of June, as such an event would have rendered the immediate conquest and success of principles inevitable; and that, too, before any safe plan could be devised for getting up the United States' Flag. Although this conquest would not have in the least retarded the union of California with the States; yet, it would have given the citizens of California the right of being consulted as to the TERMS of the union; and what was and is of equal importance to those who delight to cherish the honor of the Institutions of Liberty--it would have prevented that foul stain of disgrace that attaches to that very institution of liberty which we delight to honor.

As relates to the next consideration of moment--which, indeed, may with truth be said to have had more influence in determining events than any other consideration whatever --it is of inconsiderable importance who were to be the renowned 'Conquerors of California.' One thing was reduced to a moral as well as a physical certainty: that if the current of popularity our cause had acquired, thus suddenly, were allowed to proceed, it would have been quite impossible for any force of the United States authority, then within using distance, to have kept up with it; and, consequently, all that glory which had so manifestly inspired the hopes of its officers present would have been lost! To prevent a catastrophe so appalling, it became necessary that the greatest exertions should be used to hurry up a pretext for hoisting the U. S. Flag, and, Commodore Jones-like, take possession of the whole country.

Now, dear Sir, at what particular date this new plan of Conquest was matured, is more than we know; but, nevertheless, we are able to leave it between ten days next preceding the 5th of July, '46. We were now no longer, in case of war with the United States, to be considered a free people, and regarded as allies; but we were soon to be told that it was the policy of the United States Government (officers) to treat those as enemies, whom they might find in an enemy's country!

But before it was prudent to throw such an insult square in our face, it was necessary to place one of their number in command of our military forces; and not only so, but it was also imperatively necessary to rely much on our love of country, and devotion to the best interests of the people with whom we were associated, else had they learned more of the nature and consequence of such an unwarrantable and uncalled for abuse.

If it is still necessary to state, in concise language, this second edition of the plan for the conquest of California, 'revised and corrected' by the joint labors of Lieuts. Gillespie, Missroon and others, we will give it without fear of contradiction.

First, secure the command of the Independent forces of the Bear Flag Republic. Secondly, hoist the U. S. Flag, and follow up to the entire conquest. Thirdly, if no war between Mexico and the United States ensue, sell out all the military stores of the U. S. to the Government of California, and obtain California by treaty with the new Government. But in the event of a war, to seize and acquire the whole by the right of conquest. And it was admitted by all that the Government of the United States would, as a matter of course, cashier whoever might consent thus to violate its honor, by becoming the leader of the said Independents. Yet as a solace for his dishonor, (to use the language of our informant, who was one of said U. S. officers), "he will be in town with a pocket full of rocks."

Further to explain how, and in what manner, this plan was made successful, I will now copy from my Journal written at the time, and as I have hinted before: "Capt. Fremont opposed the sending men and arms across the Bay --advised us not to believe every report--that as one of our informants was an Englishman, it might be a plan to entrap us: it was not best to push our success too rapidly, as we would endanger the safety of Sonoma. Only delay a day or two--you may receive more information." Further on it is added: "From the foregoing advice and other inducements connected therewith it became impossible to convince our men of the danger which threatened our unarmed associates on the other side of the Bay: and delay ensued which caused their entire dispersion: while four of their number were made prisoners--three of whom suffered extreme cruelty; but the fourth, who was my second son, was released with the gift of a horse and a passport, with the following expression of Gen. Castro: 'I will not punish you; I have released you to convince your Father that I, too, know how to perform a generous act.-- When I meet you on the battle-field, I will ask you for your passport.'"

You will recollect that that portion of the men who were opposed to making themselves responsible for their own acts, at the time it was determined to take possession of the Garrison of Sonoma, departed to join Capt. Fremont.

These men were again returned to Sonoma, and seeing all the good citizens of California were fast falling into the same fatal error which had well nigh involved themselves in rebellion--from motives of prudence, and by the advice of certain naval officers, resolved to effect by artifice what could not have been done by a fair expression of the voice of the whole. They argued that if Capt. Fremont could be placed in command of our forces, it would amount to an alliance with the United States; or at least that he would be cashiered, and would remain with us. They seemed fully to understand, that if Capt. Fremont could be placed in command, we should at once come under the protection of the United States: while it is more than supposable, that our very attentive friends of the U. S. marine authority, in connection with their "Civil Engineers", had quite another object in the ma-nœuvre--which may be more fully understood from the narration of what follows:

Early on the 5th of July Capt. Fremont requested the "bear men", as the "Independents" were designated, to assemble 'without arms', within a large room at Don Salvadore's house, adjoining which was a smaller room capable of convening the Captain's Company-- who assembled there, under arms, to the number of 72 of his men, and 8 or 10 gentlemen officers from the U. S. ships then in the Bay. The number of the Independents, in contradistinction, was about 280 men, without arms--a citizens' assembly, convened to deliberate on some proposition expected to be made by Capt. Fremont.

The business was before the Independent citizens, as a matter of course: but the Council was composed of their friends, and an armed sentinel, from Capt. Fremont's guards, kept the door between the private Council-room and the hall of the Representatives of the People.

This large assembly might properly be assimilated with the Legislative Assembly of Vermont, in its first organization (the more efficient arm of the government), while the assemblage of armed friends might prefigure the Governor and Council of Vermont; yet they do not enjoy the veto power, but simply the power of suspension.

Capt. Fremont, accompanied by Lieut. Gillespie and two or three others--officers in the U. S. Navy--presented himself before the 'general assembly', and opened the business of the session by declaring--(not his determination to conquer California, to be sure; for he said he should not, in any manner, intermeddle in the affairs of California politics)--but his, already d-e-c-i-d-e-d resolution to conquer Gen. José Castro, whom he violently denounced as an usurper in the California government. He went on to say that his meditated expedition against him could not be considered a violation of the amicable relations existing between the United States and Mexico. He continued to say: "I shall proceed to take Castro, and take him with me to the States, whether you coöperate with me or not": and, in justification, refered to the manner in which he had been insulted by Gen. Castro.

After having sufficiently guarded himself against any future imputation of unwarrantable interference, on his part, in those matters which exclusively belonged to the citizens of California, he said, that as we (connecting his party with the assembly of citizens), have one common enemy, he would state the conditions on which he would agree to make common cause with us.

The advantages he proposed to confer on us were: First, his unwavering support of our Independence, and of the principles and purposes set forth by our Proclamation of the 15th of June. Secondly, he offered us every, facility his well supplied camp afforded,--that we would be allowed to share with himself and men the military stores and provisions supplied by the U. S. Government; and, most of all we might rely on his friendly advice in conducting all our purely military operations.

The two first conditions were scarcely nominal.

They only required that we should sign a pledge that we would "abstain from the violation of the chastity of women", and that we would conduct the Revolution honorably. The third simply required a pledge of obedience to the orders of our properly constituted officers.

He insisted at some length on the imperious necessity that all should solemnly pledge implicit and unconditional obedience to the proper officers, which now became essentially necessary to success; and after expatiating on the vast importance of conducting honorably the enterprise that was destined to become a brilliant example to the oppressed throughout the world, of a people though few, who have by the mighty impulse of Equity's inspiring principle, overthrown the rapacious powers of usurpation, avarice and governmental oppression; and, by instituting equal liberty of assuming a higher and more honorable system of government among the enlightened and free.

After having again pledged his honor to stand by us, at least until Gen. Castro should have been overcome, he closed his propositions and remarks by politely bowing to the soon-to-be ex-commander, as if he would say, 'Will you now have the magnanimity to second my propositions'?

In reply to the Captain's propositions, he said that he believed the past honorable and unimpeachable conduct of the men of the garrison, which had the esteem and confidence of even many of our enemies, and the responded approbation and support of all present, could not be refused, even by Captain Fremont, as a sufficient guarantee for the future, so far as the first and second conditions were concerned. But since we had but recently suffered the defeat of all our well devised plans, through a want of confidence in the ability of our highest officer in command--and, too, through disobedience of orders given, whereby our enemy had escaped an otherwise certain overthrow, and our friends collected south of the Bay had been dispersed, and their leaders made prisoners, it was admitted to be of the highest importance that those to whom we had committed, or to whom we shall hereafter commit the responsibility of directing our combined efforts, might possess so much of the confidence of the governed, as would enable them to carry in to effect at least their commands. And inasmuch as Capt. Fremont had prepared a solemn pledge, calculated by its provisions to give confidence to those in command, and to bind us closer to the fixed and publicly declared object of our Revolution, a motion was made, in conclusion, to appoint a committee to draft an appropriate PLEDGE, to be subscribed by every man before he might further participate in the perils or honors attendant upon the establishment of such a system of government, as shall secure to all the free enjoyment of rational liberty.

The generous feeling of the assembly immediately responded by electing the last speaker their said committee; whereupon the prudent sense of the privy council suggested the propriety of electing two persons more to join said committee, from the council of friends, in arranging an affair upon which so much depended.

Thus strengthened, the said committee retired to consider the subject of their charge, under an injunction of brevity from the privy council.

At the committee's assembling and proceeding to business, it appeared that the adjumentative portion thereof were decidedly in favor of setting aside all that had been done in the cause, and for making the era of the Independence of California to commence with the command of Capt. Fremont. It was true that two of the three composing this committee were selected from Capt. Fremont's Company, neither of whom had hitherto taken any active part under our Flag--who had each been nominated by the other--who were in no manner interested in anything that had been done under our Flag, farther than any other of Capt. Fremont's men; neither of whom had signed our articles, or otherwise identified themselves with our cause.

Under these circumstances it was easy to conceive and to understand the motive of these representatives of the secret council: and, also, it was easy to understand why they were elected by a body of men to which they at the time did not belong. And it was easy, also, to represent the wishes and interests of that body, whose right it was to be represented in a matter that only concerned themselves, to wit: what shall be the form of that pledge which they were disposed, of their own free will, to offer to Capt. Fremont, in exchange for his proffered three overtures--in ratification of the proposed treaty of alliance, "offensive and defensive", by which, according to his own statement verbally made, we were to make joint effort against "the common enemy."

Therefore it was worse than useless to further argue any difference that might exist in the views of the primitive portion of the committee and its adjunct portion, than to understand the position of each; as it was reasonable to suppose that the criminal assembly of "Bear Men, who were Bear Men", would be at liberty to sustain such a report as would truly represent their wishes and interest.

Accordingly each of the component portions of the committee drafted a resolution and pledge suiting the views of each, which were forthwith reported by its Chairman to the reassembled convention, in accordance with the established rules of conventional assemblies; although not without a serious attempt, on the part of the adjuncts, to seize the chair. They appeared satisfied, however, with the impartiality of the Chairman, in the discharge of his duty as reporter of the committee's doings.

The Report of the majority was first read, and their views, as far as expressed in the sitting of the committee, were fairly represented.

It was proposed by the first article of the majority report, to annul and wipe out all that had been done up to the 5th of July. The reasons urged in defence of this article were: 1st, the 5th of July immediately follows the 4th day of July, the anniversary of American Independence; and, 2dly, as Capt. Fremont was to be our advisorary leader, it would enable him to "begin with the beginning", and that his name and influence would add more advantage to the cause by being thus associated; and 3dly it was proper that, in changing the 'administration', there should be a new organization throughout: or more definitely, that we who are out of office may have a chance to get in.

After followed the Report of the minority. which---[Thus abruptly "ends the chapter.

Go forward to Chapter 17