This Land of Gold and Hope
Yankees are a wonderful people -- wonderful! Wherever they go, they make
improvements, If they were to emigrate in large numbers to hell itself,
they would irrigate it, plant trees and flower gardens, build reservoirs
and fountains, and make everything beautiful and pleasant.
No one had been more accommodating to the Americans than Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. The descendant of Spanish soldiers who had conquered Mexico and colonized California, he had built himself a vast empire in the fertile Sonoma Valley. He welcomed the first wave of Forty-niners, and hoped to profit himself from the gold rush.
With its wealth and sudden population of 90,000 American citizens, California demanded immediate statehood -- and, in 1850, got it. Vallejo helped draw up the new state constitution, and served in the first state senate.
But in the overcrowded mining camps, tensions rose as Americans began to suggest that there was no room in California for anyone but them.
mining became more difficult, as the claims became more difficult to find
because there were more miners than there were workable claims, everyone
competing and fighting for his smaller and smaller opportunity to strike
it rich, you became, therefore... desirous of finding an excuse for your
failure, or desirous of finding a way to get an advantage. Well one of
the ways was to say, I'm an American; What are the Mexicans doing here?
What are the Indians? We don't need the Indians, we can certainly get
rid of them. What are the Chinese doing here? Those people shouldn't be
here... This isn't their land, this is my land! This belongs to us!"
In 1850, American miners pressured the California legislature into enacting a monthly tax of $20 on all miners who were not United States citizens. Thousands of foreigners were forced to leave the gold fields; the tax was far more than they could pay.
The ill will of the Yankee rabble... against sons of other nations was rising... This mutual bad feeling explains the bloody hostilities and atrocities we witnessed every day in this land of gold and hope.
In the mining town of Downieville, a Mexican woman -- remembered only as Josepha -- awoke to find a drunken American in her bedroom. She reached for a knife and stabbed him to death. A mob immediately seized her and when she failed to express regret for what she had done, hanged her. "It was not her guilt which condemned this unfortunate woman," one newspaperman wrote, "but her Mexican blood."
always think of the Spanish girl standing on the plank of a bridge, tossing
her hat to a friend and putting the rope around her neck, folding her
hands and facing death with a bravery that shamed us men.
The manners and habits of the Chinese are very repugnant to Americans in California. Of different language, blood, religion, and character, and inferior in most mental and bodily qualities, the Chinaman is looked upon by some as only a little superior to the Negro, and by others as somewhat inferior.
The Chinese miners kept to themselves, cooked their own kind of food, practiced their own religion, rarely learned English -- and were denied citizenship.
"They end up working the claims that are the least attractive, and yet they make a success in them, because they work harder, because they have a technique and a willingness to struggle longer. They're willing to work on the Sundays, they're willing to give up all play and concentrate. And so even when they've been driven out of the workable mines and they turn to the most, seemingly, desert-like places, barren places, they succeed, and this aggravates and angers the Americans even more."
1852, because of intense competition between Chinese miners and Anglo-American
miners, the legislature passed a second foreign miners tax. This law was
in effect from 1852 to 1870 and the revenues, the state revenues, collected
from Chinese miners constituted fifty percent of the income of the state
When the Chinese paid the miners tax and refused to leave their claims, Americans resorted to intimidation. They hacked off the Chinese miners' queues, burned down their shacks, beat and flogged and murdered them.
Even Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo was betrayed by his American friends: law suits and an invasion of squatters reduced his sprawling estate from a quarter of a million acres to fewer than 300.
sent us a swarm of bandits who... dedicated themselves exclusively to
robbery and assault... France, desiring to be rid of several thousand
lying men and corrupt women, embarked them on ships which brought them
to San Francisco... China poured upon our shores clouds and more clouds
of Asiatics... very harmful to the moral and material development of the
country... But all these evils became negligible with the swollen torrents
of shysters who came from Missouri and other states of the Union... These
legal thieves, clothed in the robes of the law, took from us our lands,
and without the least scruple enthroned themselves in our homes like so
many powerful kings.
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© 2001 THE WEST FILM PROJECT and WETA