From: Peculiarities of American Cities by Captain Willard Glazier
PHILADELPHIA: HUBBARD BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS, No. 723 Chestnut Street. 1886
CHAPTER XXXIII. SAN FRANCISCO.
San Francisco.—The Golden State.—San Francisco Bay.—Golden Gate.—Conquest of California by Fremont, 1848.—Discovery of Gold.—Rush to the Mines, 1849.—"Forty-niners."—Great Rise in Provisions and Wages.—Miners Homeward Bound.—Dissipation and Vice in the City.—Vigilance Committee.—Great Influx of Miners in 1850.—Immense Gold Yield.—Climate.—Earthquakes.—Productions.—Irrigation.—Streets and Buildings.—Churches.—Lone Mountain Cemetery.—Cliff House.—Seal Rock.—Theatres.—Chinese Quarter.—Chinese Theatres.—Joss Houses.—Emigration Companies.—The Chinese Question.—Cheap Labor.—"The Chinese Must Go."—Present Population and Commerce of San Francisco.—Exports.—Manufactures.—Cosmopolitan Spirit of Inhabitants.
San Francisco is situated on the best harbor which our Pacific Coast affords, a little below the 38th parallel of latitude, and about a degree further south than St. Louis, Cincinnati and Washington. It is the western terminus of the Central Pacific Railroad, American gateway to Asia and the far East.
As the traveler proceeds thitherward from the Valley of the Mississippi, on descending the western slopes of the Sierras, he finds himself fairly within the Golden State; and in more senses than one does California deserve that name. If it be the summer season the very air seems filled with a golden haze. In leaving the mountains all freshness is left behind. Trees and fields are yellow with drouth, which lasts from April to November. Dense clouds of dust fill the air and settle upon everything. Whole regions, by the means of[Pg 449] extensive and destructive mining operations, have been denuded of all verdure, and lie bare and unsightly, waiting until the slow processes of time, or the more expeditious hand of man, shall reclaim them. But mines have now given place to vast grain and cattle farms or ranches; and great fields of golden grain and the cattle on a thousand hills are on either side of the track. If it be later or earlier in the year there is a wealth of bloom such as is never dreamed of in the East. The ground, sometimes, as far as the eye can reach, is brilliant with color, a golden yellow the predominating hue. In the rainy season the Sacramento valley, the occasional victim of prolonged drouth, is sometimes visited by a freshet, which carries destruction with it; a mountain torrent, taking its rise near the base of Mt. Shasta, and fed by the snows of the Sierras, it is fitful in its demeanor. It finds its outlet through San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate to the Pacific.
San Francisco is on a peninsula which extends between the bay of that name and the ocean. Its site is nothing more than a collection of sand hills, which, before the building of the city, were continually changing their positions. The peninsula is thirty miles long and six wide, across the city, which stands on the eastern or inner slope.
San Francisco Bay is unsurpassed in the world, except by Puget Sound, in Washington Territory, for size, depth, ease of entrance and security. The entrance to the bay is through a passage five miles in length and about two in width, with its shallowest depth about thirty feet at low tide. Rocks rise almost perpendicularly on the northern side of the entrance, to a height of three thousand feet. A lighthouse is placed on one of[Pg 450] these, at Point Bonita. Fort Point, a fortress built on solid rock, commands the entrance from the south, and beyond it, until San Francisco is reached, are a series of sand dunes, some of them white and drifting and others showing green with the scant grass growing upon them. The entrance to the bay is called the Golden Gate, a name applied with singular appropriateness, since through its portals have passed continuous streams of gold since the discovery of the latter in 1848. Strangely enough, the name was given before the gold discovery, though at how early a date there seems no means of knowing. As far as can be ascertained, it first appears in Fremont's "Geographical Memoir of California," published in 1847. Six miles eastward from its entrance the bay turns southward for a distance of thirty miles, forming a narrow peninsula between it and the ocean, on the northeastern extremity of which the city is built. It also extends northward to San Puebla Bay, which latter extending eastward, connects by means of a narrow strait with Suisun Bay, into which the Sacramento River discharges its volume of water. These three bays furnish ample and safe harborage for all the merchant fleets of the world.
San Francisco Bay is about forty miles in length, its widest point being twelve miles. At Oakland, directly east of San Francisco, it is eight miles in width. Alcatraz Island, in the centre of the channel, six miles from the Golden Gate, is a solid rock rising threateningly above the water, and bristling with heavy artillery. It is sixteen hundred feet in length, and four hundred and fifty feet in width. Angel Island is directly north of Alcatraz, and four miles from San Francisco, contains eight hundred acres, and is also fortified. Midway[Pg 451] between San Francisco and Oakland is Yerba Buena, or Goat Island, which, too, is held as a United States military station. Red Rock, Bird Rock, the Two Sisters, and other small islands dot the bay.
In 1775 the first ship passed the portals of the Golden Gate, and made its way into the Bay of San Francisco. This ship was the San Carlos, commanded by Caspar De Portala, a Franciscan monk and Spanish Governor of Lower California, who set out on a voyage of discovery and exploration. The same man had six years previously visited the sand hills of the present site of San Francisco, being the first white man to set his foot upon them. Portala named the harbor San Francisco, after the founder of his monastic order, St. Francis. A mission was founded there six years later, on the twenty-seventh of June, by Friars Francisco Paloa and Bonito Cambou, under the direction of Father Junipero Serra, who had been commissioned by Father Portala as president of all the missions in Upper California. This was the sixth mission established in California, and up to the year 1800 the Fathers labored with great zeal and industry, had established eighteen missions, converted six hundred and forty-seven savages, and acquired a vast property in lands, cattle, horses, sheep and grain. Presidios or military stations were established for the protection of these missions, and the Indians readily submitted themselves to the Fathers, and acquired the arts of civilization.
The Franciscan friars continued complete sovereigns of the land during the first quarter of the present century, and increased in worldly goods. Mexico became a republic in 1824, and in 1826 considerably curtailed their privileges. In 1845 their property was finally confiscated and the missions broken up. The[Pg 452] priests returned to Spain; the Indians to their savagery; and only the crumbling walls of their adobe houses, and their decaying orchards and vineyards, remained to tell the tale of the past history of California. From that period until 1847 California was a bone of contention between Mexico and the United States, her territory overrun by troops of both nations. On the sixteenth of January, 1847, the Spanish forces capitulated to Fremont, and peace was established.
With the exception of the Mission Dolores, there was no settlement at San Francisco until 1835, when a tent was erected. A small frame house was built the following year, and on the fifteenth of April, 1838, the first white child was born. The population of San Francisco, then known as Yerba Buena, in 1842 was one hundred and ninety-six persons. In 1847 it had increased to four hundred and fifty-one persons, including whites, Indians, negroes and Sandwich Islanders. In March, 1848, the city contained two hundred houses, and eight hundred and fifty inhabitants. In November of the same year, the first steamer, a small boat from Sitka, made a trial trip around the bay. In this year the first public school and the first Protestant church were established.
This year marked the great era in the history of San Francisco. In the fall of 1847, Captain John A. Sutter, a Swiss by birth, who had resided in California since 1839, began erecting a saw mill at a place called Colorna, on the American River, a confluent of the Sacramento, about fifty miles east of the city of that name. James W. Marshall, who had taken the contract for erecting the mill, was at work with his men cutting and widening the tail-race when, on January eighteenth, 1848, he observed some particles of a yellow, glittering substance. In[Pg 453] February specimens of these findings were taken to San Francisco, and pronounced to be gold. The truth being soon confirmed, the rush for the gold fields commenced. People in all sections of California and Oregon forsook their occupations, and set out for the mines. The news spread, increasing as it went; until the reports grew fabulous. Many of the earliest miners acquired fortunes quickly, and as quickly dissipated them. The journal of Rev. Walter Colton, at that time Alcalde of Monterey, contains the following paragraph, under date of August twelfth, 1848:—
"My man Bob, who is of Irish extraction, and who had been in the mines about two months, returned to Monterey about four weeks since, bringing with him over two thousand dollars, as the proceeds of his labor. Bob, while in my employ, required me to pay him every Saturday night in gold, which he put into a little leather bag and sewed into the lining of his coat, after taking out just twelve and a half cents, his weekly allowance for tobacco. But now he took rooms and began to branch out; he had the best horses, the richest viands, and the choicest wines in the place. He never drank himself but it filled him with delight to brim the sparkling goblet for others. I met Bob to-day, and asked him how he got on. 'Oh, very well,' he replied, 'but I am off again for the mines.' 'How is that, Bob? you brought down with you over two thousand dollars; I hope you have not spent all that; you used to be very saving; twelve and a half cents a week for tobacco, and the rest you sewed into the lining of your coat.' 'Oh, yes,' replied Bob, 'and I have got that money yet. I worked hard for it, and the devil can't get it away. But the two[Pg 454]thousand dollars came aisily, by good luck, and has gone as aisily as it came!'"
Reports of the new El Dorado reached the States, and during 1849, from Maine to Louisiana came the gold seekers. From every country in Europe, from Australia and from China, additions were made to the throng of pilgrims, who, by the Isthmus, around the Horn, across the seas, and by the terrible journey overland, all rushed pell mell up the Sacramento, stopping at San Francisco only long enough to find some means of conveyance. We have no space to tell the story of that time. Men came and went. Some made fortunes. Others returned poorer than they came. Many who attempted the overland route left their bones bleaching on the plains. Some went back to their homes, and others remained to become permanent citizens of California. What the F. F. V.s are to Virginia, and the Pilgrim Fathers to Massachusetts, the "Forty-niners," a large number of whom still survive, will be, in the future, to California.
During 1848 ten million dollars' worth of gold had been gathered on the Yuba, American and Feather rivers. The city of San Francisco had, in January, 1849, two thousand inhabitants, and these were in a hurry to be off to the mines as soon as the rainy season was over. Ships began to arrive from all quarters, and July of that year found the flags of every nation floating in the bay. Five hundred square-rigged vessels lay in the harbor, and everybody was scrambling for the mines. These multitudes of people, though they thought only of gold, yet had to be fed, clothed and housed after a fashion. There were no supplies adequate to the demand, and provisions went up to fabulous prices. Apples sold for from $1 to $5 apiece, and eggs at the same rates.[Pg 455] Laborers demanded from $20 to $30 for a day's work, and were scarcely to be had at those figures. The miners probably averaged $25 a day at the mines, though some were making their hundreds. But at the exorbitant prices to be paid for everything, few were able to lay up much money.
Late in the year of 1849 the reaction came. The steamers were filled with downcast miners, thankful that they had enough left to take themselves home. Others having acquired something, stopped at San Francisco, and plunged into the worst forms of dissipation. The city during this and the following year held a carnival of vice and crime. Women there were few or none, save of the worst character, and gambling dens, dance houses, and drinking hells flourished on every street. In 1850 a Vigilance Committee was organized by the better class of citizens, which soon exercised a wholesome restraint upon the criminal classes. In the same year California was admitted to the Union without the preliminary of a Territorial Government, and San Francisco was chartered as a city. Courts were established, and the lawless community came under the dominion of law and order.
By this time the great haste which seized everybody in his eagerness to obtain gold and return home to enjoy it, had somewhat subsided. Men began to realize that there were other means of making money besides digging for it. Gardens were planted and orchards set out, and it was discovered that the apparently barren soil of the State would yield with a fruitfulness unparalleled in the East. San Francisco began to be more than a canvass city. Mud flats were filled in and sand hills leveled, houses, hotels and stores erected, and a wild speculation began in city property. Lots which a few[Pg 456] days before had been purchased for two or three thousand dollars, were held at fifty thousand dollars. A canvas tent, fifteen by twenty feet, near the plaza, rented for forty thousand dollars per annum. The Parker House, a two-story frame building on Kearney street, also near the plaza, brought a yearly rent of one hundred and twenty thousand dollars. Board in a hotel or a tent was eight dollars per day, and provisions were proportionately high. To build a brick house cost a dollar for each brick used. Twenty-seven thousand people arrived in San Francisco, by sea or land, during 1850. In 1853 thirty-four thousand gold seekers returned home, the yield of gold that year having been $65,000,000, the largest annual yield of the State. The imports of San Francisco in the same year were over $45,000,000. As early as this period it was the third city in tonnage entrances in the United States, New York and New Orleans alone exceeding it. In 1856 the bad state of public affairs again necessitated the interference of a Vigilance Committee, but since that time the city has been orderly.
The site of San Francisco was fixed by chance. More desirable places might have been selected, but the influx of miners dropped upon the first spot convenient for them to land, from which to start post-haste to the mines, and that spot is indicated by the present city. Owing to its location its climate is not in all respects desirable. The general climate of the coast is tempered, both in summer and winter, by a warm ocean current, which, flowing northward along the coast of China and Siberia, takes a turn to the south when it reaches Alaska, and washes the western coast of the continent of America. It is so warm that it produces a marked[Pg 457] effect upon this coast, just as the Gulf Stream tempers the climate of the British Islands. But it has been sensibly cooled by its proximity to Arctic seas, and so sends cool breezes to fan the land during the heat of summer. These summer sea breezes rushing through the narrow opening of the Golden Gate become almost gales, and bring both cold and fog with them. The air of winter is mild and spring-like. This is the rainy season, but it does not rain continuously. It is the season of verdure and growth, and frosts are both slight and infrequent in the latitude of San Francisco. Not a drop of rain falls during the summer. The mornings are warm and sometimes almost sultry; but about ten o'clock the sea breeze springs up, growing more violent as the day advances, and frequently bringing a chilly fog with it, so that by evening men are glad to wrap themselves in overcoats, and women put on their cloaks and furs. The sand, which is still heaped in dunes to the westward of the city, and lies upon its vacant lots, is lifted and whirled through the air, falling almost like sleet, and stinging the faces of pedestrians.
Thunder storms are of rare occurrence at San Francisco, but earthquakes are exceedingly frequent. Probably not a year elapses in which slight shocks are not felt in the State. Sometimes these shocks extend over vast areas, and at other times are merely local. On October twenty-first, 1868, a severe earthquake occurred at San Francisco, swaying buildings and throwing down numbers in process of erection. The houses of the city are mostly built with a view to these disturbances of nature. The dwelling houses are seldom more than two and one-half stories in height, while the blocks of the[Pg 458] business streets do not display the altitude of structures in the eastern cities.
The climate is so mild and so favorable that the productions of California embrace those of both temperate and semi-tropical latitudes. The sand hills of San Francisco were found, with the help of irrigation to produce plentifully of both fruits and flowers, and the suburbs of the city display many greenhouse plants growing in the open air. Roses bloom every month in the year, and strawberries ripen from February to December. In San Francisco the mean temperature in January is 49° and in June 56°. The average temperature of the year is 54°.
The California market, between Kearney and Montgomery streets, extending through from Pine to California streets, displays all the fruits, vegetables and grains of the northern States, raised in the immediate neighborhood of the city, while oranges, lemons and pomegranates are sent from further south. The tenderer varieties of grapes flourish in the open air, and the State produces raisins which command a price but little below those of Europe. The thrift of the fruit trees of California is most remarkable. Most trees begin bearing on the second year from the slip or graft, and produce abundantly at three or four years of age. Their growth and the size of their productions are unequaled on the continent. The above mentioned market is one of the sights of the city, and should not be missed by the visitor.
Irrigation has been found necessary to render the sand hills about San Francisco productive, and windmills have become familiar objects in the landscape, their long arms revolving in the ocean breeze, while little[Pg 459] streams of water trickling here and there vivify the earth. As a result, though trees are scarce, what few there are being mostly stunted live oaks, whose long roots extend down deep into the soil, there are flowers everywhere. On one side of a fence will be a sand-bank, white with shifting sand, on the other, flourishing in the same kind of soil, will be an al fresco conservatory, brilliant with color and luxuriant in foliage.
Montgomery street is the leading thoroughfare, broad and lined with handsome buildings. Toward the north it climbs a hill so steep that carriages cannot ascend it, and pedestrians make their way up by means of a flight of steps. From this elevation a fine view is obtained of the city and bay. Kearney and Market streets are also fashionable promenades, containing many of the retail stores. The principal banks and business offices are found on California street, and the handsomest private residences are on Van Ness avenue, Taylor, Bush, Sutter, Leavenworth and Folsom streets, Clay street Hill and Pine street Hill. The city extends far beyond its original limits, having encroached upon the bay. Solid blocks now stand where, in 1849, big ships rode at anchor. It is laid out with regularity, most of its streets being at right angles with one another. The business streets are generally paved with Belgian blocks or cobble stones, and most of the residence streets are planked. The city does not present the handsome and showy architecture of many cities of the east, though here and there are fine edifices. It is yet too new, and too hurriedly built, to have acquired the substantiality and grandeur of older cities. Between fine brick or stone structures several stories high are sandwiched insignificant wooden houses of only two stories, the relics of a past which is[Pg 460] yet exceedingly near the present. The public buildings, especially those belonging to the United States, are fine.
The City Hall will, when finished, be surpassed by few structures in the country. The Palace Hotel, at the corner of Market and New Montgomery streets, is a vast building, erected and furnished at a cost of $3,250,000. It is entered by a grand court-yard surrounded by colonnades, and from its roof a birds-eye view of the whole city can be obtained. Baldwin's Hotel, at the corner of Marshall and Powell streets, is another palatial structure, costing a quarter of a million more, for building, decorating and furnishing, than the Palace Hotel. The Grand Hotel, Occidental, Lick House, Russ House and Cosmopolitan are all established and popular hotels.
The largest and finest church edifice on the Pacific Coast is that of St. Ignatius, Roman Catholic, in McAlister street. The finest interior is that of St. Patrick's, also Roman Catholic, in Mission street between Third and Fourth. The First Unitarian church, in Geary street, is one of the finest churches in the city, remarkable for the purity of its architectural design and the elegance of its finish. The Chinese Mission House, at the corner of Stockton and Sacramento streets, will prove interesting to strangers. The Roman Catholics, who number among their adherents all the Spanish citizens, make no concealment of their intention to gain a majority of the population. But though they are a power in the community, and have many churches, the different Protestant sects are largely represented. Indeed, San Francisco is thoroughly tolerant in matters of religion. Not only do Catholics and Protestants find their own appropriate places of worship, but the Jews[Pg 461] have two Synagogues, and the Chinese Buddhists three Temples or Joss Houses.
There is but one road leading out of the city, but within the city limits there are many modes of conveyance. Cars propelled by endless wire cables, which move along the streets without the assistance of either horse or steam power, intersect the city in every direction. Omnibuses run out on the Point Lobos road to the Cliff House; and he who has not ridden or driven thither and watched the seals on Seal Rock, has not seen all of San Francisco. This is the one excursion of the city; its one pet dissipation. Everybody goes to the Cliff. A drive of five or six miles, on a good road, over and through intervening sand hills, brings the visitor to the Cliff House. This road leads by Laurel Hill, or as it was formerly called, Lone Mountain Cemetery, two and one-half miles west of the city, within whose inclosure a conical hill rises to a considerable height above the surrounding level country. On its summit is a large wooden cross, a prominent landmark, and within the cemetery are several fine monuments, conspicuously that of Senator Broderick, and a miniature Pantheon, marking the resting place of the Ralston family. The Lone Mountain possesses an unrivaled outlook over city, bay, ocean and coast range.
The Cliff House is a large, low building, set on the edge of a cliff rising abruptly from the ocean, and facing west; and from it you have a grand view of the Golden Gate, while oceanward you strain your eyes to catch some glimpse of China or Japan, which lie so far away in front of you. But you see instead, if the day be clear, the faint but bold outlines of the Farallon Islands,[Pg 462] and the white sails of vessels passing in and out of the Golden Gate.
Late in the year of 1876 I completed my horseback journey across the continent, dashing with my horse into the surf to the westward of the Cliff House. A long and wearisome, but at the same time interesting and reasonably exciting ride, was at an end, and after viewing San Francisco, I was free to enjoy those luxuries of modern civilization, the railway cars, on my homeward route.
SEAL ROCKS, FROM THE CLIFF HOUSE, NEAR SAN FRANCISCO.
The Farallones de los Frayles are six islets lifting up their jagged peaks in picturesque masses out in the ocean, twenty-three and one-half miles westward of the Golden Gate. The largest Farallon extends for nearly a mile east and west, and is three hundred and forty feet high. On its highest summit the government has placed a lighthouse, and there the light-keepers live, sometimes cut off for weeks from the shore, surrounded by barrenness and desolation, but within sight of the busy life which ebbs and flows through the narrow strait which leads to San Francisco. These islands are composed of broken and water-worn rocks, forming numerous sharp peaks, and containing many caves. One of these caves has been utilized as a fog-trumpet, or whistle, blown by the force of the waves. The mouth-piece of a trumpet has been fixed against the aperture of the rock, and the waves dashing against it with force enough to crush a ship to pieces, blows the whistle. This fog whistle ceases entirely at low water, and its loudness at all times depends upon the force of the waves. The Farallones are the homes of innumerable sea birds, gulls, mures, shags and sea-parrots, the eggs of the first two being regularly collected by eggers, who make a profitable business [Pg 463]of gathering them at certain seasons of the year. In 1853 one thousand dozen of these eggs, the result of a three days' trip, were sold at a dollar a dozen. Gathering the eggs is difficult and not unattended by danger, as precipices must be scaled, and the birds sometimes show themselves formidable enemies. The larger island is also populated by immense numbers of rabbits, all descended from a few pairs brought there many years ago. Occasionally these creatures, becoming too numerous for the resources of the island, die by hundreds, of starvation. Though their progenitors were white, they have reverted to the original color of the wild race. The cliffs of these islands are alive with seals, or sea-lions, as they are called, which congregate upon their sunny slopes, play, bark, fight and roar. Some of them are as large as an ox and seemingly as clumsy; but they disport themselves in the surf, which is strong enough to dash them in pieces, with the utmost ease, allowing the waves to send them almost against the rocks, and then by a sudden, dextrous movement, gliding out of danger.
The Cliff House has also its sea-lions, on Seal Rock, not far from the hotel, and the visitors are never tired of watching them as they wriggle over the rocks, barking so noisily as to be heard above the breakers. Formerly numbers of them were shot by wanton sportsmen, but they are now protected by law. "Ben. Butler" and "General Grant" are two seals of unusual size, which appear to hold the remainder of the seal colony in subjection. If two begin to fight and squabble about a position which each wants, either "Ben" or the "General" quickly settles the dispute by flopping the malcontents overboard. The higher these creatures can[Pg 464] wriggle up the rocks the happier they appear to be; and when a huge beast has attained a solitary peak, by dint of much squirming, he manifests his satisfaction by raising his small pointed head and complacently looking about him. As soon as another spies him, and can reach the spot, a squabble ensues, howls are heard, teeth enter into the contest, the stronger secures the eminence, and the weaker is ignominiously sent to the humbler and lower regions.
An early drive to and a breakfast at the Cliff House, with a return to the city before the sea-breeze begins, is the favorite excursion of the San Franciscan. The road passes beyond this hotel to a broad, beautiful beach, on which, at low tide, one can drive to the Ocean House, at its extreme end, and then return to the city by the old Mission grounds, which still lie in its southwestern limits. The Mission building is of adobe, of the old Spanish style, built in 1778. Adjoining it is the cemetery, with its fantastic monuments, and paths worn by the feet of the Mission fathers and their dusky penitents.
The largest and finest theatre of the city, and one of the finest in the United States, is the Grand Opera House, at the corner of Mission and Third streets. Four other theatres and an Academy of Music, furnish amusements to the residents of the city. Woodward's Gardens, on Mission street between Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets, contains a museum, an art galley, and a menagerie. There are also two Chinese theatres, one at 618 Jackson street, and the other at 625½ Jackson street.
The Chinese Quarter of San Francisco, which has become famous the world over, occupies portions of Sacramento, Commercial, Dupont, Pacific and Jackson streets. It is a locality which no stranger should fail to[Pg 465] see. Here he steps at once into the Celestial Empire. Chinamen throng the streets, dressed in their semi-American, semi-Asiatic costumes, the pig-tail usually depending behind, though sometimes it is rolled up, out of sight, under the hat. The harsh gutturals of the Chinese language, nearly every word ending in ng, are heard on every hand, mingled with the grotesque pigeon English. The signs exhibit Chinese characters, and the stores and bazaars are filled with Chinese merchandise.
Women are scarce in this quarter, and only of the courtezan class; but here and there one meets you, dressed usually in Chinese gown and trowsers, with hair arranged in the indescribable Chinese chignon, and carrying a fan—for all the world as though she had stepped off a fan or a saucer—and not more immodest in demeanor than the same class in our eastern cities. There are few or no Chinese wives in San Francisco. Chinese immigration takes the form of an immense bow, beginning at China, stretching to the Pacific coast of America, and retiring again to its starting point; for every Chinaman expects to return to his native land, either alive or dead. He does not take root in American soil. He comes here to make a little money, leaving his family behind him, and, satisfied with a very modest competence, returns as he came. If he dies here, his bones are carried back, that they may find a resting-place with those of his ancestors. Therefore the women imported are for the basest purposes.
But to return to this Chinese Quarter. Here is the old St. Giles of London, the old Five Points of New York magnified and intensified. Here congregate the roughest and rudest elements, and here stand, shamelessly revealed, crime and bestiality too vile to name. In one cellar[Pg 466] is a gambling-hell, for John Chinaman's besetting weakness is his love of gambling. The mode of gambling is very simple, involving no skill, and the stakes are small; but many a Celestial loses there, at night, his earnings of the day. Near by is an opium cellar, fitted up with benches or shelves, on each of which will be found a couple of Chinamen lying, with a wooden box for a pillow. While one is preparing his opium and smoking, the other is enjoying its full effects, in a half stupor. The Chinese tenement houses are crowded and filthy beyond description, and the breeding places of disease and crime. They are scattered thickly throughout the quarter. Their theatres, of which there are two, already referred to, have only male performers, who personate both sexes, and give what seems to be passable acting, accompanied by the clash and clang of cymbals, the beating of gongs, the sounding of trumpets, and other disagreeable noises regarded by the Chinese as music. The entire audience are smoking, either tobacco or opium.
The Joss houses, or temples of the Chinese, are more in the nature of club houses and employment bureaus, than of religious houses. The first floor contains the business room, smoking or lounging room, dining room, kitchen, and other offices, which are used by the Emigration Company to which the building belongs. The second floor contains a moderate-sized hall, devoted to religious rites. Its walls are decorated with moral maxims from Confucius and other writers, in which the devotees are exhorted to fidelity, integrity, and the other virtues. The Joss or Josh is an image of a Chinaman, before whom the Chinese residents of San Francisco are expected to come once a year and burn slips of paper. Praying is also done, but as this is by means of putting printed[Pg 467] prayers into a machine run by clockwork, there is no great exhaustion among the worshipers.
The Chinese have no Sunday, and are ready to work every day of the week, if they can get paid for it. Their only holiday is at New Year, which occurs with them usually in February, but is a movable feast, when they require an entire week to settle their affairs, square up their religious and secular accounts, and make a new start in life. The Chinese have one saving virtue. They pay their debts on every New Year's day. If they have not enough to settle all claims against them they hand over their assets to their creditors, old scores are wiped out, and they commence anew.
The six Chinese Emigration Companies, each representing a Chinese province, manage the affairs of the immigrants with a precision, minuteness and care which is unparalleled by any organization of western civilization. Before the passage of the anti-Chinese law, when a ship came into port laden with Chinamen, the agents of the different companies boarded it, and each took the names of those belonging to his province. They provided lodgings and food for the new comers, and as quickly as possible secured them employment; lent them money to go to any distant point; cared for them if they were sick and friendless, and, finally, sent home the bones of those who died on American shores. These companies settle all disputes between the Chinese, and when a Chinamen wishes to return home, they examine his accounts, and oblige him to pay his just debts before leaving. The means for doing all this are obtained in the shape of voluntary contributions from the immigrants. These companies do not act as employment bureaus, for these are separate and thoroughly organized institutions.[Pg 468] These latter farm out the work of any number of hands, at the price agreed upon, furnishing a foreman, with whom all negotiations are transacted, who, perhaps, is the only one speaking English, and who is responsible for all the work.
The English spoken by the Chinese is known as "pigeon English," "pigeon" being the nearest approach which a Chinamen can make to saying "business."
Most English words are more or less distorted. L is always used by them for r, mi for I, and the words abound in terminal ee's.
The Chinese problem is one which is agitating the country and giving a coloring to its politics. The Pacific States seem, by a large majority of their population, to regard the presence of the Mongolian among them as an unmitigated evil, to be no longer tolerated. Eastern capitalists have hailed their coming as inaugurating the era of cheap labor and increased fortunes for themselves. Hence the discussion and the disturbances. A lady who had made her home in San Francisco for several years past, says, in a letter to the writer of this article, "A person not living in California can form no conception of the curse which the Chinese are to this section of the world."
Yet without them some of the great enterprises of the Pacific coast, notably the Central Pacific Railroad, would have remained long unfinished; and they came also to furnish manual labor at a time when it was scarce and difficult to obtain at any price. The Chinaman is a strange compound of virtue and vice, cleanliness and filth, frugality and recklessness, simplicity and cunning. He is scrupulously clean as to his person, indulging in frequent baths; yet he will live contentedly with the[Pg 469] most wretched surroundings, and inhale an air vitiated by an aggregation of breaths and stenches of all kinds. He is a faithful worker and a wonderful imitator. He cannot do the full work of a white man, but he labors steadily and unceasingly. He takes no time for drunken sprees, but he is an inveterate opium smoker, and sometimes deliberately sacrifices his life in the enjoyment of the drug. He is frugal to the last degree, but will waste his daily earnings in the gambling hell and policy shop. Scrupulously honest, he is yet the victim of the vilest vices which are engrafting themselves upon our western coast. Living upon one-third of what will keep a white man, and working for one-half the wages the latter demands, he is destroying the labor market of that quarter of our country, reducing its working classes to his own level, in which in the future the latter, too, will be forced to be contented on a diet of "rice and rats," and to forego all educational advantages for their children, becoming, like the Chinese themselves, mere working machines; or else enter into a conflict of labor against labor, race against race.
The latter alternative seems inevitable, and it has already begun. China, with her crowded population, could easily spare a hundred million people and be the better for it. Those one hundred million Chinamen, if welcomed to our shores, would speedily swamp our western civilization. They might not become the controlling power—the Anglo-Saxon is always sure to remain that—but as hewers of wood and drawers of water, as builders of our railroads, hands upon our farms, workers in our factories, and cooks and chambermaids in our houses, a like number of American men and women would be displaced, and wages quickly[Pg 470] reduced to an Asiatic level; and such a time of distress as this country never saw would dawn upon us.
There seems to be no assimilation between the Caucasian and the Mongolian on the Pacific slope. In the East an Irish girl recently married a Chinaman; but in San Francisco, though every other race under the sun has united in marriage, the Chinaman is avoided as a pariah. White and yellow races may meet and fraternize in business, in pleasure, and even in crime; but in marriage never. Chinamen rank among the most respected merchants of San Francisco, and these receive exceptional respect as individuals; but between the two races as races a great gulf is fixed. The Chinese immigrant takes no interest in American affairs. His world is on the other side of the Pacific. And the American people return the compliment by taking no interest in him. It is undeniable that, by a certain class of San Francisco citizens, popularly known as Hoodlums, the treatment of the Chinese population has been shameful in the extreme. A Chinaman has no rights which a white man is bound to respect. Insult, contumely, abuse, cruelty and injustice he has been forced to bear at the hands of the rougher classes, without hope of redress. He has been kicked, and cheated, and plundered, and not a voice has been raised in his behalf; but if he has been guilty of the slightest peccadillo, how quickly has he been made to feel the heavy hand of justice!
It seems a pity that before the cry was raised with such overwhelming force, "The Chinese must go!" some little effort had not been made to adapt them to Western civilization. They are quick to take ideas concerning their labor; why not in other things? We have received and adopted the ignorant, vicious hordes[Pg 471] from foreign lands to the east of us, and are fast metamorphosing them into intelligent, useful citizens. We are even trying our hand upon the negro, as a late atonement for all the wrong we have done him. But the Indian and the Chinaman seem to be without the pale of our mercy and our Christianity. It might not have been possible, but still the experiment was worth the trying, of attempting to lift them up industrially, educationally and morally, to a level with our own better classes, instead of permitting them to drag us down. Returning to their own country, and carrying back with them our Western civilization, as a little leaven, they might have leavened the whole lump. It is too late for that now, and the mandate has gone forth: "The Chinese must go!" Considering all things as they are, rather than as they might have been, it is undoubtedly better so, and the only salvation of our Pacific States.
San Francisco had, in 1880, a population of 232,956. The commerce is very large, and must every year increase as the West is built up. The chief articles of export are the precious metals, breadstuffs, wines and wool. She has important manufactures, embracing watches, carriages, boots and shoes, furniture, iron and brass works, silver ware, silk and woolen. California seems peculiarly adapted to the silk industry, and her silk manufactures will probably assume marked importance in the future. The wonderful climate and unequaled productiveness are constantly attracting immigration, and the Pacific Central, which spans the continent, has vastly improved on the old methods of travel by caravan across the plains and over the mountains.
The population of San Francisco is cosmopolitan to the last degree, and embraces natives of every clime and[Pg 472]nearly every nation on the globe. Yet in spite of this strange agglomeration she is intensely Yankee in her go-ahead-ativeness, with Anglo-Saxon alertness intensified. In fact, as San Francisco is on the utmost limits of the West, beyond which there is nothing but a vast expanse of water until we begin again at the East, so she represents the superlative of Anglo-Saxon enterprise and American civilization, and looks to a future which shall far outstrip her past.
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