Title Page vol 1 The New California

California’s Gift to Civilization

By President David Starr Jordan, of Stanford University

California is still very young and has most of her ahead of her. What in time she will do for civilization will make a great volume when its story is written. What she has already done, if adequately treated, will demand more knowledge than any one man can possess, and more space than this volume can give. All that can be attempted here is to give some slight analysis of the elements of which California’s past contribution consists.

First we may consider those contributions independent of man made by sheer virtue of being California. The relation to nature has its civilizing effect on men, not on all men of course, for California’s scenery and climate did very little for the development of the Digger Indian and does even less for that of the hobo today. Nature does nothing directly for any man. It is a general rule of Evolution that Environment affects those who respond to it or react from it. The finer grades of men respond to the touch of nature and transmute physical sunshine and greenery into intellectual and moral sweetness and light. To such as these California offers the choicest impulses in her glorious scenery, her health-giving climate and the elbow-room she allows to the individual man. To these we may add the wider perspective that comes from seeing men and things, for to be a Californian implies that one has traveled somewhat and has seen the world that lies beyond his native parish.

To realize the glory of California scenery one must live close to it through the changing years, from mountain to sea, from north to south; every crag, chasm, lake or headland bears the stamp of its own peculiar beauty, a blending of richness, wildness and warmth. Coastwise everywhere sea and mountains meet and the surf of the Kuro Shiwo, the current of Japan, chilled by its stay in the Bering Sea, breaks in turbulent beauty against tall “vincoves” and jagged teeth of rock.

In the hills of the Coast range, “a misty camp of mountains pitched tumultuously,” lie valleys dotted with wide limbed oaks, or smothered beneath over-weighted fruit trees, all flooded with golden light in summer and in the winter wet with fragrant rains.

Inside rises the great Sierra with spreading ridge and foothill like some huge crawling centipede with back unbroken for a thousand miles. Frost-bitten peaks of every height and bearing pierce the blue skies above. The slopes are dark with giant pines and mighty sequoias which have lived over from some other geological age and in whose silent aisles one may wander all day long and see no sign of man. Here and there are purple dots of lakes which mark the craters of dead volcanoes of the last efforts of glacier polishing.

Through mountain meadows run swift brooks over-peopled with trout, leaping full-throated over the crags, to be half-blown in mist before they reach the bottom. Far down the fragrant canons sing the green and troubled rivers twisting their way lower and lower to the common plains. And these plains are never common, even the most hopeless alkali sinks being redeemed by the delectable mountains which are sure to shut them in. Everywhere from each rising hill are great vistas of mountain and valley, blue distances which swim in the crystalline air.

As there is from end to end of California scarcely a commonplace mile, so from end to end of the year there is scarcely a tedious day. The climate is part of the scenery. Each season brings its fill of satisfaction and winter or summer we look forward with regret to the inevitable change.

So far as man is concerned the one essential fact is that he is never the climate’s slave. The powers of the air never besiege him in his castle. Winter and summer are alike his friends calling him out of doors. The old Californian never roasted himself all winter long. When he was cold in the house he went out of doors to get warm, and he built a house only to keep his belongings dry. To hide in it from the weather is a necessity only in unfriendly regions.

With climate and scenery comes the sufficiency of elbow-room. The dominant note is that of personal freedom. Individualism is the characteristic of California life. Man exists as man in California, not as a part of a social organism. With plenty of elbow-room he works out has inborn character. He may be wicked, if that is his nature, but he is not hypocritical, for to be that implies a yielding to outside demands, doing something “against nature.” The Californian carries his “own head under his hat,” and California is in Browning’s classification emphatically one of “Earth’s male lands,” a land where things are settled by out-of-door standards, not by that public opinion which women make in the house.

The development of the individual among her sons and daughters is the greatest contribution of California as a whole to American civilization. This is her work by virtue of being California, to give physical tone, heightened perceptions and a broader outlook on nature and life. The rest of her contribution is that of her sons and daughters who have been civilizing agencies by virtue of being themselves.

For good influences have gone out from every man and woman who has done honest work of whatever sort in California, and many are the names which should be written high in California’s Hall of Fame. It is still too soon to see most of these in their proper perspective, and the writer has not lived long enough in California to have seen clearly any large number even of those whose position is undoubted. he is therefore forced to trust largely to what others have said and written, and for all omissions and distortions he has only the one apology, he did the best he could in an embarrassment of wealth. And in this same embarrassment he may leave out for the most part all those who are not so old as the state of California and who are therefore still at their work, promising youngsters indeed many of them, for by a trick of human nature all who are younger than we are still seem very young.

For our purpose of course to be a Californian is not necessarily to be a native son. Most Californians had the ill-fortune to be born somewhere else, and the good fortune to remove in time. Every one who has seen the seasons round must be held a Californian. For the love of California grows deep in his heart–that is, if he has any heart at all. And as we must adopt some sort of classification, we may begin with the first of California’s history, with the names of Cabrillo, Vizcaino, and Sir Francis Drake. After these came the Mission efforts projected by Salvatierra, Kuhn (called Kino) and Jesuits and carried out by the good Padre Junipero Serro and his Franciscan associates, Palou, Crespi, Portola, Peyri, Catala and the rest, not forgetting the wise Father Lasuen. These men were effective. Not in religion merely, but sociologically. They taught over 75,000 naked, indolent, houseless savages Natives, who had not a single industry this side the stone age, to live in villages; to build such architecture as the missions, and houses for themselves; to farm, raise stock, spin, weave, to be masons, carpenters, plasterers, soapmakers, blacksmiths, millers, bakers, brickmakers, saddlers, etc. If their regime had continued, ninety per cent of these people might have been developed into self-supporting, decent citizens. In 1851 the Jesuits founded the Santa Clara College, long the chief center of higher education in California. Among its devoted teachers may be named the first president John Nobili, while Burchard Villiger, Aloysius Varsi, James Burchard, and Joseph Caredda, with the learned Father Kenna, the president of today, were among his most eminent successors or associates. Among the Dominicans, we may remember Villarasa and Vinyes, and of the hard working secular clergy, Joseph Alemany, the late distinguished Archbishop of San Francisco, and his eminent successor Archbishop Riordan. Able co-workers of these no longer living were Fathers Harrington, Gallagher, King and Maginnis, and in Los Angeles Bishop Montgomery, Father Adam and Father Meyer, who with his Vicentian brothers directed the work in St. Vincent’s Colleges. Two more names, Brother Justin of the Christian Fathers, and Father Vuibert, president of St. Patrick’s College at Menlo park, must not be omitted, and only lack of space excuses us from a full discussion of the work of St. Ignatius, Mt. Mary’s and other Catholic colleges and preparatory schools in the development of Christian education in California.

And in this work the different sisterhoods have done their part most faithfully. Often their silent work in asylums, prisons, hospitals, and schools has been as effective as that of men whose names are on the lips of fame. Among those who knew them well, the names of Mother Babtiste Russel, of Mother Mary Teresa Comerford, sister May Cornelia, Sister Mary Frances McEnnis of the Sisters of Charity, and Sister Anna Rafael and Sister Dolores, founders of the Sisters of the Holy Family who work among the San Francisco poor, are held in special veneration. And those, who, save the last two names, have I believe all passed away, have left most worthy successors.

The work of the Protestant clergy is not so satisfactorily summed up, for it has not the same unifying spirit and its purposes and results are more distinctly individual. The earliest American Reformer in California was Rev. Walter Colton, first Alcalde of Monterey. He applied American laws, built the first town hall, was the first landmarker, protecting the mission ruins simply for fine sentiment, against the shameful mistreatment of native California by our immigrants. In the same work in later times the good Father Casanova of Monterey took a leading party. Father William Taylor, the “Methodist Boanerges,” was the most prominent evangelical reformer of his day, a great force for good in San Francisco. In later times the names of Durand, McLean, Stebbins, Voorsanger, Brown, Leavitt, Wendte, Nichols, Worcester, Clampett, McIntosh, Hemphill and Hosmer rise in connection with California’s religious development, but here, as elsewhere, I must leave out many more than I can name.

In the late contest for place on the pillars of the New York Hall of Fame (limited to natives of the United States whose life ceased before 1891) among the three hundred nominations placed before the judges, three were Californians, in the sense of having done their best work here. These are Fremont, Lick, and Thomas Starr King. It was Fremont’s fortune to be sent to do a very important work, the accomplishment of which gave him his fame. James Lick is reightly honored for the noble use of his money, his wise choice of wise advisers, as well as for the simple honest of his life. He set the noble fashion to his wealthy associates of using millions decently. The fame of Thomas Starr King rests on his personal character and noble activities. His strong clear word for liberty and justice was a potent influence in holding his adopted state to her place in the Union, and though he died nearly forty years ago his words and his memory are till among the forces for civilization in California. His successor, Horatio Stebbins, has been not less honored and the memory of his noble face and stately figure is one from which California would not part. Here, as much as anywhere belongs the honored name of Martin Kellogg, whose greatest work in long years of university service has been essentially a moral one, the influence of a gentleman in making men gentle.

Among the preachers, too, I must place another gifted Californian, though he does not usually range himself as such. Sternest of California’s moralists, a lineal descendant of the Puritans, with heart warmed and sympathies broadened by the land of sunshine, yet preacher and Puritan for all that, Roundhead and Ironside is Charles F. Lummis.

Great teachers, California has had in full measure, and their number grows year by year with the growth of her universities. Foremost among those no longer living stand Edward Rowland Sill, Joseph Le Conte, John Le Conte, Jr., Wilbur Wilson Thoburn, Amos Griswold Warner, George Mann Richardson, Mary Sheldon Barnes, Sarah B. Cooper, Mary McDonald Roberts, Norton of San Jose and Daniel Kirkwood. Joseph Le Conte, investigator and teacher, is known and honored wherever the name of science goes. It is easier to mention names than to omit them, but I must find place only for another line. In it let me place Howison, Mrs. Clara Lincoln Mills, Stringham, Moses, Hilgard, Davidson, Sweet, Reid, Branner, Stillman, Anderson, Jenkins, Marx, Smith and Allen and leave a blank for the rest, which others may fill as they choose. Among men of science, not connected with teaching, a few names stand high in the history of California. Dr. O. W. Ayers, Dr. W. P. Gibbins, Dr. J. G. Cooper, Andrew Grayson, W. N. Lockinton, W. G. W. Harford, Lyman Belding and Yates of Santa Barbara interested themselves in the natural history of California from the very first. Amidst varied discouragements Dr. Kellogg struggled with the wealth of California botany. Professor Whitney, afterward of Harvard, with his associates carried through the geological survey of the state, on the whole a very noble piece of work. Besides these, California has had her share of physicists and more than her share of astronomers, one of the greatest of whom, James E. Keeler, was stricken down untimely. Equally great is his successor. W. W. Campbell, and as worthy associates of his we may name E. E. Barnard, Burnham, Perrine and Hussey. Both in literature and in science the name of John Muir has a unique place, unique and unquestioned.

In literature, many sons and daughters of California have found a worthy place, though originality is more the hall-mark of fame frequently than greatness. Among those having an assured place, and who are as old as the state of California, we must surely mention Mark Twain, Joaquin Miller, Ambrose Bierce. These are still among the living. Of the dead we may name again Edward Rowland Sill, Thomas Starr King, Bret Harte and him who was called John Phoenix. The predominance of humorists is a reflex of the cheerful view of life which comes to a land where life is cheerful. The philosophy of Despair was not evolved in California. Besides the humorists and poets the noble work of Helen Hunt Jackson is part of the history of California. Robert Louis Stevenson, who cannot be praised by any adjective used on his contemporaries, was largely Californian. The romance of his life was here and much of his work was done in one of San Francisco’s suburbs. His home (Vailima) was “the first place to the left” as you go westward out from San Francisco.

In medicine, California has known many honored names among which the following at least must find place: Elias B. Cooper, and his gifted nephew, L. C. Lane, H. H. Toland, J. H. Wythe, Henry Gibbons, W. P. Gibbons, A. Saxe, John Scott, G. S. Simmons, Luke Robinson, Arthur B. Stout, John F. Morse, Wilkins, Stallard, Hirchfelder. This list might be greatly extended, for the profession of medicine is one of civilization’s most effective agencies. At the same time, the physician most powerful in this regard is not necessarily the one with the largest practice or the one whose name is most often on the public lips.

The picturesque early history of California has attracted the attention of California writers. Among the works of especial merit are the writings of Theodore Hittell and John S. Hittell, Dwinelle, Hall and Royce. To Josiah Royce, Californian by birth and education, we owe the best studies of the Psychology of California, the effect of its climate on its men and women, of the physical surroundings of California. The first history of California worthy the name was published by Franklin Tuthill in 1865, and numerous others, as Doyle, Lummis and Mary Sheldon Barnes, have done great service in advancing local studies or in reprinting valuable documents. The great historical work of H. H. Bancroft has also lucid intervals, and the historical seminaries of the two universities are centers of sound methods of historical investigation.

In this connection we may name as a civilizing agency the “Landmarks Club” which has preserved the missions and their traditions so that future generations may know what these monuments were like.

Sturdy pioneers also of differing types were Edward Beal, Kit Carson, Stevenson and John Bidwell.

Energy and originality have characterized California’s journalistic work, but to write for a California newspaper the names of California’s great newspaper men would be a piece of temerity from which it is natural to shrink, and the printer may leave a space for the author of the history to fill.

But California will not forget James King, a reformer of the press, and the editor of the Bulletin in times when it took a man to be an editor. It has been said of him that “Directly he was a power: indirectly his assignation was one of the greatest factors of reform: whatever his faults, he was the first martyr to good government.” With the names of Pixley, Otis, Irish, Hart, Fitch, and the rest, men who as editors have stood for righteousness as they understood it, we may pass to a group of reformers almost unique in modern history.

A well known historian has said: “The greatest (and to my mind the noblest) reform factor in all American California history was the Vigilante Committee. I don’t know if you can afford to praise them, but they were men. Wm. T. Coleman, perhaps the greatest leader.” Mr. Lummis says: “It was not mob or lynch law (the first mob in California was over the assassination of Lincoln); it was the bravest, manfullest, most effective exercise of municipal good citizenship in the annals of any American community. It was neither precipitate nor masked nor howling nor wrecking nor vindictive. It committed no atrocities, damaged no property, dodged no responsibility, executed no verdicts save after formal trial under the strict laws of evidence * * * twice in force, about three months each time; hanged, publicly and decorously, eight desperadoes, banished scores of others under pain of death, disbanded in public amid the grateful cheers of the people, and directly brought about the remedy by ballot of the political abuses which had become unendurable. There had been, between 1849 and 1856, 1,000 homicides in San Francisco, and seven executions. Courts were corrupt, city government rotten. The work of these business men who took in their hands not only their lives but their honor, who gave their time for months when time was most worth money, who judged righteous judgment and executed it unflinchingly–their work made San Francisco for more than 15 years the freest from the spoils system of any in the Union. Yet I have seen that quiet self-sacrifice not only ‘adapted’ by rabbles, but sneered at by scholars who in the like civic crises pass rhetorical resolutions and go valiantly and virtuously home, leaving the Machine to continue business smiling at the old stand.” [1]The reader is referred to contrary views in chapter VIII, wherein Mr. James O’Meara writes.–Editor.

Artists and musicians California has produced in numbers, but the present writer has no knowledge which justifies him in any attempt to give names. He can see with his own eyes that Keith can paint landscapes, that Hill reproduces grand mountains and Mrs. Hudson has a fine touch in showing the traits of the Indian boys and girls, but of relative value in these regards he knows almost nothing.

Noted as engineers or architects have been Alfred Dickie, George Davidson, Herman Schussler, Page Brown, Goddard, and others: men forceful, adequate and of thorough training. The name of Luther Burbank, most successful inventor of fruits and flowers, belongs in a class by himself as an engineer of nature.

The lawyers, I am told, took the leading part i the development of California for the first twenty years of her life as a state, reluctantly yielding that place in later days to the man of affairs. It was the influence of good lawyers that brought about the use of the English language in the early courts and replaced the Civil law of Roman origin by the English common law. Prominent in this work, so important in the legal civilization of California, was Elisha O. Crosby in 1850. Not less important was the exclusion of slavery accomplished largely by the bar, backed by public opinion and by the moral force of Thomas Starr King and others of California’s great moral teachers. That lawyers have been retained in California for other causes than those of civilization id doubtless true, but these are not the pages on which facts of shame are to be chronicled.

Among individual jurists of the past of California the name of Stephen J. Field is first to catch the eye. The establishment of community property, the change of mining customs into mining law and the development of the state code are among the achievements associated with his name. Others whose names are especially honored in San Francisco are Lorenzo Sawyer, John B. Felton, Oscar L. Shafter, Samuel M. Wilson and Hall McAllister, and besides these the next century will register John F. Doyle, Henry E. Heighton and John Garber.

Leland Stanford as war governor of California and David Broderick as anti-slavery leader deserve prominent mention in the record of Californian political administration.

Perhaps the influence of good lawyers had much to do with California’s self-restraint in the period before Congress gave a system of laws to the newly acquired territory and in the beginning of the war of secession. This self-restraint has been called by Professor Abbott “one of the finest things in American history.” A good lawyer, by the way, has been interpreted as “one who lives a clean life, lends a hand in the public service and dies with his debts paid.” A great advocate who says in the office and court room, “I am my client,” and elsewhere, “I am myself,” may be a “good fellow,” but he is not a good lawyer nor a factor in civilization.

“A great lawyer, if he be a lawyer merely,” observes Nathan Abbott, “is not much more than a great actor. He may be popular with his name on every tongue, but he is not a moral force. Unless a man is at heart a moral man he cannot be said to be a factor in civilization.

The work of the business man for civilization is usually co-operative, and it is not easy to segregate the part taken by the individual. the builder of great railroads, the promoter of irrigation, the developer of commerce, the breeder of stock, the maker of fine fruit, the inventor of better methods, each has his place and his glory, and it would be impertinent for the layman to intrude in such matters his indiscriminate opinions.

But names not to be forgotten are those of Henry Meiggs, whose one step may be forgotten in the aggregate helpfulness of his life, George Gordon, James Donahue, Peter Donahue, A. W. VonSchmidt, Isaac Friedlander, Adolph Sutro, Andrew S. Hallidie, Louis Sloss, Horace Davis, F. W. Dohrmann, Irving M. Scott, and certainly not least though famous in quite different ways Leland Stanford, and his three associates, Hopkins, Crocker and Huntington. The name of Phoebe A. Hearst belongs among those who have helped to transmute wealth into culture and character, the wisest of all forms of charity because it gives not alms but opportunity.

If the rule of the lawyer has yielded to that of the man of business, the next step must be the leadership of the university man. Or more correctly the men who are born to lead in public affairs or in business life will hereafter have the advantage of university training.

The recognition of this fact and its developments in practical form is the great glory of Leland Stanford and of his noble wife, the sharer of his thoughts and actions. And for the future, above all efforts of single individuals, because inspiring and directing these must stand as civilizing agents the influence of the universities of California, a force which California is just beginning really to feel. Every dollar used for one of these counts more than any other dollar can, because it is put out at the compound interest of human development.

“Greater,” says a Californian writer, “greater than the achievement of lasting honor among one’s fellowmen of later generations, is it to become a living power among them forever. It rarely happens to one man and woman to have both the power and the skill to thus live after death, working and shaping beneficently in the lives of many–not of tens nor of hundreds, but of thousands and of tens of thousands, as the generations follow on. Herein is the wisdom of money spent in education, that each recipient of influence becomes in his time a center to transmit the same in every direction, so that it multiplies forever in geometric ratio. This power to mold unborn generations for good, to keep one’s hand mightily on human affairs after the flesh has been dust for years, seems not only more than mortal, but more than man. Thus does man become co-worker with God in the shaping of the world to a good outcome.”

The Golden Age of California begins when its gold is used for purposes like this. From such deeds must rise the new California of the coming century, no longer the California of the gold-seeker and the adventurer, but the abode of high-minded men and women, trained in the wisdom of the ages, and imbued with the love of nature, the love of man, and the love of God.

Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.


1The reader is referred to contrary views in chapter VIII, wherein Mr. James O’Meara writes.–Editor.

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