The Clipper Ships

About this time was the first appearance of the celebrated clipper ships. They anchored off of Happy Valley and attracted great attention; they could make the trip around Cape Horn from New York to San Francisco in three or four months; they run wet; their bows were very sharp, and, in a rough sea, instead of mounting the waves, they cut them, and the bows ran under water, and their progress was not impeded by the waves, saving two or three months’ time, which was of great consideration then. There was no railroad across the Isthmus then, and there was no other way of transporting freight between the cities of New York and San Francisco except around Cape Horn. They had great fame then. England conceded their superiority over all other sailing vessels for speed; but they have passed away, the railroad reducing the time to from five to eight days; of course, there is a great difference between that and three or four months. The days of sailing vessels, however great their speed, to a great extent, is gone. Besides, there are regular lines of steamers to most every port of the world, and the ocean is covered with tramp steamers.

That winter a convention was called to organize a State government and apply for admission to the Union. The Southern element there wanted to make it a slave State. The Northerners, including both Whigs and Democrats, wanted it free. They did not want to be brought in competition with slave labor in the mines, and have their occupation degraded in that way. Their pride, as well as interest, was at stake, and there was great feeling on the subject. Meetings were called all through the mines and addresses made and candidates nominated. The average of intelligence there was away above any other part of the country. For they were men of enterprise, or they would not have been there in that early day. At Mormon Island, one of the miners got up and made a speech. He so impressed them with his ability that they unanimously nominated him as their candidate to the Constitutional Convention. He was an old acquaintance of mine. In 1847 or 1848 he was a Democratic member of the Legislature of the State of New York, from Washington county, and was chosen by that body to deliver the oration on Washington’s birthday. His name was George Washington Sherwood. He was elected to the Constitutional Convention of California, and wrote its first Constitution, copied after that of his native State, New York. The Northern element prevailed in that convention, and California came in a free State by its unanimous vote. Broderick headed the Northern sentiment; Gwin, who had been a United States Marshal in Mississippi, the Southern. I met him often. He would come into a bar-room and say: “I did not come here to dig gold, but to represent you in the United States Senate.” He would then say: “Come up all, and take a drink.” I thought that was a strange way to inspire the people with the idea that he was the proper person to represent them in the United States Senate. He was elected, with Colonel Freemont, the first two United States Senators from California. At the next election for United States Senators, Broderick got absolute control, and although Gwin had fought him bitterly, they were the two senators to be elected again. Broderick had the magnanimity to induce his friends to go for Gwin and had him elected with him, and Gwin showed his ingratitude by going at once to Washington and securing from Buchanan the control of all the appointments of the government in the State of California. So when Broderick came there, there were none to give his friends. Gwin was afterward very prominent in the rebellion. He went out in a boat in Charleston harbor, crying out from it his advice to Major Anderson, advising him to surrender at the time of the attack on Fort Sumter. (This is a matter of history that occurred after the time of which I am writing.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top