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[58]

Chapter 7: Hybrids.

“ we cannot now undo what has been done,” Don Mariano sighs, when we are talking of the bad blood in his province. “The Franciscan fathers tried to check this evil by keeping White men and Red women apart. They failed; the customs of the country were too strong for them. No one has yet succeeded in arresting an evil which baffled the Franciscan fathers. Too well we know the mischief, for this mixture of White with savage blood is giving us a vicious and unstable race.”

White female faces are not often seen in the southern parts of California; thirty years since they were never seen outside a military post. The Spaniards are not planters of Free States. They came to take possession of the country for their king, the people for their Church. To find new [59] homes for men desirous of a wider field and freer atmosphere, was not an object of their voyage. Sailing in search of gold and spices, they left the coast when they had found these articles and filled their ships. A company of friars remained to teach the natives, and a company of soldiers to secure the soil. The rest returned to Spain. No women, as a rule, came out. The men were either soldiers, friars, or trappers, and in every case were single men. The soldiers and the friars were not allowed to marry. A trapper was of course at liberty to woo and wed; but in a land with no White women he could only woo a squaw. If the stranger made a home, he took such females as an Indian lodge supplies.

A governor of Monterey might bring his family from Mexico, but such a luxury as the companionship of wife and children was reserved for persons of exalted family and official rank.

“ When I first came into these parts,” says David Spence, “ the only White people near Monterey were the fathers at San Carlos, and the soldiers in the citadel. No other White men had a right to dwell in Monterey. We bought our licences to live and [60] trade, but after paying our money, we held these licences at the governor's will. On any whimsey, he could put us on board the fleet, or drive us into the mountains. No civil rights were known. At gunshot, soldiers drove us into camp, and when the curfew tolled these soldiers compelled us to put out light and fire. The life we led was not a thing for women of our kin to share.”

“You were encamped, not settled in the country? ”

“You are right. No man among us thought of staying over nine or ten years; just long enough to make a pot of money out of hides and skins. Nobody cared to get the land; nobody thought of Monterey as home. Home! There was not one English woman, and not a dozen Spanish women in the province. Fair faces were as rare as gold; and never to be seen, except in some great officer's ranch. Not one man in fifty, even among the rich, could hope to get a European wife.”

“You were a lucky one?”

“ Ha, yes! My wife, a donia and seiora, was the daughter of an officer. She fell in love with my blue eye and yellow locks. Most of my rivals in that [61] day took up with squaws, and left a progeny of halfbreeds in their homesteads.”

“ Custom of the country?”

“Yes, an Indian custom ; but the Whites fell into it very soon, and keep it up with an amazing spirit.”

“Still keep it up?”

“Yes, keep it up. The practice of selling young Indian girls to White men is still so common, that in some adjoining counties a Red man cannot get a squaw.”

From Santa Barbara to San Juan, from Santa Clara to San Francisco, things were much the same as in the mountains; like causes producing everywhere like effects.

Living in a savage waste, surrounded by native tribes, the Franciscan fathers were obliged to lodge some soldiers at each Mission-house, as a protection to their persons and properties. These men were fair of face and strong of limb. The squaws looked kindly on them; and the lax moralities of an Indian lodge, where wedlock is unknown, permitted freedoms and alliances which ended in a new race of Hybrids being brought into the world. This cross [62] between White blood and Red was called Mestizo, and the females of this family, called Mestizas, are often very handsome. The men are savage, the women licentious; inheriting the worst vices of their parent stocks.

No power on earth could stop this intercourse, or check this growth of Hybrid offspring. If a native growled, the soldiers kicked him from their post. If he presumed to strike, they broke his bones and set his thatch on fire. What holy men could do to stay such outrages was done, but the Franciscans had to deal, not only with an Indian custom, but with officers as lax in morals as their men. No legal injury was done. A native never urged that his daughter was disgraced by being carried to a White man's hut. He only grumbled that he was not paid her price. Generals and captains all kept squaws. As chiefs, these officers had rights which they were quick enough to seize, laughing away reproof of their confessors with the old campaigner's answer, “Holy father, soldiers are not monks.” How could the Franciscan fathers get such captains to restrain their men?

By taking Indian mates, and rearing offspring [63] round the camps, these Spanish soldiers struck their roots into the soil; so deep, that when their time of service came to an end, they were unable to remove. Their families could not be carried into Spain, or even into Mexico. A viceroy had a puzzling question to resolve. The policy of his Church had been to exclude White settlers from the soil: a policy of prudence if the natives were to be converted and preserved. Except the friars, no man had a right to hold land in California. Except the soldiers, sent to guard these friars and execute their orders, no man had a right of domicile in California. Civil laws and civil magistrates were unknown. California was treated as a Holy State, a paradise of monks, a patrimony of the Church. This clerical policy had always been supported by the king and council in Madrid. A pope had given California to Spain, and Spain was eager to restore it to the church. Yet how were veterans, grown grey in service on a distant shore, to leave their children, dear though dusky, to the chances of a savage life? Fear, as well as pity, held the clerical policy in check. If left behind, they must remain a progeny of shame, an evidence of moral failure, in the neighbourhood of every [64] mission in the land. Holding no place in any Indian tribe, these Hybrids would have to live as outcasts. Every hand would be against them. Rapine and murder might become their trade.

Taking a middle course, which seemed to him the lesser of two evils, the viceroy formed three camps of refuge, which he called Free Towns; a first camp at Los Angeles in the South, a second camp near Santa Cruz in the Centre, and a third camp at San Jose in the North. These camps were ruled by martial law, and wholly separated from the great Franciscan Commonwealth. About Los Angeles he gathered in the refuse from San Diego and Santa Barbara; about Santa Cruz he gathered in the refuse of San Carlos, San Juan, and Soledad; about San Jose he gathered in the refuse of Santa Clara and San Francisco. Within these camps the veterans and their savage progeny were to dwell, but they were not to wander from their limits, under penalty of stripes, imprisonment and death.

Some strangers joined the settlers in these Free Town; few, and of an evil sort; quacks, gamblers, girl-buyers, whiskey sellers; all the abominable [65] riffraff of a Spanish camp. From these vile sources, nearly all the present Hybrids of the country spring.

In time, these mixed breeds grew too strong for either priest or captain to control. From Los Angeles they have roamed into the plains of San Fernando; from Santa Cruz they have crept up the Pajaro and Salinas; from San Jose they have spread along both shores of San Francisco Bay. Not many of this mongrel crew can read and write. Not one in ten is born in wedlock, for the custom of their country fills the hut with squaws, whom the sons of White men disdain to marry. Gross and sickening superstitions cloud such brains as they possess. Aware that they are neither red nor white, and have no place among the Indian tribes, they loath their mother's kitll as fiercely as they hate their father's kin. The vices of two hostile breeds are mixed in them; the pride and cruelty of their Spanish sires, the laziness and licentiousness of their Indian dams.

The land, they say, is theirs. They are not strangers, like the foreign troops, nor savages, like the native tribes. In Mexican days, they fought the soldiers, robbed the friars, and helped themselves [66] to squaws. In every riot they are first and last; the first in outrage, and the last to be subdued. When Mexico threw off the yoke, they fought against the crown of Spain, and when that fight was done they turned against their comrades in the camp. Unstable as water, they rallied to the Single Star, and after causing the young republic of California much annoyance, they rallied to the Stars and Stripes.

This treachery brought men into these plains, compared to whom the Mexicans are boys, the Indians girls. Alert and strong, these strangers push the native to the wall. While the Hybrid stock-man is playing at cards or capering through a dance, his fields are fenced, his cattle driven away, his streamlets dammed, by these intruding and unsleeping Whites. What can the Hybrid do? American courts are in these strangers' hands. He cannot meet them in the field. What then? Must he lie down and sprawl at their feet?

Jesu Maria-no! He may take to the woods, become a bandit, and avenge the wrongs he is too feeble to resent in open strife.

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