The Land of Gold: Reality Versus Fiction
Hinton Rowan Helper (1829-1909) of North Carolina became one of the South's most controversial figures in the 1850s for his criticisms of slavery in The land of gold and his better known book, The impending crisis. Indeed, he found it prudent to move to New York before the Civil War, and he received diplomatic appointments in Latin America from the Lincoln administration. The land of gold (1855) draws on Helper's three years residence in California and leads him to the conclusion, "California is the poorest State in the Union." Aside from gold, he can see nothing to recommend the state economically, and his book damns the state's populace in terms of morals and intelligence. He spends three chapters dismissing San Francisco (although he later has good words for the Vigilance Committee), is disgusted by the Digger Indians at Bodega, finds fault with Sacramento, and reflects on prospecting on Yuba River and at Columbia. Some good words are reserved for Stockton, but on the whole, Helper writes to discourage emigrants from retracing his course round the Horn.
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Page 115 - From women's eyes this doctrine I derive: They sparkle still the right Promethean fire ; They are the books, the arts, the academes, That show, contain, and nourish all the world...
Page 167 - The best hotel in the place is a one-story structure, built of unhewn saplings, covered with canvas and floored with dirt. It consists of one undivided room, in which the tables, berths and benches are all arranged. Here we sleep, eat and drink. Four or five tiers of berths or bunks, one directly above another, are built against the walls of the cabin The bedding is composed of a small straw mattress about two feet wide, an uncased pillow .... and a single blanket.
Page 221 - It's quite clear," said our guide, " that you've become a mere Kitat (Chinese), and think that a man must not set out upon a journey unless the earth is perfectly dry and the sky perfectly cloudless. I have no doubt you go out to lead your sheep with an umbrella in one hand and a fan in the other.
Page 167 - ... of unhewn saplings, covered with canvas and floored with dirt. It consists of one undivided room, in which the tables, berths and benches are all arranged. Here we sleep, eat and drink. Four or five tiers of berths or bunks, one directly above another, are built against the walls of the cabin .... The bedding is composed of a small straw mattress about two feet wide, an uncased pillow .... and a single blanket.104 Another representative account describes a journey in the Feather River country...
Page 96 - Certain it is, that the greater the diversity of colors and qualities of men, the greater will be the strife and conflict of feeling. One party will gain the ascendency, and dominate over the other. Our population was already too heterogeneous before the Chinese came; but now another adventitious element has been added; and I should not wonder at all, if the copper of the Pacific yet becomes as great a subject of discord and dissension as the ebony of the Atlantic.24 In this defense of "Anglo-American"...
Page 96 - It is so with the negroes in the South ; it is so with the Irish in the North ; it was so with the Indians in New England; and it will be so with the Chinese in California.
Page 67 - I have seen purer liquors, better segars, finer tobacco, truer guns and pistols, larger dirks and bowie knives, and prettier courtezans here, than in any other place I have ever visited ; and it is my unbiased opinion that California can and does furnish the best bad things that are obtainable in America.
Page 275 - ... of those who are found here have emigrated from the northern and eastern States in the capacity of cooks and stewards of vessels. They are in the same situation as their brethren in New York and Massachusetts, slaves to no single individual but to the entire community. Like free negroes every where else, they inhabit the worst parts of the towns in California, and live commonly in characteristic filth and degradation.
Page 50 - At this time several of them seem to have met by chance and they have stopped to discuss the times and the progress of events. If we were near enough we should probably hear the right hand party criticising Madame Anna Thillon's last performance of the opera of La Somnambula, or of the Daughter of...
Page 270 - ... creatures. In California this fruit is larger and more palatable than with us. They pound them, up, mix them with wild fruit and make their meal into a sort of bread. They are said to resort to a stratagem to obtain the acorns in greater abundance. There is a bird in California called the carpenteir or carpenter. He busies himself in making holes in the redwood trees and filling them with acorns. When a Digger finds a tree stocked in this manner, he kindles a fire at its base, (so the story goes,)...