Take a trip back in time to the state's earliest years and discover the untold history of the working poor, blacks, immigrants, Native Americans, and other groups who sought to assert their human rights. Their numerous organized and unorganized rebellions, demonstrations, and boycotts altered history and taught valuable lessons that continue to be significant today.
Historian Laurence H. Shoup relies on primary documents and historical resources to prove human rights become real and alive when people engage in direct action. Examining the Gold Rush, the rise of industrial capitalism, the onset of the Civil War and other important events that led to conflict between different groups, Rulers and Rebels explores how the rebels of early California paved the way for democracy.
Shoup continues a tradition of historical, nonfiction storytelling with a book that explores the different viewpoints and actions of California's Rulers and Rebels.
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Rulers and RebelsA People's History of Early California, 1769–1901
By Laurence H. Shoup
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2010 Laurence H. Shoup
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMilitarists, Missionaries and Native Resistance 1769–1830
In 1769, Spain began to systematically impose colonialism on the Native Americans of California, whom the Spanish called "Indios." Colonialism was one of the creators of our modern world, and its effects in California were as horrific as in the rest of the Americas.
The history of the first six decades of the European colonization of California is characterized by the conflicting relationships between the exploiting Spanish and, after 1821, Mexican military leaders and missionaries on the one hand, and the native Californian resistance on the other. There are four primary keys to understanding this history,
1. The nature of the original native economy and society in California
2. The semi-enslavement of these original inhabitants in the colonial social structure of the presidio, mission, and pueblo
3. Native California resistance and rebellion, both in its early and later manifestations
4. The responses to that resistance and rebellion by the Spanish/Mexican ruling class that eventually resulted in the creation of a new and different social formation.
The Political Economy of Native California
Before the arrival of Spanish colonialism, there were four major culture areas, dozens of major tribal groups, and many more, smaller subdivisions, making California one of the most diverse regions of ancient North America. Native California had no fewer than twenty-three language families and language isolates, making up ninety distinct languages and even more dialects (Moratto et al. 1984, 530). The various Indian groups had a variety of ways of making a living and governing themselves. Those located on the northwestern coast were, for example, very different from those who lived along the southern borders of the state. A brief, general statement about dominant Native patterns is nevertheless possible. (See also Moratto et al. 1984; Kroeber 1925; and Heizer 1978).
The Native California political economy commonly had two central aspects, a political structure consisting of tiny nations called "tribelets," together with a hunting-and-gathering economy. The tribelets were autonomous clusters of different families (usually about two hundred to four hundred people total) forming independent, cooperative landholding communities that conducted religious ceremonies together. Each tribelet controlled an area a dozen or so miles in diameter, forming a small national unit with its own separate and mostly egalitarian political structure. Political leadership was often in the hands of elders—male leaders, called jefes (captains) by the Spanish, and occasionally female chiefs. Women were also often organizers of the ritual dances that were a central part of their religion (Grant 1978, 511). When the Spanish government requested that Mission San Jose priest Narciso Duran characterize native political organization, he described an egalitarian structure guided by religious leaders:
They recognize neither distinction nor superiority at all. Only in war do they obey the most valiant or the luckiest, and in acts of superstition they obey the sorcerers and witch-doctors. Outside of these they do not recognize any subordination, either civil or political. (McCarthy 1958, 274)
This approach was common throughout aboriginal North America, where politics was intermixed with religious ritual. Land and water were generally held in common for the use of all members of the community, although specific resources like some oak groves (for acorns), seed patches, and fishing spots might be held by a family group. Moreover, Native Californians had a deep attachment to place and felt that they belonged to the land more than they owned the land.
The complex hunting and gathering economy of the Native Californians was technologically relatively simple but very efficient, relying on naturally produced food, both plant and animal. Seeds, acorns, fish, and a multitude of animals were the main foods. Burning was used to stimulate an increase in naturally growing seeds. Except along the Colorado River in the southeastern borderlands of the state, there was no real agriculture in "prehistoric" California. Yet, due to the richness of California's benign climate and naturally fertile environment, along with moderate population and consumption levels, native people had a relatively high level of individual free time and independence.
A mainly gender- and age-based division of labor existed, with the men hunting animal resources and the women gathering plant resources. This division of labor was not rigid, however, and men provided labor during the harvest and women would sometimes drive game into traps set by the men. Extensive trade networks existed to transfer goods like obsidian, which might not have been available locally. Shell money was widely used. Native Californian men were skilled at working stone and fashioning hunting and trapping gear. The basket making of the women was outstanding, and California baskets rank among the best in the world.
The Chumash of the Santa Barbara coast, the Yokuts and Miwok of the Sacramento delta area, and the Yurok of the northwest coast were relatively advanced economically and politically. These tribes and their locations have therefore been called the climax regions and cultures of native California:
With concomitant exploitation of acorn and marine resources, cultural climax regions, characterized by elaborations in technology and art, developed along the Santa Barbara coast and the San Francisco Bay-Sacramento-San Joaquin delta regions. Later, it appears that essentially riverine-coastal cultures, exemplified by the ethnographic Yurok, also experienced a climax; again, marine exploitation seems to have played a contributing part. (Elsasser 1978, 57)
The social, economic, and technological complexity of the Chumash is illustrated by the fact that some of their villages had as many as one thousand residents, making them the largest settlements in the aboriginal Far West. Their economic, political, and social structures were as elaborate as any of the world's numerous hunting and gathering societies (Moratto et al. 1984, 118–119). The Yokuts were also a very successful group; their eighteenth century population may have numbered as much as 41,000, the largest ethnic group in prehistoric California. While speaking different dialects, these dialects were remarkably homogeneous, giving this group a greater potential for unity and collective action (Moratto et al. 1984, 173; Silverstein 1978, 446).
Militarists and Missionaries, Colonial Social Formation and Power Structure
The viceroy of Mexico, who was the direct agent of the Spanish king, sent the Spanish colonists who arrived in Southern California at the end of the 1760s. The king and viceroy were pursuing traditional imperial goals: to develop a colony, seize, control, and exploit the land and labor of the local Native California population, and to prevent rival nations (Russia and England especially) from taking over California and threatening Mexico's northern frontier. California's great economic potential was as yet unknown; these more general imperial goals were, therefore, in the forefront of policy makers' minds.
In the process of seizing power and expropriating the native lands of coastal California, Spanish goals and tactics had to take account of demographic realities. Spanish manpower available for colonization was very limited; therefore, the natives themselves had to be converted and used as the labor force for the new colony. This need for labor heavily influenced the careful strategy the Spanish followed.
The new colonists had several factors working in their favor. One was their technological superiority in the military field. They had guns, swords, lances, horses, as well as both leather and sheepskin armor, making the Spanish soldier on horseback the most formidable fighting man of that time and place. A second was their centralized leadership and unity of command. A third was the Machiavellian attitude and consequent actions of their leaders. Large-scale duplicity was used to achieve hidden goals destructive to the colonized peoples—using missionaries as the point men in the colonization scheme was useful, since it hid the real aim, which was controlling land, resources, and people for the king; that is, for the secular authorities. A final factor was the array of material culture they commanded, including the animals and seeds they brought for food, the beads and clothing they wore, and the buildings they conceived and built. This material culture dazzled the native people and was a key factor in attracting them to the missions. As one missionary expressed it:
They can be conquered first only by their interest in being fed and clothed, and afterwards they gradually acquire knowledge of what is spiritually good and evil. If the missionaries had nothing to give them, they could not be won over. (Palou 1786, quoted in Milliken 1995, 82–83)
The Spanish and later the Mexican colonial system had a three- part power structure, the presidio and mission being the most important. The weakest part of the Spanish and early-Mexican era power structure was the civilian, agricultural pueblo. There were three pueblos: at San Jose, Los Angeles, and Santa Cruz.
In contrast to the weakness of the pueblos, the presidio was at the heart of state power. It was the political, military, and administrative center, commanded by the military governor housed in the Presidio of Monterey. Three other presidios also existed—at San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. The soldiers at the presidios made up the police and military force.
The governor, appointed by the Spanish king, was an absolute ruler, commanding the military and sanctioning the use of state violence. He also controlled all government functions, administrative, legislative, and judicial. Land ownership, very important in this agricultural colony, was also under the purview of the governor, who enforced the "right" of the King of Spain to "own" virtually all of California, which was land seized by force from the Indians. This political system was, therefore, an absolutist state and extremely hierarchical, unlike the one created by Native Californians.
The missions made up the second part of the power structure of Spanish and Mexican California into the 1830s. The missions were a type of totalitarian, religious commune in which the Catholic priests or "fathers" ruled over the Indian "neophytes," who were seen as perpetual children. As the main economic institution of the epoch, the missions were where the bulk of the production needed to sustain the colony took place.
Native Californians made up the labor force necessary to sustain the twenty-one missions and the entire colonial enterprise known today as the Catholic California Mission. Indians did all the planting, harvesting, cooking, animal husbandry, weaving, construction, woodcutting, and other economic activities at the missions (Webb 1952, 84; Forbes 1982, 41).
Priests of the Franciscan order organized the missions, which were located along the coastal strip from San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north. So long as production was assured, the governor gave the priests significant independence in handling the Indians. The missions bartered some of their surplus production with the California governor for items that they could not produce (certain tools, iron, cloth, glass beads), and as time went on, increasingly for worthless promises to pay from the military officials who ruled the colony. Soon the entire colony came to depend upon the missions and Indian labor to produce the necessities of survival on this frontier. During the sixty years from 1769 to 1829, this production system developed into a powerful economic institution. At their peak, the twenty-one missions housed about 30,000 Indians, controlled about eight million acres of land, had extensive field crops (especially wheat and corn) and as many as 420,000 cattle, 320,000 sheep, and over 60,000 horses and mules (T. Hittell 1885, 2:207; Hornbeck 1983, 56–57).
The Indians, whose options were restricted when the Spanish colonialists seized their land and resources to use for grazing Spanish livestock and raising Spanish crops, were attracted to the missions with a combination of goods (food, beads, cloth), promises of security (including security from Spanish violence), and spiritual salvation. In exchange, the Indians lost their freedom and, once baptized by the priests, could not leave except with permission. Their lives were totally controlled and regulated twenty-four hours a day for their entire lives. The only exception was once a year (or so) when they were given permission and a pass to return to their villages for a few weeks' holiday. Running away and numerous other disciplinary infractions, both minor and major, were punished by solitary confinement, flogging, branding, the stocks, hobbles (chaining to weights), and other humiliations (Cook 1976, 91–101; Jackson and Castillo 1995, 44; Jackson 1994, 126, 165–166; Castillo 1978, 101). As one contemporary observer later recalled:
Indians belonging to the missions could not leave them without special permission, and this was seldom granted. Frequently they were sent to work in the towns or the presidios under contract. They were not paid for the work they did ... I do not know whether or not the padres sometimes exceeded their authority in delivering punishments. I do know that they frequently castigated the Indians who had committed faults with lashes, confinement, and chains. On some occasions, I saw Indians working in chains ... and I also saw them in stocks. (Lugo  1950, 226–227).
Since Indians were at the bottom of a caste system from which there was no legal escape, and because their labor was forced, the system has been labeled by both contemporary observers and many scholars as "slavery" or "practical slavery" (Bannon 1964, 191; Archibald 1978, 181; T. Hittell 1885, 3:59, 77, 210; Caughey 1940, 193; Harlow 1982, 20). For example, Jean F. La Perouse, a French visitor to the missions in the 1780s, concluded that even by this early date the California missions were all too much like the slave plantations of Santo Domingo ( 1989, 41, 81). The 1997 Historical Encyclopedia of World Slavery pointed out that mission Indians were held in "virtual slavery ... were tied to the mission lands ... and had every aspect of their lives controlled by the priests" (Rodriguez 1997, 605).
The Indians were, however, not bought and sold, as African slaves were in the United Sates, so the concept of peonage is also needed to fully understand the organization of work in the missions. When the Indians joined these missions, they incurred a religious rather than monetary debt. James A. Sandos argues that the Indians in the mission system had therefore the status of spiritual-debt peons (Sandos 2004, 178–179). This forced-labor system, a combination of slavery and peonage, was the dominant type of labor system in Spanish and Mexican California until the 1830s.
In addition, the missions were very unhealthy places, rife with disease, poor sanitation, and unlivable conditions. The Indians, not surprisingly, were alienated and very depressed living there and their immune systems reduced; they often could not resist the new diseases introduced by Europeans. The problem of disease was immensely worsened by the practice of systematic rape of native women by Spanish soldiers, which introduced syphilis into the population on a massive scale. Colonial officials spoke against the common practice of soldiers assaulting Indian women, that the scholar Sherburne Cook called "notorious," but they never instituted effective deterrents (Cook 1976, 24–25). The California Missions founder, Father Junipero Serra, himself stated that some of the Spanish soldiers were so evil that sometimes "even the children who came to the mission were not safe from their baseness ..." (Tibesar 1955, 362–363).
[It is] clear that from the time the Spanish first set foot in California, there was ample opportunity for the introduction of syphilis to the native population, not at one but at many places. Indeed, since there were soldiers stationed at every mission, since the troops were continually moving around from one place to another, and since this military group was itself generously infected, the introduction may be regarded as wholesale and substantially universal. (Cook 1976, 25)
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Table of Contents
Part One: Pre-Capitalist California: The Mission and Rancho Eras....................1
1 Militarists, Missionaries, and Native Resistance 1769–1830....................3
Part Two: The Transition to Capitalism, 1846–1860s....................61
3 War, Gold Rush, and Conquest, 1846–1856....................63
4 The Rise of Industrial Capitalism, 1856–1865....................101
Part Three: Capitalist California, 1860–1901....................173
5 The Formation of a New Ruling Class—the "Pacific Coast Ring," 1864-1870....................175
6 Conflict and Unity—The Evolution of the California Ruling Class, 1870-1877....................215
7 Resistance and Racialization—Capitalism and the California Working Class, 1850–1885....................255
8 Unity—The Southern Pacific Railroad and the Development of the California Ruling Class, 1877–1890....................331
9 California's Political Economy at the End of the Nineteenth Century....................371
10 Struggle—The Pullman Strike in California 1894....................393
11 The 1901 General Strike on the San Francisco Waterfront....................427
Postscript—From Historical Narrative to Historic Transformation....................487
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Finally, a history of California that includes the voice and experience of the workers! "Rulers & Rebels: A People's History of Early California, 1769-1901" by Laurence H. Shoup, fills an important gap in books about California history. While most history books rarely speak of, or acknowledge the existence of the class structure, this book sticks to the meaning of its title and focuses on history as the conflict between the Rulers (the ruling class) and the Rebels (the working class). In the tradition of Howard Zinn's "people's history" books, the author presents a history of California from below. With the use of primary documents and newspaper articles of the time, the author's narrative allows us to see who was in the ruling class, how they got their power to control, and how they were able to dominate the working class, and who was in the working class and how they reacted to the power and control of the ruling class. In the narrative the author also included the role of people of color, women, children, and immigrants, in this clash. "Rulers & Rebels" is divided into three parts: Pre-Capitalist California: "The Mission and Rancho Eras, from 1769 until 1846." This is the shortest section of the book, 59 pages. Still the author is able to present a clear outline of the period helping the reader understand the plight of the Native Americans, serving as semi-slaves in the mission system and as peons in the ranches in the ranchero system. In part two, "The Transition to Capitalism 1846-1860s", 111 pages, the author discussed the annexation of California by the United States, the conquest of the native Americans, the gold rush, and the rise of San Francisco as a locus of the development of California's political economy. Part Three: "Capitalist California, 1860-1901" composed the majority of the book describing the capitalist ruling class's emergence, the rise of The Bank of California and the Central Pacific/Southern Pacific Railroads, and the challenge of the propertyless wage workers created in reaction to the developing ruling class. Shoup ended the book with a postscript: "From Historical Narrative to Historic Transformation." Here he discussed the role of history and included a reflective discussion of class and race in early California. "Rulers and Rebels" is an important contribution to the story of California because it fills a needed discussion of the history of the relationship between workers, rulers, the political economy and the development of capitalism, usually ignored in other texts. The techniques Shoup used in gathering and choosing his data have been honed in his earlier books:" Imperial Brain Trust, The Council on Foreign Relations and United States Foreign Policy" (co-authored with William Minter) and "The Carter Presidency and Beyond, Power and Politics in the 1980's", where he also focused on the power structure and its process. Finally, this book provides an important connection to current events, as Shoup stated: "Understanding the rich but largely hidden history of peoples' struggles in the key state of California can be both inspiring and a beginning to the development of popular consciousness and an organized alternative to an increasingly unacceptable status quo." Highly recommended.