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April 27, 1861: San Luis Obispo

April 27, 2011

Exterior of Fort Johnson, South Carolina, showing Fort Sumter in the distance.

Exterior of Fort Johnson, South Carolina, showing Fort Sumter in the distance; by The U.S. National Archives, on Flickr

Camp 26

…and [today] took them to the landing for shipment. We had sixteen boxes, enough for quite a cabinet….

[Tonight] a mail arrived bringing the first and scanty news of the attack on Fort Sumter. The eastern troubles have worried me much of late, although I have not written. We get papers often, a package nearly every steamer. I fear the prestige of the American name is passed away, not soon to return. We are doing and reaping as monarchists have often told us we would do—put designing, immoral, wicked, and reckless men in office until they robbed us of our glory, corrupted the masses, and broke us in pieces for their gain. But four and five short years ago I often argued this could never be—at the very time that we were pampering the knaves that could do it. I hope and trust that we may yet be united, but the American Union can never exist in the hearts of the entire people again as we have fondly dreamed that it did. I have long been prepared for anything that southern politicians would try, demoralized as they have become, but I expected a much more conservative force there than has shown itself.

This state is eminently for Union. The people almost unanimously feel that all that California is she owes to her nationality. I don’t know a single Secession paper here. Of course, there are many desperadoes who would do anything, hoping to gain personally in any row that might arise, but the masses feel that their only safety is in the Union. Without protection, without mails, what would California be? A “Republic of the Pacific” is the sheerest nonsense. A republic of only about 900,000 inhabitants, less than a million, spread over a territory much larger than the original thirteen states, scattered, hostile Indians and worse Mormons on their borders—what would either sustain or protect such a country? And the people feel it.

Clarkia 06

Clarkia purpurea; by Tom Hilton, on Flickr

But bad men are in power here as well as elsewhere in the United States. I have heard good citizens say that there was but one honest officer in this county. Court adjourned one day last week because both judge and district attorney were too drunk to carry it on. It is a common thing to see the highest officials of this county drunk on the streets here in town, but this is a notoriously hard place. I assure you, we never go to sleep without having our revolvers handy.

But the masses of the state are farther north. The whole south is sparsely populated, and will so remain so long as it is mostly divided into ranches so large that they are never spoken of by the acre, but always by the square league. A has four leagues, B ten leagues, C twenty leagues, etc.

Specimens collected: Lotus junceus var. biolettii; Castilleja densiflora subsp. obispoensis; Clarkia purpurea subsp. quadrivulnera; Silene gallica; Melilotus indicus; Brassica nigra.


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