March 9, 1862: San Francisco
As the “money question” just now engrosses more of my thoughts than any other subject, I may be pardoned if I tell you something about it, for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”
The act which created the Survey appropriated $20,000 to begin it, and the next legislature added $15,000 to continue it. That would have carried us on until about May of this year. The treasury was then in good condition, and all looked well. Ten thousand dollars was handed over at the start, and $10,000 more came on during the first year of our work. But scoundrels interfered with the treasury. A transfer of $250,000 from one fund to another deranged state finances so that we could realize none of our last appropriation, but as it was necessary to carry on the work and the money was promised in the fall, Professor Whitney borrowed money to go on with the work. Fall came, but none of the promised funds. We must wait until March, then till May. None of the state officers had received their salaries during the latter part of the last year, but before they left office, the Comptroller and the Treasurer hit on a plan to relieve their own cases and that of their fellows. Taxes are paid in twice a year, spring and fall. They called in, in advance, over $250,000 in the fall, not due until spring, and thus paid off all their back salaries and the claims of certain friends. A part of this money belonged to the Interest Fund, supposed to be kept inviolate for payment of the interest on the state debts; about $110,000 or $115,000 of this was used, and of this, $86,000 is still out, to be paid out of the first moneys due the treasury.
The new set of officers came in, but couldn’t be paid. The Assembly seized on $60,000 of a select fund, the Swamp Land Fund, and are now trying for $100,000 more, and will doubtless take it. If they do, the Lord only knows when we will be paid. With this new move, I went to Sacramento three days ago and had a long and confidential talk with the Treasurer, who is an old friend of mine here, and found out all this and much more, the upshot of which is, that we will probably have to wait until next December for our pay! The state now owes me $1,400, a thousand of which was solemnly and surely promised before this time. Professor Whitney is still worse off, for he has borrowed several thousand dollars to carry on the work. You need not wonder that I fell blue—disgusted, indignant, and mad. I had hoped for better things, that the rule of scoundrelism in the state was over—it is not over—but “still lives.” I have no fears of not getting it at some time, it is provided for by special appropriation, and, of the last $15,000, $10,000 are audited and stand first on the list of claims from the General Fund. There is no talk of repudiation—only, we can’t get our money when it is due.
Meanwhile, the most influential state officers are all favorably disposed toward our work, and see its immense importance to the material interests of the state, but this doesn’t pay us for past labors. Yet I have hopes that something will be done to relieve the state, and with its relief, I hope for our relief.
The floods have still more deranged finances and make some action imperative. The actual loss of taxable property will amount to probably ten or fifteen millions, some believe twice that, but I think not even the latter sum. The Treasurer says that the next tax list will cut down the taxable property about one-third of the whole amount, or probably about fifty million dollars, as each man will get as much taken off on his property as is possible. I suppose the actual loss in all kinds of property, personal and real, will rank anywhere between fifty and a hundred million dollars—surely a calamity of no common magnitude!