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- California and the Californians - 2/3 -


indifferent. In the times of national stress, he paid his debts in gold and asked the same of his creditors, regardless of the laws or customs of the rest of the United States. To him gold is still money and a national promise to pay is not. The general welfare is not a catchword with him. His affairs are individual. But he is not stingy for all this. It is rather a form of largeness, of tolerance. He is as generous as the best, and takes what the Fates send him with cheerful enthusiasm. Flood and drought, temblor and conflagration, boom and panic - each comes in "the day's work," and each alike finds him alert, hopeful, resourceful and unafraid.

The typical Californian has largely outgrown provincialism. He has seen much of the world, and he knows the varied worth of varied lands. He travels more widely than the man of any other state, and he has the education which travel gives. As a rule, the well-to-do Californian knows Europe better than the average Eastern man of equal financial resources, and the chances are that his range of experience includes Japan, China, New Zealand and Australia as well. A knowledge of his own country is a matter of course. He has no sympathy with "the essential provinciality of the mind which knows the Eastern seaboard, and has some measure of acquaintance with countries and cities, and with men from Ireland to Italy, but which is densely ignorant of our own vast domain, and thinks that all which lies beyond Philadelphia belongs to the West." Not that provincialism is unknown in California, or that its occasional exhibition is any less absurd or offensive here than elsewhere. For example, one may note a tendency to set up local standards for literary work done in California. Another more harmful idea is to insist that methods outworn in the schools elsewhere are good because they are Californian. This is the usual provincialism of ignorance, and it is found the world over. Especially is it characteristic of centers of population. When men come into contact with men instead of with the forces of nature, they mistake their own conventionalities for the facts of existence. It is not what life is, but what "the singular mess we agree to call life" is, that interests them. In this fashion they lose their real understanding of affairs, become the toys of their local environment, and are marked as provincials or tenderfeet when they stray away from home.

California is emphatically one of "earth's male lands," to accept Browning's classification. The first Saxon settlers were men, and in their rude civilization women had little part. For years women in California were objects of curiosity or of chivalry, disturbing rather than cementing influences in society. Even yet California is essentially a man's state. It is common to say that public opinion does not exist there; but such a statement is not wholly correct. It does exist, but it is an out-of-door public opinion - a man's view of men. There is, for example, a strong public opinion against hypocrisy in California, as more than one clerical renegade has found, to his discomfiture. The pretense to virtue is the one vice that is not forgiven. If a man be not a liar, few questions are asked, least of all the delicate one as to the "name he went by in the states." What we commonly call public opinion - the cut and dried decision on social and civic questions - is made up in the house. It is essentially feminine in its origin, the opinion of the home circle as to how men should behave. In California there is little which corresponds to the social atmosphere pervading the snug, white-painted, green-blinded New England villages, and this little exists chiefly in the southern counties, in communities of people transported in block - traditions, conventionalities, prejudices, and all. There is, in general, no merit attached to conformity, and one may take a wide range of rope without necessarily arousing distrust. Speaking broadly, in California the virtues of life spring from within, and are not prescribed from without. The young man who is decent only because he thinks that some one is looking, would do well to stay away. The stern law of individual responsibility turns the fool over to the fool-killer without a preliminary trial. No finer type of man can be found in the world than the sober Californian; and yet no coast is strewn with wrecks more pitiful.

There are some advantages in the absence of a compelling force of public opinion. One of them is found in the strong self-reliance of men and women who have made and enforced their own moral standards. With very many men, life in California brings a decided strengthening of the moral fibre. They must reconsider, justify, and fight for their standards of action; and by so doing they become masters of themselves. With men of weak nature the result is not so encouraging. The disadvantage is shown in lax business methods, official carelessness and corruption, the widespread corrosion of vulgar vices, and the general lack of pride in their work shown by artisans and craftsmen.

In short, California is a man's land, with male standards of action - a land where one must give and take, stand and fall, as a man. With the growth of woman's realm of homes and houses, this will slowly change. It is changing now, year by year, for good and ill; and soon California will have a public opinion. Her sons will learn to fear "the rod behind the looking-glass," and to shun evil not only because it is vile, but because it is improper.

Contact with the facts of nature has taught the Californian something of importance. To have elbow-room is to touch nature at more angles; and whenever she is touched she is an insistent teacher. Whatever is to be done, the typical Californian knows how to do it, and how to do it well. He is equal to every occasion. He can cinch his own saddle, harness his own team, bud his own grapevines, cook his own breakfast, paint his own house; and because he cannot go to the market for every little service, perforce he serves himself. In dealing with college students in California, one is impressed by their boundless ingenuity. If anything needs doing, some student can do it for you. Is it to sketch a waterfall, to engrave a portrait, to write a sonnet, to mend a saddle, to sing a song, to build an engine, or to "bust a bronco," there is someone at hand who can do it, and do it artistically. Varied ingenuity California demands of her pioneers. Their native originality has been intensified by circumstances, until it has become a matter of tradition and habit. The processes of natural selection have favored the survival of the ingenious, and the quality of adequacy has become hereditary.

The possibility of the unearned increment is a great factor in the social evolution of California. Its influence has been widespread, persistent, and, in most regards, baneful. The Anglo-Saxon first came to California for gold to be had for the picking up. The hope of securing something for nothing, money or health without earning it, has been the motive for a large share of the subsequent immigration. From those who have grown rich through undeserved prosperity, and from those who have grown poor in the quest of it, California has suffered sorely. Even now, far and wide, people think of California as a region where wealth is not dependent on thrift, where one can somehow "strike it rich" without that tedious attention to details and expenses which wears out life in effete regions such as Europe and the Eastern states. In this feeling there is just enough of truth to keep the notion alive, but never enough to save from disaster those who make it a working hypothesis. The hope of great or sudden wealth has been the mainspring of enterprise in California, but it has also been the excuse for shiftlessness and recklessness, the cause of social disintegration and moral decay. The "Argonauts of '49" were a strong, self-reliant, generous body of men. They came for gold, and gold in abundance. Most of them found it, and some of them retained it. Following them came a miscellaneous array of parasites and plunderers; gamblers, dive-keepers and saloon-keepers, who fed fat on the spoils of the Argonauts. Every Roaring Camp had its Jack Hamlin as well as its Flynn of Virginia, John Oakhurst came with Yuba Bill, and the wild, strong, generous, reckless aggregate cared little for thrift, and wasted more than they earned.

But it is not gold alone that in California has dazzled men with visions of sudden wealth. Orange groves, peach orchards, prune orchards, wheat raising, lumbering, horse-farms; chicken-ranches, bee-ranches, sheep-breeding, seal-poaching, cod-fishing, salmon-canning - each of these has held out the same glittering possibility. Even the humblest ventures have caught the prevailing tone of speculation. Industry and trade have been followed, not for a living, but for sudden wealth, and often on a scale of personal expenses out of all proportion to the probable results. In the sixties, when the gold-fever began to subside, it was found that the despised "cow counties" would bear marvelous crops of wheat. At once wheat-raising was undertaken on a grand scale. Farms of five thousand to fifty thousand acres were established on the old Spanish grants in the valleys of the Coast Range and in the interior, and for a time wheat-raising on a grand scale took its place along with the more conventional forms of gambling, with the disadvantage that small holders were excluded, and the region occupied was not filled up by homes.

The working out of most of the placer mines and the advent of quartz-crushing with elaborate machinery have changed gold-mining from speculation to regular business, to the great advantage of the state. In the same manner the development of irrigation is changing the character of farming in many parts of California. In the early days fruit-raising was of the nature of speculation, but the spread of irrigation has brought it into more wholesome relations. To irrigate a tract of land is to make its product certain; but at the same time irrigation demands expenditure of money, and the building of a home necessarily follows. Irrigation thus tends to break up the vast farms into small holdings which become permanent homes.

On land well chosen, carefully planted and thriftily managed, an orchard of prunes or of oranges, of almonds or apricots, should reward its possessor with a comfortable living, besides occasionally a generous profit thrown in. But too often men have not been content with the usual return, and have planted trees with a view only to the unearned profits. To make an honest living from the sale of oranges or prunes or figs or raisins is quite another thing from acquiring sudden wealth. When a man without experience in fruit-raising or in general economy comes to California, buys land on borrowed capital, plants it without discrimination, and spends his profits in advance, there can be but one result. The laws of economics are inexorable even in California. One of the curses of the state is the "fool fruit-grower," with neither knowledge nor conscience in the management of his business. Thousands of trees have been planted on ground unsuitable for the purpose, and thousands of trees which ought to have done well have died through his neglect. Through his agency frozen oranges were once sent to Eastern markets under his neighbor's brands, and most needlessly his varied follies for a time injured the reputation of the best of fruit.

The great body of immigrants to California have been sound and earnest, fit citizens of the young state, but this is rarely true of seekers of the unearned increment. No one is more greedy for money than the man who can never get much and cannot keep the little he has. Rumors of golden chances have brought in a steady stream of incompetents from all regions and from all strata of social life. From the common tramp to the inventor of "perpetual motions" in mechanics or in social science, is a long step in the moral scale, but both are alike in their eagerness to escape from the "competitive social order" of the East, in which their abilities found no recognition. Whoever has deservedly failed in the older states is sure at least once in his life to think of redeeming his fortunes in California. Once on the Pacific slope the difficulties in the way of his return seem insurmountable. The dread of the winter's cold is in most cases a sufficient reason for never going back. Thus San Francisco, by force of circumstances, has become the hopper into which fall incompetents from all the world, and from which few escape. The city contains more than four hundred thousand people. Of these, a vast number, thirty thousand to fifty thousand, it may be, have no real business in San Francisco. They live from hand to mouth, by odd jobs that might be better done by better people; and whatever their success


California and the Californians - 2/3

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