DescriptionJames Gaines Autograph Letter Signed. Four-page bifolium, 7.75" x 10", Quartzburg, Mariposa County, California; [circa 1851-1856]. A letter to Sam Houston and Thomas J. Rusk concerning Gaines' plea to Houston and Rusk to use their influence in Congress to pass legislation that would encourage settlement of California by granting free land as was done previously with settlers in Louisiana, Florida, and Oregon.
Gaines opens his letter by reminding Houston and Rusk, then serving as United States senators from Texas, of their shared history in winning Texas its independence from Mexico and eventual statehood: "You both, no doubt will recollect our first interview at Fene... [missing letters] on the Sabine river, which was on secret agencies and nullification, you will then recollect my opposition to an infraction of the Mexican Constitution of AD 1824. You recollect AD 1835, when I received the information through the correspondence with Almonté, who, I presume is in the city of Washington, that the Mexican nation had destroyed that Constitution. I then proposed a Declaration of Independence, as we were then free from the shackles of Mexico, as also the sale of Jon. Q. Adams in AD 1819. You recollect that I was one of the committee that drafted that Declaration with a view to produce the annexation of that part of Louisiana to the United States.
According to Gaines, Texas' Declaration of Independence "produced annexation, and that annexation brought in California and New Mexico." "Now I consider, Texas proper," he continued, "as one of the daughters of the old Virginia Dominion, and California as the grand daughter." Gaines uses this analogy concerning California as the starting point for the concerns he conveys in his letter. Blaming the administration of President Zachary Taylor for treating California "more like a bastard, than a true grand daughter," Gaines states that the state's constitution "will ever disgrace the annals of American history, which has deprived the great and glorious South of all participation in its benefits, and in place of the people of the South, occupying the premises of the grand daughter of the old Virginia Dominion, it is occupied by some twenty odd thousand of the convicts from Sydney as well as an equal number of the coolies from China, as also an equal number of the geurillas [sic] from Mexico," which was brought about by a "joint partnership between New York and London." Gaines proceeds to provide background for his request of Congress to provide free land to encourage settlement of California.
"You will understand me, as showing you the true situation of California, the great grand daughter of the old Virginia Dominion, and I now will call your attention, when Tom. Jefferson purchased Louisiana, that he sent Clark and Lewis to explore the whole region of the West, by which they discovered Oregon on the Pacific coast, as well as passed a the law known as the Act of Congress...of Dec. 21st. 1803, which granted to the emigrants in all parts of Louisiana, six hundred and forty acres of land to each family, and three hundred and twenty acres to each single man. This law has been extended to Florida and more recently to Oregon, and where is California, left without any of those benefits and laid open to speculation on...claims to the exclusion of the actual settler, who had come into the country by the thousands and across the plains, as well as those who have been brought around the world...under the most distressed circumstances, the gov[ernment] has failed to grant them a home as they did in Louisiana, Florida, and Oregon....
You will discover that our representatives have never asked any thing for the people, but have aided first to make and adopt that constitution as well as to sustain the principle of speculation, which is to make the rich-richer, and the poor-poorer."
Gaines ends his letter with a plea to Houston and Rusk: "Now, gentleman, I call upon you, as the representatives of Texas that you do openly and promptly call upon Congress of the United States to pass a law, authorizing each family, who have or may emigrate to receive six hundred and forty acres of land as well as single men three hundred and twenty acres, as was granted to the people of Louisiana, Florida and Oregon, and that you do abolish the present system of surveying and leave it to the State after the emigrants are supplied with land, to dispose of the balance."
Congress did not pass the legislation that Gaines wanted and would not pass any homestead legislation until 1862.
James Taylor Gaines (1776-1856) was born in Culpeper County, Virginia, a descendant of the distinguished Pendleton family. Gaines later moved to Texas and by 1812 was operating a ferry on the Sabine River. He raised and commanded troops in the Gutiérrez-Magee expedition, an effort to wrest Texas from Spain in 1812-1813, and then went to Virginia and fought against the British in the War of 1812. In 1819 he bought the long-established ferry on El Camino Real and operated the business for over twenty years. In addition to operating a ferry, Gaines managed an inn and mercantile store. He later founded the town of Pendleton. He served on the drafting committee for the Texas Declaration of Independence, signed the declaration, and helped write the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. In February 1843 Gaines sold his ferry and moved to Nacogdoches, Mexico, where he led campaigns to obtain annexation for Texas. When gold was discovered in California, Gaines traveled there in 1850. He was instrumental in imposing law and order in the mine fields and held office for years in Mariposa County. He and his sons discovered the rich Gaines Ledge of gold and established the Mount Gaines Mine, which still exists. Gaines remained in California until his death in 1856.
An interesting letter from a former Texan asking Houston and Rusk, his former associates, to help persuade Congress to aid settlement in California.
Condition: The letter has a horizontal and vertical folds along with dampstaining and burn marks on the other edges, which affects a few words.
Thomas Jefferson Rusk (1803-1857) was born in Pendleton District, South Carolina. Admitted to the bar in 1825, Rusk began his law practice in Clarksville, Georgia. He moved to Texas in 1834 and became a citizen of Mexico in 1835. Rusk soon became involved in the Texas independence movement. The provisional government of Texas named him inspector general of the army in the Nacogdoches District, a position he filled from December 1835 to February 1836. As a delegate to the Convention of 1836, Rusk not only signed the Texas Declaration of Independence but also chaired the committee to revise the constitution. The interim government installed in March 1836 appointed Rusk secretary of war. A member of the Texas army, Rusk participated in the defeat of Santa Anna on April 21, 1836, in the Battle of San Jacinto. From May to through October 1836, he served as commander in chief of the Army of the Republic of Texas, with the rank of brigadier general. He served on the Second Congress of the Texas Republic during 1837 and 1838. On December 12, 1838, Congress elected Rusk chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court, on which he served until June 30, 1840. Rusk was a strong supporter of the annexation of Texas by the United States. He was president of the Convention of 1845, which accepted the annexation terms. The first state legislature elected him and Sam Houston to the United States Senate in February 1846. Rusk and Houston, who had a strained relationship in the past, worked together to settle the southwest boundary question in favor of Texas' claim to the Rio Grande. Rusk was an ardent supporter of President James K. Polk's declaration of war against Mexico and the acquisition of California. A popular Democrat, Rusk was offered the position of postmaster general by President James Buchanan in 1857. During the special session of March 1857 the United States Senate elected him president pro tem. Despondent over the death of his wife's death in April 1856, and ill from a tumor at the base of his neck, Rusk committed suicide on July 29, 1857.
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