By this time Victoria began to see that he was being played with, so he hurried to Monterey and demanded the immediate surrender of the office to which he was entitled. One of his first acts was to nullify Echeandia’s decree, and to write to Mexico and explain fully that it was undoubtedly owing to the influence of Padres, whom he well knew. But before the end of the year Echeandia and his friends rose in rebellion, deposed, and exiled Victoria. Owing to the struggles then going on in Mexico, which culminated in Santa Anna’s dictatorship, the revolt of Echeandia was overlooked and Figueroa appointed governor in his stead.
For a time Figueroa held back the tide of secularization, while Carlos Carrillo, the Californian delegate to the Mexican Congress, was doing all he could to keep the Missions and the Pious Fund intact. Figueroa then issued a series of provisional regulations on gradual emancipation, hoping to be relieved from further responsibility by the Mexican government.
This only came in the passage of an Act, August 17, 1833, decreeing full secularization. The Act also provided for the colonization of both the Californias, the expenses of this latter move to be borne by the proceeds gained from the distribution of the Mission property. A shrewd politician named Hijars was to be made governor of Upper California for the purpose of carrying this law into effect.
But now Figueroa seemed to regret his first action. Perhaps it was jealousy that Hijars should have been appointed to his stead. He bitterly opposed Hijars, refused to give up the governorship, and after considerable “pulling and hauling,” issued secularization orders of his own, greatly at variance with those promulgated by the Mexican Cortes, and proceeded to set them in operation.
Ten Missions were fully secularized in 1834, and six others in the following year. And now came the general scramble for Mission property. Each succeeding governor, freed from too close supervision by the general government in Mexico, which was passing through trials and tribulations of its own, helped himself to as much as he could get. Alvarado, from 1836 to 1842, plundered on every hand, and Pio Pico was not much better. When he became governor, there were few funds with which to carry on the affairs of the country, and he prevailed upon the assembly to pass a decree authorizing the renting or the sale of the Mission property, reserving only the church, a curate’s house, and a building for a court-house. From the proceeds the expenses of conducting the services of the church were to be provided, but there was no disposition made as to what should be done to secure the funds for that purpose. Under this decree the final acts of spoliation were consummated.