Two Years Before the Mast eBook

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as the shark could turn, the man was obliged to let go his hold; but the instant he made toward deep water, they were both behind him, watching their chance to seize him.  In this way the battle went on for some time, the shark, in a rage, splashing and twisting about, and the Kanakas, in high excitement, yelling at the top of their voices.  But the shark at last got off, carrying away a hook and line, and not a few severe bruises.

CHAPTER XXI

We kept up a constant connection with the presidio, and by the close of the summer I had added much to my vocabulary, beside having made the acquaintance of nearly everybody in the place, and acquired some knowledge of the character and habits of the people, as well as of the institutions under which they live.

California was discovered in 1534 by Ximenes, or in 1536 by Cortes, I cannot settle which, and was subsequently visited by many other adventurers, as well as commissioned voyagers of the Spanish crown.  It was found to be inhabited by numerous tribes of Indians, and to be in many parts extremely fertile; to which, of course, were added rumors of gold mines, pearl fishery, &c.  No sooner was the importance of the country known, than the Jesuits obtained leave to establish themselves in it, to Christianize and enlighten the Indians.  They established missions in various parts of the country toward the close of the seventeenth century, and collected the natives about them, baptizing them into the Church, and teaching them the arts of civilized life.  To protect the Jesuits in their missions, and at the same time to support the power of the crown over the civilized Indians, two forts were erected and garrisoned,—­ one at San Diego, and the other at Monterey.  These were called presidios, and divided the command of the whole country between them.  Presidios have since been established at Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and other places, dividing the country into large districts, each with its presidio, and governed by a commandante.  The soldiers, for the most part, married civilized Indians; and thus, in the vicinity of each presidio, sprung up, gradually, small towns.  In the course of time, vessels began to come into the ports to trade with the missions and received hides in return; and thus began the great trade of California.  Nearly all the cattle in the country belonged to the missions, and they employed their Indians, who became, in fact, their serfs, in tending their vast herds.  In the year 1793, when Vancouver visited San Diego, the missions had obtained great wealth and power, and are accused of having depreciated the country with the sovereign, that they might be allowed to retain their possessions.  On the expulsion of the Jesuits from the Spanish dominions, the missions passed into the hands of the Franciscans, though without any essential change in their management.  Ever since the independence of Mexico, the missions

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