The Famous Missions of California eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 58 pages of information about The Famous Missions of California.

In considering the attitude of the civil authorities towards the mission system, and their dealings with it, we must remember that the Spanish government had from the first anticipated the gradual transformation of the missions into pueblos and parishes, and with this, the substitution of the regular clergy for the Franciscan padres.  This was part of the general plan of colonization, of which the mission settlements were regarded as forming only the beginning.  Their work was to bring the heathen into the fold of the church, to subdue them to the conditions of civilization, to instruct them in the arts of peace, and thus to prepare them for citizenship; and this done, it was purposed that they should be straightway removed from the charge of the fathers and placed under civil jurisdiction.  No decisive step towards the accomplishment of this design was, however, taken for many years; and meanwhile, the fathers jealously resisted every effort of the government to interfere with their prerogatives.  At length, with little comprehension of the nature of the materials out of which citizens were thus to be manufactured, and with quite as little realization of the fact that the paternal methods of education adopted by the padres were calculated, not to train their neophytes to self-government, but to keep them in a state of perpetual tutelage, the Spanish Cortes decreed that all missions which had then been in existence ten years should at once be turned over to bishops, and the Indians attached to them made subject to civil authority.  Though promulgated in 1813, this decree was not published in California till 1820, and even then was practically a dead letter.  Two years later, California became a province of the Mexican Empire, and in due course the new government turned its attention to the missions, in 1833 ordering their complete secularization.  The atrocious mishandling by both Spain and Mexico of the funds by which they had been kept up, and the large demands made later upon them for provisions and money, had by this time made serious inroads upon their resources; notwithstanding which they had faithfully persisted in their work.  The new law now dealt them a crushing blow.  Ten years of great confusion followed, and then an effort was made to save them from the complete ruin by which they were threatened by a proclamation ordering that the more important of them, twelve in number, should be restored to the padres.  Nothing came of this, however; the collapse continued; and in 1846, the sale of the mission buildings was decreed by the Departmental Assembly.  When in the August of that year, the American flag was unfurled at Monterey, everything connected with the missions — their lands, their priests, their neophytes, their management — was in a state of seemingly hopeless chaos.  Finally General Kearney issued a declaration to the effect that “the missions and their property should remain under the charge of the Catholic priests . . . until the titles

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The Famous Missions of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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