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.
the attention of the padres, and quite enough work to be done by the Indians under their charge.  But all this does not exhaust the list of mission activities.  For in course of time, as existence became more settled, and the children of the early converts shot up into boys and girls, various industries were added to such first necessary occupations, and the natives were taught to work at the forge and the bench, to make saddles and shoes, to weave, and cut, and sew.  In these and similar acts, many of them acquired considerable proficiency.

It is pleasant enough to look back upon such a busy yet placid life.  But while we may justly acknowledge its antique, pastoral charm, we must guard ourselves against the temptation to idealization.  Beautiful in many respects it must have been; but its shadows were long and deep.  According to the first principles adopted by the missionaries, the domesticated Indians were held down rigorously in a condition of servile dependence and subjection.  They were indeed, as one of the early travelers in California put it, slaves under another name — slaves to the cast-iron power of a system which, like all systems, was capable of unlimited abuse, and which, at the very best, was narrow and arbitrary.  Every vestige of freedom was taken from them when they entered, or were brought into, the settlement.  Henceforth they belonged, body and soul, to the mission and its authority.  Their tasks were assigned to them, their movements controlled, the details of their daily doings dictated, by those who were to all intents and purposes their absolute masters; and corporal punishment was visited freely not only upon those who were guilty of actual misdemeanor, but also upon such as failed in attendance at church, or, when there, did not conduct themselves properly.  From time to time some unusually turbulent spirit would rise against such paternal despotism, and break away to his old savage life.  But these cases, we are told, were of rare occurrence.  The California Indians were for the most part indolent, apathetic, and of low intelligence; and as, under domestication, they were clothed, housed and fed, while the labour demanded from them was rarely excessive, they were wont as a rule to accept the change from the hardships of their former rough existence to the comparative comfort of the mission, if not exactly in a spirit of gratitude, at any rate with a certain brutal contentment.


It does not fall within the scope of this little sketch, in which nothing more has been aimed at than to tell an interesting story in the simplest possible way, to enter into any discussion of a question to which what has just been said might naturally seem to lead — the question, namely, of the results, immediate and remote, of the mission system in California.  The widely divergent conclusions on this subject registered by the historians will, on investigation, be found,

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