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.
as in most such cases, to depend quite as much upon bias of mind and preconceived ideals, as upon the bare facts presented, concerning which, one would imagine, there can hardly be much difference of opinion.  To decide upon the value of a given social experiment, we must, to begin with, wake up our minds as to what we should wish to see achieved; and where there is no unanimity concerning the object to be reached, there will scarcely be any in respect of the means employed.  It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that critical judgment upon the Franciscan missionaries and their work has been given here in terms of unqualified laudation, and there in the form of severest disapproval, and that everyone who touches the topic afresh is expected to take sides.  In their favor it must, I think, be universally admitted that they wrought always with the highest motives and the noblest intentions, and that their labours were really fruitful of much good among the native tribes.  On the other hand, when regarded from the standpoint of secular progress, it seems equally certain that their work was sadly hampered by narrowness of outlook and understanding, and an utter want of appreciation of the demands and conditions of the modern world.  Thus while we give them the fullest credit for all that they accomplished by their teachings and example, we have still frankly to acknowledge their failure in the most important and most difficult part of their undertaking — in the task of transforming many thousands of ignorant and degraded savages into self-respecting men and women, fit for the duties and responsibilities of civilization.  Yet to put it in this way is to show sharply enough that such failure is not hastily to be set down to their discredit.  It is often said, indeed, that they went altogether the wrong way to work for the achievement of the much-desired result; and it is unquestionably true, as La Pérouse long ago pointed out, that they made the fundamental, but with them inevitable mistake, of sacrificing the temporal and material welfare of the natives to the consideration of so-called “heavenly interests.”  Yet in common fairness we must remember the stuff with which they had to deal.  The Indian was by nature a child and a slave; and if, out of children and slaves they did not at once manufacture independent and law-abiding citizens, is it for us, who have not yet exhibited triumphant success in handling the same problem under far more favorable conditions, to cover them with our contempt, or dismiss them with our blame?  Civilization is at best a slow and painful affair, as we half-civilized people ought surely to understand by this time — a matter not of individuals and years, but of generations and centuries; and nothing permanent has ever yet been gained by any attempt, how promising soever it may have seemed, to force the natural processes of social evolution.  The mission padres bore the cross from point to point along the far-off Pacific coast; they built churches, they founded
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The Famous Missions of California from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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