Bayard Taylor on the Gold Rush and Human Character

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The emigrants who arrive in California, very soon divide into two distinct classes. About two-thirds, or possibly three-fourths of them are active, hopeful and industrious. They feel this singular intoxication of society, and go to work at something, no matter what, by which they hope to thrive.

The remaining portion see everything “through a glass, darkly.” Their first bright anticipations are unrealized; the horrid winds of San Francisco during the dry season, chill and unnerve them; or, if they go to the placers, the severe labor and the ill success of inexperienced hands, completes their disgust. They commit a multitude of sins in the shape of curses upon everyone who has written or spoken favorably of California. Some of them return home without having seen the country at all and others, even if they obtain profitable situations, labor without a will. It is no place for a slow, an over-cautious, or a desponding man. The emigrant should be willing to work, not only at one business, but many, if need be; the grumbler or the idler had far better stay home.

A man who would consider his fellow beneath him, on account of his appearance or occupation, would have had some difficulty in living peaceably in California. The security of the country is owing, in no small degree, to this plain, practical development of what the French reverence as an abstraction, under the name of Fraternité. To sum up all, in three words, LABOR IS RESPECTABLE. May it never be otherwise, while a grain of gold is left to glitter in California soil!

Bayard Taylor, El Dorado: Adventures in the Path of Empire (1850)

Lithograph of Bayard Taylor's San Francisco, 1849

   The Nahls arrived in San Francisco on May 23, 1851


The Nahls arrived in San Francisco on May 23, 1851