REPRESENTATIVE AND LEADING
MEN OF THE PACIFIC
CORNELIUS K. GARRISON
By WILLIAM V. WELLS.
This gentleman was born on the Hudson river, near West Point, on the 1st day of March, 1809. His ancestors were Hollanders, and among the first settlers of New Amsterdam: on the father’s side the Garrisons and Coverts, and on the mother’s the Kingslands and the Schuylers— among the earliest of the old Knickerbocker families. His father, Oliver Garrsion, was at one time a large capitalist, but lost his property when Cornelius was quite young. The latter, at the age of thirteen, left his home and found employment in the carrying trade on the Hudson river, following this occupation during the business season for about three years. Alive to the value and necessity of an education, he diligently applied himself throughout the winter months when the navigation of the river was suspended, to study at a country school. At the request of his mother, he abandoned the river and went to New York city, to learn architecture and the building trade. He remained in New York three years. The knowledge which he acquired of architecture during that period was extensive, and valuable to him in the years which immediately followed.
At the age of nineteen, young Garrison removed to Canada, where for five or six years he was actively engaged in the erection of buildings, and the constructing of steamboats on the great lakes. During his residence there, he became a married man, espousing a lady of Buffalo, New York.
In Canada, Mr. Garrison acquired the reputation, which, he has ever since enjoyed, of being a reliable, clear-headed, and sagacious business man. The Upper Canada Company—one of the wealthiest in England, and owning extensive possessions—gave to him the general supervision of the Company affairs in the province; a trust upon which he entered, but which he soon surrendered, owing to the threatened outbreak of hostilities between England and the United States, growing out of the border difficulties existing at the time. Having led an active life in Canada for nearly six years, Mr. Garrison returned to the United States, and went to the Southwest, where he long followed the same business he had so successfully prosecuted in the British provinces, and was also engaged in several other important mercantile enterprises connected with steam navigation on the Mississippi.
About the time of the discovery of gold in California, Mr. Garrison removed to Panama, where he established a commercial and banking house. This enterprise was the most successful of any which had thus far engaged his attention. In the latter part of the year 1852, being then on a visit to New York city, with a view to establish there a branch of his Panama house, our subject accepted an offer made him by the Nicaragua Steamship Company, to take the San Francisco agency of their line of vessels.
A sketch of Mr. Garrison’s seven years’ residence in California would almost involve a history of San Francisco during that period. He landed in that city when the newly-established Nicaragua Steamship Line was rapidly declining under inefficient management, and had fallen into disrepute by the terrible calamities of the Independence and S. S. Lewis. The Mail Steamship Company, with its splendidly, equipped line under the able direction of Captain Knight, was in the full tide of success, and it seemed that the rival line, growing more and more unpopular with each new disaster, must soon pass out of existence. Mr. Garrison arrived, March 23d, 1853, on the steamer Sierra Nevada, with a salary of $60,000 per annum, and $25,000 additional, as the agent of sundry Insurance Companies. The effect of his administrative ability upon the fortunes of the Nicaragua Transit Company was immediate. From being on the verge of dissolution, it sprang, as if by magic, into life and prosperity. The new agent promptly reorganized the service in every department; recommended the building of several fast ocean steamships, which in due time made their appearance around Cape Horn, he, in some instances, having a proprietary interest in the steamers and placing them on the line as an individual enterprise. Imbuing the Company in New York with his own indomitable energy, he induced Vanderbilt to establish a line of serviceable steamers on the inland waters of Nicaragua. An excellent road was constructed from San Juan del Sur to Virgin Bay, and the navigation of the San Juan River was improved. At the same time he made a strong bid for carrying the mails—letters being taken free to induce patronage to that route—and finally, an equal portion of the treasure shipment was secured. The traveling public admitted that “a power in the land” had appeared, and the Nicaragua route was transformed, from a condition of apathy and decay, into vigorous prosperity, mainly by the energy and will of one man. The steamship competition of that day has never been paralleled in the history of ocean navigation. Its influence extended far and wide, and the rivalry, strained to the utmost tension of conflicting moneyed interests, gave a tone to every department of business on the Pacific coast.
About six months after his arrival, and perhaps before he had come to fully understand his adopted State, Mr. Garrison was elected Mayor of San Francisco. He might fairly have claimed exemption from additional burthens, (sic) considering the Herculean task he had undertaken in the sphere of his legitimate business. The distinction was wholly unsought by one whose tastes and occupations through life had been outside of the political arena.
His immediate predecessors, Messrs. Harris and Brenham, had filled the Mayoralty with marked ability and success, and it may be supposed that he entered upon his duties with some misgivings as to his qualifications for a field thus new and untried. It was soon evident, however, that the same sound judgment and executive talent that could grasp and prosperously control steamship lines and banking institutions, could with equal facility administer the affairs of a community. His inaugural address, delivered in October, 1853, to the two branches of the Common Council, was a model of plain, unpretending common sense, abounding in practical suggestions, going straight to the point, and quite devoid of flourish or attempt at oratorical display. He acknowledged the weight of the responsibility, and pledged himself to devote his best energies to the interests of the city.
A month later, he submitted a message, which may challenge any paper of the kind, in sound business ideas and financial propositions. It contained the germs of what became, years afterwards, the rallying cries of reform in the administration of the city government. The first outspoken denunciation in any official document, of the disgraceful public gambling then prevalent in the many saloons in San Francisco, and the first rebuke of Sunday theatricals, with a recommendation for ordinances for their suppression, are found in this message. And it was not merely a verbal protest against the evils described. Mr. Garrison never ceased to wage war against them until the desired reforms were completely effected. The crime of a public gambling hell has never blackened the fame of San Francisco since Mayor Garrison’s term. For this act alone he is entitled to the gratitude of all who respect morality, decency and good order. The first proposal of an Industrial School for juvenile delinquents, who should thus be separated from contact with the hardened criminals in the cells of the city prison; the earliest suggestions of a tariff of hack fares for the protection of strangers from extortion; the taxation of non-resident capital, millions of which were enjoying all the protection and benefits of Government without contributing in the least to its maintenance; the building of substantial, well ventilated school houses in place of the shanties then used in various districts—these, among other proposals equally sensible and at that time novel, were embodied in the message. There was also a plain and comprehensive statement of the city indebtedness, with well digested plans for its liquidation, and placing the public finances upon a healthy basis—all showing that an earnest and thorough-going business man was at the helm.
This message is here inserted, nearly in full. Although a lengthy document, yet it possesses great historic value, and no San Franciscan should neglect a careful perusal of its sound, practical suggestions, and the interesting view which it presents of the condition of the various departments of the city government, sixteen years ago.
MESSAGE OF MAYOR GARRISON, delivered to the Common Council of the City of San Francisco, Nov. 15, 1853.
To the Honorable the Common Council of the City of San Francisco.
GENTLEMEN:—In fulfillment of a duty enjoined on me by the charter of the city, and a promise made at the time of my induction into office, I beg leave respectfully to communicate to you the following statement of the indebtedness of the city, and its financial condition, on the 22d of the past month, together with the estimated receipts and disbursements for the remainder of the fiscal year. I have also appended my views, founded upon a thorough examination of all the ramifications of the government, in regard to the evils and abuses which have so long existed in the conduct of our municipal affairs, with the hope and conviction that the Common Council will coöperate with me in making the corrections which are necessary to the well-guarding of the public treasury from abuses, the just and economical administration of its finances, and high-toned credit of the city.
As will be seen from the following table, the entire indebtedness of the city, on the 22d day of October, 1853, was as follows:
Funded Debt $1,500,000.00
City Warrants unpaid July 1, 1853 $215,647.47
City Warrants issued from July 1 to Oct. 5, 1853 217,953.84
City Warrants issued from Oct. 5 to Oct. 22, 1853 23,021.78
Less received by R. Matthewson from treasurer, to Oct.
5, 1853 $58,890.34
Less received by S. R. Harris from treasurer, to Oct. 22, 1853 95,597.40
Warrants issued on account Jenny Lind Building, July
1, 1852 $31,804.94
Mortgage held by M. Dore 27,792.19
Less amount canceled by treasurer 5,497.33
Supposed amount of 3 per cent, scrip outstanding, principal
and accrued interest $120,000.00
Sundry bills in hands of Comptroller, unpaid 14,052.75
Total Floating Debt, Oct. 22, 1853 490,191.80
Total indebtedness, Funded and Floating $1,990,191.80
By an ordinance of the Common Council, passed on the 5th of September, 1853, the Mayor, Comptroller, and Treasurer were authorized to issue bonds of the city sufficient to obtain an amount equal to its floating indebtedness, with an additional sum of three hundred and fifty thousand dollars, ($350,000) for school, hospital, and fire purposes. In accordance with the provisions of such ordinance, proposals were advertised for, to be received and opened by the officers empowered on the right of rejection; and although it is a matter of regret that bids were received for only a portion of the amount, and at figures which would not justify their acceptance, no difficulty is apprehended in disposing of the whole amount authorized and required, at an early day, at prices within the bounds of reason, and approximate to their intrinsic value. Upon the accomplishment of the sale, the present floating debt will be extinguished. The funded debt will then amount to the sum of about $2,350,000—the early reduction of which amount will be produced by the provisions of the ordinance requiring the annual raising by taxation, in addition to the amount levied for other purposes, of a sum sufficient to pay the
interest, and one-twelfth of the principal, of the new issue, together with the sum of fifty thousand dollars annually raised for the liquidation of the ten per cents., and the obtainment of interest upon the said amounts yearly invested.
The extinction of her floating debt will enable the city hereafter, if due regard is had to economy, to meet all her liabilities in cash, thus ridding her of the scrip system of payment, and resulting in a saving of at least twenty-five per cent, in her ordinary expenditures. The city treasury alone has been the sufferer from the past mode of discharging her obligations.
The scrip system, founded as it was in corruption, has exercised an influence not only detrimental to the treasury, but pernicious in its effects upon the public officers and the people. It has led to speculations, extravagancies, and malfeasance in the public departments, and exposed the treasury to ruinous abuses, resulting in a debasement of the city credit to a bankrupt state. A credit system, such as this has been, if persevered in, will sink us so deep in embarrassment, as to call forth the just indignation of our people, and remain a stigma upon our Legislature for ever. I congratulate the Council upon the prospect of a speedy removal of this incubus from the body corporate, and the elevation of our credit beyond the reach of speculation and the fluctuation of the street.
The expenses of the city from July 1 to October 22, as per Comptroller’s statement, amounted to the following:
Warrants issued $240,975.62
Bills not audited 14,052.37
A portion of which has not been paid by the Treasurer.
The Mayor then submits a lengthy detailed statement of the condition of the city’s finances, giving the receipts and expenditures from the commencement of the fiscal year, July 1, 1853, to October 23d, 1853, and also an estimate of the resources and expenses for the remainder of the fiscal year, embracing a formidable array of figures which would, perhaps, fail to interest the general reader.
It will be noted that there is an increase, this year, of $143,000, in the amount of taxes levied over the preceding year. While this increase is commented upon, and complaint founded upon it, it should be borne in mind that a most liberal estimate has been placed upon the property subject to taxation, by the valuations of the Assessors, a fact well known to every tax-paying citizen.
The whole amount returned by the Assessors this year, as liable to taxation, is $28,500,000. No one who is the least conversant with the subject, can deny that the amount should be nearer $40,000,000; a closer approximation to which should be reached by the officers, upon whom the duty devolves, thereby reducing the percentage to its proper standard. It should also be remembered that our city is growing and extending rapidly, and new calls are constantly made upon her for the means of necessary improvements, increasing as we are, daily, in population, and being compelled to accede, the privileges and benefits of government to a larger number of citizens, over a wider extent of jurisdiction, a reduction in the present amount of taxation cannot be looked for.
Our citizens, when complaining of the burden of taxation, and comparing them with other cities, should not forget that while they are paying to the support of their government, two per cent, upon their property, at very low valuations, they are paying much less than the citizens of any other city on the continent, perhaps in the world, in comparison to the relative value of money and the enormous revenues derived from real estate. In our sister cities, the property-holder willingly submits to the imposition of a tax of one per cent upon his estate, while the revenue he receives from it seldom exceeds six per cent per annum. Here, where the revenue derived from money and property is from five to six times as great, and the tax levied only double in per cent, the common and popular cry of onerous taxation is not, certainly, founded on fact or good reasoning. At the same time, it is your duty, and I shall make it my especial duty, to see that our citizens are not called upon to pay more than is actually required to carry on the government justly and economically; hesitating to open new sources of expenditure, unless actually necessary to the proper and good government of our city.
I would recommend that early measures be taken to procure authority from the Legislature for the taxation of non-resident capital, millions of which is now invested in this city, enjoying all the benefits and protection of the government in its employment, without contributing in the least for the cost of its maintenance, thus throwing an amount of taxation upon our people which they should not in justice be called upon to bear. The importance of this matter must be obvious to all, and I trust it will receive your early and serious attention.
A great falling off in the receipts of the city from license has taken place this year, in consequence of the defects in the license law. Without undertaking to enter into the question of the injustice or legality of the provisions demurred to, I would suggest that your immediate attention should be given to the subject, and prompt and decided steps taken to remedy the evils complained of, and save the treasury from the great loss that must ensue if the present provisions of the law are insisted upon.
It is a source of pride and satisfaction to me, as it must be to you and our citizens at large, to know that the interest upon the Funded Debt was promptly paid on the 1st instant; in addition to which the sum of fifty thousand dollars has been paid over to the Commissioners on account of the redemption of the bonds.
The punctual payment of our interest has imparted an increased confidence to holders, and enhanced our credit at home and abroad.
The greater portion of the contracts entered into by the city, for the construction of wharves on the city front, have been compiled with, and the majority of them are paying a revenue to the city.
There are litigations pending in connection with a portion of them, which it is hoped will soon reach favorable terminations.
Monuments of man’s enterprise and the commercial greatness of our city, they cannot but excite in us feelings of pride and admiration.
The work of grading, planking, and improving our public streets, has been for some time in prosecution. It is to be regretted that a commencement had not been earlier made, and more vigorous efforts used towards completion before the setting in of the wet season.
A tardiness has been manifested in the fulfillment of contracts, which merits and should receive the condemnation of the department, and subject the delinquent contractors to forfeiture of their contracts.
Many abuses have existed in this department of the government; contracts have been loosely, in some cases, illegally entered into, involving the expenditure of immense sums of money, and conflicting with the rights and privileges of citizens. It is due to the property-owners and to the interests of the city, that the attention of the Council should be given to a thorough investigation and remodeling of the contract system, in order to preserve the city from the expense of endless litigations, which must ensue if the contracts are not properly and legally entered into and compiled with.
The total amount of assessments levied for street improvements, is $927,444.21
Of which the city pays for crossings, 127,643.21
Amount to be borne by property-owners, $799,801.00
Of which has been suspended for your investigation 524,379.71
Should your investigations prove that these contracts cannot be sustained by law, and that the city and the property-owners are liable to be drawn into collision in consequence, I would recommend that new lettings be made in due form, payable in cash, and the amounts reduced from the credit to the cash system, thus saving a large amount to the owners of property, while the contractors will not suffer, but rather gain by the change.
It is worthy of your consideration whether a corresponding reduction cannot be made in the expenses of the other departments, which I have no doubt can be effected without doing the least possible injustice, or reducing the actual compensation of any person.
The contingent fund, which now reaches annually an enormous amount, needs your attention and examination. It is this fund from which generally spring the leakages of large corporations, and the Council cannot be too jealous of its continued increase.
I would recommend that vigorous measures be adopted for the immediate recovery of the claims held by the city for unpaid assessments, a large amount of which has been allowed to sleep for a long time past, without any means being taken to enforce their collection.
I would also recommend an early sale of the city property other than that required for city purposes. The wealth of the city in property now wrongfully detained from her by other parties is sufficient, if made available, to liquidate her whole indebtedness, create a fund ample for the purpose of education, and remove all fears of future embarrassment. Measures should be taken to place her in possession of her just rights, which have been so long neglected and withheld from her. There is no good reason why she should be deprived of the benefits of so much wealth, and others be permitted, without the shadow of right, to enjoy its revenues, while she is groaning under the burdens of indebtedness.
The condition of our public schools is such as to call for the most prompt and effective action of the Common Council.
It seems that this branch of the public service has not received that attention and fostering care which its great importance demands. I regret to find that while lavish appropriations have heretofore been made for, and unscrupulously squandered on, other branches of the government, our schools—the nurseries of the future greatness of our people—have been inexcusably neglected.
The buildings in which the children of our city are daily congregated for purposes of instruction, are totally unfit for the uses intended. Mere shanties, erected without regard to health, convenience, or moral fitness of locality, they are disgraceful to the city and the times, and entirely inadequate to the requirements and spirit of that system of education which we must look for the perpetuity of our nationality.
The world knows, and I trust we not only know but feel, that popular education is the guiding-star of the Republic, the secret of American greatness; therefore, to neglect it is criminal—to bend all our energies to its most complete perfection is our duty.
I would impress upon you the great necessity of speedy steps being taken for the erection and furnishing of suitable buildings, of substantial construction, well ventilated, and adapted to the healthful and proper education of the children of the city. There are portions of the School Lands now used for other and improper purposes; these should be immediately reclaimed and devoted entirely to the purposes for which they were designed. The buildings should be properly fenced, and playgrounds should also be set apart for the children in the intervals of study, as care should be taken of their physical health as well as their mental culture.
The amount of $100,000, upon the negotiation of the new issues of bonds, will be devoted to school purposes. This sum will do much towards the accomplishment of the desired end, and place our common schools in a condition that will reflect honor and lustre upon the system, instead of being, as at present, ineffective in its operation and reproachful to the city. It is only to be regretted that your predecessors had not a more enlarged idea of the educational system, and had not set apart a greater sum for this purpose.
The want of an asylum or House of Refuge for juvenile delinquents is severely felt, and the establishment of a properly organized institution for their confinement and reformation, should engage your warmest sympathies and early action. The present mode of consigning our youthful criminals to the cells of the city prison, is productive of the most pernicious effects to them and to the community at large. Thrown in contact, as they now are, with the vicious and the hardened, they emerge from their place of durance only to enter upon new scenes of vice and pursue bolder degrees of crime. The establishment of a House of Industry for their benefit, I think, is deserving of your serious attention, not only as guardians of the public weal, but as philanthropists and enlightened men.
The ladies of San Francisco, with that benevolence and laudable zeal which is so characteristic of their sex, I am happy to be able to say, have taken the orphan children of our city under their especial care and protection. A commodious building for their accommodation has nearly reached completion, raised altogether by their commendable industry and exertions.
If there is any thing calculated to excite our warmest sympathies, and bring into life the purest feelings of man’s nature, it is the condition of the lone orphan, especially in this distant land, where he is often left with no parent hand to guide him through the mazes of a city’s wilderness, no parent’s tongue to teach him the destinies he was born to. We cannot award too high a meed of praise to those ladies who have so nobly, diligently, and successfully labored in the orphan’s behalf.
The condition of our public streets is a subject of serious complaint. Health and cleanliness demand that means should be taken to stringently enforce the city ordinances, and to prevent our thoroughfares being made the common depositories for refuse and garbage, and to secure the infliction and rigid collections of fines for every violation of those ordinances. The occupants of the different markets within the city should be compelled to remove all their refuse matter beyond the city limits, thus preserving some degree of cleanliness in those localities. It is due to our constituents that some regard should be paid to their health and comfort; and although the condition of the treasury will not warrant the expenditure of large sums for the purpose, an honest attempt, at least, should be made to mitigate, as far as possible, the evils of which just complaint is made. I would suggest that inquiries be instituted to ascertain the expense of keeping the streets in good condition.
The temporary suspension of the works of the Mountain Lake Water Company, in their present advanced state, is to be deplored. That such an important undertaking has not met with more earnest encouragement and pecuniary aid, is unfortunate. I am happy, however, to be able to say that there is every prospect of an early resumption of their work, and of an abundant supply of pure and wholesome water being introduced into the city. The projectors of this enterprise are entitled to the gratitude of the community for the public spirit which has guided their endeavors to procure for our citizens benefits so decided and invaluable.
The works of the San Francisco Gas Company are reaching a speedy consummation. The laying of pipes through the streets has for some days been in progress, and in a few weeks we shall be enjoying another of the fruits of a concentrated and well-directed use of capital.
I would urge upon your honorable body the importance of some plan being adopted for the improvement of the public Plaza, and would recommend its being properly graded, curbed, and enclosed with a neat and substantial railing; sodding and ornamenting it in such a manner as will render it an agreeable promenade instead of its remaining, as it now is and has long been, a public nuisance and disgrace. The plan of loaning the parks of the city for purposes of private speculation and gain, merits, I think, the condemnation of us all.
The condition of the Fire Department is a source of pride and gratification. It numbers thirteen engines, thirteen hose carriages, and three hook and ladder companies, all in a complete state of effective organization, with twelve hundred names of members upon the rolls of the department.
I cannot too highly commend the honorable zeal with which the members of this department respond to the frequent calls for their services, and their great fidelity to the trust reposed in them. Millions of dollars’ worth of property has been saved to us by their prompt and united action, and a sentiment of pride and confidence imparted to the public mind, reflecting honor upon the one and engendering a feeling of security in the other. As the members of this department devote their valuable services to the city, without pay or reward, hazarding, and too often sacrificing their lives, in the performance of their arduous duties, they deserve and should receive our warmest acknowledgment and fostering care. Measures should at once be taken for the construction of buildings suitable for the accommodations of their apparatus, and the purchase of new engines, in accordance with the provisions of the ordinance authorizing the setting apart a portion of the proceeds of the further issue of bonds for that purpose.
In the estimate for the expenses of this department will be found included as item of $7,000 for the construction of seven new cisterns, which are needed in certain portions of the city, now deprived of the protection they furnish, in cases of conflagration. I would recommend that an appropriation be made for the immediate building of the number specified. Those now in use, numbering thirty-eight, with the proposed addition, it is thought, will furnish an ample supply of water to meet the requirements of the department in ordinary emergencies.
A prolific source of complaint on the part of our citizens and strangers who are daily landing on our shores, is found in the system of extortion practiced by the licensed hack-drivers of the city. I would, therefore, recommend that a tariff of fair and remunerative rates be established for the conveyance of persons from one portion of the city to another, and that penalties should be enacted and rigidly enforced in all cases of violation; thus securing to the honest hackman his just compensation, and relieving our citizens and strangers from the annoyances and exactions that they have heretofore been compelled to submit to.
I would call the attention of the Common Council to the open and public manner in which gambling is carried on in this city; and, although I cannot look to the extinguishment of this vice from the community at the present day, I would recommend that some means be taken to hide this source of human misery and shame from public gaze. As now openly practiced, its effects are most demoralizing upon the community, not only drawing into the threads of its net those in high standing, tempting the hardy toiler from the paths of honest labor, but germinating and encouraging in the youth of our city habits of indolence and desires for dishonest gain, that lay the foundations and nurse the promptings of crime.
Sunday evening theatricals, I think, in this enlightened age, call for a rebuke at the hands of the city government, and I would recommend that an ordinance be adopted for the prevention of their enactment. As a man to be great must be good, so a city and a people must observe the dictates of morality, if it is their ambition to rise to the high summits of human glory. It is to be hoped that the right-thinking portion of our community will lend their example and influence to the exterminating of habits and customs which are inclined to smother or destroy the best impulses of our nature. No nobler sight can greet the eye of man than could be witnessed from the hill-tops that surround us—a people the most industrious and enterprising upon the face of the globe; resting, as they here can rest, in the midst of plenitude and peace, from the labors of the week; rebuking so signally the acts of lawlessness and disorder, showing some degree of thankfulness for the blessings which are here so abundant, and asserting so effectively the power and greatness of free government.
In conclusion, I cannot resist the opportunity of congratulating you and my fellow-citizens upon the rapid growth of our city, the great improvements constantly being made in the extent and architecture of our buildings, the public spirit and private enterprise so visible in every street, affording, as they do, such substantial proofs of our increasing wealth and prosperity. No city of a century can boast finer structures than now grace this city of a day. The world cannot afford such evidences of the power of mind over matter as the eye constantly rests upon here.
The certain and early building of the great Pacific Railroad, which has not only agitated the public mind of this city, but also of the older States of the Union, will at no distant day bring us in close proximity to the heart of the Union. Its want is not only felt here, but in New York, the commercial centre of the Republic. There, the golden ores which we have dug from our mountains, and washed from our river banks, could soon be given to the smelter, to be rolled into rails (golden rails they will prove to California and to the United States) to be stretched across the Plains, uniting the two great emporiums of the western world.
In connection with the Pacific Railroad, I would remark that a company has lately been organized in this city, composed of gentlemen of wealth and enterprise, for the formation of a line of steamers, to ply between San Francisco and the ports of China, with every encouragement of its being carried into active operations; thus not only connecting us directly with the Celestial Empire, but, by means of steamers now placed on the route from Honolulu to the Isles of the Pacific, making this the port of entry to the whole trade with the Indies and the Pacific. Even now, our exports are more than equal to the entire cotton crop of the Southern States, hitherto the principle staple our whole country had depended on for the payment of her indebtedness abroad, the place of which we have in a great measure supplied, and, without doubt, saved the nation from dishonor abroad and bankruptcy at home.
The telegraph wires are already skirting our hillsides and leaping our valleys, connecting us with the cities of the interior, and drawing them into closer harmony and communication with the metropolis.
Great and wonderful as has been the sudden growth of San Francisco, progressing, as she is, rapidly in all the arts of peace, and enjoying so many of the fruits of science—faithful and enlightened legislation, and the liberal education of the generations who are to succeed us, will alone secure to her the brilliant future that is promised.
San Francisco, Nov. 15, 1853.
The cause of education in California owes much to the substantial aid extended by Mr. Garrison. When money was delayed at the proper source for the building of school-houses, and work had ceased, he advanced the required sums from his own resources. And his sympathies have always been with the poor and lowly. He established the first African school in San Francisco, holding at that early day that, as the negroes were eventually to become citizens, the proper way to prepare them for that condition, was by education.
Two great subjects, especially interesting to his eminently practical turn of mind, were never lost sight of—a steamship line to China and Australia, and the exploration of a route for the Pacific Railroad. Not long after assuming the duties of his office, he urged public action to these points, and he was repeatedly a member of committees appointed to report to public meetings on the subject of a railroad. His name heads the list of subscribers in a large amount to build a telegraph line over the Sierras, to demonstrate the feasibility of an overland telegraph line between San Francisco and New York.
There can scarcely be mentioned a charitable enterprise in those days to which Mr. Garrison was not a liberal contributor. It is typical of the man that, during the whole of his term as Mayor, he served the public gratuitously—having at the close of that term drawn a check for the entire amount of his salary, which he divided equally between the Catholic and Protestant Orphan Asylums. The Ladies’ Relief Society, the Mercantile Library Association, of which he was created a life member, and many churches, were the richer for his open-handed donations, while innumerable indigent applicants for a free passage in his steamers joyfully acknowledged his broadcast and never-failing benevolence. In the early years of the California fever, hundreds of destitute people, continually collecting at Panama, were gratuitously forwarded thence to San Francisco at a personal expense to him of many thousands of dollars.
In September, 1853, Mr. Garrison headed a movement in San Francisco of the former citizens of Louisiana, to take measures to relieve their fellow-citizens of New Orleans who were suffering from the dreadful ravages of yellow fever, which in that year exceeded in virulence any thing then known. During the month of August, there had been 5,229 deaths. The appeal was eloquent and forcible. Mr. Garrison contributed lavishly to this charity; and the Germans, who held a special meeting to adopt measures for the relief of their fellow-countrymen who were being decimated by the destroyer, passed a vote of thanks to Mr. Garrison for his friendly offer to remit all the funds free of charge to New Orleans.
An instance, out of many of a similar kind, may be selected as exhibiting Mr. Garrison’s peculiarly decisive manner of dealing with circumstances. During his term as Mayor, a noted speculator and his gang, in April, 1854, commenced driving a line of piles, by night, across the dock from the end of Long wharf, to that of Clay street wharf, thereby obstructing navigation, injuring the harbor, and jeopardizing the city’s title to property of immense value. Shortly after midnight, Mr. Garrison, having been informed of the facts, repaired to the spot, and the exciting scene that ensued is still fresh in the memory of those who witnessed it. He found the police force overawed by the defiant bearing of the parties. The Marshal refused to obey the Mayor’s orders to arrest the rioters, ostensibly on the ground that the authority was insufficient. Upon this, Mr. Garrison, acting with his customary resolution, took the affair into his own hands, met the desperadoes with their own weapons, regardless of threats, and, it is sufficient to say, he summarily terminated the lawless proceedings, amid the cheers of the great crowd who had collected upon the wharves awaiting the event. The example was highly beneficial as a precedent for subsequent occasions of a like nature. In July following, a similar scene occurred on Montgomery street, where an attempt was made to fence off Merchant street. The Marshal having again refused to obey the Mayor’s orders to arrest the parties, Mr. Garrison assumed the personal responsibility, had the obstruction instantly torn down, and on the following day, impeached the Marshal, who was soon after removed from office by unanimous vote of the Common Council.
In the year 1859, Mr. Garrison returned to the Atlantic States, and settled in New York city. There he became at once known as a bold and successful financier—a man of vigorous grasp and comprehensive views—the weight of his character and business sagacity being felt in the heaviest transactions of the times. He is to-day one of the leading steamship proprietors in the United States, being the principal owner in many ocean steamers.
Now, when our national commerce is languishing under discouragements which few capitalists are willing to encounter, Mr. Garrison continues to maintain the only United States steamship company with which the Government has a mail contract carrying the American flag on the Atlantic ocean—the important line between New York and Brazil. During the late war, he came promptly with all his remarkable energies to the support of the Government, and with his steamships rendered eminent services to the cause of the Union. It was at this trying epoch that his sterling patriotism was particularly displayed. When the cause looked the most gloomy, and capital began to hesitate, he fitted out, mainly by his own exertions, Butler’s Ship-Island expedition, and became personally responsible in England for the principal part of its armament. This was formally acknowledged by Mr. Lincoln, Secretary Seward, Mr. Sumner, and other prominent members of Congress.
After an absence from California of about ten years, the Commodore, who, in times past, had taken so conspicuous a part in ocean steam navigation, especially between San Francisco and New York, and on the Pacific coast, was among the earliest to make the railroad trip across the continent. His visit to the metropolis of the Pacific was not merely to seek pleasure and recreation, but also to build substantial improvements upon his real estate, principally in the vicinity of the city front. Some of the most valuable structures in that part of San Francisco have been erected by him, and a considerable portion of his immense fortune, amounting to several millions of dollars, is invested in the scene of his former business transactions.
The Commodore, on his arrival in San Francisco, was met on all sides by the congratulations of his many friends on his evident good health, and kind wishes for its long continuance followed him on his return to New York.
Just one week prior to his departure from San Francisco, he received the following invitation, which, it will be seen, was signed by the leading professional and business men of the city:
SAN FRANCISCO, August 10th, 1869.
Hon. C. K. Garrsion— Dear Sir: In token of the very great regard we entertain for you, both on account of your public services and private benefices to the citizens of San Francisco, we, your old friends and associates, beg to ask your acceptance of a farewell dinner, to be given at the Maison Doree, on Monday evening, August 16th, at seven o’clock.
A. J. Bowie, M. D. Charles E. McLane
Edmond L. Goold William Alvord
Peter F. Doling L. L. Robinson
Hon. Henry A. Lyon O. Eldridge
James H. Baird Hon. Delos Lake
Benj. M. Hartshorne Thomas H. Selby
John T. Boyd Hall McAllister
William C. Ralston Joseph P. Hoge
I. Friedlander S. M. Wilson
D. O. Mills Charles Mayne
E. V. Joice Hon. Eugene Sullivan
F. J. Weeks F. L. A. Pioche
Joseph A. Donohoe A. B. Forbes
Lafayette Maynard John Benson
Lloyd Tevis George H. Howard
Jesse Holladay William Norris
J. G. Eastland H. P. Wakelee
Gen. E. D. Keyes.
This invitation was accepted, and the banquet was served with the most sumptuous and elegant appointments. Hon. Ogden Hoffman, United States District Judge; His Excellency Governor Haight, and Hon. Frank McCoppin, Mayor of the city, were present as invited guests. Dr. A. J. Bowie presided, and made the following address:
Gentlemen: This banquet to-night, to the Hon. C. K. Garrison, was prompted by a desire on the part of Mr. Garrison’s friends to convey to him, first, their full recognition of the great services he had rendered to this community, in behalf of immigration to our city and State; but more especially because of his personal endearment to the early surviving settlers and residents of the city of San Francisco. We can scarcely hope, however much we may desire it, that Mr. Garrison will again venture to encounter the toil of another visit to our city, which we know he loves so well, and to whose development and growth he has contributed so largely; and therefore, at one and the same moment, we proclaim our pleasure at receiving him and our regret at parting, by bidding him at this banquet, all hail and farewell !
To which Mr. Garrison replied as follows:
Gentlemen: I am filled with the greatest and truest emotion at this most unexpected and flattering entertainment on the part of my old friends. If I had required any incentive beyond what had been supplied by my past relations with California, this spectacle of so much worth and intelligence would urge me still further in hope and effort to develop the interests of this mighty country. Gentlemen, my heart is too full of gratitude for this splendid ovation to permit me to do aught else but beg you will accept the poverty of my language to express my full feelings of gratitude.
Messrs. Judge Delos Lake, Judge Lyons, Gen. E. D. Keyes, W. C. Ralston, Charles E. McLane, Hall McAllister, Joseph P. Hoge, J. G. Eastland, and others, followed in remarks pertinent to the occasion, and were happy in allusions to reminiscences in connection with the past efforts of their guest toward the development of California.
Mr. Garrison’s distinguished success in commercial affairs is due, not more to his unconquerable energy, than to an unbending integrity manifested in all the relations of life. His word is proverbially as good as his bond. Conservative and tolerant in his intercourse with men, his friendships have always been warm and intimate, and are life-long. An especially prepossessing address and good conversational powers, added to great firmness and force of character, have generally enabled him to influence others and impress them with the soundness of his views. Left early in life to provide for himself, he has been emphatically the architect of his own fortunes. In looking back upon his business career, he enjoys the well-earned consciousness of having contributed largely to the material prosperity of the country, while hundreds unremembered by him still cherish the memory of his charitable deeds and whole-souled generosity.
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Source: Shuck, Oscar T., “Representative & Leading Men of the Pacific”, Bacon & Co., Printers & Publishers, San Francisco, 1870. Pages 143-164.
© 2008 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.