REPRESENTATIVE AND LEADING
MEN OF THE PACIFIC
CHARLES E. DE LONG
By THE EDITOR.
This popular favorite of the Silver State was born at Beekmansville, Dutchess county, New York, August 13, 1832. His ancestors arrived in America from France about the year 1780. It was his father’s wish (himself a farmer) that he should follow the noble pursuits of husbandry; accordingly, Charles worked upon his father’s farm until his boyhood had almost passed, and he began to think and act for himself. He received a common school education. Before he had completed his studies, or prepared himself for any profession or trade, he determined to strike for an easily acquired fortune in the far West.
Though yet a boy, unacquainted with the world, unaccustomed even to the harsh accents of a stranger’s voice, the love of adventure—natural attribute of youth—was so strong in his breast, that the exciting reports from the Pacific shores were sufficient to persuade him away from the old homestead, and tempt him to new and distant regions.
Mr. DeLong arrived in California June 5, 1850, and settled in Yuba county; which county, in after years, honored him with many trusts, and where he remained until his final departure from the State, in 1863.
Immediately after his arrival in Yuba county, the young man, then only eighteen years of age, went resolutely to work. He was no stranger to manual exertion; his father had taught him the true nobility of labor. For years he followed the fortunes of mining life; being not only young, but of diminutive stature, his childish form was daily seen bending in arduous toil.
From 1850 to 1856, Mr. DeLong engaged in a variety of occupations. As the writer has heard him say, in conversation among his friends, “I followed mining, store-keeping, bar-tending, and almost everything else, for a livelihood, until, in 1856, having failed in mercantile business I was engaged in at Young’s Hill, Yuba county, California, I turned my attention to the study and practice of the law.”
Mr. DeLong did not attend any law lectures or lawschool, for such evidence of civilization were lacking in his section of the country. He studied in the woods; and being of quick perception, and possessed of a natural aptitude for the “accumulating science,” he progressed rapidly, and when he thought he could pass a creditable examination, he presented himself before the District Court of Yuba county, and was admitted to practice as an attorney and counselor-at-law. He then opened a law office in Marysville, the principal town in northern California, and entered upon the practice at a time when litigation was rife, and when the Marysville bar embraced many of the first legal minds of the State—Field, Mitchell, McQuade, Barbour, Reardon, Lindley, and others.
In the fall of 1857, Mr. DeLong was elected to the lower branch of the State Legislature, from Yuba county, on the Democratic ticket. He took his seat at the beginning of the session, in January, 1858. During the session of the Legislature in that year, he appeared before the Supreme Court of California, sitting at Sacramento, and was admitted to practice in all the courts of the State. The next year, he was reëlected to the Assembly, on the Anti-Lecompton Democratic ticket—the Legislature convening on the first Monday of January, 1859. In the fall of 1859, he was nominated by the Douglas Democrats for State Senator, for the term commencing in January, 1860, but was defeated by Hon. H. P. Watkins. In the fall of the latter year, he was again nominated for the State Senate by the same party, and was elected, defeating Hon. N. E. Whitesides, formerly Speaker of the Assembly, and once his colleague in that body.
Mr. DeLong held this position two years. He entered the Senate on the first Monday in January, 1861, and, on the 18th day of that month, introduced into the Senate resolutions in regard to the then troubled state of the Union.
These resolutions were the first of a great many of similar nature, sustaining the Federal Government, repudiating the suggestion of a Pacific Republic, and urging coercion on the part of the general government against the seceding States. Messrs. Edgerton, Watson, Burbank, and others, having offered substitutes, or additional resolutions, upon the subject, the entire file was referred to the Committee on Federal Relations. Upon the report of that committee, a lengthy and spirited debate ensued, in which Mr. DeLong joined. His speech upon the occasion was pronounced by the leading newspaper of the State, “well-considered and forcible;” and, for argumentative power and eloquence, was equaled only by the brilliant efforts of Edgerton and Thornton.
On the 23rd of the same month, Mr. DeLong presented in the Senate a petition from a large number of his constituents, praying that the resolutions of censure against Senator Broderick (for refusing to resign, in obedience to the request of a previous Legislature) be expunged from the journals of the two houses.
During his term as a senator, the “Corporation Act” and other leading measures received Mr. DeLong’s serious attention. The journals of the Senate and the files of the Sacramento Union will attest his industry and his usefulness as a legislature.
In the fall of 1862, Mr. DeLong was again nominated by his party as a candidate for the State Senate, but was defeated, and in May, 1863, removed to “Washoe.” The great flood of the previous year had swept over the entire valley of the Sacramento, and erected everywhere its mournful monuments. The practice of law in Marysville had declined to barrenness, and business of all kinds in that once proud, thrifty, and beautiful city, was utterly stagnant. The afflicted populace were fleeing from the wide-spread desolation, and seeking new homes and fresh fields of enterprise. A silver star was rising in the east, whose happy light refreshed the dejected multitudes WASHOE was the word of hope and promise. The fabulous wealth of the newly-discovered mines, and the conflicting interests of the claimants, had called into being a vast world of litigation, such as no diligent votary of law had ever dreamed of beholding. The enormous fees received by the pioneer lawyers of Washoe had excited the wonder and cupidity of attorneys throughout California, and towards the beginning of the year 1864, the bar of Virginia city numbered about one hundred practitioners. Mr. DeLong arrived in that place before the lawyer’s silver harvest had been fully gathered, and soon formed a partnership with Mr. D. W. Perley, now a leading member of the profession at White Pine. He found upon his arrival that he had been preceded by many of his friends and former constituents, citizens of Yuba county. Being an old timer, he was at home amid the restless mass around him. His experience as a miner and as a lawyer, his close application to business, his fidelity to his clients, soon gave him a prominent place and a lucrative practice at the Virginia bar.
In 1864, Mr. DeLong was elected a member (from Storey county) of the Constitutional Convention which framed the present Constitution of Nevada. At the election of United States senators in that year, he was a prominent candidate for that high position. The first ballot stood: Stewart, 32; DeLong 24; Nye 23. On the next day, Messrs. Stewart and Nye were chosen. Mr. DeLong bore his defeat with patience, and continued his practice in Virginia city.
In 1865, the law-firm of Perley & DeLong was dissolved, the latter entering into partnership with Judge Lewis Aldrich, formerly of San Francisco.
In January, 1868, Mr. DeLong was again brought forward as a candidate for the United States Senate. Messrs. Nye, Winters, and Fitch, were also candidates. Twenty-nine votes were necessary to elect, and Mr. DeLong received twenty-seven; then, by the withdrawal of Messrs. Winters and Fitch in favor of Gov. Nye, the latter was elected.
In the convention which nominated Gen. Grant for the Presidency, Mr. DeLong was chairman of the Nevada delegation, and was placed on the Committee on Platform and Resolutions. He was one of the sub-committee of six that drafted the platform of the Union Republican party of 1868. He is a member of the National Republican Committee, and one of the executive committee from the Pacific coast. He has also for several years been chairman of the Republican State Central Committee of Nevada, holding that position until shortly before his departure for Japan as Minister Resident of the United States. He took an active part in the election of Gen. Grant, having been chosen one of the presidential electors of the State of Nevada, and afterwards, by his associates, selected as messenger to carry the vote of the State to Washington.
In the fall of 1868, Mr. DeLong removed to the new mining region of White Pine, establishing himself at Treasure City, in partnership with Judge Lewis Aldrich, Hon. J. S. Slauson, and Mr. Thomas Wren.
Gen Grant, shortly after his inauguration as President, in 1869, tendered to our subject the appointment of Minister Resident of the United States at Japan. The appointment being confirmed by the United States Senate, was accepted by Mr. DeLong, who, after devoting several months to the proper arrangement of his business affairs, departed upon his mission in September, 1869, accompanied by his family.
In 1862, Mr. DeLong married Miss Elida F. Vineyard, youngest daughter of Col. James F. Vineyard, then a senator from Los Angeles, by whom he has several living children.
Mr. DeLong is an indefatigable student, and a close reader not only of legal but poetic and miscellaneous writers. He is a man of genial temper, frank in his manners, fond of humor, and gifted with the rare faculty of attaching to himself sincere friends wherever he goes. His tastes and active temperament especially fit him for the practice of his profession in a mining community. His fame as a lawyer is firmly established in Nevada. He is a graceful speaker, is decidedly entertaining in conversation, and delights to tell or listen to an anecdote.
In Mr. DeLong’s case, success has been the test of merit. He has won fortune and position by solitary, unaided study and effort. He came to California a boy, without friends, means, or experience. By patient industry, and the pursuit of an honest, straightforward course, he has battled with the disadvantages and checks of youth, poverty, and inexperience, and conquered them. Few men have overcome greater obstacles—none are more worthy of achieved success.
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Source: Shuck, Oscar T., “Representative & Leading Men of the Pacific”, Bacon & Co., Printers & Publishers, San Francisco, 1870. Pages 219-224.
© 2008 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.