San Francisco History

Seventy-five Years in San Francisco


Inasmuch as the reputation of Mr. Hyde was involved in the charges made against him while he served as alcalde of San Francisco in 1847, and as he, like all gentlemen with a high sense of honor, feels sensitive in the matter, I have granted him the space in these pages to give his own statement concerning the charges and the attending circumstances. It is as follows:

“A ring had been formed which induced Mr. Edwin Bryant, my predecessor in office, to arbitrarily make changes and alterations in the surveys, pending the act of making old surveys rectangular, thereby breaking his own contract with the citizens and injuring some to oblige this ring; all of which was proved when the first charge against me to this effect was before the commission. Immediately after I assumed office, in June, 1847, this party approached me to secure similar results. I was solicited to cause the survey of the 100 vara lots on the south of Market street, to be moved forty feet further south, in order to make certain lots they desired to procure, south of Howard or Folsom street, more eligible, by lifting them out of the boggy location; and also to make a block of land at the junction of Bush and Battery, or thereabout, more eligible for business purposes. I declined, because it would be an arbitrary act and injure many persons who already had vested rights. I was also asked to change the survey of the water and beach lots, by making the lots into slips of 50 varas wide—streets intervening from the beach out to ship channel. This was also refused, because the survey, as fixed by Mr. Bryant, was nearly completed. I soon after this became the object of frequent anonymous attacks from the California Star, which culminated in the charges concocted and preferred, and which, so far as they went, were triumphantly disproved. They were actually turned against my assailants, for the whole matter was well understood in its correct light by the entire community. I was opposed to the sale of the water and beach lots, as granted by General Kearny, and sought to influence the Governor to allow a postponement, but I, being in office by military appointment, had to obey orders, and the lots were sold as surveyed. C. L. Ross, under his name, bought a number of lots for individuals who were members of the ring previously referred to. Their first effort was to get rid of paying the customary fees for recording the deeds. Coached as to the objections he was to interpose, Ross urged many silly reasons for refusing to pay, and finally submitted the matter to the Town Council, which body decided in my favor. Ross still persisted in refusing to pay, and I agreed to leave the matter to Hombres Buenos (arbitrators), each selecting one, and these two the third. Mr. Ross, after a few days, informed the alcalde that he had selected Mr. Folsom. On the following day the true state of the case was discovered. Folsom was one of the actual purchasers; and of course no decision was ever reached. Putting all these things together, it is very easily seen who of my assailants had motives for defacing maps, preferring charges, etc., and likewise to perceive why the committee bringing the charges refused to appear before the commissioners to continue proceedings. They well knew that a further exposure would consign them to ruin and the contempt of the public.

The annexed letters are literally copied in vindication of Alcalde Hyde:

“To George Hyde, I-Alcalde:
“SIR: I acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday evening enclosing a copy of a letter purporting to be a letter from the Town Council to the Governor together with his reply thereto, and also your several requests to which I respectfully return the following: I was not present at any meeting of the Town Council sitting as Commissioners to investigate the charges preferred against you by a Committee of Citizens, nor has there been any such meeting publicly held since December last. Consequently I am not aware of the subject having been entertained; but have heard that the determination you allude to, soliciting the Governor to remove you, was made by the four members whose names you have mentioned, at a secret meeting which I was not invited to attend. I have not been officially called on to sit in my capacity as commissioner to investigate since last December, nor has there been an official meeting of the board. But four of the ten charges have as yet been entertained, and I know that you have repeatedly solicited the board to cause them to be brought to a speedy determination. Throughout the entire proceedings, and up to the present time, the Gentlemen whose names you mentioned have publicly expressed in my hearing that the Committee preferring the charges have completely failed to prove them and that its proceedings were a perfect humbug; two of the persons preferring the charges have also admitted that fact in my presence, one saying that he wished he had never had anything to do with it, the other that he would not bother himself any more about it. I am very Respectfully,
“Your Obt. Servant,
“San Francisco, March 20, 1848.”

“SAN FRANCISCO, July 16, 1855.
“Geo. Hyde, Esq.
“SIR: I rec’d yours of the 25th June, in regard your question when Alcalde in 1847. I was chairman of a committee of the Town Council of San Francisco, to investigate the charges preferred against you, and in respect to the first interrogation, I say that it is not true they were established by proof. To the second, that, by the testimony, you fully and completely exonerated yourself from all responsibility.
“Yours Respect,

‘‘SAN MATEO, July 23rd, 1855.
“MY DEAR SIR: I received your note of June 25th requesting an answer to two interrogatories therein contained concerning certain charges preferred against you whilst alcalde. I say that the two charges as examined were not established by proof. In reply to the second, I say that in my opinion you did clearly exonerate yourself from all culpability, and it was so generally understood at the time.
‘‘Yours truly,
“W. D. M. HOWARD.”

“Geo. Hyde, Esq.
“SAN FRANCISCO, August 4, 1855.
“DEAR SIR: Your note dated 25th June last, came to hand a day or two ago; this must be my apology for the delay occasioned. With regard to the changes preferred against you in 1847, I will take the liberty of saying, that it was well understood then, that they were preferred by a few individuals merely for the purpose of gratifying personal animosity. Some nine or ten charges were forwarded to the Council by the Governor, only two of which underwent an examination; and the committee who conducted the prosecution of them had every latitude allowed them, not only by the Council but by you also. The first charge was commenced on the 25th Octo., and concluded on the evening of the first Nov. 1847. Some four or five evenings of a couple of hours each being the time employed. From this last date, until about the third of December following, when the second charge was entertained and concluded at one sitting, no meeting of the Council, as examiners, was held. After that, the whole affair was viewed as a farce by the public; was considered as abandoned, inasmuch as frequent meetings were called at your solicitation, to which the Committee prosecuting the charges invariably failed to attend. It was about the first of March, 1848, when two members of the Council, in a secret manner, on their own responsibility, occasioned by personal feeling (originating in a matter entirely foreign to the matter of the charges), opened a correspondence with Gov. Mason, alleging that the charges were admitted by you to be true, and hence recommended your removal, which the Gov. refused to do. As a matter of justice to you I will add that I was present at all the meetings and I distinctly declare that you never made any admission of the kind whatever; the character of the testimony was such as clearly exculpated you from all blame. To your interrogatory then, is it true that either one or both of the charges examined before the Council were held to be established by proof?—I declare that it is not true. I distinctly and positively assert that you maintained your innocence, and vindicated your fair fame throughout the whole affair, and that too by all the testimony taken.
“I am, sir, with sincere respect,
“Very truly yours, &c.,
“W. S. CLARK.”


In 1881 and 1882 while I was in the capital of the nation I became acquainted with John McDermett, a resident and capitalist of Washington, and I frequented his home, and in those visits I made to him and his family, he and myself would often get into discussions over the unacceptable immigration from China to the State of California. He thought, from a humane standpoint, the people of California were, as a class, too harsh and severe in their treatment of the Mongolians. Of course, during our arguments I opposed all suggestions in behalf of the Chinamen, but I could never convince him that their presence was demoralizing to the youthful people of the young State, and that they had been extracting millions of gold continuously for many years. About three years ago Mr. McDermett came to California for the first time, to visit a married daughter residing in the city, and viewed many points of interest in the State of perpetual flowers. One day I said to him that I would be pleased to devote one or two days in showing him the city. We visited Chinatown, and I took him into basements and cellars which were inhabited by Chinese, and the smell from the filth that surrounded their habitations was so offensive that he and I were glad to retreat to the street above us and into the pure air. From Washington street I called my friend’s attention to both sides of Stockton street, which were once the residences of capitalists and merchants of the town, which were now populated by the Mongolians the whole line of the street from California to south side of Broadway. When we crossed the latter street, and got out of the Chinese quarters, northward, Mr. McDermett remarked: “This portion of Stockton street is an American town.”

The Eastern tourist became satisfied and convinced that this class of people was injurious to the prosperity of  California, morally and commercially.

I have been favored with the following item upon the Chinese influence in San Francisco by Mr. S. P. Leeds, editor of the Commercial Record, which is an expression of his observation (written in 1888) of the detrimental effect of the Mongolian upon the morality of our population:

“The influx of the Chinese began before 1838, with a single Mongolian as stated previously by yourself. It has steadily increased, until now there are probably several hundred thousand in the United States. At first, while few in numbers, they were docile, meek and subservient. They would give the entire sidewalk to every man of other nationalities whom they met. They entered into menial services and did the best they could. They were moderately honest and strictly attentive to their industries. But as their numbers increased they began to display their natural dispositions, and they passed from petty pilferings to robberies; from light dissipations to sensualities; from praiseworthy neatness to uncleanliness; from little assaults to murders; from willing workers to arbitrary usurpers of many industries. In this latter case they over-estimated their power, and threatened to quit work in some factories, unless all white employes should be discharged. This action aroused such a storm of resentful indignation that they dropped the subject. They have taken another course and are running factories, in which only Chinese find employment.

“As an illustration the following incident is narrated. A manufacturer of bird cages finding that he could employ Chinese at less wages than he paid white men, took two or three of them into his factory. After a while one of them left, under pretence of going to China; but recommended his cousin as a good steady fellow to fill his place, which was given to him. The same method was adopted by another of them with the same result. This occurred several times, as fast as those employed had learned the art of making bird cages. During this time they had found out where the employer procured his materials and who were his customers. They started a factory in Chinatown and offered their cages to the dealers at a great reduction in price from what they had been paying. The manufacturer finding his sales rapidly falling off, went among his customers to learn the cause, and discovered that his false economy in hiring Chinese had ruined his business, and he had soon after to close it and seek some other occupation. This will be the final result to all trades in which the Chinese are given work, for the same reason.

“They have the control of the manufacture of cigars, shoes and slippers; common clothing; six or eight jewelry establishments, several hardware stores, numerous express wagons; and have recently invaded the higher branches of commerce by becoming exporters of American products to China markets: and soon no flour will be shipped there except by them. This deprives the mill men of a profitable branch of their business, which will be more seriously felt when the Chinese execute their intended purpose of building a large flouring mill. They have also established a Marine Insurance Company, and will, unless they are kept out of the country, in time obtain the control of all branches of business, the same as they have done in Manila.

“Their immorality is of the most iniquitous character. They are regardless of female virtue, and take especial delight in inducing young girls into their premises for the most flagrant purposes. Their brothels are boldly open upon some streets, where boys are ruined for life by visiting those abominable haunts.

“Regardless of human life, they would to-day, if they knew themselves to be powerful enough to escape the vengeance which should follow the deed, murder every white man and boy in the city, and only spare the women and girls for a fate worse than death. They have been a curse to every country where they have gained a foothold.”

Note—The above shows the intensity of feeling which was held by many Californians during the period from 1880 to 1900. Reason has now taken the place of prejudice whenever the Chinese are concerned. [1929]

Source: Davis, William Heath. Seventy-five Years in San Francisco. 1929: San Francisco.

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