Petition of John Epler and Others to U.S. Congress, 19 February 18491
AUTHOR OF MEMORIAL.
A MEMORIALTo the Hon. the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled.
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES.
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES.
Your Memorialists, citizens of the valley of the Mississippi, would respectfully state to Your Hon. Body; that in consequence of the discoveries during the past year of the extraordinary mineral wealth in California, which, on various occasions, have been communicated to Your Hon. Body; and of their great and increasing extent, as appears from the latest dates which have been received from the scene of the discoveries; not only a large body of citizens of the United States from the East, the valley of the Mississippi, and from Oregon, have already emigrated to California; but great additional numbers are expected to move for that country from the valley of the Mississippi during the ensuing spring and summer, by the route of the Grand Prairies and the Rocky Mountains, carrying with them not alone the goods and property peculiar to emigrating parties, but merchandize, and money, to exchange for gold:2
2d. And, in consequence of the extraordinary riches already developed in these mines; their apparent durability; their wide extent of Territory embraced; their great facility of operation on the surface, by the poorer classes; without the expensive agency of machinery; for these reasons, Your Memorialists are of opinion, that the emigration to California will probably increase by this route, from the valley of the Mississippi, for years to come; until the production of these mines, already wonderful; shall become immense.
3d. Your Memorialists would, accordingly, suggest to Your Hon. Body, the wisdom of establishing an early, safe, and regular commercial communication by this route between California and the valley of the Mississippi: whereby the great number of citizen miners; of the poorer classes (who, from the bosom of the nation are destined to employment in these mines,) may be accommodated with a safe, cheap, and direct transmission of their mineral products to their friends in the older portions of the Union, at stated periods; and receive also, merchandize and money in return—at stated periods: and whereby, the riches of the mines, thus diverted in a great degree from foreign countries, may be made to flow directly into the centre of the Union.
4th. And, Your Memorialists would respectfully state to Your Hon. Body, as the result of their opinion after a careful examination of the subject; that this safe commercial communication between Missouri and California should be speedily established; as a large emigrating party will leave early in the ensuing spring for California: that it should be guarded by about 600 to 800 men, one half mounted Riflemen, and the other half Dragoons; that the whole convoy force should be divided into four divisions, or reliefs, each of 150 to 200 men; that two of these divisions should always winter in California, and the other two at Fort Leavenworth.
5th. And Your Memorialists would respectfully state, that the season of operation for the convoys being the spring and summer; one of the two reliefs stationed in California, and one of the two reliefs stationed at Fort Leavenworth, would start in the spring, simultaneously (about the middle of April) the former, for Missouri, as the convoy for the mineral products; the latter for California, as the convoy for the emigrating party, merchandize, and money. And these, called the spring convoys, arriving at their several places of destination at Ft.[Fort] Leavenworth and California about the middle of July, would be immediately relieved by the summer convoys, there waiting. Which last, starting from Ft. Leavenworth and California simultaneously (about the middle of July) would arrive at their several places of destination about the 1st Nov.[November]; thus completing the whole trip from Missouri to California and back; and from California to Missouri and back; in six months: and thus affording to each miner in California a direct and safe transmission of the mineral wealth to the Mississippi valley, twice a year, viz: 1st. by the spring convoy in April; and 2d. by the summer convoy in July; and securing also, in like manner, corresponding returns twice a year from the valley of the Mississippi. Wherein Your Hon. Body will perceive, that as each convoy makes but half the trip in one year; or is on travel but three months in one year; the annual duties of the convoys would not only be possible, but easy, and practicable to the troops; and might, in consequence, be continued even for years, by the same convoy force: and when after a few years it became necessary to relieve this force by replacing another of equal strength; the two regiments of Dragoons and the mounted Rifle regiment now in service would always afford the means of relief without additional expense to the Government.
6th. Your Memorialists would, accordingly, respectfully ask Your Hon. Body the early passage of an appropriation for establishing a fort, or permanent post at some point in California convenient to the gold region, to serve for the point of departure of the convoys; for the assembling of the caravans; and for the collection and security of the mineral wealth, preparatory to its transmission East, under the protection of the convoys. And, Your Memorialists would further, respectfully state, that as one of the convoys would always be present at this post during the spring and summer; and two of them during the remaining six months of the year; there would, in consequence, be no additional expense incurred on account of the force necessary to garrison this fort.
7th. And, in cases of the transmission of gold by the convoys from California, or in the remission of specie by the same from the Valley of the Mississippi, wherein no agent or owner be present in charge of the same; cases which, as may appear to Your Hon. Body, may be of frequent occurrence from the multitude of small miners employed in these mines; in such, your Memorialists would respectfully suggest, that Your Hon. Body would cause such Regulations to be established concerning the reception of said gold and specie, by the Commander of the convoy, or other officer: concerning its safe keeping in transit, and at the points of arrival and departure: and concerning its delivery and charges by the U.S., at the points of arrival of the convoys; as in your wisdom may appear to suit these new and pressing emergencies of commerce.
8th. Your Memorialists would, in conclusion, beg leave most respectfully to submit to Your Hon. Body, the great necessity of a speedy and prompt action in the matters herein, which, we have the honor to submit to Your Hon. Body; in order that, the necessary arrangements may be completed by the Executive for the organization and location at Ft. Leavenworth by the 1st April next, of the convoy force destined for this service; which force, of itself, Your Hon. Body will perceive can occasion no additional expense to the Government; the troops being already in service, partly in this country, partly in California; and the service (protection against Indians) being in conformity to the original object or law of their organization: so that, Your Hon. Body will perceive that, there are no existing reasons which might prevent the immediate action of the Government as regards the organization and location of the convoy force by the 1st April; and the early publication of the same throughout the valley of the Mississippi for the information of the people, preparatory to the departure of a large emigrating party in the spring. And Your Memorialists will ever pray, &c. &c.[etc. etc.]3
<Page 2>Jersey Prairie Ill
FreeHon A Lincoln M. C[Member of Congress]Washington CityD. C
|John Epler||Wm H. Beggs|
|W D Callaway||Ambrose Buracker|
|W. B. Montgomery||J B Fairbank jr|
|C B Epler||Augustus Stevenson|
|A J Gilpin||Joseph VanEaton|
|John Lightfoot||Samuel Craig|
|John Epler. Jr||M S Wilson|
|John M Epler||Joseph Cosner|
|John R. Taylor||Hiram Musten|
|[J?] [?]||J L Schultz|
|P. G. Morgan||John Craig Esqr[Esquire]|
|C H Haynes|
|J W Beggs|
|S. T. Callaway|
|H T Anderson|
|W. A. Rosenberger|
|L B. Lindsey|
|J. F. Bergen|
Petition of John Epler & others ^citizens of Illinois^ asking the passage of laws to facilitate emigration to California–4
1This petition was addressed on its back page to Abraham Lincoln, and enclosed a sheet of signatures. On the back of the signature sheet, Lincoln authored two instances of docketing and signed one.
2Gold had been found in California in the early 1840s, but the discovery of the mineral at Sutter’s Fort along the American River in January, 1848, sparked a massive migration to California and Nevada known now as the Gold Rush. In the spring of 1849, some 40,000 people emigrated overland to the west, suffering greatly due to the hardships of travel through grueling deserts and mountains in addition to outbreaks of illness.
J. M. Guinn, History of the State of California and Biographical Record of the Sacramento Valley, California (Chicago: Chapman, 1906), 155, 157, 160.
3Abraham Lincoln presented this petition in the House of Representatives on February 19, 1849, and the House referred it to the Committee on the Territories. A handful of similar petitions were presented to the House in February and March of 1849, but the House did not act on them. On February 22, 1849, the Senate passed a resolution providing arms and ammunition to westward emigrants, and the House passed it on February 28. The resolution became law on March 2.
U.S. House Journal. 1849. 30th Cong., 2nd sess., 476, 477, 491, 498, 523, 529, 534, 557, 584; U.S. Senate Journal. 1849. 30th Cong., 2nd sess., 176, 247.
Printed Document Signed, 4 page(s), Abraham Lincoln Papers, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).