The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 18, July 1914 - April, 1915 Page: 4
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The Southwestern Historical Quarterly
much in an indirect way to bring about the acquisition of the latter
province by the United States.
In accordance with Spain's general colonial policy, the inhab-
itants of California were forbidden to trade or have any dealings
with foreigners. But Spain lay many leagues away, and while
some offcials conscientiously tried to enforce the royal commands,
they found the prevention of the illicit trade, for which both
Americans and Californians were eager, quite impossible-. On
the contrary, within a few years it had grown to a very considerable
size, especially as from 1796 to 1814 the direct trade with China
from the North Pacific Coast lay almost wholly in American
Much of this early fur trade, it is true, was carried on north
of the California line, but the most valuable furs-those of the
sea otter-were found in greatest abundance along the California
coast from San Diego northward. These were sometimes ob-
tained, as already indicated, by illicit purchase or barter from the
Californians, of whom the mission authorities were the most de-
pendable sources of supply. More often, however, they' were
poached along the great stretches of unfrequented shore, or from
the neighboring channel islands, and at times, indeed, from the
waters of the principal harbors, to the great, but helpless indigna-
tion of the Spanish authorities, who had neither skiff nor scow in
which to pursue the intruders.' The skins thus obtained were
carried to Canton and there exchanged for tea, lacquered ware,
silks, and the various other commodities of the Chinese markets.
These in turn were brought back either to the Russian settlements
of Alaska or to California, where they found ready disposal; or
quite as frequently they were transported direct to Europe or the
"An American navigator, writing in 1808, said that for several years
trading vessels of the United States had left as much as $25,000 in specie
annually among the Californians and that the government was powerless
to prevent this intercourse (Robert Shaler, in American Register, III, 147
et seq.). Money, it should be remarked, was never plentiful among the
Californians, and such a sum as Shaler mentioned was of material benefit
to the financial interests of the country.
OGreenhow, 266, quoting from London Quarterly Review, October, 1816.
7Bancroft, XIX, 63-64.
'For a general discussion of the Boston-California-China trade, see
William Heath Davis, Sixty Years in California (San Francisco. A.
J. Leary. 1889), 295-6. Davis came to California in 1816.
In 1803 Thomas O'Cain made a contract with the Russian Baranof to
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 18, July 1914 - April, 1915, periodical, 1915; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101064/m1/10/: accessed September 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.