Hearst: Lord of San Simeon

By Oliver Carlson; Ernest Sutherland Bates | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
California Background

"The images of his noble qualities, of his uncommon faculties, of his strong common sense, of his clear perceptions, of his unsurpassed judgment, of his incorruptible simplicity, of his unostentatious usefulness, of his delightful companionship, of his devotion to his friends, of his love for his country, of his justice to humanity, of his modest, kind, gentle life come thronging to our thoughts and fill our hearts with unspeakable emotion."
-- Senator Matt Whitaker Ransom of North Carolina in the United States Senate, February 28, 1891.

THE later career of George Hearst and the entire career of William Randolph Hearst cannot be understood unless they are seen in the light of the political and social conditions on the Pacific Coast out of which they sprang. It is therefore necessary, even at the cost of chronological regression, to give a brief sketch of that historical background.

Violence and bloodshed were as characteristic of the early cities of California as of the mining camps. Between 1849 and 1856 a thousand murders were reported in San Francisco alone, a town of less than forty thousand inhabitants -- a thousand murders and but one conviction. Adventurers, gamblers, gangsters, and criminals from all the world poured in upon California, their numbers increasing with every boatload. The better classes, with the political laziness so characteristic of Americans, allowed things to go from bad to worse until conditions became intolerable. Then, roused to sudden frenzy, they did violence to civil government and law by taking these into their own hands

-16-

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