Managing the Mariposas
FRÉMONT had now risen to a pinnacle where his opportunities seemed far greater than ever before. He commanded wealth; he had held political office and power; he possessed a reputation as the foremost explorer of the West. He was a busy man of affairs, supervising his estate, laboring for the cause of free-soil democracy in Washington and California, answering scientific inquiries, and keeping abreast of geographical advances. His ambitions were increasingly complex, for he hoped to be one of the statesmen of the new West and one of her business entrepreneurs as well as the pathmarker who mapped her highways. Five years were to pass before he was to be widely discussed as a presidential candidate. How fruitfully was he to spend them?
Thus far his life had been shaped largely by personal forces --by Poinsett, Nicollet, Benton, Jessie, Stockton; now there enters the drama a powerful and on the whole sinister impersonal force, the Mariposa estate. For the next fifteen years this ten-league grant, rich in gold and grazing land, was to dominate all too much of Frémont's activities. Promising him wealth and happiness, it was to bring him in the end little but trouble and disappointment. Seeming a beneficent gift of luck, it was destined before it vanished--vanished as suddenly as a rainbow bubble--to appear rather like some malignant stroke of Fate. It did more to govern the central part of his career, and in the large view to warp it, than any other element; for it led him from the scientific pursuits for which he had been trained into the alien world of business.
To give Mariposa its true significance it must thus be treated