+++ Sometimes Hartnell mediated disputes at the customhouse, trying to improve relations between the Russian and Mexican governments and to dispel the animosity shown by Spaniards since earliest times to shaggy visitors from the north. After several deals with them in sea-otter and sealskins, Hartnell wrote in 1826 to the company captain, John Lincoln. He asked his friend to look for an English-Russian dictionary and grammar on the next European voyage of the ‘John Begg,’ explaining that he wished to learn Russian because no one else could converse freely with such close neighbours and frequent visitors. From his own experience, he felt that the Russians were willing, even anxious, to increase goodwill, to abandon the illegal practices of olden days (when Spaniards would admit no foreign trade to California), and to exchange produce with Mexican-Californians. An interpreter was badly needed, that these desires be expressed to the governor. He himself wished to launch a new era of understanding. Hartnell confided to Lincoln his further thought that fat commissions could be collected by an individual (again he had himself in mind) acting as Russian agent in Mexican territory. ++ North of Ross lay other Russian settlements, in dire need of California produce. Straight to the Arctic they stretched, each filled with scurvy-ridden, ill-clothed, half-starved subjects of the czar, rich in furs and nothing else. Through his gift of tongues, it was conceivable that Don Guillermo could command the fur trade of the entire Russian empire in the Pacific, comprising portions of Siberia, Kamchatka, and the Aleutian Islands, as well as Sitka and other points on the northwest coast. ++ Captain LIncoln became interested in Hartnell’s large idea and took pains to fulfill his commission. From Callao he wrote, on January 12, 1827: “Throughout all London there was not a Russian and English grammar to be got, but a friend of mine wrote to Paris and got me one in French and Russian, which I hope will answer the same.” ++ It is a coincidence, perhaps, that French voyagers to the Pacific were unfailingly interested in outposts of the Russian empire. Duhaut-Cilly’s description of Ross is the most intimately and accurately detailed. +++
+++ Hartnell bought a share in the ‘Fulham”s cargo, and business matters occupied most of his time on the southern passage. He was accompanied by methodical Mr. Fraser, who pored continually over the company accounts books, indifferent equally to the mystery of the sea and the strange sights ashore at Mexican, Central, and South American ports of call. ++ William Logan had left California on an earlier voyage, summoned by Mr. Begg to develop a silver mine on Lake Titicaca in Inca country. It was with regret that this likable fellow left the land of ‘poco tiempo.’ Already, from Lima, he had written to Hartnell: “I am of your opinion that in California you can live a much more happy life than in this place or in any part of Peru.” ++ A worried letter from Spence, who remained in Monterey, arrived while Don Guillermo still was enjoying the family reunion in Santa Barbara. Apparently, as always in his employer’s absence, Don David had many problems to solve, and unexpected visitors to entertain: ++ ‘His Majesty’s Ship Blossom arrived on the 29th inst. After leaving last year, she went to Canton, and then made another attempt for the North, but has not been quite so successful this year. They lost there five barges with three Sailors, but no officers, and had some engagements with the Indians – six of the of Marines severely wounded. I have been doing all I can to furnish them with the necessary they want as there is a few of them bad with the scurvy. I believe they will have cash enough to settle for all, but am not yet certain as they intend to stop here about three weeks more. ++ The Captain has taken up his quarters in your room – makes himself quite at home. I have been rather hard up, but shall do the best I can with them. . . . . They have heard nothing of Captain Franklin as yet. After leaving this he intends to sail for San Blas and then for Callao. There you may expect to see them. ++ We have now in the port the American Brig from the Coast of Peru with a few half bleached cottons and segars at thirty dollars p. thousand, also Mr. Clevincoff and three American whalers. [Spence means the Russian historian, Kyrill Khlebnikov, who, since 1820, had been making periodic trading trips to California as agent for the Russian-American Fur Company, headquarters at Sitka. Hartnell knew him well, and provided much of the material for his celebrated ‘Letters on America.’ Khlebnikov also wrote the source biography of Baranov, published in St. Petersburg, 1835.] … +++
+++ As a spiteful momento of his visit, he sent two cannon balls across the town, one for the bride and one for the groom who still were enjoying the fiesta. This was the last threat made to California by minions of the Spanish king. ++ Within a week Don Jose received an official communication from Mexico City, saying (translation): “If the ‘Aquiles’ arrives, give her no food; induce her to surrender like the ‘Asia;’ take 2 officers as hostages; seize her sails; and report quickly.” ++ David Spence supplied the sequel to this incident that had set all tongues a-wagging, besides ringing down the curtain on the wedding festivities. From Monterey, May 2, he writes to his employer: ++ ‘We were varey much alarmed at the arrival of a Spanish Frigate who arrived in this port on the 26th ult. accompanied by a small brig both under the American flag. After leaving Callao there was a proposal made of taking some or other of these ports in California. On acct. of the captain’s refusing to pay the seamen of course mutiney arose. They all joined and put the Captain and officers on shore upon the Island of Marian, apointed another captain and sailed for Monterey, where they have all swore to the Independence and histed the Mexican flag. They are to be dispatched to Acapulco in a few days to receive further orders. The Captain who now takes command has been in Monterey before in the mercantile line and was formerly acquainted with Don Luis [McCulloch].’ ++ Of even more interest to the newlyweds is Spence’s announcement: ++ ‘We are doing pretty well as to the inside of the house and you may depend upon it being ready for the reception of our long looked for and welcome mistress. . . . Wishing you many happy days together and safe to your own fireside.’ ++ William Hartnell’s life was at its flood tide when he returned to Monterey in June 1825. He felt intense happiness and a sense of destiny in his marriage; his business prospects were brilliant; and he liked where he lived. … +++
+++ The ‘John Begg’ sailed from summer in the south to summer in the north, from late in March to early in June 1822. The first landing on California soil was at San Diego, southernmost port of Alta California. From a singularly undramatic setting, at placid, almost land-locked bay surrounded by flat and treeless territory, customs officials emerged from a mud-colored hut by the water’s edge to make the partners welcome. ++ McCulloch’s information proved correct; legislative removal of many commercial restrictions had commenced in Mexico City during the fall of 1821. On December 13 of that year, only seven months preceding the ‘John Begg”s appearance, the ‘junta’ had decreed that the California ports of Monterey and San Diego be opened to foreign trade. Since it took months for this news to reach the coast, coming overland by courier from Mexico City, the ‘John Begg’ was the first ship to be made welcome by port authorities. ++ It was onl within the past twenty years that any non-Spanish trading vessel ever had done business in Alta California. The few which had were manned by smugglers (Russian, American, French, or British) likely to receive a cannon ball across the bow. The entrance of foreign vessels into California ports for any purpose had been forbidden. Even Spanish commerce was confined almost entirely to transports from San Blas, bringing no more than necessities to the mission establishments and ‘presidios’ (garrisons) which contained California’s entire poplulation of “reasonable beings” (California Indians called the first Spaniards ‘chichinabros,’ meaning “reasonable beings.” Later, in irony, the Indians transferred this title to the weapons used by their conquerors.) . ++ During the revoluton in Mexico and the consequent cessation of Spanish trade, faraway California became so desperate as to demand a change in commercial regulations. … [Thus ends the first page of the second chapter entitled ‘Trader’ of Susanna Bryant Dakin’s ‘The Lives of William Hartnell’] … +++
+++ … ‘Do not have the produce scattered in different points but rather pay a land carriage to have it all together near some safe and commodious bay where a vessel can lay with safety. This will greatly facilitate our operations & most likely reduce the rate of freights. You will be particular when you write us in stating the places at which the produce is collected, its quantity and quality and the description of the Bays or Ports where the Vessels must touch to receive it . . . . In the selection of these places attention must be paid to the Seasons, Winds & Current which prevails on the coast and the nature of the produce which can be had in the greatest abundance in the vicinity – for example the place where the vessel first begins to load must be where the heavy produce is laid up & the last point where the light produce is to be found. ++ ‘You will give us particular information of the description of goods consumed there, and to what extent the consumption can be carried . . . . endeavor to bring into use as much as possible . . . . English manufacture in which we must also feel a national interest. … [Thus ends the tail end of page 31 and all of page 32 of the first chapter of Susanna Bryant Dakin’s ‘The Lives of William Hartnell.’] …
+++ The brig “John Begg,’ commanded by John Lincoln, was chartered to the young partners for a voyage from Callao to California and back again at $1200 a month. Experimentally, she was loaded with cargo valued at $22,000. It included such articles as cloth coating, shawls, buttons, combs, cooking utensils, dishes, cocoa, cinnamon, oil, iron bars, window glass, and woods from Brazilian forests. ++ A conversational letter from Mr. Begg containing fatherly advice and business tips was well thumbed during the long days and nights at sea. It encouraged the young men, saying: ++ ‘The copartnership which exists between us will we hope be placed on your arrival in California upon a permament footing and lay the foundation of your future prospects and happiness in life… ++ ‘Next to permission to remain in the country your fortunes will depend on your own exertions, in which we have every confidence that nothing will be wanting to crown them with success.’ ++ Mr. Begg entrusted them with letters of introduction, considerable cash, and a fantastic Note of Produce, suggesting that the partners secure certain items in addition to the usual hides, tallow, and wheat designated for American and European markets. These included butter and horsehair, the former not made by Californians and the latter too highly prized to part with. Mr. Begg also gave his ideas of adequate prices and advice, mostly erroneous, on the collection of each commodity. He still relied on rumor rather than on knowledge, as in the days of Hartnell’s “wild-goose chase” to Guayaquil. ++ The final section of Mr. Begg’s letter was most realistic: ++ ‘We anticipated some considerable expence in the first formation of the Establishment, such as the construction of houses and sheds where produce will be collected and prepared for shipment. In order to avoid expences which are not imperiously necessary we would advise you before laying out money in this way, to select one or more central places convenient for embarking the produce with safety and facility and there erect the edifices required. … ++ … [Thus ends most of page 31 of Dakin’s ‘The LIves of William Hartnell.’] … +++
+++ John Begg and Company engaged to furnish funds “to carry on the business to as great an extent as can be done with advantage,” and to provide necessary shipping. Insurance was to be regulated by current freight rates, no commission ever to be charged by either party. But Mr. Begg insisted on full power to dissolve this agreement at any time during the five-year extent of the contract, whereas the younger men could not withdraw for three years, and then only with the understanding that, neither individually nor jointly, directly nor indirectly, would they engage in the California trade before March 21, 1827. Profit and loss were to be divided, John Begg and Company receiving five-eighths, McCulloch and Hartnell sharing the remainder. In conclusion: ++ ‘Should any dispute arise as to the said profit or gains within the period above mentioned John Begg & Company shall have full power to award and decide the amount of the aforesaid Profit or Gain; and the award and decision will be final and binding.’ ++ Such terms were harsh indeed, but nowhere else could the poor and unknown men secure sufficient funds and shipping space for their project. They must make the most of Mr. Begg’s offer. And even a small share in the profits seemed more desirable than the static low salaries received as company clerks by McCulloch and Hartnell. Signatures were appended to the contract on March 21, 1822. With others, Hartnell’s doctor-cousin, Robert C. Wyllie, witnessed the signing and joined in the celebration afterward. ++ Now that there was no turning back, Hartnell suddenly seemed appalled. Once again he was leaving those who had become nearest and dearest to him, and he feared the truth: some he might never see again. He became roundly, gloriously drunk at the farewell parties and had to be carried aboard at sailing time, so sick he could not raise his head. “We never expected you to live the passage down,” confessed his friend Atherton a few months later. “However, I will not dwell on this subject.” Suffice it to say that the sea air, absence of temptation, and youth itself all contributed to Hartnell’s recovery during a long and uneventful voyage. +++ … [Thus ends page 30 of Dakin’s ‘The Lives of William Hartnell.’] ….