The conquest of the West, the discovery of gold price today in usa the incredible rush that ensued, and the mining of the gold-bearing territories are part of a specific historical context. The abundant cinematographic and literary production is not always faithful to reality: the fiction was soon to seize a historical episode to build a myth in itself. California’s gold spawned a dazzling dream that hundreds of thousands of pioneers believed they had pursued at the risk of their lives.
This article is intended to be an accurate account of the events that occurred during this key period in Western History. In doing so, it reviews the key historical benchmarks and elements of the California Gold Rush.
The Gold Rush: the main historical landmarks
1783: The independence of the gold price today in usa, numbering 13, for a population of about 4 million, is recognized by the British Empire. A first territorial expansion took place at this time towards the center of the North American continent, which gives rise to the creation of new States.
1841 or 1842: The first gold discovered in California would have been in November 1842, by Francisco Lopez, six years before the gold brought to light by Johann August Sutter.
1846: Sale of Oregon to the United States of America, by the British Empire.
1848: War of Mexico during which the United States of America, victorious, annexed Texas, Colorado, Utah, Southern California and Arizona.
On January 22, 1848, discovered the first gold nuggets on the John Sutter sawmill located in Coloma, California, by James Marshall.
1848 – 1856: The California Gold Rush took place for about eight years.
The historical context surrounding the discovery of gold
The North American continent has experienced a turbulent history since its discovery in 1492. This history is inseparable from the many riches contained in its subsoil, which have largely contributed to the occupation of the immense surface area of this region. territory. If the gold was mined and mined in the colonies of South America soon after the conquest of this part of the continent, it is certainly by that the civilizations Aztecs and Incas used this one and had many mines in activity .
However, it will be necessary to wait until the 19th century for this to happen in North America. Not that the gold is unknown to the native populations, because they knew this ore of which small nuggets abounded in the bed of the rivers, but they did not attribute any value to it.
Independence of the Eastern Colonies and the Constitution of the United States
At the end of the 18th century, on September 3rd, 1783 very exactly, the British Empire signed (at the end of a war of several years which opposes it to its colonies and from which it leaves vanquished) the Treaty of Paris, which grants to the brand new United States of America (then thirteen) independence. These are organized into a federal state consisting of a central government, a constitution (adopted in 1788, but which will not come into force until 1789), while leaving to the states that compose it a great independence.
This major historic event puts an end to English interference, taxation and gives total freedom to the people who will spearhead territorial expansion and conquer virgin lands.
Four million people live, at the time of independence, this newly created federal state essentially located in the east of the North American continent. But this country has a huge area, almost completely unknown, and only a small part of it has been cleared by the settlers. The unknown and the mystery surrounding the immense majority of North American content prepare the future creation of the myth of a hospitable land, fertile and where gold would abound. This myth, which has been relayed to Europe, is largely responsible for the waves of migration that have taken place from the Old World to the New World in the 19th century.
Several territorial enlargements take place. The American West is then barely known to the Americans, and will begin to be known only from 1825. Thousands of pioneers cross the vast plains of America and settle in areas often very hostile, but to the fertility of which they believe.
The Indian tribes, throughout the century, know the influx of pioneers they can not contain. Conflicts burst, hardened, and the tribes gradually give up their lands. Constantly displaced, and even though land is allocated to them, the Indians occupy an area that diminishes from year to year, while new States join the Union.
Oregon (located to the west and border with California) which is still the property of the United Kingdom, will join the United States of America in 1846, when the British yield to the Americans.
Two years later, in 1848, southern California and Arizona, Utah, Texas, and Colorado were taken to Mexico after a war that lasted about two years. It is only a few weeks after this annexation that the first gold nuggets will be discovered, by a sawmill employee, on the soil of California. Californian lands will only become a US state (the 31st) in 1850.
The myth of civilizing expansion
Throughout the 19th century, and especially during the first half of this century, the border zone separating the supposedly savage world from civilization has been declining year by year. The belief in this opposition between the wild world and the peaceful world is one of the founding myths of American culture. The advance is proceeding rapidly, and new states are joining those of the Union; all frontiers are receding.
The Conquest of the West concretizes this movement: it is first of all a displacement of populations who go first to the Great Plains then quickly to the West Coast. These populations are initially composed of hunters, trappers who trade with the indigenous populations. Then come the farmers, who buy concessions, establish themselves solidly, clear the territory and plant the crops.
Several symbols, which will have a great posterity literary and cinematographic, represent civilization. The firearm is thus pacifying, because it allowed to conquer Independence, to preserve it, and serves to maintain the order. The railroad represents the advance of civilization and is a safer means of transport than the stagecoach or the covered wagon.
Most often, American westerns represent and defend this civilizing myth: a solitary individual, a sort of modern-day knight, defends the widow and orphan by defending the enemies of the Law or a defective sheriff. At the end of the movie, the hero walks away and the initial order has been restored. Civilization triumphs.
The spaghetti westerns, like those of Sergio Leone, including Le Bon, La Brute and Le Truand , present a very different vision of this era: the greed of the three protagonists, in search of a treasure and insensitive to the political issues that tear the country, shows the absolute failure of civilization. Only gold coins count, and no ideal, except personal enrichment, triumphs.
The California Gold Rush
We must first correct an idea received.
gold price today in usa was not discovered by the pioneers, but simply rediscovered. Indeed, he was well known by the many Indian tribes, who did not consider this precious metal as a wealth.
Several gold rushes took place on the American continent. The best known is that which took place in the State of California. It has largely contributed to the development and conquest of the American West.
A first discovery by an American in California goes unnoticed
On November 22, 1842, in Los Angeles, Francisco Lopez discovered gold dust hanging from the roots of wild onions that he dug up for food. He is the first American to have found gold in California, many years before the famous John Sutter. But if the fact is proven, and if the documents prove that a vein of precious has been discovered, a controversy takes place around the exact date.
The beginnings of the Rush
On January 22, 1848, James Marshall, working on the construction site of Johann August Sutter’s sawmill on the outskirts of Coloma, just 75km east of Sacramento, discovered the first gold nuggets. The news, confirmed on December 5, 1848 by President James Knox Polk himself, is spreading and attracts tens of thousands of gold diggers who are embarking on gold panning.
In 1849, barely a year later, they, from around the world, will have been about 80,000 to have tried their luck in California.
Paradoxically, the owner of the sawmill and the surrounding land, Johann August Sutter, will eventually be ruined by this gold rush, as evokes Blaise Cendrars in his novel L’Or. The lands he owns at the time of the discovery of the first vein are stolen from him and he is unable to assert his rights.
While some, especially Europeans, choose the seaway to land on the West Coast in California, and pass through Cape Horn (the southern tip of Latin America), the first waves of pioneers from the Eastern States leave for California by crossing the American continent by land, traveling in long columns, creating a new route on their own.
To cross the country from East to West, they must complete a journey of 3000 kilometers. No means of transport makes it possible to cross the United States, and it will be necessary to wait until 1869 for the first line of transcontinental railway is born. Until then, the routing is done thanks to the famous sheeted carts which transport whole families or isolated individuals by protecting them very little against the bad weather, the exhaustion, the diseases, or the attacks of bandits who perpetrate unpunished crimes. Many pioneers will die in this way, much more than attacks by Indians, which are rarer than filmography suggests.