The gold strike had
ceased to be solely a California concern as early as June, 1848, when
the news reached Honolulu. By August, settlers barely established in
Oregon were making ready to go south for fortune, and the first
cautious notices were appearing in newspapers on the eastern coast.
People were running about and picking gold out of the California earth
the way a thousand loose hogs would root up ground-nuts, said a letter
from Monterey to the New York Journal of Commerce!
news was on the way to Washington. Colonel Richard B. Mason, military
governor of California, had sent off on August 17 a careful report of
his observations in the mines. The messenger left Monterey and made his
way to Peru—thence to Panama and across the Isthmus. From Chagres he
sailed for the island of Jamaica, and there got a ship for New Orleans
where he let out the golden word and aroused great excitement.
Washington at last, he delivered the Mason report to the Secretary of
War, together with a tea-caddy in which lay lumps and scales of
Californian gold to the value of three thousand dollars.
Washington saw and believed. The retiring President Polk must have
regarded the find as a confirmation of his expansionist policies.