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Essay On The Significance Of The California Gold Rush

1550 words - 6 pages

The discovery of America is based around the quest for lands unknown, the promise of freedom, and, most importantly, gold. Therefore it is no surprise that the discovery of gold in California came to be known as the new "El Dorado". This finding quickly brought a surge of Americans of all ethnicities, along with Europeans, South Americans, Australians, and Asians, all searching for a land filled with promises of financial profit, freedom and equality. Although many of these entrepreneurs walked away with only disappointment, leaving a trail of native blood, the large and diverse population which sprouted in California and other previously nearly uninhabited western states foreshadowed the largely diverse population, controversial policies, and racial and sectional tension to come nationwide.John Marshall was hired by Swiss-American John Sutter to oversee the construction and maintenance of a sawmill on Sutter's land. On the fateful morning of January 24, 1848, Marshall was making a routine inspection along the American River when he caught a glimpse of something in his eye. He stooped over to take a look, and after careful observation and a series of tests that took all of 20 minutes, Marshall was convinced that the substance he found was gold (Wright 265-267). With this discovery, he and his fellow crew members brought the substance to John Sutter four days later, who, after much skepticism, agreed that the substance was indeed gold. The discovery was originally discussed to be kept secret, but "...within six weeks, all of Sutter's workers had deserted his stores, farms, and ranches to look for gold" (Time-Life 128). Soon after, a piece was written in the Californian proclaiming the find of gold at Sutter's Mill, and a report was written to the president from California's military governor, Colonel R.B. Mason, conforming the rumoring suspicions of the gold found at Sutter's Mill. With a presidential address confirming the presence of gold in California and with that speech, the shot was fired; the race for California was on (Time-Life 130).All gold-seekers who traveled to California came to be known as "Argonauts", derived from the Greek mythology of the band of people who searched for a golden fleece. Most Argonauts traveled from eastern America, and had to make a decision on how to get to California, by land or by sea. Among those who could afford it, most from the east coast chose the sea-bound trip, "...either the long, traditional route around Cape Horn and up the coast of South America, or the shorter, but more dangerous passage that included an overland trek through the fever-infested jungles of the Isthmus of Panama" (Walker 18). Some easterners even went as far as to put in money to rent an old boat and sail themselves around the Cape of Good Hope, although few survived around the swirling waters off the coast of Tierra del Fuego (Chaitin 187). The other choice was to travel across the Great American Desert, made by most of the...

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