Criminal Annals, Part 29 – The Placer Times: A Bit of ‘Tongue in Cheek’

Last time it was mentioned that one losing candidate for Mayor of Sacramento had decided to protest the results. The editor of the “Placer Times” inserted in the April 6, 1850 issue a small, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, story about this action.

Joseph Grant had received about 16.5 percent of the votes and though this was only the second election in California, which was not even a state at this date, he decided that there had been some foul play and wrote a letter of protest to the authorities. As you can tell from his letter, the election process might have been a bit “casual.”


“The following protest was served on Wednesday morning last on the Hon. J. S. Thomas, at that the time the highest legalized authority in the District. For reasons satisfactory to himself, his Honor has deemed it imperative on him to administer the oaths of office to the returned officers; but it remains to be seen whether his course will be sanctioned by the authority above him, to which in comments with myself, he owes allegiance.

“Jos. Grant, Friday morning, 5th April, 1850.
“To the Honorable J. S. Thomas, Prefect Sacramento District:

“The undersigned respectfully protests against the election for City Officers, held in Sacramento City on Monday, the 1st inst. on the following grounds, to wit:

“1st – That the election was not ordered by the Prefect [a chief officer, magistrate, or regional governor], and consequently must be considered a nullity.

“2d – That the polls were not closed at 5 o’clock P. M. as ordered by the proclamation, and consequently the election was invalidated.

“3d – That no election for City Officers was ordered at ‘Sutter’s fort,’ where a ballot was held, and in consequence the vote there should be rejected.

“4th – That the ballot boxes were taken from the places where the votes were received and their contents counted privately.

“5th – That the ballot boxes were placed in charge of parties during the night of the 1st instant, without the seals of the Judges or Inspectors being affixed.

“6th – That the ballots were opened by the Inspectors before they were deposited in the boxes, thereby creating a dangerous precedent, which, if not checked, may reflect discredit and opprobrium [harsh criticism or scorn] on the people.

“7th – That illegal and fraudulent voting was practiced at the polls, and farther that American citizens possessing the rights of suffrage were not allowed to exercise that privilege.

“The undersigned being prepared to prove the foregoing charges protests against any and every officer being qualified by virtue of the election held on the aforesaid Monday, the 1st instant.

“Respectfully, &c [archaic etc.] JOS GRANT. Sacramento City, 3d April, 1850.”

On the front page of the April 13, 1850 edition of the Placer Times is another warning, similar to one printed last winter. It is always amazing someone can immediately come up with a method of stealing from the public.

“Spurious Gold Dust. – There is every reason to suppose that arrangements are making to practice on this community a stupendous fraud by throwing into circulation a large amount of spurious metal, and it is time that our merchants should be upon the look out. We understand from unquestionable authority that a large amount of metal purporting to be and bearing the semblance of gold dust, was received in this port per steamer California, having been shipped from some of the Mexican ports on the Pacific coast. We also learn that it has been ascertained almost to a certainty that arrangements have been made for the shipment of a constant supply of the spurious metal to this port. Whether it is to be used in coinage, disseminated through ‘quicksilver gold’ [gold combined with mercury] or mixed with other dust can only be conjectured. It behooves all parties who may be likely to become the victims of fraudulent attempts to throw this trash into circulation, to keep a strict watch, and we hope that the parties concerned may be detected and brought to justice. – [Alta Cal. 1st.”

On the same page is an editorial regarding growing pains the new City of Sacramento is experiencing because business owners are expanding their buildings out into the street. This, along with squatting on other’s land, was not an uncommon practice during the early years of California when property lines and title issues were at best unsettled.

“Building Into the Street. – In this land of the ‘largest liberty’ there seems to be no limit to the rights and privileges which certain people have. A year ago the levee was public land, and was occupied as such until a short time since; last fall, you could hardly buy a lot and get it paid for, no matter how quick you done it, before some modest individual would take possession of the same, and swear that he had as good a right to it as any one. But this has nothing to do with ‘Miss Smith brown bread!’ [saying of unknown origin] What we would like to ‘get through the hair’ of some of our very worthy citizens is the fact that they are crowding their improvements a shade too far into the street. In many instances those who have had the ‘good looks’ of Sacramento in view, and have placed their buildings upon the line of the street, find themselves decidedly in the background, and almost out of sight until the passer-by gets abreast of their premises. The obvious injustice of this extending buildings ‘ad libitum’ [at one’s pleasure] into the street, is not the only evil attending it. It entirely destroys the appearance and beauty of the street, and the system is one which is not tolerated in any well-regulated city. There should be passed, forthwith, an ordinance prohibiting the construction of any thing in the street, except the ordinary awning.”


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