A reader was unhappy with yesterday’s characterization of California’s legislature as a cabal of corrupt, Marxist-influenced, self-serving professional politicians. So I wanted to know approximately how far back it might be before I found an honest man of significance. I stopped looking when I found a man of impeccable character who faced down the corrupt governor and legislature in the late 1800’s.
In 1860, Josiah Dwight Whitney of Northampton, Massachusetts arrived in San Francisco to head up the first California Geological Survey sponsored by California politicians. Whitney, the author of the widely acclaimed The Metallic Wealth of the United States, was tasked by those who governed California at the time with finding additional mineral wealth within the state. Governor John Downey provided Whitney with unprecedented access to all public and private lands, the ability to use any mode of transportation, and the freedom to explore the entire state as he saw fit. The governor asked Whitney to keep him personally apprised of his progress and any information on mineral deposits that he may find during the course of his duties. Whitney refused, saying that any information developed would be available to everyone and at the same time. It is a fitting tribute to Whitney’s character and his work that his name is placed on the highest peak (Mt. Whitney - 14,505 feet ) in the contiguous 48 states of the union.
According to historians, the politicians grew increasingly dissatisfied with Whitney’s work – especially the part where he failed to identify new exploitable mineral wealth to line their pockets – and embarked on a series of budget cuts. Whitney famously said, “We have escaped perils by flood and field, have evaded the friendly embrace of the grizzly, and now find ourselves in the jaws of the Legislature.”
Eventually, Whitney’s work was curtailed in 1868 and all work suspended in 1867. Whitney returned to New England and a teaching post at Harvard University. The California politicians resumed there rapacious quest for new mineral wealth in1880 when they formed the State Mining Bureau and limited its activities to a concentration on mining activity and issues. The State of California published the first three volumes of Whitney’s work and Whitney self-financed the publication of his remaining work.
Bottom line …
Political corruption seems endemic in California -- but it has never threatened the union as it now promises to do.
We are so screwed.
"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -- Marcus Aurelius