GOLD FEVER Part Two San Francisco 1851-1852 READER'S GROUP GUIDE


Topics and Questions for Discussions



After the disastrous fires of May 3-4 and June 23, 1851 destroyed both the commercial center of San Francisco and much of China Town, City Hall, the courts, and Sydney Town, the lair of the Sydney Ducks, the business and professional community looked to the Committee of Vigilance to restore order, arrest and punish the arsonists and their criminal associates preying on the merchant and business community.


1.   Were San Franciscans "justified” in resorting to vigilante justice in the belief the civil and law enforcement authorities were corrupt and ineffectual?

2. What factors, if any, justify the Committee of Vigilance to hang “English Jim?"


3. Once Whittaker and McKenzie are "rescued” by the authorities, is there justification for the Committee of Vigilance to storm the jail and seize the prisoners in the Sheriff’s custody? First from the ship transporting them to Sheriff Hayes? Then, from the assault on the jail and hanging them before the civil authorities could demand them back?


4. Whose actions risked the possibility of “civil war” in San Francisco more — the governor, sheriff, police or the Committee of Vigilance?


S. Is Manon justified to hire two women apprentice cooks with the intent to teach them become chefs in order to replace Henri Royat? Were two months wages and a Christmas bonus adequate compensation for sacking Royat?


6. How does Manon seek to empower women? Discuss the following women:

a. Teri Rios

b.  Giselle Gaillard

c.  Rose Boucher

d.  Joséphine Arras

e.  Monique Boudin


7.   Was Manon justified in inviting the famous Chinese courtesan, Ah Toy, to her restaurant’s grand opening knowing it would prove embarrassing to several male invitees?


8.  Is Pierre Dubois’ scheme to solicit 5 francs (worth $1.00) from relatives of French miners in California ethical? Should Sophie Benson aid him in this endeavor?


 9. Are Pierre Dubois and Attorney Hawthorne justified in manipulating the civil trial of Raoul Mendosa in favor of Teri Rios? In seizing his best wines? In attempting to enlist Judge Roberts in a scheme to seize Mendosa’s wine store?


10. Most European, Latin American countries and States in the USA including California had laws penalizing women who wore men’s trousers or impersonated men. Was Marie Suize, aka, “Marie Pantalon” justified in dressing in a miner’s costume and openly carrying a Colt six­ shooter and Bowie knife in her belt?


11. Were the miners in the Sonora area justified in occupying the Digger Indians’ traditional hunting and fishing grounds after the Mariposa Indian War of 1850?


12. Evaluate the claim by Yankee and English speaking immigrant miners that they had a better right than non-English speaking miners to claim and exploit the richest gold bearing claims because the foreign miners planned to make their fortune and return with it to their homeland.


13. Was the $20.00 month miner’s tax on foreign miners discriminatory or justified?


14. Was the treatment of Digger Indians and the Chinese overtly discriminatory and unjustified?


15. Evaluate Louis Napoleon’s scheme to use the Lottery of the Golden Ingots to send 5,000 indigent French to California.


16. What should the civil authorities in San Francisco have done, if anything, with the following groups of “Ingots” arrivals: Deport them? Arrest them? Reform them? Leave them alone?

a.  Political dissidents including republicans,

socialists, communists and anarchists?

b.   Convicted criminals?

c.  Prostitutes and pimps?

d.   Jezebels and con-artists?


17. With the ratio of single men to women still approximately 100-1 in 1851, was the California legislature justified in granting women immigrants the right to inherit directly, control their earnings and own businesses without supervision or control by their husband or father contrary to the norm in Europe and the rest of the United States?


a.   Was this policy calculated to appeal to “gold diggers?” The “sale” of eligible daughters?


b. Was the policy successful even if women still had no right to vote in the 19th Century?