SF moderates fail in Benicia talks

About an hour after General Sherman and the moderates from San Francisco arrived at Benicia the boat from Sacramento with Governor Johnson docked. Sherman hurried to the wharf and found Johnson there accompanied by a group he described as “known to be of the most violent kind, determined to bring about a collision of arms if possible.” The governor seemed completely under their influence and asked Sherman if it was true that vigilantes had come from San Francisco to see him. Sherman replied that these were respectable men of moderation who were needed if a peaceful resolution was to be obtained. He went on to say the enrollment of men into the militia was going slower than needed and if General Wool’s refusal to supply arms and ammunition became public their cause would be lost. At the mention of General Wool, Johnson displayed a great deal of ill temper and refused to stop at the American Hotel where Wool and the men from San Francisco waited and instead proceeded to the Solano Hotel down the street.

Benicia, CA 1856

Benicia, CA 1856

Sherman soon informed the San Franciscans where the governor had gone and they all went there and waited while Sherman walked up to the Governor’s rooms. There he found the group with the governor talking violently against General Wool and the Committee of Vigilance, calling the vigilantes pork merchants who were getting scared and that Wool colluded with them. Sherman informed them that the only arms in the state were either under the control of Wool or the Committee of Vigilance and prudence and wisdom dictated patience and caution. At about this time the men from San Francisco sent up their cards and requested to see Governor Johnson. Again those with Johnson denounced them as no better than vigilantes and urged the governor to refuse them. Once more Sherman reminded Johnson that these men were not members of the vigilantes and some had stood with the sheriff in defense of the county jail.

Benicia from the west 1856

Benicia from the west 1856

Johnson finally agreed to see the men from San Francisco. To him they made a clear statement of the situation in the city concluded by an assertion that the Committee of Vigilance was willing to disband, and if necessary submit to trial, in a short time. As soon as this was done they were dismissed and the governor set out to prepare a written answer to them. This was scratched through, altered and amended to suit the wishes of the men with governor and then sent. The governor agreed with the hope of those from the city that the present strife should be ended without conflict or bloodshed. But, because of the state constitution, it was his duty to enforce the law and he would perform that duty. If a confrontation happened and injury to life and property resulted the responsibility would rest on those who disregarded the authority of the state.

 

 

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