A squatter meeting was held at the Herkimer House on 4th Street on the evening of July 1st with the object of raising funds to make a combined resistance to all lawsuits brought to enforce the title of John Sutter to the land around Sacramento. Dr. Charles Robinson was chairman and he was particularly bitter against the city council, called the common council then, which he accused of legislating in favor of Sutter’s claim to the land which Robinson thought they clearly had no right to do. Robinson was not cautious in his vituperation. He called the council destitute of common sense and pronounced it too low to be respected, so low as to be out of sight of decent men.
Robinson appealed to the sacred right of every man to have a homestead, and to his sacred duty to defend it. He also believed that it better to be a big squatter rather than a small one. Squatting on one-hundred and sixty acres was just as easy as squatting on one acre and what land a man should not need he should give it to those squatters who came along after him. It was, he added, just as easy to defend a big piece of land as a small one and much better for the squatter to take it than to let the land grabber sell it.
James McClatchy, another supporter of the squatters, was almost as bitter as Robinson. And since subscriptions for the legal fight against Sutter were lacking, he offered to go out and solicit in the country, if he could steal somebody’s horse or borrow one. To this Robinson offered his own horse saying it had once made three hundred dollars on a similar excursion.
At a later meeting on July 24th Robinson announced that four lawyers had been hired for a thousand dollars apiece and anything over the four thousand would be held in a common fund for the squatters in general. But as for McClatchy, who was to receive 5% of all donations for his services, Robinson said he would be willing to trust him in town but would not be responsible for him in the country. To this McClatchy replied that he would much rather fight any day than collect donations. “If the speculators want to fight I am for giving them battle. Let us put up all the fences pulled down and also put up all the men who pulled them down.”
John Putnam is the author of HANGTOWN CREEK, INTO THE FACE OF THE DEVIL and TALES FROM THE PROMISED LAND, hard driving historical fiction from the California gold rush. See more at John Rose Putnam.com.