What was Spain's policy on resident foreigners in California?

Sep 2018
101
transitory
#1
Can anyone tell me what sort of rules/restrictions the Spanish colonial authorities had regarding foreign subjects taking up residence in their California territory? Obviously the Russians came along in 1812 and established Fort Ross; how did Spanish authorities react to that? And were there any Russians (or other foreigners) who took up long term residence within Spanish California before that, or did the Spanish authorities effectively prohibit it? I'm not just asking about foreign outposts, but even foreign individuals who immigrated there for whatever reason...
 
Oct 2014
1,227
California
#2
Oh boy, I think there were other nationalities in Spanish California, but mostly after the Jesuit expulsion in 1768. California up to then was the peninsula now called Baja California. The Californians (Baja & Alta) recognized the independence of Mexico in 1822, ending the Spanish period. I will see what I can dig up to give you some specifics If I have documentation.
 
Sep 2018
101
transitory
#3
Oh boy, I think there were other nationalities in Spanish California, but mostly after the Jesuit expulsion in 1768. California up to then was the peninsula now called Baja California. The Californians (Baja & Alta) recognized the independence of Mexico in 1822, ending the Spanish period. I will see what I can dig up to give you some specifics If I have documentation.
Thank you, any info you can find would be interesting for me :)

I did find one brief mention on Wikipedia regarding a resident foreigner in what's now the US state of California, who arrived during the Spanish period:

"John Gilroy (1794–1869), born in Scotland as John Cameron, was one of the first English-speaking residents of Alta California, having arrived in Monterey, California in 1814. He took his mother's maiden name, and was later baptized as "Juan Bautista Gilroy". In 1821 he married Clara Ortega. With brothers-in-law Quintin Ortega and Julian Cantua, Gilroy made soap near San Felipe Lake (also called Upper Soap Lake), which he traded along with onions and flour from his gristmill to Thomas O Larkin of Monterey."
source: Rancho San Ysidro - Wikipedia

Edit: I just found a bit more info on this John Gilroy character:

"During the War of 1812, the armed merchantman Isaac Todd was sent by the North West Company to seize Fort Astoria, an American trading post at the mouth of the Columbia River. The ship, with a Royal Navy escort, departed from Portsmouth, England, made its way around Cape Horn and proceeded up the Pacific coast of the Americas, stopping at Spanish ports for supplies along the way. In January 1814, having fallen behind its escort, the Isaac Todd arrived at Monterey, California, the Spanish colonial government center for Alta California. During the visit, ordinary seaman John Gilroy (a Scotsman who had changed his name from John Cameron when he went to sea to avoid recognition) either (depending on the historical source) jumped ship or was left ashore to recover from scurvy.

John Gilroy (1794–1869) spent the next few years moving around among the missions, pueblos and ranchos, plying his trade as a cooper (barrel maker). At first, by his own account in an 1856 letter to Thomas O. Larkin, Gilroy was one of only two English-speakers resident in Alta California. Eventually, he found his way to Rancho San Ysidro, converted to Roman Catholicism and became the first naturalized English-speaking settler in Alta California. In 1821, the same year Mexico won its independence from Spain, Gilroy married a daughter of his employer, ranchero Ygnacio Ortega."
source: Gilroy, California - Wikipedia
 
Last edited:

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,139
Portugal
#4
Can anyone tell me what sort of rules/restrictions the Spanish colonial authorities had regarding foreign subjects taking up residence in their California territory? Obviously the Russians came along in 1812 and established Fort Ross; how did Spanish authorities react to that? And were there any Russians (or other foreigners) who took up long term residence within Spanish California before that, or did the Spanish authorities effectively prohibit it? I'm not just asking about foreign outposts, but even foreign individuals who immigrated there for whatever reason...
Curious question. I don’t know much about that later period, and the establishment of foreign outposts couldn’t be well received by Spanish authorities, but the existence of foreigners was a constant in the Spanish empire, so California was probably not an exception. But if you don't find much about the Spanish California maybe you can reach there by analogy of other places in the Empire and begin to build from there.

Italians, Portuguese, Germans and Flemish (besides the Aragonese – the Empire was Castilian) were probably among the most numerous foreigners. For instance, I recall that there was an Englisman in the first voyage of world-circumnavigation of Magalhães/Elcano… even if I think he died on the voyage.

EDIT:

An issue that I forgot and that could cause problems was the religion of the foreigner. If the foreigner was catholic it surely would be much more welcomed than a protestant one.
 
Last edited:
Sep 2018
101
transitory
#5
That's a good point about religion, Tulius. When I was doing some reading on foreigners arriving in Mexican California, one thing that struck me was that several of them seem to have converted to Catholicism (for example, William A. Richardson, an Englishman who contributed to the development of Yerba Buena: William A. Richardson - Wikipedia )

If this was happening during the Mexican era, then I can imagine the same was going on among foreigners in Spanish times. The man I found on Wikipedia above, John Gilroy, seems to also have become a Catholic after settling in California.
 
Jan 2010
4,365
Atlanta, Georgia USA
#6
Richard Henry Dana, Jr, spent some time in California during the period he wrote about in Two Years Before The Mast and mentions living with Hawaians and meeting a Scot and several others. So there were some there in 1835 and 1836.
 
Sep 2018
101
transitory
#7
Richard Henry Dana, Jr, spent some time in California during the period he wrote about in Two Years Before The Mast and mentions living with Hawaians and meeting a Scot and several others. So there were some there in 1835 and 1836.
Oh yes, by the 1830s definitely. But 1835-36 was during the Mexican period, and my question is about the Spanish period, which ended in 1822.
 
Nov 2010
7,515
Cornwall
#9
Oh yes, by the 1830s definitely. But 1835-36 was during the Mexican period, and my question is about the Spanish period, which ended in 1822.
In practice, when you look at the state of Spain and events in Europe, Spain could not project any force overseas and Imperial power was nominal for several decades
 

martin76

Ad Honorem
Dec 2014
6,251
Spain
#10
In practice, when you look at the state of Spain and events in Europe, Spain could not project any force overseas and Imperial power was nominal for several decades
Only it had 250.000 men in Cuba... in fact.. no other European Country (included Great Britain) sent more soldiers to America.. than Spain in Cuba... and that is from 1492 to 2019... if that is not "projection"....

Spanish troops in Havana, 1895



By other side about the thread.. Spanish Empire had not restrictions to foreigners always foreigners:

1st: they must be Catholic
2nd: They must swear allegiance to the Catholic King.

In fact, the Spanish Florida from 1783 onward had more British than Spaniards!!! (but all of them had to swear and all of them had to become Catholic!

In the year 1810, the Population in Alta California was 20.871 inhabitants between them 0,2% Peninsulares and 17,9% Criollos (so it is means 18,1% Spaniards... but only 0,2% from Peninsula). In Texas, in 1810, 0,6% people were Spaniards from Peninsula.

About New Spain Population 1793 to 1810 (in Spanish).
 
Likes: Edratman