Gwin’s Conflict of Interest

The majority of the people of Cal., as I have mentioned in the preceding volume, preferred the central to the southern route for mail transit. The central route was gradually opened, first from Salt lake to the Missouri river, then by wagon from Placerville to Carson valley, and finally to Salt lake, connecting there with the mail to St Joseph. George Chorpenning owned the western division, but his means were limited and the management bad. Broderick endeavored to procure the adoption of the central route by the government in place of the southern or Butterfield route, established in 1857, and thereby incurred the hostility of Gwin and the southern influence. The exposure of Grwin s methods had the effect to cause him to withdraw his opposition to the central route, but he did so then only when he fancied he saw an opportunity to make capital for himself out of it. Senator Hale, of N. H., introduced a bill which could have been passed, which would have given California a daily mail over the central route. But Gwin had several motives for preventing the passage of this bill. One was that he was retained in the interest of the steamship company; another that he would do nothing so pleasing to the republicans as to allow this republican bill to pass, thus overshadowing him; and again, that he reserved to himself the glory of appearing as the author of the contract for a tri-weekly mail over the cen tral route. He introduced another bill to embarrass Hale s, and allowed neither to pass. But this plank, on which he hoped to stand when the next U. S. senator should be chosen in Cal., slipped away from him when, going to Postmaster-general Holt, after the close of the session, that official flatly refused to carry out the terms of the bargain between them. In this manner Cal. was deprived of mail service, except over the Butterfield route, until the secession of the southern states and a change of administration caused the suspension of this line, and the establishment of the central route. Sac. Union, June 15, 26, and July 23 and 28, 1860. Latham offered some amendments to Hale s bill when it was before the senate, but they were defeated with the rest. He presented some figures which are interesting. From Sept. 1858 to and including March 1860, there were 685, 960 letters sent over the Butterfield route, the postage on which was $71,378.63; and over the route via Salt lake 15,725, the postage on which was $865.51. The Butterfield contractors received $600,000 for tri-weekly service. This was one of the profitable contracts given to southern men by the consent of California senators, but the service performed was never complained of. The Pacific Mail Steamship company in 1860 refused to carry express packages containing mail matter, or to carry the newspaper mails, which could not go over land, the object of the refusal being to force congress, with the help of California’s senior senator, to give the mail contract to Vanderbilt s company.