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l These are the famous last words of men who had ventured into California to partake in the Gold Rush, only to realize a yearning to see their family. Many men underwent the hardships and the sacrifices in order to strike rich in this gamble, many men succeeded while many more failed. Often forgotten are the families that remained back home while the husband, father, or brother went west to strike gold.
The families that endured sacrificed Just as much and ached for their safe return home.
Commandments were created in order eassure both the miner and his wife while he undertook the expedition west. These commandments laid down a set of rules that should be followed in order to live a functioning and overall moral life while separated and in unknown environments. The Miner’s Ten Commandments focuses heavily on how miners should treat each other, how duties should be performed, and how to deal with the anxiety of being separated from one’s family.
However, The Wife’s Commandments focuses primarily on how the husband should act and lists a strict set of rules he should follow in order to remain in good standing with the wife. It is extremely interesting to see how the commandments compare depending on the gender. The Wife’s Commandments was first published on March 27th, 1849, in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a newspaper. The article is filled with rules that strictly dictate the miner’s life. Some of them are so strict that they seem silly by demanding a grown man to abide by them.
The twelfth commandment is “Thou shalt not stay out later than nine o’clock at night. “2 The author or authors of this work are almost being satirical by listing bed times for these men. The intended audience of this work is lmost certainly women back in the east who have husbands who were contemplating Journeying west in search of gold. The article is also worded very plain and is straight to the point. These commandments would be very reassuring, giving comfort that their husband would remain well and faithful.
The Miner’s Ten Commandments is structured differently; having the focus of the piece on how to conduct work and not listing demands for the wife back at home. James M. Hutchings published The Miner’s Ten Commandments in 1853 in the Placerville Herald newspaper. Hutchings was actually born in England but moved to United States in 1848. He partook in the Gold Rush of 1849 and succeeded, becoming a wealthy miner. His commandments were so popular that he was able to publish his own magazine, Hutchings California Magazine, with the profits.
However, Hutchings’ commandments that paint a picture of the gold rush and the community created as very principled, goal focused, and problem free. Hutchings was a chief promoter at Yosemite National Park so his work could be bias, trying to persuade travelers to go to California in order to partake in the gold rush. Nevertheless, his commandments erve to keep the work being performed by the miners fair and honest and to act as a guide for new miners. The wording of his article is very formal and reminds the reader of the Ten Holy Commandments, perhaps as a way to paint a picture of a Calitornia tree ot sin.
It also addresses their tamilies and now to comtort themselves when they miss home. If we can ignore the apparent biases of the times and take the reading for what is presented, we see a very peculiar way both set of commandments are created. The Miner’s Ten Commandments is heavily focused on the actual daily life associated ith mining, such as preparing rations for the week and possible conflicts among miners. 3 While The Wife’s Commandments is almost entirely focused on the husband’s actions in California related to cheating, gambling, and drinking. There is no mention of how the wife should conduct her life, a direct opposite to the Miner’s Commandments. It is obvious that there were different standards for men and women at the time of the Gold Rush. By comparing specific commandments, we can see the different intentions that were perceived by each group. In The Wife’s Commandments, it states hat “Though shalt not take into thy house and beautiful brazen image of a servant girl, to bow down to her, to serve her, for I am a Jealous wife. “5 This entry shows that the wife is extremely concerned about her husband being unfaithful during their time separated.
This is understandable for the time; the temptation of prostitutes and brothels in the mining towns were a reality. However, when reading The Miner’s Ten Commandments it is apparent that the author did not feel the necessity to include a commandment on avoiding lustful temptations. The commandment that onfronts staying faithful is more optimistic than presented in The Wife’s Commandments. “But thou shalt consider how faithfully and patiently she awaiteth thy return; yea and covereth each epistle that thou sendest with kisses of kindly welcome-until she hath thyself. 6 This entry reveals that the miner did consciously think about the sanctity of their marriage, did it addresses the problem not by listing rules, but by showing morality. The towns and camps that the miners lived in during the Gold Rush were questionable at best. Many men did not have permanent shelters and slept in tents, ome skilled craftsman such as the French were able to construct cozy little cabins to reside in, but the majority of the housing was not as quant. None of the men had real skills with cooking, growing a garden, or mending clothing. They could hunt, but that was not sustainable.
The Miner’s Ten Commandments acted as a guide for which men could turn to when in need. “Six days thou mayst dig or pick; but the other day is Sunday; yet thou washest all thy dirty shirts, darnest all thy stockings, tap thy boots, mend thy clothing, chop the whole weeks firewood, make up and bake they bread, and boil thy pork and beans. 7 Without any knowledge on the domestic skills needed to survive, one can see how a miner thrust into California would be at a loss; the commandments aid in organizing a miner’s life and providing him with a solid foundation for survival.
After seeing The Miner’s Ten Commandments, it is strange to see how The Wife’s Commandments do not discuss how to keep the home going without the man around to provide. It only discusses rules for the man, and does not even reassure the woman of the love that her husband has for her. The commandments by the wife are not truly applicable to life back home or in California. The miners rules include: “Though shall not steal a pick, or a shovel, or a pan from thy fellow-miner; nor take away his tools without his leave. 8 This a realistic problem that must be addresses, but a major concern in The Wife’s Commandments include, “Thou shalt not chew tobacco. “9 It is pretty shocking to see the difference in content and what each gender views as important. The miners tended to show more trust towards their wives by not listing a set of rules that must be obeyed by them. The list created by the wives could be renamed “The Miners’ Commandments as seen by the Wife” and it would be more itting. The Miner’s Ten Commandments and The Wife’s Commandments reveal the expectations of the time for miners who ventured west in search of gold.
Both set of commandments were primarily concerned with the actions of the miner, and not as much on the actions of the wife back home. One would think that wives being thrust into new circumstances would need Just as much guidance to survive and exceed as their husbands do. But there is an intentional focus on the miners. Perhaps it is the exposure to new opportunities and dangers that must be confronted that demands a et of commandments created by a veteran miner as well as a set created by worrisome wives with the best intentions of the family as the driving force.
Whatever the case may be, there is an obvious concern for the well being of the family. All of these commandments act in order to preserve their well-being. Historian H. W. Brands said, “California presented to people a new model for the American dream” one where the emphasis was on the ability to take risks, the willingness to gamble on the future. ” These risks however could be minimized by a careful adherence to the rules presented in both of these sets of commandments.
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