The Journal of San Diego History
San Diego History Center Quarterly
Summer Fall 2016, Volume 62, Number 3 & 4
David Lion Gardiner: A Yankee in Gold Rush California, 1849-1851:
Other new settlers had considerably more savvy. Gardiner spent a good
deal of time in the company of Davis, Heintzelman, and John E.
Summers, all of whom were “agreeable companions and sociably
inclined.” They shared a desire to turn San Diego into a port of
entry. Collector of Customs James Collier, meanwhile, was lobbying
Congress to make San Francisco the only port of entry along the
California coast. This would mean that cities like San Diego and Santa
Barbara might pay as much as 300 percent more for imports due to the
high rates of freight. Gardiner and his friends even talked about
foiling Collier’s “selfish interests” by turning Southern California
into a separate territory or state.
In 1850, Congress conceded port of entry privileges to San Diego and
other coastal cities as a test before making a final decision.
Ultimately, San Francisco was chosen as the only port of entry on the
California coast. Gardiner petitioned his brother Alexander for
assistance in having him appointed Collector of Customs for San Diego.
Alexander was well connected politically and in touch with their
brother-in-law, the former President Tyler. Although party politics
were unlikely to influence the selection of officers in such a remote
state as California, Gardiner still asked his brother to forward his
request to Tyler who, in turn, could relay it to Millard Fillmore who
had recently stepped from Vice President to President after the death
of President Zachary Taylor. Gardiner emphasized, “You know I
supported General Taylor’s election.” Failing in that attempt, he
later asked Alexander to procure for him “some fat office here,”
writing that he could not afford to take any government position that
“did not pay well.”