From the earliest days of the discovery of America, its distant shores became the refuge and rendezvous of adventurers of every description, whose daring genius, stifled by the trammels of the old European civilisation, sought fresh scope for action. Some asked from the New World liberty of conscience—the right of praying to God in their own fashion; others, breaking their sword blades to convert them into daggers, assassinated entire nations to rob their gold, and enrich themselves with their spoils; others, lastly, men of indomitable temperament, with lions' hearts contained in bodies of iron, recognising no bridle, accepting no laws, and confounding liberty with license, formed, almost unconsciously, that formidable association of the "Brethren of the Coast," which for a season made Spain tremble for her possessions, and with which Louis XIV., the Sun King, did not disdain to treat. The descendants of these extraordinary men still exist in America; and whenever any revolutionary crisis heaves up, after a short struggle, the dregs of the population, they instinctively range themselves round the grandsons of the great adventurers, in the hope of achieving mighty things in their turn under the leadership of heroes. At the period when we were in America chance allowed us to witness one of the boldest enterprises ever conceived and carried out by these daring adventurers. This coup de main created such excitement that for some months it occupied the press, and aroused the curiosity and sympathy of the whole world. Reasons, which our readers will doubtless appreciate, have induced us to alter the names of the persons who played the principal parts in this strange drama, though we adhere to the utmost exactness as regards the facts. About ten years back the discovery of the rich Californian plains awakened suddenly the adventurous instincts of thousands of young and intelligent men, who, leaving country and family, rushed, full of enthusiasm, towards the new Eldorado, where the majority only met with misery and death, after sufferings and vexations innumerable.
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