Miners' Ten Commandments
Crossing the Plains
A Man spake these words, and said: I am a
miner who wandered from "Away Down East," and came to soujourn in a
strange land and "See the Elephant." And, behold I saw him, and bear
witness that, from the key of his trunk to the end of his tail, hos whole
body has passed before me; and I followed him until his huge feet stood
still before a clapboard shanty; then, with his trunk extended, he pointed
to a candle-card tacked upon a shingle, as though he would say "Read!"
Miners Ten Commandments
shalt have no other claim than one.
shalt not make unto thyself any false claim, nor any likeness to a
mean man by jumping one. Whatever though findest on the top above, or
on the rock beneath, or in a crevice underneath the rock, or I will
visit the miners around to invite them on my side; and when they
decide against thee, thou shalt take thy pick, thy pan, thy shovel,
and thy blankets, with all that thou hast, and go prospecting to seek
good diggings; but thou shalt fine none. then, when thou hast
returned, in sorry shalt thou find that thine old claim is worked out,
and yet no pile made thee to hide in the ground or in an old boot
beneath thy bunk, or in buckskin or bottle underneath thy cabin; but
has paid all that was in thy purse away, worn out thy boots and thy
garments, so that there is nothing good about them but the pockets,
and thy patience is likened unto thy garments; and at last thou shalt
hire thy body out to make thy board and save thy bacon.
Thou shalt have no other claim than one.
Thou shalt not go prospecting before thy claim gives out. Neither
shalt though take thy money, nor thy gold dust, nor thy good name, to
the gaming table in vain; for monte, twenty-one, roulette, faro,
lansquent and poker will prove to thee that the more though puttest
down the less though shalt take up; and when thou thinkest of thy wife
and children, thou shalt not hold thyself guiltless, but -- insane.
Thou shalt not remember what they friends do at home on the Sabbath
day, lest the remembrance may not compare favorably with what though
doest here. Six days thou mayest dig or pick all that thy body can
stand under, but the other day is Sunday; yet thou washest all thy
dirty shirts, darnest all thy stockings, tap thy boots, mend thy
clothing, chop thy whole week's firewood, make up and bake thy bread
and boil thy pork and beans that thou wait not when thou returnest
from thy long-tom weary. For in six days' labor only thou canst not
work enough to wear out thy body in two years; but if thou workest
hard on Sunday also, thou canst do it in six months; and thou and thy
son and thy daughter, thy male and thy female friend, thy morals and
thy conscience be none the less better for it, but reproach thee
shouldst thou ever return to thy mother's fireside; and thou strive to
justify thyself because the trader and the blacksmith, the carpenter
and the merchant, the tailors, Jews and Buccaneers defy God and
civilization by keeping not the Sabbath day, nor wish for a day of
rest, such as memory of youth and home made hallowed.
V. Though shalt not think more of all thy gold, nor how
thou canst make it faster, than how thou wilt enjoy it after thou hast
ridden rough-shod over thy good old parents' precepts and examples,
that thou mayest have nothing to reproach and sting thee when thou art
left alone in the land where thy father's blessing and thy mother's
love hath sent thee.
VI. Thou shalt not kill thy body by working in the rain,
even though thou shalt make enough to buy physic and attendance with.
Neither shalt thou kill thy neighbor's body in a duel, for by keeping
cool thou canst save his life and thy conscience. Neither shalt though
destroy thyself by getting "tight," nor "slewed," nor "high," nor
"corned," nor "half-seas over," nor "three sheets in the wind," by
drinking smoothly down "brandy slings," "gin cocktails," "whisky
punches," "rum toddies" nor "eggnogs." Neither shalt thou suck
"mint-juleps" nor "sherry cobblers" through a straw, nor gurgle from a
bottle the raw material, nor take it neat from a decanter, for while
thou art swallowing down thy purse and thy coat from off thy back,
thou art burning the coat from off thy stomach.
And if thou
couldst see the houses and lands, and gold dust, and
already lying there -- a huge pile -- thou shouldst feel a choking in
thy throat; and when to that thou add'st thy crooked walking and
hiccupping; of lodging in the gutter, of broiling in the sun, of
prospect holes half full of water, and of shafts and ditches from
which thou hast emerged like a drowning rat, thou wilt feel disgusted
with thyself, and inquire, "Is thy servant a dog that he doeth
Thou shalt not destroy
thyself by getting "tight," nor "slewed," nor "high," nor "corned,"
Verily, I will say, farewell old bottle; I will
kiss thy gurgling lips no more; and thou, slings, cocktails, punches,
smashes, cobblers, nogs, toddies, sangarees and juleps, forever,
farewell. Thy remembrance shames me; henceforth i will cut thy
acquaintance; and headaches, tremblings, heart-burnings, blue-devils,
and all the unholy catalogue of evils which follow in thy train. My
wife's smiles and my children's merry-hearted laugh shall charm and
reward me for having the manly firmess and courage to say: "No! I
wish thee an eternal farewell!"
Thou shalt not steal a pick, or a pan, or
a shovel, from
thy fellow miner, ...
VII. Thou shalt not grow
discouraged, nor think of going home before thou hast made thy "pile,"
because thou hast not "struck a lead" nor found a rich "crevice" nor
sunk a hole upon a "pocket," lest in going home thou leave four
dollars a day and go to work ashamed at fifty cents a day, and serve
thee right; for thou knowest by staying here though mightest strike a
lead and fifty dollars a day, and keep thy manly self-respect, and
then go home with enough to make thyself and others happy.
VIII. Thou shalt not steal a
pick, or a pan, or a shovel, from thy fellow miner, nor take away his
tools without his leave; nor borrow those he cannot spare; nor return
them broken; nor trouble him to fetch them back again; nor talk with
him while his water rent is running on; nor remove his stake to
enlarge thy claim; nor undermine his claim in following a lead; nor
pan out gold from his riffle-box; nor wash the tailings from the mouth
of his sluices. neither shalt thou pick out specimens from the
company's pan to put in thy mouth or thy purse; nor cheat thy partner
of his share; nor steal from thy cabin-mate his gold dust to add to
thine, for he will be sure to discover what thou hast done, and will
straightway call his fellow miners together, and if the law hinder
them not they will hang thee, or give thee fifty lashes, or shave thy
head and brand thee like a horse thief with "R" upon thy cheek, to be
known and of all men Californians in particular.
IX. Thou shalt not tell any
false tales about "good diggings in the mountains" to thy neighbor,
that thou mayest benefit a friend who hath mules, and provisions, and
tools, and blankets he cannot sell; lest in deceiving thy neighbor
when he returns through the snow, with naught but his rifle, he
present thee with the contents thereof, and like a dog thou shalt fall
down and die.
X. Thou shalt not commit
unsuitable matrimony, nor covet "single blesssedness," nor forget
absent maidens, nor neglect thy first love; but thou shalt consider
how faithfully and patiently she waiteth thy return; yea, and covereth
each epistle that thou sendeth with kisses of kindly welcome until she
hath thyself. Neither shalt thou covet thy neighbor's wife, nor trifle
with the affections of his daughter; yet, if thy heart be free, and
thou love and covet each other, thou shalt "pop the question" like a
man, lest another more manly than thou art should step in before thee,
and thou leavest her in vain, and, in the anguish of thy heart's
disappointment, thou shalt quote the language of the great, and say, "sich
is life;" and thy future lot be that of a poor, lonely, despised and
A new commandment give I unto you. If thou
hast a wife and little ones, that thou lovest dearer than thy life,
that thou keep them continually before you to cheer and urge thee
onward until thou canst say, "I have enough; God bless them; I will
return." then as thou journiest towards thy much loved home, with open
arms, shall they come forth to welcome thee, and falling on thy neck,
weep tears of unutterable joy that thou art come; then in the fullness
of thy heart's gratitude thou shalt kneel before thy Heavenly Father
together, to thank Him for thy safe return. Amen. So mote it be.
Thou shalt not commit unsuitable
matrimony, nor covet
"single blesssedness," nor forget absent
About the Commandments: The Miners'
Ten Commandments were written by James Hutchings and first published
in the Placerville Herald in June of 1853. The commandments were later
reprinted as a letter sheet and sold to miners and prospectors who
used it as stationary to write letters.
Miners Pioneer Ten Commandments of 1849,
W.R. Bennett, 1887.
Available for Prints