Miners’ Ten Commandments

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.

Thou shalt not steal a pick, or a pan, or a shovel, from  thy fellow miner, ...

Thou shalt not steal a pick, or a pan, or a shovel, from thy fellow miner, …

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.

Thou shalt not commit unsuitable matrimony, nor covet "single blesssedness," nor forget absent maidens, ...

Thou shalt not commit unsuitable matrimony, nor covet “single blesssedness,” nor forget absent maidens, …

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 comfortless bachelor.

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.


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.

Miners Pioneer Ten Commandments, W.R. Bennett, 1887.

Also See:

California Gold Rush

Gold Mining in America

Mining on the American Frontier

The Old-Time Miners

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *