Published: May 10th 2009May 9th 2009
Completed just in time for the convention.
(Excerpted from my book: OUR SUMMER IN CARMEL Amazon.com)
This posting completes a short history of the region from the period of pre-history to statehood. Springtime 1849 brought a new administration to Washington in the name of Zachary Taylor and a new Governor for California, Brigadier General Bennett Riley. Both men were pledged to act quickly on the complicated question of statehood, bypassing the usual period of territorial status. With the discovery of gold and the influx of 49ers something had to be done soon. Elections were held for Representatives to a constitutional convention and a cast of characters emerged. John Sutter, a Swiss immigrant who had adopted Mexican citizenship and on whose property gold had been discovered; Mr. Fremont, now once more a civilian having lost his commission in a courts martial but now reunited with his beautiful and influential wife Jessie, recently arrived via Panama on the gold seekers route; the seven foot tall adventurer and Kentuckian John Semple who was elected convention chairman; Thomas Larkin, the former US Counsel who was now out of a job; and the Mexican General Vallejo from Sonora a leading Californio.
The delegates were appointed by population. San Francisco and Sacramento had eight each, demonstrating their sudden explosive growth due to the discovery of gold. Monterey had six. Of the 48 delegates half were under 35 years of age. The convention, which was was held in Delegate Colton's newly built Town Hall, addressed many Thorny issues. Did the delegates want to stay as a territory or become a state? Was California to be slave or free. Should non-whites be allowed to vote, thereby extending suffrage to Indians? According to the treaty with Mexico, California included all of present day Nevada, Arizona and most of Utah. Where should California's boundary be drawn? These issues were mostly decided outside the chambers, discussions going on at parties, in the bars and on the streets of Monterey.
Among the party givers was the exuberant Jessie Fremont. She could afford to entertain, although ex-Lieutenant Colonel Fremont did not have much of a pension. Recall the $3,000 dollars given by Fremont to Thomas Larkin to buy property in San Jose? Larkin instead helped out his friend Juan Alvarado who was in debt but owned the 44,360 acre Mariposa Ranch, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Fremont was furious when he heard what had been done.Those foothills were a long way from the rapidly developing and soon to become state capital. But guess what? That far away ranch was now turning out sacks of gold and would soon be valued at millions of dollars. Calofornia real estate then; California real estate now---some things don't change. The Fremont's were rich.
After six weeks of debate, horse trading, future promises, winking and nodding, and all other forms of political chicanery, a deal was struck and the documents were ready for signing. After an all night party the delegates assembled to cast their votes. After each signature a resounding canon salute would be fired. On the thirty-first shot from the cannon the draft Constitution was signed and a majority had voted for statehood. The constitution was adopted, and amid rousing cheers the State of California was born. On September 9, 1850 by act of Congress, California was admitted to the Union as the 31 state with San Jose becoming its first capital. The Yankees and Forty-Niners had arrived.