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CALIFORNIA

by wholly needless hostilities and by some injustice then and later in the attitude of Americans toward the natives, was a growing misunderstanding and estrangement, regrettable in Californian history. Thus there was an end to the “lotos-land society” of California. Another society, less hospitable, less happy, less contented, but also less mild, better tempered for building states, and more “progressive,” took the place of the old.

By the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 Mexico ceded California to the United States. It was just at this time that gold was discovered, and the new territory took on great national importance. The discussion as to what California ceded to the United States. should be done with it began in Congress in 1846, immediately involving the question of slavery. A furious conflict developed, so that nothing was accomplished in two successive sessions; even at the end of a third, in March 1849, the only progress made toward creating a government for the territory was that the national revenue laws had been extended over it and San Francisco had been made a port of entry. Meanwhile conditions grew intolerable for the inhabitants. Before the end of the war Mexican laws not incompatible with United States laws were by international law supposed to be in force; but nobody knew what they were, and the uncertainties of vague and variable alcalde jurisdictions were increased when Americans began to be alcaldes and grafted English common-law principles, like the jury, on Californian practice. Never was a population more in need of clear laws than the motley Californian people of 1848-1849, yet they had none when, with peace, military rule and Mexican law technically ended. There was a curious extra-legal fusion of laws, a half-breed legal system, and no definite basis for either law or government. Even the acts and theories of the officials were very inconsistent. Early in 1849 temporary local governments were set up in various towns, and in September a convention framed a free-state constitution and applied for admission to the Union. On the 7th of September 1850 a bill finally passed Congress admitting California as a free state. This was one of the bargains in the “Compromise Measures of 1850” that were intended to dispose of the question of slavery in the Territories. Meanwhile the gold discoveries culminated and surpassed “three centuries of wild talk about gold in California.” For three months there was little excitement, then a wild rush. Settlements were completely deserted; homes, farms and stores abandoned. Ships deserted by their sailors crowded the bay at San Francisco—there were 500 of them in July 1850; soldiers deserted wholesale, churches were emptied, town councils ceased to sit, merchants, clerks, lawyers and judges and criminals, everybody, flocked to the foothills. Soon, from Hawaii, Oregon and Sonora, from the Eastern states, the South Seas, Australia, South America The rush for gold. and China came an extraordinary flow of the hopeful and adventurous. In the winter of ’48 the rush began from the states to Panama, and in the spring across the plains. It is estimated that 80,000 men reached the coast in 1849, about half of them coming overland; three-fourths were Americans. Rapid settlement, excessive prices, reckless waste of money, and wild commercial ventures that glutted San Francisco with all objects usable and unusable made the following years astounding from an economic point of view; but not less bizarre was the social development, nor less extraordinary the problems of state-building in a society “morally and socially tried as no other American community ever has been tried” (Royce). There was of course no home life in early California. In 1850 women numbered 8% of the population, but only 2% in the mining counties. The miners were an energetic, covetous, wandering, abnormally excitable body of men. Occasionally a kind of frenzy even would seem to seize on them, and lured by the hope of new deposits of unheard-of richness thousands would flock on unfounded rumours to new and perhaps distant localities, where many might perish from disease and starvation, the rest returning in poverty and rags. Such were the Kern River fever of 1855 and the greater “Fraser River rush” of 1858, the latter, which took perhaps 20,000 men out of the state, causing a terrible amount of suffering. Many interior towns lost half their population and some virtually all their population as a result of this emigration; and it precipitated a real estate crash in San Francisco that threatened temporary ruin. Mining times in California brought out some of the most ignoble and some of the best traits of American character. Professor Josiah Royce has pictured the social-moral process by which society finally impressed its “claims on wayward and blind individuals” who “sought wealth and not a social order,” and so long as possible shirked all social obligations. Through varied instruments—lynch law, popular courts, vigilance committees—order was, however, enforced, better as times went on, until there was a stable condition of things. In the economic life and social character of California to-day the legacies of 1848 are plain.

The slavery question was not settled for California in 1850. Until the Civil War the division between the Whig and Democratic parties, whose organization in California preceded statehood, was essentially based on slavery. The struggle fused with the personal contests of two men, rivals for the United States Senate, William McKendree Gwin (1805-85, U.S. senator, 1850-55 and 1857-61), the leader of the pro-slavery party, and David Colbreth Broderick (1819-1859), formerly a leader of Tammany in New York, and after 1857 a member from California of the United States Senate, the champion of free labour, who declared in 1860 for the policy of the Republican party. Broderick’s undoing was resolved upon by the slavery party, and he was killed in a duel. The Gwin party hoped to divide California into two states and hand the southern over to slavery; on the eve of the Civil War it considered the scheme of a Pacific coast republic. The decade 1850-1860 was also marked by the activity of filibusters against Sonora and Central America. Two of these—a French adventurer, one Gaston Raoux, comte de Raousset-Boulbon (1817-1854), and William Walker, had very picturesque careers. The state was thoroughly loyal when war came. The later ’fifties are characterized by H.H. Bancroft as a period of “moral, political and financial night.” National politics were put first, to the complete ignoring of excessive taxation, financial extravagance, ignorant legislation and corruption in California. The public was exploited for many years with impunity for the benefit of private interests. One Disputed land grants. legacy that ought to be briefly noted here is that of disputed land grants. Under the Mexican régime such grants were generous and common, and the complicated formalities theoretically essential to their validity were very often, if not usually, only in part attended to. Titles thus gained would never have been questioned under continued Mexican government, but Americans were unaccustomed to such riches in land and to such laxity. From the very first hundreds “squatted” on large claims, contesting the title. Instead of confirming all claims existing when the country passed to the United States, and so ensuring an immediate settlement of the matter, which was really the most important thing for the peace and purse of the community, the United States government undertook through a land commission and courts to sift the valid from the fraudulent. Claims of enormous aggregate value were thus considered and a large part of those dating from the last years of Mexican dominion (many probably artfully concocted and fraudulently antedated after the commission was at work) were finally rejected. This litigation filled the state and federal courts for many years. The high value of realty in San Francisco naturally offered extraordinary inducements to fraud, and the largest part of the city was for years involved in fraudulent claims, and its peace broken by “squatter”-troubles. Twenty or thirty years of the state’s life were disturbed by these controversies. Land monopoly is an evil of large proportions in California to-day, but it is due to the laxness of the United States government in enabling speculators to accumulate holdings and not to the original extent of Mexican grants.

In state gubernatorial elections after the Civil War the Democrats won in 1867, 1875, 1882, 1886, 1894; the Republicans in 1871, 1879, 1890, 1898, 1902, 1906, 1910. Features of political life and of legislation after 1876 were a strong labour agitation,