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California in the 1950s


Death valley of California
Death valley of California

The flood of settlers following the discovery of gold created a need for effective civil government in California. The Congress of the United States had failed to organize California as a territory because of a deadlock over whether slavery would be permitted in the new states. Finally, Californians acted on their own. In September 1849 a convention met at Monterey and adopted a state constitution, including a clause prohibiting slavery. The constitution was approved by popular vote on November 13, and on December 15 the first legislature met at San Jose to create an unofficial state government. The Compromise Measures of 1850, a series of congressional acts passed during August and September 1850, admitted California as a free, or nonslave, state. On September 9, 1850, California became the 31st state in the Union. Peter H. Burnett, a Democrat, was its first governor. The state capital was moved successively from San Jose to Monterey, Vallejo, and Benicia. In 1854 it was located permanently at Sacramento.

During the Spanish and Mexican periods, over 800 huge grants of land had been given to California settlers. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo explicitly guaranteed that these land grants would be honored by the United States. Several were larger than 40,500 hectares (100,000 acres). With the beginning of the gold rush and the influx of new settlers, Americans complained about the size of such land claims. The U.S. Senate sympathized with the new immigrants, not the rancheros, most of whom were Hispanic, and passed legislation that allowed multiple appeals on land claim decisions. Thus, most claims remained unresolved for years. Owners had to prove ownership, a difficult task because few accurate surveys had ever been made. The cost of court proceedings often consumed more than the property was worth. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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