California Becomes the 31st State!
California's population exploded as a result of the gold rush. New people from all over the world brought their cultures and their ways of living to California. Whereas California benefited from all the new ideas that came, the area also became rampant in crime. There was no single set of laws, and thus, miners had to adjust to new laws as they moved from area to area. As people tried to live within the culture in which they were accustomed, trouble brewed. There were so many beliefs in California about how to live, the miners simply wanted to mine, and there was no constitution to lead people, therefore, lawlessness ruled.
In one week in July, 1850, the town of Sonora had two men from Massachusetts killed by knives, a Chilean was shot and killed and a Frenchman stabbed a Mexican to death. Marysville had 17 murders in one week, and in San Francisco, 30 new houses were being built a day, but two murders a day were also occurring.
The population of California had increased by ten times as much from 1846 to 1850. Most of the newcomers, 80%, were young males. There were no services for a population that large. Costs jumped twenty times as much for some items in California. Disease was everywhere and the people wanted to be represented in the national government in Washington D.C. A government would provide people with laws, a manner in which to build roads, bridges, and set up schools, hospitals and fire departments.
The answer to all of the chaos was to create a government. The structure of that government would be set in a state constitution. After that document was written, California could apply for statehood and the people would live under the rules of the United States. It seemed simple, but it was not!
|The timeline for the California Constitutional Convention|
In the end, there were 48 delegates from many types of professions:
Colton Hall today
Colton Hall at the time of the convention
Several small groups met to work on the writing of the state constitution. They worked in small classrooms in Monterey's Colton Hall. After the Constitution had been written and approved by the delegates, they went to Bennet Riley's home to inform him and thank him for his role in creating California's government. The entire convention lasted 43 days.
After the process had been completed, Bennet Riley was quoted as saying :
Learn more about California becoming a state:
And now, the Compromise!
There were already 30 states in the United States of America. California would be state number 31, but that created a problem. Since 1820, the government of the United States had kept the same number of free states as there were slave states. At the time that California applied for statehood, there were an equal number of free and slave states. Calfornia would upset that balance. There were no other states ready to join the union, so there was no other state to bring in as a slave state and keep the balance. Thus, Congress stalled on admitting California as a state. Meanwhile, the lawlessness continued in California.
Daniel Webster is seated to the left of Clay and John C. Calhoun to the left of the Speaker's chair.
The pieces of the Compromise of 1850 included:
The Fugitive Slave Act created a huge increase in the activity of the Underground Railroad. In the ten years after the act became law, approximately 20,000 black people moved to Canada to escape getting caught and tried. Free blacks living in the North were being caught and put on trial, even though they were not slaves at any time in their lives. This act actually worked to get people in the North to fight slavery even more. By 1860, the country went to war with itself with slavery as a key issue.
The Compromise of 1850 did accomplish what it set out to do: it granted statehood to California and actually delayed the Civil War for about ten years.
Learn more about the Compromise of 1850: