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California, Government and Culture (Hayward)

Gazetteer/Almanac

John Hayward, Gazetteer of the United States of America… (Philadelphia: James L. Gihon, 1854), 29-34.

CALIFORNIA has recently become one of the United States. A part of the country was discovered as early as 1542, by a Spaniard named Cobrillo; and its northern section was visited for the first time by foreigners in 1578, when Sir Francis Drake, then at the head of an expedition from England, gave to this region the name of New Albion, The Spaniards planted colonies upon its sea-coast in 1768, from which period, until 1836, the territory was a province of Mexico. In the latter year a revolution occurred. The people, after having frequently compelled the Mexican governors and other officials to abandon their posts, declared themselves independent, and undertook to organize new political institutions. Several weak and ineffectual attempts to regain absolute control were made from time to time by the Mexicans, until the year 1846. In July of that year, the port of Monterey, a central point on the Pacific coast of the state, was seized, in the name of the United States, by a naval force under Commodore Sloat, who at once unfurled the American flag, and established a provisional government. At that epoch, the administration of the affairs of the territory was in the hands of a civil governor and a military commandante, both natives of California, but holding commissions from the President of Mexico. In 1848, the discovery of a gold "placer" at Columa, (Sutter's Mills,) and the ascertained reality of its extraordinary richness, followed immediately by further and equally surprising developments, startled the whole civilized world; and a tide of emigration began to flow in from every quarter, with a rapidity and volume unparalleled in the history of nations. The population forthwith attained the required number for the formation of a distinct state. The inhabitants prepared and submitted to Congress the draught of a constitution; and in September, 1850, California was admitted into full membership as one of the United States...

Government. — The chief magistrate is elected for two years; also the lieutenant governor, who is ex officio president of the Senate. The legislature is composed of two branches — the Senate, consisting of not less than one third, nor more than one half of the number contained in the other house, elected by districts biennially; and the Assembly, chosen annually, also by districts, to comprise not less than twenty-four nor more than thirty-six members, until the population shall amount to 100,000, when the minimum shall be thirty, and the maximum eighty. The legislature convenes annually in January. No lotteries can be granted, nor charters for banking purposes. The circulation of paper as money is prohibited. Corporations may be formed under general laws only. In legislative elections, the members vote viva voce. Loans of the state credit are interdicted; and state debts, exceeding a sum total of $300,000, cannot be contracted except in certain specified contingencies. The property of married women acquired before or after marriage, and a portion of the homesteads, or other estates of heads of families, are protected by law. The elective franchise is held by all white males twenty-one years of age, who are citizens of the United States, or Mexicans choosing to become citizens, under the treaty of Queretaro, and have resided six months within the state. Indians and their descendants are allowed to vote in special cases.

Judiciary. — The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and two associates, elected by the people for six years, and so classified that one shall retire every two years. District judges are chosen in like manner, for the same term of time; and county judges are elected for four years. The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction in cases involving a sum not less than two hundred dollars, in the settlement of certain legal questions, and in various criminal matters. The District Courts have power to try cases in law and equity, where the sum in dispute exceeds two hundred dollars. The county judges, assisted by two justices of the peace, hold Courts of Sessions in each county for criminal business. Clerks of courts, district attorneys, sheriffs, coroners, &c., are chosen by the people...

Education. — The constitution provides for the establishment and support of a system of free schools, in which instruction shall be given at least three months in each year. A fund is to be created from various sources, the interest of which is to be inviolably applied to the maintenance of these institutions. This fund must soon become one of great magnitude; for it is to consist of the proceeds of public lands ceded to the state for school purposes, and of the 500,000 acres of land granted to each new state by the general government, together with such percentage on sales of lands within the state as shall be allowed by Congress, and the avails of all estates left by persons dying without heirs. Certain lands are also set apart, the income of which is to be appropriated to the maintenance of a university...

Indians. — Few of the descendants of the aboriginal inhabitants remain within the present limits of the state. These few consist of small and scattered tribes, who neither own, nor pretend to claim, any portion of the soil beyond the boundaries of their small villages. To the gold region, especially, they assert no title. They are, for the most part, a roaming, wretched race, divided into insignificant hordes, subsisting on wild fruits, berries, roots, &c., and too indolent to hunt for game in a legitimate way; but not too much so to pursue and steal the cattle and horses of the whites, which they use for food. There are, probably, no bodies of Indians in the United States who are more dishonest, perfidious, and cruel; nor any that are not superior in moral and intellectual character.

Population. — So rapidly has the population of California accumulated since the first discovery of a gold " placer," in February, 1848, and so constantly does the stream of immigration flow on and expand, that the ratio of increase, at definite periods, cannot be ascertained with any great degree of accuracy. A comparison of the number of residents in certain localities, at the time of the occupation of Monterey by the United States forces, (July, 1846,) with the estimated number in January, 1851, — a space of four and a half years, — may give some idea of the force and velocity of that great "tide in the affairs of men," which is setting towards this point from all quarters of the world. At the former date, there were but eight towns, or pueblos, within the present confines of the state, viz., San Diego, with 500 inhabitants; Pueblo de los Angelos, with 2500; Santa Barbara, 800; Monterey, 1200; Santa Cruz, 400; Pueblo de San Jose, 1000; Yerba Buena, (now San Francisco,) 400; Sonoma, 200; making a total of 7000. The rest of the territory contained some 7000 or 8000 besides. At the latter date, it was estimated that the residents in California, permanent and temporary, numbered not far from 200,000, one third of whom are engaged in mining.* There are towns, which, at the close of their first year's existence, contained from 1200 to 1500 voters. In October, 1850, the monthly mail from the United States conveyed nearly 50,000 letters to California; and there were 22,000 advertised letters in the post-office of Sacramento city, then a place of less than three years' growth.

There are some twenty post towns in the state. In January, 1851, thirteen newspapers (many of them daily) were published, as follows: 6 in San Francisco, 2 in Sacramento city, 2 at Stockton, and 1 each at Monterey, Sonoma, and Maryville.
Religion. — There are religious societies of almost every Christian denomination, and increasing attention is given to the support of public worship. No one sect appears to predominate, and the utmost toleration prevails. In the present fluctuating, unsettled, and bustling state of things, there must be, of course, many changes in the affairs, and in the relative numbers, of different communities and associations; so that an attempt to furnish correct statistical details in the premises must, at this time, be attended with much difficulty.

* The following estimate, made in April, 1851, is from a public journal printed at Sacramento : In the northern mines, or that scope of country lying north of San Francisco and Feather River, the population is computed at 20,000; the Yuba, 40,000; Bear River, 4000; the American Fork, 50,000; in the southern mines, or that portion lying south of the American River, 80,000; Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys and neighborhood, 65,000; the coast south of San Francisco, 20,000; — making an aggregate of 314,000. It is further estimated that the 100,000 miners have each labored 300 days during the preceding year, and have produced an average of 3£ dollars per diem; which gives a total of 5100,000,000.

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