Government in some form is indispensable in every community. Therefore, soon after the war the citizens of San Jose, San Francisco, Stockton and Sacramento assembled in mass meeting and adopted the Mexican system of government. They were familiar with this form of government and it served their purpose, as the population was limited and the citizens peaceful and honest. The rush of immigration, however, caused a complete change, not only in the morals of the people, but in the commerce and trade of the territory. Life and property became unsafe because of the criminal element. Business was in an unsettled condition, and, to make matters worse, the government demanded gold or silver coin for all custom house duties. As there was but little coin in the territory, gold dust depreciated over 50 per cent. Hence it was necessary to organize not alone local, but a territorial or state government.
A clash took place at this time between the military governor and the town council of San Francisco, this fight showing another reason why a government should be organized. General Bennett Riley, "Hero of Contreras," as he was called, arrived at San Francisco April 12, 1849. He came in command of 650 soldiers. Nearly all of them deserted and hastened to the mines. Riley came as California's Civil Governor, but soon after arrival he dissolved the town council of San Francisco. He gave as his reasons that they had no right to elect any officers without the consent of Congress. Commodore Sloat took the opposite view. He advised them to "elect their own magistrates and other officers for the administration of justice." Peter H. Burnett, then a well known lawyer, assailed Riley's position and maintained that as Congress had failed to give California a form of government, the people themselves had a constitutional right to organize a government for the "protection of life and the pursuit of happiness." It was a question of people's rights, and Burnett was bly seconded by Senator Wm. M. Gwin (a), who arrived in California June 4, 1849, for the express purpose of assisting the people in forming a state government, and returning to Washington a United States Senator.
Although Riley opposed the people taking any action without the approval of Congress, he finally gave way to public opinion and called a convention to assemble September 3, 1849, at Monterey; the delegates to said convention to be elected June 3 by the people of the several districts. The territory was divided into ten districts, the number of delegates in each district being governed by the district population. San Joaquin was the largest district, "all of the territory south of the Sonsumne lying between the Sierra Nevada and the Coast Range" (b).
This convention, which assembled at Monterey at the time appointed, was in some respects the most remarkable body ever in session. The delegates came from every state in the Union, and five from foreign parts. The seven native Californians could not speak a word of English. For their benefit an interpreter, W. E. P. Hartwell, was appointed. He received $23.00 a day for his work. None of the delegates had a two years' residence, and four had resided in the territory less than five months. Forty-four of the forty-eight delegates were under 50 years of age, and 9 were under 30. Politically, by states, 17 favored slavery, 20 opposed slavery and 11 were neutral -- being either foreigners or native born. According to occupation or profession there were 14 lawyers, 11 farmers, 8 merchants, 2 printers, 3 soldiers and 10 of other occupations.
Assembling on the appointed day, Monday, September 3d, in Colton hall (c), then the only building in the territory large enough for such a body, they organized by electing as president Robert Semple, an anti-slavery delegate; William A. Marcy, a son of the Secretary of State under President Polk, was elected as secretary and J. Ross Browne was made reporter. Browne was later Minister to China and one of Oakland's wealthiest citizens.
One of the first questions before the convention was, "What kind of a government shall we create?" Burnett, who assisted in the formation of the Oregon government, wanted a civil provisional government. Three districts favored that form. A few delegates wanted a monarchial government, and many an independent government. General Riley asserted that Congress would not sanction the form of government last named. Some wanted a territorial government. This was quickly voted down, however, and finally they decided upon a state form of government.
The boundary of the state caused a long and heated discussion. The friends of the South, defeated in their effort to make California a slave state, now endeavored to make a state so large that later it could be divided into six states. Each state was to border upon the pacific ocean, and it was proposed to have two of the states south of Mason and Dixon's line. After many days of wrangling, Robert Semple exclaimed: "Take the Sierras as our natural boundary!" Major Hill definitely outlined Semple's idea, and the summit of the Sierras was adopted as the state's eastern boundary line.
Before the convention had been many days in session Wm. Shannon of New York introduced as one of the sections of the declaration of rights, "Neither slavery or involuntary servitude unless for the punishment of crime, shall ever be tolerated in this state." Many believed that this section would cause a hot fight. The Congressional House had turned down Stephen A. Douglas' California bill because of this provision. The delegates knew that a Whig Congress would not admit a slave state. Therefore, two of the districts, San Francisco and Sacramento, had pledged their delegates to oppose slavery; in fact, the district first named passed a resolution instructing their delegates "to oppose any incipient act that might tend to its (slavery's) introduction." The Shannon section was passed unanimously.
Many of the delegates had no love for the Negro. While the slavery question was being discussed McCarver of Missouri offered an amendment prohibiting the immigration of Negroes, free or slave. At once party lines were drawn. the anti-slavery men contended that the Negro would compete with white labor, and that slave owners would bring their slaves to California by the thousand, work them in the mines and get all of the gold. The pro-slavery men laughed at this absurdity. They declared that the Negro would be a benefit. Slave owners would not dare to bring them to a free state, as then they would be free. The amendment was defeated by a strict party vote. The pro-slavery men, fifteen in all, voted aye; the twenty-two anti-slavery men voted nay.
The color line in another form created quite a breeze when the committee reported that all Negroes, Indians and their descendants be deprived of their right of suffrage. They quickly found that they would have to amend the report. Several of the Mexican delegates were of Indian blood and Mani Dominguez, a delegate from Los Angeles, was a pure-blood Indian.
The convention provided for the organization of public schools and made a provision for laws against dueling and gamblin. Before adjournment sine die, they declared December 15, 1849, as the time of meeting of the first legislature at San Jose. They also selected November 15th as the time of election for state officers, the people to elect for a term of two years a Governor, Lieutenant Governor and a legislature. They were to declare their choice for two congressmen and vote for or against the constitution.
The convention finished its work October 13th and each delegate signed his name to the consitution. As they began signing about one o'clock in the afternoon, the United States flag ws broken to the wind and the cannon upon the hill began its welcome salute.
The delegates were all very tired and sleepy for the previous evening they had been dancing in the first state ball. The convention that day had adjourned long before noon. The room was cleared of benches and tables and the walls decorated with pine limbs, Monterey cypress and flags. To give light to the gay and festive scene a wooden chandelier in the form of a cross was made and suspended from the center ceiling by a rope. The lights were candles, home-made. About 200 persons were present, this including twenty American women and some sixty Spanish and Mexican senoritas (d). At midnight supper was announced and the dancers marched to the banquet hall in the first story. The tables were loaded with meats, fish, bread, cake, wines and liquors and cigarettes. After supper they danced until daylight.
The first political campaign was in some respects similar to the present campaign of 1914. There were no political parties, and each office-seeker was obliged to "paddle his own canoe" -- the words of a song of that day. There were two candidates for Lieutenant Governor and five candidates for Governor: Peter H. Burnett (a well known lawyer), John Sutter (the founder of Sacramento), Wm. Sherwood (an Irish legislator from New York), John Geary (postmaster of San Francisco, who was sent out from Washington) and Wm. Steuart.
At this time there were but three newspapers and job offices in the territory, the Placer times at Sacramento and the Pacific News and Alta (e) at San Francisco. These offices were kept busy day and night printing ballots and the constitution. The candidates, taking copies, visited every county in the state and so far as possible distributed the ballots and constitution. It was an unusually wet winter and the mud in both mountain and valley made traveling almost impossible. For this reason many voters had no knowledge of any election, while others received no ballots. On election day it rained heavily in the Sierras and three-fourths of the American miners did not leave their tents to go to the polls. Thousands of the voters had never seen nor heard of the candidates, and as one miner remarked, "I went it blind when I came to California, and I guess I'll go it blind now." Peter H. Burnett was elected Governor (f). The vote was: Peter H. Burnett 6,716, Wm. Sherwood 3,188, John M. Sutter 2,201, John W. Geary 1,475, Wm. Steuart 619; John McDougal was elected Lieutenant Governor, 7,324, and Edward Gilbert and George W. Wright members of Congress. The total vote was 14,229. Twelve hundred voted for the constitution and 811 against it.
The legislature assembled at San Jose December 15, 1849. Five days later they met in joint session to vote for United States Senators. It was one of the most important of joint sessions, for upon their choice depended perhaps the state's admission into the Union. The legislature was non-partisan. Its first choice for Senator, however, was the Whig, John C. Fremont, as it was presumed he being the son-in-law of Thomas H. Benton, that famous leader would work hard for California's admission. Their second choice was Wm. M. Gwin; he would have great influence with the Southern members. The candidates, seven in number, were John C. Fremont, Wm. M. Gwin, Henry W. Halleck, John W. Geary and Butler King. The latter had come to California in the interests of President Taylor and Thomas J. Henley. Each candidate worked for the honor. Money was freely expended and high-priced wines, liquors and cigars were free to legislators and friends. For a two-year term Fremont was elected upon the first ballot. Gwin was elected upon the second ballot, his term four years.
Before the final vote for Congressmen several legislators resigned from office, for, as we say, "there was nothing in it." The first to retire was Senator Nathaniel Bennett from the San Francisco district. He resigned to become Associate Chief Justice. The vacancy was filled by David S. Broderick (g), who had had considerable political experience in the Tammany Club, New York. Soon after taking his seat January 8, 1850, Governor Burnett resigned to go into business. He was the only governor to resign except to fill a high place, as did Milton S. Latham and Newton Booth. The succession of John McDougal as Governor caused a vacancy in the chair of the Senate. David S. Broderick was elected. As president of the Senate Broderick had a strong pull and he now began that political wafare which ended in his tragic death.
The first legislators were fond of perpetrating jokes, and one member introduced a bill, which went through the usual course, levying a tax of twenty-five cents per month on all bachelors between the ages of 20 and 60 years. Wherein lay the joke: "The census report shows that in the year 1850 the population was 120,000. Under 20 years of age there were 7,791 males and 3,606 females; between 20 and 30 years, 44,720 males and 1,569 females; between 30 and 40 years of age, 21,460 males and 986 females. Five hundred and seventy-six men were found over 40 and less than 60 years of age. This census included the whites, Mexicans and Chinamen. From this we see that between the ages of 20 and 60 years there wer 75,796 males and 3,110 females. To escape that penalty, where would the batches find wives?
The Senate had no love for the colored man and they passed that unjust law sent up from the Assembly that all men of color (h) could not, in a court of justice, give evidence against a white. Under this law a Negro, Indian or Chinaman could be beaten, robbed or murdered by a white man and no punishment could follow unless there were white witnesses to the act. Petitions were sent up from various parts of the state to subsequent legislatures to have this brutal act repealed. Yuba county at one time sent up over half of her votes, but so bitter was the prejudice against the Negro that no legislature would take action (i). Assemblyman James T. Farley, later United State Senator, in 1857 endeavored to remove the disgrace from California under the cover of a bill to quiet land titles. It declared that all persons could testify in a court of justice. The pro-slavery men of the Assembly speedily crushed it. If passed it would have given the Negro his rights.
The capital was the cat's paw of many a scheming politician, and not until its final location at Sacramento did it cease to be such.
When the constitutional delegates began discussing a capital location the citizens of Monterey endeavored to have that town selected, but the delegates were so dissatisfied with the poor accommodations that they selected San Jose as the first capital seat. The San Joseans had also made many promises, among others the donation of thirty acres of land, worth $60,000, and suitable legislative buildings thereon, if San Jose became the capital seat.
The legislature found the accommodations at San Jose worse than at Monterey. Speculators had engaged all of the rooms and they were renting them at exorbitant rates. The streets were muddy and well nigh impassable; and, to make matters worse, the buildings were unfinished. Citizens hired a small building for legislative use. they paid $4,000 a month rental. In less than three days after the organization of the legislature Tingley of Sacramento offered a removal bill. It was tabled, however, as the citizens bribed the members by tendering them, December 27th, a grand ball. The Governor, his staff and the state militia were present. There was still much grumbling, however, and January 29th Selim E. Woodward of Monterey, son of the poet who wrote "The Old Oaken Bucket," introduced a resolution (which was passed) that the chairman on public buildings (Broderick) report a bill for the location of the capital (j). The legislature, however, left the matter to the people. They voted for Vallejo.
The legislature assembled at Vallejo January 5, 1852, under anything but pleasing conditions. The streets were almost impassable because of mud; the state house was incomplete, and the hotel accommodations so poor that there was a scarcity of chairs, food and beds. The legislators were compelled to use boxes for chairs, and sleep upon the floor. Over a hundred persons slept on the steamer Empire, which brought the Southern members from San Francisco.
Under these conditions, especially as golden ducats were in sight, about the first subject of debate after organization was the removal question. Sacramento now came to the front with a strong and influential claim for permanent location (k). In the previous year she had made a strong fight for the capital. Pierre B. Cornwall, a leading Sacramento merchant, had resigned in the interest of capital location and a strong booster had succeeded him.
The Assembly after a short debate, by a vost of 29 to 27, resolved to meet in Sacramento January 1, 1852. The Senate balked, nor could Sacramento's friends win out, for Broderick was fighting their claim. He was pulling in another direction, and January 8th and 9th (Friday and Saturday) they fought. On Sunday some potent influence moved its magic spell over the Senate, and on Monday by a majority of two they voted to meet in Sacramento (l). On arrival Tuesday morning they were met at the wharf by a large crowd of citizens. The bells were rung, salutes fired and a hearty cheer given for the state legilature. That evening the members were tendered a ball and supper in the Orleans Hotel, the citizens putting up $20 each for tickets. Over 100 ladies and 300 gentlemen from all parts of the state were present. Finishing the session in Sacramento, they adjourned May 4th to meet in January, 1853, at Vallejo.
It was during the session of this legislature that Broderick, March 17, fought his first duel, and by a singular incident he saved his life. In the Democratic convention held that year in Sacramento to elect delegates to the Baltimore convention, Broderick in a speech offended ex-Governor Smith of Virginia. His son, J. Caleb Smith, challenged Broderick. He accepted the challenge, and the duel was fought on the day mentioned. The spot selected was alameda county, now about the center of Oakland. An excursion boat was run from San Francisco to the Oakland embarcadero, and over two hundred persons were present, including the sheriff of the county and the father of young Smith.
The weapons selected were navy revolvers. The men's distance apart was ten paces. Just before the pistols were handed to the principals, Broderick, taking his gold watch from his fob pocket, held it out to his second. "Put your watch in your pocket," replied the second. "If you are shot, die like a gentleman." Broderick smiled and returned the watch to its place. After exchanging six shots without injury to either party, the sheriff stopped the duel. The onlookers were disgusted with such poor marksmanship. They, just as are the automobile race spectators of today, were looking for blood and a killing. Upon examination of Broderick's clothing, it was seen that Smith's second bullet had flattened against Broderick's watch. it was found in his pocket. The watch had saved his life. His work was just begun, fighting for California and the Union.
The California Senators, Wm. A. Gwin and John C. Fremont, arrived in Washington late in February, 1850. They found Congress firecely fighting over the state's admission. President Fillmore in his annual message had recommended that California be admitted, and Stephen A. Douglass had again introduced his California bill. The Southern leaders fought it with all of the influence and power at their command, as the admission of California as a free state would give the north the balance of power. There were at the time fifteen free and fifteen slave states. John C. Calhoun declared it was an infamous act, the organization of a state without the consent of Congress. Robert Toombs boldly asseerted that if California were admitted the South would secede from the Union.
During the struggle Henry Clay introduced his celebrated compromise, or omnibus bill. It provided for the admission of California to the Union as a free state, and conceded certain measures to the South. Daniel Webster's famous seventh of March speech in favor of this bill became historic. The Clay compromise passed the Senate August 13th by a vote of 34 to 18. In the following month, September 7th, by a vote of 150 to 56 it passed the House of Representatives. All of the Southern members voted against it. The President on September 9th signed the bill and it was a law. The new state constitution was delivered to John Bidwell, who had gone east to work for the admission of the state. It was confidently believed in this state that the bill would pass. Anxiously the people awaited the arrival of the news. Months passed, however, and there were threatening talks of forming an independent state. "In Sacramento," says Bancroft, "Judge Thomas of the district court openly reproached the government for neglect, and Bear Flag sentiments were heard in the streets." The press, however, counseled patience and happily averted great confusion, if not anarchy, had such a movement taken place.
For weeks the lookout on Telegraph Hill had been unusually vigilant awaiting the news. On the morning of October 18th he was rewarded, as a steamer entered the Golden Gate covered with bunting and flags from stem to stern and at her mizzen mast bearing the pennant, "California is a state." Immediately the watchman knew the meaning, and throwing out both arms of the semaphore, which indicated an approaching steamer, he raised aloft the Stars and Stripes. The steamer fired a signal gun and continued firing. Citizens, hearing the cannonading, wildly rushed to Clark's point (m) to learn the news. When they learned that California had been admitted to the Union, they embraced each other, yelled, shouted, threw high their hats in the air and danced round as though insane. The news quickly spread through the town. Merchants, some of them hatless, left their stores unattended and came running breathlessly to the steamer.
As the hours passed the excitement seemed to increase. Flags of every nation were run up to ship's mast and housetop, and cheers were given again and again for Henry Clay, Thomas Benton, the Union and California. The flagstaff halyards of the Plaza were then out of order, and $200 was quickly contributed "for the fellow who shinned up the flagstaff" and fixed them. Then the two cannon of the revenue cutter were hauled to the plaza and during the day they sent forth their welcome reports. In the evening the public thoroughfare was crowded with smiling faces. Almost every public building and all the saloons and places of amusement were brilliantly illuminated, music from many bands assisted the excitement, balls and parties were hastily gotten up, bonfires blazed upon the hills and rockets were incessantly thrown into the air until the dawn of another day.
The San Francisco press issued papers containing the news, one hour after its arrival. They sold for one dollar each, and the New York papers brought five dollars per copy.
At that time two lines of stages were running to San Jose, Crandall's and an opposition line. Both stages filled with passengers, the drivers drove furiously for their destination. As the stages were drawn over the road, bounding from side to side, the farmers came hurrying to the road to see what was the matter. The passengers would shout "California admitted to the Union." In a cloud of dust the stages rolled on to San Jose, one beating the other five minutes only in their sixty-mile race.
Again was the event celebrated, October 29th, by a procession, oration an illumination and a grand ball. the procession comprised bands of music, five fire engine companies, military companies, the California pioneers, civic and secret societies and a body of Chinamen drssed in their gorgeous costumes. They carried a banner inscribed "The China Boys." they were the principal feature of the procession. The orator was Nathaniel Bennett and the poetess was Mrs. N. P. Willis.
After the retirement of President Jackson, Gwin in 1833 located in Mississippi and was appointed United States Marshal. Seven years later he was elected United States Senator from that state.
While engaged as superintendent of the New Orleans custom house there came to him the breezing report of gold in California. With far-sighted judgment he saw a new state looming up in the Far West, and in Willard's hotel, Washington, he said to Stephen A. Douglass: "On the morrow I shall be en route to California to urge that policy (the organization of a state), and within a year I will present my credentials."
He arrived in San Francisco June 4, 1849. He sat upon his trunk on the hillside as the flames swept over the town, San Francisco's third great fire. He was elected as one of San Francisco's five delegates to the convention, and at once became its leader. From then forward until 1862 Gwin was the leader of the Southern California wing of the Democratic party. In that year he was arrested by the United States authorities and imprisoned at New York. When released he went to Mexico as an ally of Maximilian. From that time on he was known as Duke de Gwin.
Gwin was a man of impressive personality, tall, well formed, polished in manner and in speech, positive in his opinion and a fine orator. He made many friends and held them with hands of steel. He died in New York, September 3, 1885.
In 1847 Colton sold his interest to Semple, and in May Semple removed to Yerba Buena, believing that was the coming town. Semple in removing to the harbor came in competition with the Star, Samuel Brannan's paper, first published January 17, 1847. E. C. Kemble was the editor of the Star and he and Edward C. Gilbert, purchasing both papers, then brought out the Alta.
Long before this time he had become an active Bowery leader and foreman of Engine Company No. 34. He was a great favorite, for none could cope with him in wrestling, and he was also an excellent boxer. At that time in the Eastern cities, later in California, the fire department were active workers in politics and backed their candidate to a man.
Broderick even at that early day was ambitious to become a United States Senator, for as he later said in California, "My goal is the United States Senate and I will arrive if living. Why, to sit in the Senate of the United States as a Senator for one day, I would consent to be roasted on a slow fire on the plaza."
Broderick, although but one year over the constitutional limit, received the nomination from his district for United States Senator, but was defeated by the "plughat uglies," the the aristocratic friends of President Polk were called. Broderick's anger was intense and, says James O'Meara in his book, "Broderick and Gwin," in June, 1849, he left New York for California and swore that he never would return to it until he should go as a Senator of the United States. Eight years later he made good his word.
Broderick on arrival in San Francisco immediately found two old friends, Jonathan D. Stephenson and Charles D. Kohler. The last named was engaged in coining money, and Broderick became his partner. He also took an active part in the organization of the fire department and was elected foreman of Empire No. 1. After the fatal duel it was renamed Broderick and so remained until the dissolution of the department in 1869.
A few months after Broderick's arrival he was elected to the Senate, and from that time on until his death his life forms a part of the political history of the state.
The City hotel was the only lodging and meal place in San Jose. For board only they paid $5 a day, $2 for a bed and $1 for space to sleep in your own blankets upon the floor. As the members received $16 a day only, in script, their legislative lives were one of trouble and philanthropy rather than pleasure and wealth.