Vol. XVII.* OCTOBER, 1913 No. 2


*The publication committee and the editors disclaim responsibility for views expressed by contributors to The Quarterly.


by William Henry Ellison

Between the calling of the constitutional convention in 1849 and the meeting of the legislature in 1860, various efforts were made to divide California by a line running east and west. Writers on the history of California have obscured the real significance of the division movement by making it an incident in the national slavery controversy. Further investigation, however, reveals the incidental character of the slavery issue in the movement, and the priority of the struggle for the adjustment of local interests in a newly formed frontier.

The whole movement of population westward in the United States has been attended by conflicts of classes, nationalities, and developing interests. In particular has the struggle been manifest in the efforts of the older communities to retain a preponderance of control in determining social, economic, and political forms in which national or state life has found expression, as against the newer communities struggling to free themselves from that control, or rather to determine their own forms of expression. 

The movement for the division of California in the first decade of the state's history was a part of this struggle known as sectionalism. But the struggle here had phases peculiar to itself, by reason of California's early settlement by the Spaniards, and of the sudden influx of a great new population, with interests and traditions different from those of the old, and so powerful that, instead of the newer community, as was usual, it was the older that was forced to struggle for equality and justice.

Before the discovery of gold, the dominant, almost the sole, interest in California was pastoral and agricultural. The province was held, in great estates, by a slender population subsisting easily by raising stock and grain. By far the larger portion of the population lived in the southern district. But with the discovery of gold the centers of population shifted to the north and to the Sierras, where the dominant interest was in the mines, and where the lands were not owned, but leased. In the middle of 1848, it is estimated, there were in California about 7500 Hispano-Californians, 6500 Americans, and a negligible number of foreigners.1 By the end of 1849 the population had increased to about 100,000, most of whom were newcomers seeking for gold. The sparse population of the southern part of the territory was still made up largely of Hispano-Californians, satisfied with old conditions, and glad to be left free to enjoy their landed estates. To these there was gradually added a new element, also interested primarily in agricultural and grazing pursuits. The two sections, therefore, were manifestly divergent, one an old, Mexican, sparsely settled, land-owning community, the other a new and numerous mining people, who leased their lands.


Under the military régime of the United States inaugurated by Commodore Sloat, when in July, 1846, he took Monterey and proclaimed California free from Mexican rule and a territory of the United States, there was not much occasion for sectionalism, and little opportunity for its expression within California territory. But the changes in population and interests which took place during the next three years prepared the way for a sectional struggle. A part of the American population, restless under military rule, with its few offices for which to run, and feeling the need for a wellorganized civil government, especially after the influx of population due to the gold excitement, set about securing what they desired. Through the interest of President Taylor, the co-operation of the military authorities in charge, and the zeal of some of the newly arrived citizens, those interested in civil government were able to see a convention gathered in Monterey September 3, 1849, for the purpose of forming a constitution for California.2 With this convention began the phase of the sectional struggle in California with which this paper deals.

1. In the Constitutional Convention.—The representation from the southern districts in the constitutional convention was about one-fourth the number from the whole territory. Seven members of the convention were native-born Californians. The greater number of the other members had been in California but a short time.3

It immediately became evident that the people of southern California did not desire to have their fortunes linked in civil government with the territory further north.

William M. Gwin, in his Memoirs, says of the attitude of the convention: "When they met to organize, the members showed a strange distrust of the motives of each other from various sections. The old settled portions of California sent members to the convention to vote against the formation of a state government. They were afraid of the newcomers, who formed a vast majority of the voting population."4

In the preliminary discussion of September 5, the delegates from the southern section made their sentiments regarding this point known to the convention. At that time, the question arose as to whether the constitution to be formed was to be for a state or a territorial government. Some seemed to think it was understood that the purpose of the convention was to form a constitution for a state government. The chairman pointed out that Governor Riley in his proclamation referred to a territorial as well as to a state government.5 Mr. Carrillo, a native Californian from the Santa Barbara district, said that he represented one of the most respectable communities in California, and he did not believe it to be to the interest of his constituents that a State Government should be formed. At the same time, as a great majority of this convention appeared to be in favor of a State Government, he proposed that the country should be divided by running a line west from San Luis Obispo, so that all north of that line might have a State Government, and all south thereof a Territorial Government.6

Further on in the discussion he said:

“...that he conceived it to be to the interests of his constituents, if a Territorial Government could not be formed for the whole country, that the country should be so divided as to allow them that form, while the northern population might adopt a State Government if they preferred it.”7

When the vote was taken on the question of a state or a territorial government, 28 voted for and 8 against the formation of a state constitution. All six of the delegates who were present and voting from the extreme southern districts voted against the formation of a state government. A delegate from Monterey and one representing the San Jose district joined these.

The reason why the delegates from the southern districts desired their section to be left in the territorial condition was brought out in the debates on the representation of districts and on taxation. The native land-holding class felt that the representation should be on a basis that would take into consideration the permanence of their interests and the transitoriness of those of the population in the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. They saw the difference between a settled, land-holding class and a transitory population, and believed that injustice could easily be done the permanent class.8 The issue was even clearer when the subject of taxation was being discussed. It was revealed by this discussion that the people in the south9 had feared from the first that a state government would bear heavily upon them, and that they therefore wanted a territorial government, under which taxation would not be a burden.10 So great was the dissatisfaction of the southern delegates over what they believed were prospects of burdensome taxation that it was feared for a time that they would leave the convention and break it up. In speaking of the discussion and the situation at the time when taxation was the subject of debate, Gwin says:

It was impossible to avoid saying in the Constitution that the taxation should be equal, but the delegates from the settled portions of the state, who had land grants, and represented those who had vast grants of land from Spain and Mexico, would not listen to any proposition that would subject their real estate to taxation and the onus of supporting the state, while the great bulk of the population, the newcomers, had no real estate, in fact nothing that could be taxed, and nothing could be collected of them except a poll tax.11

Gwin goes on to state that in order to prevent the withdrawal of the representatives of the landed interests from the convention, a compromise was made by passing the provision which appears in the constitution giving constitutional power to local assessors of the counties, and to the boards of supervisors elected by the land-holders themselves and those they could influence, this being a guaranty against their being taxed oppressively.12

2. Admission opposed in southern California, and division asked.—The southern delegates remained in the convention and joined in its work; but it is evident that there was much dissatisfaction in the south with what was done in the convention, for in the early part of 1850 there was a movement on foot there to protest against the admission of California into the Union and to formulate plans for a division of the state. On February 10, 1850, a meeting was held in Los Angeles in this interest and a committee was appointed to formulate resolutions.13 On March 3, a large meeting was held on the plaza at the corner of the house of Don Ignacio del Valle. The main object of the meeting was to sign a petition against the admission of California with its proposed boundaries, and, in effect, to leave the southern part of the state as a territory. The petition was generally signed by the citizens.14 A letter containing the resolutions passed at this meeting was sent to San Luis Obispo, San Diego,15 and Santa Barbara.16

The petition, which was addressed to the Congress of the United States, gave reasons for the division suggested and presented arguments against the admission of the state with its proposed boundaries. It is of importance to refer to the reasons stated and arguments presented, for they continued to be urged with force for a decade by the people of southern California. The petition stated first the opposition of the southern section to the formation of a state government in the beginning, as was indicated by the votes of their delegates in the constitutional convention. One of the principal reasons given for their position was the lack of acquaintance of the former inhabitants with the character of American institutions because of the short time since the treaty of Querétaro. It was further set forth that the expenses of a state government must necessarily bear heavily upon landholders, even to working their ruin; the extent of territory, with dissimilar resources, was too great for a single state; the thinly populated south would be under the complete control, in political matters, of the northern part of the state with its many material advantages and large transient population; the great distance from the northern to the southern end of California territory would not only put a burden upon the south, but would also be an inconvenience to its people. For these reasons, Congress was petitioned to separate the southern part of the state from the north by a line beginning in the Pacific Ocean and drawn so as to include the district of San Luis Obispo and the regions to the south thereof, and that such section be erected into a territory to be known as the Territory of Southern California.17

3. Attempts in Congress to divide California.—The efforts made in Congress to divide the territory included in California before the admission of any part of it presented issues apart, in the main, from the issues being contested in California itself, but since the two contests have some points of contact, a brief discussion of the Congressional struggle is in place here.

When late in 1849 the newly elected representatives and senators18 from California began their journey to the national capital to present their credentials and to ask for the admission of the state into the Union, they were not unaware of the excited and divided state of public feeling in the East over the slavery question. On their arrival, they learned that President Taylor, in his annual message to Congress, announced that he had reason to believe that California had organized a state government and would soon seek admission into the Union, and that he recommended that the application be favorably received.19 On the 13th of February, having received from the California delegation an official copy of California's constitution. President Taylor submitted the proposed constitution to Congress.20 From the debate which occurred at the time, and from repeated objections to the free constitution of California, and because of suggestions that California might be admitted as far south as the line of 36 degrees 30 minutes,21 the California delegates saw that their petition for the admission of the state was certain to meet determined opposition. To meet the objections to admitting the state with the proposed boundaries, the senators and representatives elect from California prepared a memorial addressed to the senate and house of representatives. It was presented on March 13 by Senator Douglas.22

The memorial recited the early history of California, told of its gradual development, of its Mexican population, and of its acquisition by the United States. Then followed an account of the discovery of gold and the inrush of settlers as a result of the discovery, of the waiting on Congress for a territorial government, and of the determination of the people that some form of civil government must be had for their protection. Next came an account of the constitutional convention and the organization of the state government. Upon the question which caused all the difficulties in Congress, the California delegates had this to say:

Much misapprehension appears to have obtained in the Atlantic states relative to the question of slavery in California. The undersigned have no hesitation in saying that the provision in the constitution excluding that institution meets with the almost unanimous approval of that people. . . . Since the discovery of the mines, the feeling in opposition to the introduction of slavery is believed to have become, if possible, more unanimous than before. . . . There is no doubt, moreover, that two-fifths of those who voted in favor of the constitution were recent emigrants from slave-holding states. . . .

The question of the [eastern] boundary called out the most vehement and angry debate which was witnessed during the sitting of the convention. The project of fixing the southern boundary of the state on the parallel of 36̊ 30’ was never entertained by that body.23

The expression of a purpose to divide California before it was admitted came early in the congressional discussion of the subject. One of the chief spokesmen for division was Senator Foote. He said that he was in favor of admitting all of California north of the parallel of 36 degrees and 30 minutes.24 On May 9, he announced to the Senate the receipt of a letter telling of the meeting in Los Angeles in which a protest was made against admission and a desire expressed for a territorial government for the southern part of the state. At the same time, he presented a letter from a state senator of Los Angeles, addressed to one of the senators elect from California, in which the writer declared the opposition to statehood to be largely on the part of the old California residents, and urged that the protest be not taken seriously. The communications were not received by the Senate because they were addressed to individuals and not to the body, which caused objections to their reception.25 In the letter to Senator Foote, the writer, who had written in haste, indicated that documents would follow. There seems to be no record that the petition of the citizens was later presented.

The debate on the admission of California lasted all summer. During its progress, various efforts were made to provide for a division before consent for admission would be given. On August 1, Senator Foote offered an amendment to an amendment which had been proposed by Senator Douglas concerning public lands. Foote suggested that a division of California should be made by a line running along the parallel of 35 degrees 30 minutes, the southern part thus cut off to become the territory of Colorado. The amendment was lost by a vote of 23 ayes and 33 noes.26 On August 6, Senator Turney offered an amendment which provided that when the inhabitants of California in convention assembled should establish as a southern boundary a line not farther south than the parallel of 36 degrees 30 minutes, the state of California might be admitted into the Union, on the proclamation of the President. This amendment also provided for the extension of the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific Ocean. The Senate rejected this amendment by a vote of 24 ayes and 32 noes.27

Then Foote proposed an additional section. This provided that, as soon as practicable after the passage of the act admitting it as a state, California should ascertain by vote the feelings of its people on the question of so modifying the boundaries of the state as to make the line of 36 degrees 30 minutes, or some other line fixed by them, its southern boundary. It further provided that, when the people should declare for such a modification of boundaries by a majority vote, the portion cut off should at once become the territory of Colorado.28 On August 10, Senator Turney made another futile attempt to restrict the state to the portion falling above the line of 36 degrees 30 minutes.29

An examination of the proposals made will show a gradation. When it was seen that California's application for statehood was looked upon with favor by many, there were efforts to bring about division of the territory included in the proposed state. First an arbitrary division by Congress was proposed. When this plan was defeated, it was suggested that a convention of Californians should be given the privilege of deciding to limit the state above the line of 36 degrees and 30 minutes north latitude, whereupon the state would be admitted by proclamation of the President. When this failed to carry, it was proposed that the Californians be allowed to use their judgment as to the expediency of making a part of their state into a territory, without further action by Congress. But none of the proposals looking to division carried, and the bill admitting the state with boundaries as proposed in its constitution passed the Senate on August 13, the vote being 34 ayes and 18 noes.30

On September 7, the bill from the Senate came up in the House, where its passage was strenuously resisted. Strong opposition was shown to the admission of that part of California south of the Missouri Compromise line. On this, the last day of the bill's consideration, Thompson of Mississippi, who earlier in the session had spoken in favor of limiting the boundaries of the state line on the south to the parallel of 36 degrees 30 minutes, made a final speech of opposition to admission with the proposed constitutional boundaries. In his last plea he said, "the adoption of a territorial government for South California is demanded by the people of that country. The whole south asks for the division as an act of justice. Every consideration of sound policy demands this division."31 But the bill, after several dilatory motions and votes, passed the House by a vote of 156 yeas to 56 nays. It was signed by the President September 9.

It is thus seen that while the movement in Congress for division was a part of the national slavery struggle, and quite distinct in character from the movement in California, the Southern Congressmen tried to use the California contest to further their own purposes.


1. Bancroft, History of California, VI, 71, note.

2. Bancroft, History of California, VI, 291-302.

3. Browne, Report of the Debates in the Convention of California on the Formation of the State Constitution, 478, 479.

4. Gwin, Memoirs, MS., 11 (in the Bancroft Collection).

5. Browne, Debates, 21, 22.

6. Ibid., 22.

7 . Ibid., 22, 23.

8. Ibid., 400-416.

9. The terms "north" and "south" when used in this paper refer to northern and southern California, respectively, unless capitalized, in which case they refer to national sectional divisions.

10. Browne, Debates, 446.

11. Gwin, Memoirs, MS., 28, 29 (in Bancroft Collection).

12. Ibid., 28, 29.

13 Cota, Doc. Hist. Cal., MS. (Bancroft Collection), pp. 25-36.

14. Hayes Collection, 43:5 (in Bancroft Library). The Hayes Collection in the Bancroft Library, collected by the late Judge Benjamin Hayes, consists of (1) manuscripts and (2) of some 135 volumes of newspaper clippings, speeches, reports of various legislative committees, laws, miscellaneous materials on all phases of life and history in the west, particularly in California. "California" I. and II. bear on California politics. "California Constitutional Law" is a volume containing clippings referring to various efforts to modify the laws of the state, particularly by state division. It contains many clippings from newspapers throughout the state, and in particular from southern California, prominent among which are the Los Angeles Star, San Diego Herald, and Southern Vineyard. It is cited by Bancroft as Hayes' Constitutional Law.

15. Cota, pp. 25-36.

16. Santa Barbara Archives, 229, 230 (in Bancroft Collection).

17Hayes' Constitutional Law, 1 (in Bancroft Collection); Vallejo, Documentos Para la Hist. de Cal., MSS. (Bancroft Collection), 13:39.

18. Senators, John C. Fremont and William M. Gwin; Representatives, Edward Gilbert and George W. Wright.

19. Congressional Globe, 31st Congress, 1st Session, Part I, 71.

20. Ibid., 347.

21. Congressional Globe, 31st Congress, 1st Session, Part I, 367.

22. Ibid., 515.

23. Willey, Transition Period of California, 129-133.

24. Congressional Globe, 31st Congress, 1st Session, Part I, 367.

25. Ibid., 967.

26. Congressional Globe, 31st Congress, 1st Session, Appendix II., 485.

27. Ibid., 1510, 1511.

28. Ibid., 1511.

29. Ibid., 1519-1522.

30. Ibid., 1542.

31. Willey, The Transition Period of California, 158.


1. The convention of 1851.—The objection to state government, and particularly to the union of northern and southern California under a single government, continued to find expression in California in a persistent effort to bring about a division of the state. An important period in this movement includes the first three years of California's statehood. When it was seen that the efforts to prevent admission were fruitless, definite plans were made to secure division.1 It was thought that a convention to discuss the situation would furnish a proper and effective means for crystallizing sentiment in regard to the movement.2

By the month of August, 1851, plans had taken somewhat definite form. In Los Angeles County all the candidates for the legislature pledged themselves to use their efforts to obtain a division of the state. The same test was to be made in other counties.3 Mr. Agostín Haraszthy, a prominent citizen of Southern California, who, acting for those opposing admission, had written to Senator Foote4 the sentiments of the south, set forth in a communication to the press some arguments of the divisionists. He said that there must be two sets of laws, one for the north and one for the south; the northern members of the legislature could have no interest in laws for the southern counties and vice versa; the distances of travel were so great as to impose an unnecessary burden of time and money upon the people of the south in the transaction of public and private business; different laws for the people and differing salaries for officials of different sections were a necessity; the south was an agricultural section, where the people were unable to pay the taxes necessary for supporting the extensive state system of government; and unless division should take place, the people of southern California would be impoverished and driven away, and, as a result, little but the land would be left in the south.5 These arguments, it is seen, are essentially the same as those which had been put forth in the constitutional convention and in the memorial to Congress.

That injustice was really being done to the southern part of the state seemed to be widely recognized at the time, both north and south.6 It was known that many persons had left southern California for Mexico to get away from what they believed to be the oppressions of the state government in the matter of taxation.7 There was a widespread feeling that in the enactment of laws, the wishes of the people in the south were not consulted and their interests seldom cared for. The northern part of the state admitted that the southern section was the most sparsely represented, and, in proportion to their means, the most heavily taxed portion of the state, while in the disposition of the general officers, neither party deemed the south worth conciliating even by a nomination. In short, the people of southern California were treated as step-children and they murmured.8 They did not feel that it was possible for their section to have a representation that would place them on a fair footing with respect to the mining portions of the state.9 To feel that they, long resident in the state, were being heavily taxed and regarded with little consideration, while the mining interests were courted and caressed,10 was not pleasant to the native Californians. Their objection to statehood came naturally out of their feeling that they were treated more like a conquered province than as a free and independent state,11 and the opinion that division was the only remedy for the ills suffered became quite general.12

The feelings of the people of the south found expression in action. The Daily Alta California, which had opposed every move to secure division of the state, in its issue of August 9, 1851, admitted that the movement to divide the state had gathered force, and published the plans being made for a convention to meet at Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, or Monterey to discuss the proposal.13 Owing to the extent of territory, it was difficult to secure concerted action in regard to the time and place of holding a convention. The first proposal was to hold the gathering at Monterey on the 15th of September, and arrangements were made for the meeting.14 Then a committee of citizens of San Diego held a meeting, August 30, in which Santa Barbara was suggested as the place for holding the convention, and the third Monday of October named as the date.15

The meeting at San Diego, in addition to urging the wisdom of a convention, gave to the public, in the form of resolutions, reasons for dividing the state. It was stated that

...the great extent of the territory of the State, spreading itself over so many degrees of latitude along our sea coast, producing by the simple laws of nature such a vast difference of climate, . . . necessarily producing as great a diversity of industrial pursuits, and these differences being augmented by the natural formation and deposits of the Northern and Southern divisions of the country, have created and will ever create an utter impossibility for any Legislature of the State, however wise and patriotic, to enact laws adapted to the wants and necessities of a people, so widely differing in their circumstances and pursuits.

Besides this, it was urged that there were differences in means of transportation of the north and the south, the north having the advantage in its splendid streams of water, which reduce the cost of transportation; the means of transportation in the south were expensive, so that the agricultural products brought the people a bare subsistence. Because of these differences, it was argued that "any revenue law which levies the same per cent upon the dollar must fall heavier upon the lower than upon the upper country. This being the case, while the latter may sustain themselves under the burden of heavy taxation, the former will be oppressed and in the end absolutely impoverished."16 In order to relieve themselves of the burden, the citizens had called the meeting to take into consideration the means of changing the civil status of the south.

In Los Angeles a public meeting, presided over by the mayor, was held on September 12 to urge division and make plans for a convention. The resolutions adopted begin:

Whereas, Experience has demonstrated that the political connection, which exists between the North and the South of California is beneficial to neither and prejudicial to both, therefore,

Resolved, That we, the citizens of Los Angeles County, will use every effort to produce a separation of the Southern portion of the State from the Northern, and the establishment of a separate and distinct Government.

The reasons given for a separation are similar to those given in the San Diego resolutions. The convention was invited to meet in Los Angeles because Santa Barbara had no public press.17

An attempt was made to hold the convention at Monterey as at first proposed. Owing to the misunderstanding about time and place, when it met in October there was not a full representation, but the delegates who were present issued an address in favor of division and stated their reasons for their position.18 Their address was dated October 8. It declared that in the beginning of the agitation for a state government, it had been feared that an attempt to form a constitution for so large a state would result in confusion, and that the laboring classes and property holders not situated in the gold districts would have to bear the larger portion of the cost of government; such had been the result; laws had been unjust and oppressive to a portion of the state; laws passed by the legislature had not been lawfully promulgated; disparity in taxation existed and as long as the state remained so large, the government would be oppressive to a portion of the people.19

It was finally agreed in the south that a convention should assemble at Santa Barbara on the third Monday of October, and to it delegates were quite generally elected.20 All the southern counties were represented except Santa Clara and Santa Cruz. Three of the delegates elected from Monterey did not go, fearing there would be no quorum present because of the misunderstanding about the place of meeting. The delegates met at the appointed place and opened the convention on October 20, remaining in session four days.21 The delegates present were as follows: From San Diego, W. C. Ferrell, Cave J. Couts, Agostín Haraszthy, G. P. Tibbets, P. C. Carrillo, Joaquin Ortega, T. W. Sutherland, and Antonio María Ortega; from Los Angeles, B. D. Wilson, J. L. Brent, John A. Lewis, Ignacio del Valle, A. F. Coronel, I. S. K. Ogier, Leonce Hoover, Francisco O'Campo, José Antonio Carrillo, Hugo Reid, Thomas Sánchez, and Jefferson Hunt; from Santa Barbara, Henry Carnes, Joaquin Carrillo, A. M. de la Guerra, C. R. V. Lee, Anastasia Carrillo, Samuel Barney, Estévan Ardisson, V. W. Hearn, Juan Camarillo, and Octaviana Gutiérrez; from Monterey, Frederick Russell.22 These names are given to show the composition of the convention. They speak for themselves. Fifteen clearly show their Spanish origin. Two others at least had Mexican wives.

The sessions of the convention were taken up with the discussion of what the people of the southern part of the state desired, and the formulation of their reasons therefor. The resolutions reported from the committee pointed to the necessities which gave a government to the state, but charged that the government erected and giving security and happiness to one section of the state had been obtained through the sacrifices of the other section, and that while the favored section, under the government provided, increased in all the elements which constitute the greatness of a state, the other gathered bitter experiences. They urged the dissolution of a political union which was antagonistic to the various interests which society had built up and which was "in contradiction to the eternal ordinances of nature, who herself had marked with an unerring hand the natural bounds between the great gold regions of the northern and internal sections of the state and the rich and agricultural valleys of the south." It was said that the results of experience had demonstrated that no uniform system of civil, criminal, or revenue laws could be provided whereby the wants and requirements of the entire state could be satisfied; and a desire was expressed for the "formation of a territorial government in the southern counties of California under the paternal guardianship of the General Government."23

Upon the necessity for a division of the state to insure justice to the southern portion, the convention was unanimous. The only matter upon which there was serious division was that of exact boundaries. After discussions and divisions which nearly broke up the convention, it was agreed to recommend to the legislature that in designating a boundary for the proposed southern territory, the line should run from a point not farther north than the north-western boundary line of Santa Clara county, nor further south than he northern boundary of Monterey county, east to the main coast range of mountains, thence along said range of mountains, to a point due west of the northernmost point of the great Tulare Lake, thence due east to the point of said Lake, thence northeast to the eastern boundary line of the present State of California, thence down said boundary line, in a southeast direction to the boundary between Mexico and the United States ,thence along said boundary line to the Pacific Ocean, thence following up the coast to the place of beginning, including the adjacent Islands on the coast—and that only such agricultural and grazing counties as are identified with us in interest, be included in said boundaries.24

The general unanimity of the convention, and the frank, full statement in the resolutions of the conditions which were regarded as existing, made the people in the northern part of the state recognize the movement to divide the state as an important one. It was seen that questions had been presented that must be met by the legislature; and it was anticipated that they would be among the most important to come before that body at its next session.25

2. Misunderstanding of the California situation in the East.—After the admission of California and the beginning of agitation for a division of the state, there was some discussion in eastern papers as to the significance of the movement. Rumors from the East in September, 1851, indicated that agitation was rife in certain quarters for securing for slavery more territory, such as Cuba and certain provinces of Mexico, together with a part of California, which was to be divided for that purpose.26 In parts of the East, this agitation and the California division movement were treated as parts of the same problem. In discussing General Morehead's expedition into Mexico, the New York Courier and Enquirer claimed that a portion of the people of the Pacific Coast were agitating division for the purpose of erecting another state in which slavery should be permitted, and that there was a plan to induce a revolt in the province of Sonora or in Lower California, with the purpose of ultimately attaching this to the southern portion of California in order to form a new slave state on the Pacific Coast.27 But on the Pacific Coast it was asserted by the anti-divisionists that General Morehead's expedition had nothing to do with the division of California. More than this, the persons who favored state division were believed to look with disfavor on the acquisition of Lower California. And in any case, Lower California was known to be unsuited to slave labor.28 It was recognized, it is true, by many on the Pacific Coast, that to divide California might open up the discussion of the slavery question.29 But in California, in the various meetings and conventions of the year 1851, there was an entire absence of reference to the slavery matter.

3. The question in the legislature of 1852.—In the years 1852 and 1853, the movement for state division found voice in the state legislature. Here it became a potent factor in the attempts to provide for the calling of a constitutional convention for the purpose of revising the entire constitution of the state, it having been stated during the agitation of the previous year, by members of the legal profession, that a general convention of the people of the whole state would be necessary before separation could take place. It was suggested that at such a convention boundaries could be established, and attention given to other questions more or less connected with the division of the state.30

Governor McDougall, an Ohio man living at Sacramento, in his message to the legislature at the beginning of the session of 1852, called attention to the unsatisfactory condition of relations that existed between the northern and southern counties. Among other things, he said:

A subject which has assumed a degree of importance not to be overlooked, by the Executive and Legislative branches of the State Government, is that arising from the operation of our system of taxation, in the alleged inequality with which it operates upon the different sections of the State. It is declared by citizens of the Southern counties, which are essentially agricultural and grazing, that under the present State organization and laws, they are overburdened with taxation for the support of the State Government, from which they derive little benefit, while the Northern mining counties, more favored in this respect, bear but a small proportion of the burdens of taxation. They say, also, that while the taxes they pay are double those paid by the mining counties, their representation in the Legislature is only one-third as numerous. From an examination of the taxes assessed upon real and personal property, and of those returned as delinquent, which will be seen by reference to the Report of the Comptroller of State, the six Southern and grazing counties, with a population of 6,367 souls, as taken from the census returns, have paid into the treasury for the fiscal year ending the first of July last, the sum of $41,705.26, while the twelve mining counties, with a population of 119,917, have paid $21,253.66. The latter have a representation in the Legislature of forty-four, while the former have but twelve. The amount of capitation tax assessed in the twelve mining counties is $51,495.00, and the amount returned as delinquent $47,915.00, while the amount assessed in the grazing counties is $7,205.00, and the amount delinquent $3,291.50, showing that the southern counties with a population of 6,367, pay a capitation tax of $333.50 more than the twelve mining counties, which have a population of 119,917. It will be seen, also, by a reference to the same report, that the entire agricultural counties, with a population of 79,778, have paid into the Treasury during the last fiscal year $246,247.71, while the mining counties with a population, as before stated, of 119,917, pay only $21,253.66.31

The governor pointed out that the statement in the constitution that "all laws of a general nature shall have a uniform operation," and that "taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the state," were true only in a legal sense, for the reason that the southern counties, which were mostly covered by grants and in the possession of individuals, paid a heavy tax upon every acre of land, which at best yielded but a moderate dividend on the valuation, while the mining counties, exceedingly prolific in the returns they made to their occupants, being almost entirely the property of the Federal Government, paid comparatively nothing into the state treasury. The results of this situation, he declared, were to force many citizens of the southern counties to alienate portions of their land and to sacrifice portions of their stock to meet what they considered an unjust burden. The worst thing of all was that the cords of amity between the sections were being broken. The constitution, he pointed out, prevented the legislature from remedying the evil. For this reason he recommended the calling of a convention to revise the constitution, at which time all inconveniences, of whatever nature, arising from the state charter, might be discussed, understood, and as far as possible obviated.32

On February 3, a joint resolution was introduced in the Assembly by Mr. Graham from Solano County providing for the calling of a convention to revise the constitution.33 It was referred to a special committee, which reported on February 11, Mr. Crabb of Stockton presenting the report for the majority. This report reviewed the history of the state since the territory came into possession of the United States, reiterated some of the facts of the governor's message, and, viewing the whole situation presented, approved heartily the complaints which came from the south. It was recommended that a convention be called "either to greatly reduce the limits of the state" or to give the legislature power of special legislation; the latter being somewhat equivocal and dangerous the former might be adopted as a dernier ressort.34 The minority report from the committee, while seeking to explain some of the things of which the south complained, recognized that the people of the southern part of the state believed that the nature of the government caused the troubles alleged.35

The question of the constitutional convention and state division were discussed outside the legislature. The Daily Alta California was bitter in its denunciations of the whole plan. It charged that such matters as were proposed were begun by slavery propagandists, and were seconded by less influential men and miserable, speculating politicians who acted with them, and whose purpose from the beginning was to divide the state and secure a portion for slavery.36 The assertion was made that the assembling of a convention to change the constitution would be the signal for opening upon the soil of California that hateful and baneful discussion of slavery that had so nearly severed the Union, and it was charged that the impracticable and deceitful scheme for the division of the state was mainly urged on by persons known to favor the establishment of slavery upon this coast.37

This charge was repudiated by the press of the south. The Los Angeles Star of February 7 said:

We believe our representatives in the Legislature are fully instructed as to the wishes of their constituents. Any other than a territorial government for the South would not be asked for nor desired, and if this cannot be obtained at present, we can wait and hope for justice from future Legislature. . . It might have been expected, perhaps, that irrelevant questions would be brought into the discussion, when the Legislature took up the matter, and so we see that Slavery is to be lugged in, undoubtedly with no other view than to stave off Division. The resolutions of the Santa Barbara Convention, express at this time, as they did at the period of their promulgation, the views and feelings of Southern California, and if the Senators and Representatives from the Southern counties are guided by them in their measures to consummate a Division of the State, they will but second the views of their constituents.38

Later this same paper said that the people of the south greatly resented the bringing of the slavery question into the discussion thus keeping the real issues out of their proper place.39

The Assembly on March 2, passed the bill providing for the election of delegates to a constitutional convention by a vote of 51 to 7.40 The bill came up in the Senate several times, but failed of passage in that body.41

4. In the legislature of 1853.—On January 13, 1853, Mr. Myres of Placer County, introduced in the Assembly, a bill entitled "an act recommending to the electors to vote for or against calling a constitutional convention."42 The bill was referred to a special committee, was reported back to the Assembly, and on March 24, passed that body by a vote of 46 to 12.43 In the proceedings and report of the special committee, there is little to indicate a connection of the bill with a purpose to divide the state, except that both measures were unanimously supported by members from the south. The report of the committee, however, pointed out defects in the constitution, and among other things made reference to the dissatisfaction existing in the south due to the disparity of taxation between the two sections.44

In the Senate, where much discussion took place over the proposed measure, the purpose of those advocating a convention is more clearly brought out. On January 26, reports were received from the select committee to whom had been referred so much of the governor's message as referred to changes in the constitution. The majority report, submitted by Mr. Snyder and Mr. Lott, was against the calling of a constitutional convention. This report shows that it was generally understood that an effort to divide the state would be made should a convention be called. Division of the state at some future time was pointed to as a probability by the report, and was even held as desirable, but immediate division was opposed because, it was asserted, that in making a division it would be necessary for the southern part of the state to become a territory, where the population, free from taxation, would have no inducement to diminish their estates, as a consequence of which development would be slow in that section. Besides, the falling of a part of the territory back into pupilage would diminish the coast in the estimation of the world.45

The first minority report, in discussing the disparity of taxation complained of, pointed out that the same inequality existed between the agricultural and the mining counties throughout the state, and that southern California did not suffer more than the other agricultural regions. Figures were given showing that eight mining counties (Butte, Calaveras, Klamath, Placer, Shasta, Tuolumne, Trinity, and Yuba), with a population of 86,374 persons, paid taxes which amounted to $1.00 per head for each inhabitant, and that fifteen agricultural counties (Colusi, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Marin, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Sonoma, Sutter, and Santa Cruz), with a population of 83,329 persons, paid taxes which amounted to $2.64 per head. The agricultural counties mentioned, with a smaller population than the mining counties mentioned, paid $1.65 more for each person than the mining counties. This was admitted by this section of the committee report to be unjust. But, at the same time, the report opposed a convention or state division, believing there were other remedies for the evils mentioned.46 Both this report and that of the majority were laid upon the table.47

A second minority report was presented by another section of the committee. About this report and the bill submitted with it, providing for a constitutional convention, the discussion of the Senate centered. The report was lengthy. It went into the history of the state and its constitution. Emphasis was put upon the inability of one state government to operate satisfactorily over so large an area as was included in California. Attention was called to the unjust operation of the revenue laws, the result of which was that a disproportionate share of the burden of the state government was borne by the commercial, agricultural, and grazing counties, while the mining counties enjoyed the controlling representation in the halls of the legislature. The report said:

Three revenue laws have been respectively passed at the three past sessions of the Legislature, and the result has proved that it is utterly impossible to prescribe any mode and description of taxation that will be practically "equal and uniform throughout the State." . . . In fact, the revenue laws are as good, as just, as effective, as can be made under the existing constitution; and no relief can be looked for until the State is divided, and the mining counties and the agricultural counties are separated and placed under different governments.

As an additional reason for division, the report held that a larger representation in Congress from the Pacific Coast was a practical necessity. Moreover, since in 1841 Congress had passed a law donating to every state of the Union five hundred thousand acres of the public lands, if so much was embraced within its borders, division would entitle the territory to more land. It was even suggested that three states were desirable.

It had been asserted that difficulties might arise over the slavery question. The report, on this point, took an emphatic position. It read:

The friends and advocates of a convention are not now, and will not be at any time hereafter, in favor of engrafting any new Constitution with a slavery clause. They are composed alike of northern, western, and southern men—men from every state in the Union, and all are opposed to the agitation and discussion of this element of dissension and discord, and are resolved to leave it out of the controversy altogether, despite the efforts of some of their opponents to foist it upon them. . . . The first voice for a division of the State came from the native Californians, and the first public meeting in its favor was held in the County of Los Angeles. . . . When the three [or two] new States, present their Republican Constitutions to Congress and demand admission into the Union who can believe that they will not be promptly admitted? Did not the compromise measures of 1850 finally and forever set at rest the subject of slavery? . . . Let it be remembered that the friends of a convention disclaim all sectional feeling, and will not at any stage of the measure advocate or oppose, or in anywise discuss the subject of slavery.48

Public opinion, as indicated by the newspapers, seemed to be divided on the subject before the legislature. The Daily Alta California, which the preceding year had bitterly fought any suggestion of division, charging that the advocates were actuated by a desire to make slave territory in California, now admitted that there were good reasons for dividing the state, but insinuated that there were those who had sinister purposes, and said that until all was open the paper would make the most of the opposition to slavery it knew to exist in the minds of many.49 The Stockton Journal of February 15 charged that a scheme had been devised to elect to the legislature men from the southern states or with southern proclivities and implied that there were men working evil designs.50 But the Sacramento Union put these charges in their true light. The issue of February 2 said: "A division of the state into two or more states is a political necessity which will be recognized by all parties sooner or later.51 In a subsequent issue this paper said that it looked upon the effusions of those who professed to believe that there was any real danger of the introduction of slavery into any part of the state, as the production of a fevered fancy—of an imagination so diseased upon the subject of slavery as to be unable to view the subject through any other than a distorted medium.52 The religious press of the state was said to be generally opposed to division, fearing the possible introduction of slavery.53

The discussion of the bill in the legislature gathered largely about constitutional questions and questions that had to do with alleged defects in that instrument. It was charged during the discussion that the conventionists had motives they dared not divulge,54 but this was denied.55 The slavery question did not come to the fore in the discussion. The day before the final vote on the convention question, Mr. Hubbs sought to get a measure before the Senate providing for a vote of the people directly upon the question of dividing California into three states, the south to be called "El Dorado," the middle "California," and the northern "Sacramento." This proposal was rejected without much discussion. On April 6 the vote on the constitutional convention bill showed a vote of 16 ayes to 10 noes, and the bill was lost, through lacking the necessary two-thirds majority.56

An analysis of the votes on the constitutional question in the two legislatures here discussed brings out the following facts: In 1852 all the votes in the Senate and the Assembly of members from the southern counties were cast in favor of a convention. Of the representatives from the northern counties who voted on the question in the Senate, seven voted for and eleven against a convention, and in the Assembly, forty voted for and seven against. The vote of 1853 shows a similar result. The southern representatives were all in favor of a convention; the northern delegates were divided. The northern delegates in the Senate cast fifteen votes for and nine against a convention, and in the Assembly thirty-one for and twelve against.

Comparing the votes of the mining and agricultural counties, using the classification made in the committee report at the time, it is seen that in 1853, in the Senate, the representatives of the mining counties cast two votes for and four against a convention, while those from the agricultural counties cast nine for and two against. Representatives of the mining counties in the Assembly divided the vote, giving seven for and ten against the plan for a convention, while the representatives from the agricultural counties voted twenty-three for and one against the proposal.57 In other words, the demand for a convention came from the agricultural counties, both northern and southern.


1. Los Angeles Star, October, 1851, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 1.

2. Vallejo Docs., 35:262.

3. Los Angeles Star, August 23, 1851, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 6.

4. See above, p. 10.

5. San Francisco Daily Herald, August 16, 1851.

6. Daily Alta California, August 2, 1851.

7. Ibid., August 19, 1851; Los Angeles Star, September 23, 1851, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 2.

8. San Francisco Daily Herald, August 8, 1851.

9. Los Angeles Star, September 23, 1851, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 1, 2.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid., August 23, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 6.

12. Ibid., August 2; Daily Alta California, September 25, 1851; San Francisco Daily Herald, August 8, 1851; San Diego Herald, September 4, 1851, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 2.

13. Daily Alta California, August 9, 1851.

14. Daily Alta California, September 25, 1851.

15. Ibid., September 12, 1851. San Francisco Daily Herald, September 11, 1851.

16. San Francisco Daily Herald, September 11, 1851; Daily Alta California, September 12, 1851.

17. Los Angeles Star, September 13, 1851, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 7.

18. San Francisco Daily Herald, September 17 and October 12, 1851.

19. San Francisco Daily Herald, October 12, 1851.

20. Daily Alta California, October 13, 1851.

21. San Francisco Daily Herald, October 26 and 28, 1851.

22. Los Angeles Star, November 1, 1851, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 29.

23. San Francisco Daily Herald, October 26 and 28, 1851.

24 .San Francisco Daily Herald, October 26 and 28, 1851; Los Angeles Star, November 1, 1851, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 29.

25. Daily Alta California, October 29, 1851.

26. Daily Alta California, September 2, 1851.

27. Ibid., November 25, 1851; San Francisco Daily Herald, September 16, 1851.

28. Los Angeles Star, in San Francisco Herald, September 25, 1851.

29. Los Angeles Star, September 23, 1851, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 11 and 12.

30. San Francisco Daily Herald, October 28, 1851.

31. Journal of the Senate, 1852, 12, 13.

32. Ibid.

33. Journal of the Assembly, 1852, 134.

34. Ibid., 166, 167, 168.

35. Journal of the Assembly, 1852, 170-174.

36. Daily Alta California, February 7 and 20, 1852.

37. Ibid., February 19, 1852.

38. Los Angeles Star, February 7, 1852, in Daily Alta California, February 29.

39. Los Angeles Star, February 14, 1852.

40. Journal of the Assembly, 1852, 258.

41. Journal of the Senate, 1852, 352.

42. Journal of the Assembly, 1852, 61.

43. Ibid., 317.

44. Journal of the Assembly, 1853, Document 26, Appendix, p. 5.

45. Journal of the Senate, 1853, Appendix, Document 16, pp. 1-9.

46. Journal of the Senate, 1853, Appendix, Document 16, pp. 9-16.

47. Journal of the Senate, 1853, 77.

48. Journal of the Senate, 1853, Appendix, Document 16, pp. 26-29.

49. Daily Alta California, January 28, May 27, 1853.

50. Daily Alta California, February 18, 1853.

51. Sacramento Union, February 2, 1853.

52. Sacramento Union, May 14, 1853.

53. Ibid., May 4, 1853.

54. Efforts were made while the matter was under discussion to impugn the sincerity of the advocates of the measure by claiming that it was an effort to resuscitate the Whig party. It was claimed that a secret circular was sent by the Whig party leaders to their partisan papers of the state, in which it was suggested that changes be made in the state, that a convention be called, and the Whig party infused with new life through a movement for a convention, but all this to be done without disclosing the source from which the idea came. The authenticity of the alleged "Secret Circular" was later repudiated by the Whigs in the legislature, in a signed statement, in which they admitted sending out a circular letter, but denied that the one alleged was the one prepared by them. (Sacramento Union, May 20, 26, 1853.) Bancroft made the alleged purpose of the Whigs to resuscitate their party the explanation largely of the movement in this legislature for a convention. This seems a nunreasonable contention, considering all the facts. It is interesting, however, to note that so far as the writer has been able to ascertain the party allegiance of members in this legislature the record shows that every Whig member who voted, voted for the convention.

55. Sacramento Union, February 28, 1853.

56. Journal of the Senate, 1853, 258, 295, 297, 301, 305.

57. Journal of the Assembly, 1852, 258; Journal of the Senate, 1853, 352; Journal of the Assembly, 1853, 317; Journal of the Senate, 1853, 305; also Journals of both houses for first two weeks of session for lists of members and the counties they represent.


In the year 1854 state division did not become a vital issue in any form in the state legislature. But the subject continued to be agitated in the press of southern California,1 and had an interest in other quarters. It will be remembered that during this year, and for a number of succeeding years, there was a strenuous conflict within the Democratic party in California between Senator William M. Gwin and his followers on one hand and David C. Broderick and his followers on the other. By some in the East this struggle for leadership and the battle of diverse elements in a party were interpreted as a conflict of slavery and anti-slavery influences. Some, indeed, hoped this was the case, and that California might be divided and slavery introduced into a portion of it. It was even asserted that "southern California is peculiarly propitious to negro labor, and its inhabitants are very anxious that slaveholding should be introduced among them."2 But this assertion was boldly denied in California by a northern paper, and the record of the state on the slavery question pointed out.3 Surprise was expressed by the Sacramento Union at the pertinacity with which the charge that there was a party in the state advocating a division of the state with the view of introducing slavery into southern California was iterated and reiterated in the state and out of it.4 The editor of the same paper declared that he had never "met a half dozen men known to be in favor of introducing slavery into any portion of the state," and asserted that if the proposal were submitted to a direct vote he was confident that three-fourths of the immigrants in California from slave states would vote against it.5

The state division question came squarely before the legislature of 1855. On February 27 Jefferson Hunt, of San Bernardino, introduced in the Assembly a bill for creating a new state out of California.6 This new state was to be called "Columbia," and was to embrace the territory included in the counties of Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, San Joaquin, Calaveras, Amador, Tuolumne, Stanislaus, Mariposa, Tulare, Monterey, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and San Diego, together with the islands on the coast adjoining the counties included.7 The committee to whom the bill was referred reported on April 4, introducing as a substitute for the original bill an act to create three states out of the state of California.8 The first section of this act provided for enlarging the boundaries of California by making its eastern boundary a line running from the intersection of the forty-second degree of latitude with the one hundred and nineteenth of longitude, to the point where the Colorado river first touches California, and thence down this river to where Mexico joins California. Other sections provided for the division of the territory included within the enlarged bounds into a southern, a central, and a northern state, to be known respectively as "Colorado," "California," and "Shasta."9

The full discussion of the proposed division, which occurred on April 17, indicated the general sentiment of the legislature towards the proposal, and the arguments made on the occasion are of interest. Douglas, of San Joaquin County, contended that the state was too extensive for one government; the supreme court was too inaccessible because of the distance from the extremities of the state; the representation in Congress was too small for so large a territory. Ferrell, of San Diego, argued for the bill as an act of justice to the southern part of the state; he thought the south suffered because of its distance from the capital; the state was too large with its 1,000 miles of sea coast and 188,000 square miles of territory. It was contended by Hunt, of San Bernardino, that the God of nature and of the constitution had forbidden that the southern portion of the state should be trampled under foot; he knew the situation of the people because of his long residence in the state; their property was exhausted day by day by the burdens of taxation placed upon them. Buffum, of San Francisco, argued along the same lines. The people of the south had a right to feel aggrieved at the north; bills had been introduced in the legislature inapplicable to both the north and the south; the creator had made the northern and southern portions of the state dissimilar in physical and geographical character. On the other hand, it was thought by Burke, of Mariposa County, that the portion to be set off as the state of California would not contain inhabitants sufficient to enable it to become a state, and for that reason he thought the bill premature and fraught with danger to the peace of society.

That there was any thought of their proposals and the slavery question becoming connected was disclaimed by Douglas and Hunt. Hunt declared that the negro question had not been so much as mooted in southern California for three years, and that two-thirds of the people were opposed to slavery. Flournoy, in reply to insinuations that slavery might become involved in the plan of division, said that Mariposa county was in favor of division, but that in the fight on the matter he had never heard the word "slavery," and that to put it in this discussion was unfair. He said that although he was a southern man, he would put a clause in the constitution against the introduction of slavery in the southern state. He hoped that the house would not be influenced by the introduction of the slavery question.10

In the debate, little direct opposition to the proposal was shown, but there were grave differences of opinion as to its constitutionality. On motion of Mr. Douglas, the bill was recommitted to the select committee of nine members, with instructions to report an address to the people of California on the subject.11 In the address the committee incorporated the proposed act, and gave reasons for the proposal made. They set forth the capacities and resources of the several portions of the state, the impracticability of uniform legislation, the difficulty of distributing equal justice, the obstacles to the proper exercise of the executive functions, the impediments to harmonious action by the people, and the necessity of a larger representation in Congress from this coast in order to obtain political rights from the general government.12 It was stated in the address that but one serious objection to the division had been urged, namely the revival in the Congress of the United States of the question of slavery in states and territories. To this objection it was answered that the people of the state had settled for themselves the question of slavery. The only part where slavery could exist if permitted was in the central portion, but here popular sentiment had settled the question forever.13 The Daily Alta California, which had previously opposed the division of the state, now simply advised waiting. As to slavery, it said the movement for division was now divested of sectional character, and that it was not probable that, in present light, anyone could suppose slavery would come into California.14

The legislative session of 1855 came to an end before the subject got fairly before the Senate. It was expected that it would get through both houses the next year, but the political situation in 1856, with the Democratic party divided, the Know Nothings in power, the contest for the senatorship, and other pressing political issues, left little place for the question of state division. On February 26, Cosby, of Trinity and Klamath Counties introduced in the Senate a bill to create three states out of the state of California. This was read a first and second time, and referred to the Judiciary Committee.15 The Judiciary Committee, having considered the bill, on March 22 recommended its passage, but it seems not to have received further favorable consideration.16

The legislature of 1857 passed a bill providing for the submission to the people of the question of calling a constitutional convention to revise the entire constitution. The reasons urged for the necessity of making changes in the constitution were in part the same as those urged for division. Matters connected with the judiciary and taxation were prominent among them. Had there been a convention, it seems very likely that the state division matter would have come up, and perhaps some urged the convention for this reason. The vote on the question of a convention was very close, but resulted in the defeat of the measure.17


1. San Diego Herald, June 10, 1854, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 43.

2. Richmond Enquirer, quoted by Daily Statesman, November 23, 1854.

3. Daily Statesman, November 23, 1854.

4. Sacramento Union, November 24, 1854.

5. Ibid., November 24, 1854.

6. Journal of Assembly, 1855, 359.

7. Guinn, How California Escaped Division, Historical Society of Southern California, Annual Publications, 1905, 226.

8. Journal of the Assembly, 1855, 613.

9. Hayes' Constitutional Law, 47.

10. Sacramento Union, April 18, 1855.

11. Journal of the Assembly, 1855, 693; Sacramento Union, April 18, 1855.

12. Hayes' Constitutional Law. 47.

13. Ibid.

14. Daily Alta California, April 19, 1855.

15. Journal of the Senate, 1856, 390.

16. Ibid., 571.

17. Journal of the Senate, 1857, 36, 37, 520; Hayes' Constitutional Law, 54.


1. Proposed segregation of the southern counties.—Resolutions were introduced in the legislature of 1858, on April 13, by Andrés Pico, Senator from the district embracing Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties, which are of importance as being the prelude to the action taken by the legislature the next year. These resolutions were in effect a request to the legislature to pass an act setting off as a territory the part of California lying south of parallel 35 degrees and 45 minutes. The reasons given for the request were the difference in climate, soil, and productions of the south and the north, the dissimilarity of the people in language, manners, customs, and interests, and the separateness of the two sections made by geographical conditions.1 The resolutions were withdrawn by the friends of the measure because it was thought that their discussion would retard the business of the session, which was near its close.2

It was no surprise when, on February 5, 1859, Don Andrés Pico introduced resolutions in the Assembly looking toward action for the segregation of the southern part of the state from the northern part and the erecting of the segregated portion into a territory.3 The preamble to the resolutions stated reasons for the proposed division. The boundaries of the state, it was urged, enclosed an area too large and diversified for one state. Because uniform legislation was unjust and ruinous to the south, it was demanded that the untoward union be dissolved. The district which it was proposed to leave out of California and organize as the Territory of Colorado, with the consent of the Congress of the United States, was all that part of the state comprised in the counties of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Bernardino, including the islands lying opposite to the adjacent coast. Provision was made for adjustment with California, and the Congress of the United States was asked to give immediate organization.4

At the request of Mr. Pico this matter was referred to a special committee,5 which submitted its reports on March 2. The majority report said:

They believe that there exist good and valid reasons why the inhabitants of the said territory should, or may, desire such separation, and, also, that it is expedient that the State should consent thereto, under the conditions, restrictions, and qualifications, provided in the accompanying bill, which they have instructed their Chairman to introduce in lieu of, and as a substitute for, the aforesaid resolutions. But while they fully endorse the expediency of the measure, they wish to leave the question of its constitutionality an open one, without expressing an opinion on the subject.6

A minority of the committee submitted a report in which it was held that the proposed separation could not take place except by the prescribed mode of amending the constitution, or by the action of a constitutional convention, in both of which cases the people of all the state would have to pass upon the changes proposed. By this report, the indefinite postponement of the whole matter was recommended.7

The proposed Act, which was submitted with the report of the majority of the special committee, described the desired boundaries of the new territory of Colorado as

all of that part, or portion of the present territory of this State [California], lying all south of a line drawn eastward from the west boundary of the State along the sixth standard of parallel south of the Mount Diablo meridian, east to the summit of the Coast Range; thence southerly, following said summit to the seventh standard parallel; thence due east, on said standard, parallel to its intersection with the northwest boundary of Los Angeles county; thence northeast along said boundary, to the eastern boundary of the State, including the counties of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Bernardino, and a part of Buena Vista.

The Act directed the governor in his proclamation for the next general election to instruct the voters in the territory proposed to be segregated to vote for or against such segregation, and provided that if two-thirds of the voters residing therein and voting thereon should vote for the proposed changes, the division should take place, subject to the consent of Congress. Provisions were made for adjustments with California should the proposed division carry.8

Evidence as to the motives of those favoring this measure is not abundant, except as stated by the committee report of March 2. But it will be seen that they are the reasons which had consistently and repeatedly been given; and it does not seem necessary to look for others. A noted writer, however, makes the assertion that, "The Lecomptonites, taking advantage of the fact that the native Californians had always been opposed to being taxed for the support of a state government, that they complained of the inequality of taxes as between agriculturists and miners, and maintained their right to carry slaves into any territory, had fixed upon this means of consummating their purpose of bringing slave property to the Pacific Coast."9 A newspaper of the time wrote harsh words about pestilential politicians and political fortune hunters, who had easily imposed upon the weakness of the southern native citizens, whose political habits prior to the establishment of an American state on these shores was decidedly revolutionary.10

On the other hand, it is to be noted that in the discussions in the legislature there was much doubt as to the constitutionality of the measure, though there was no serious difference as to the desirability of the separation, and the south's sincere desire in reference to it.11 It was pointed out at the time that some weight should be given to the ability and character of Mr. Pico as a pledge that no personal or sinister motive was back of the proposal.12 There seemed to be sincere advocacy of the measure in the southern part of the state, where the method being followed was advocated as a proper one for a negotiation between the federal and state governments in looking toward the harmonious accomplishment of a result which the people of the south had so long desired.13 It seems fair to give some consideration to the words of a writer in the Sacramento Union, who, answering charges that had been made, pointed out how long and persistently the inhabitants of the south had sought division on legitimate grounds, and who said, "Why attribute it to ambitious plotting of political fortune hunters? . . . The members from the south in the convention to form a state constitution for California, desired to be left out, but as they were informed that great advantages would result to those counties, they willingly submitted. A ten years experience has convinced them that they were deceived."14 Those interested in division reiterated the contentions that had been made since the constitutional convention, declaring over again that these same reasons were still actuating them, and contending that the present effort was but a part of the continued movement to get justice for the south.15

On March 25, the Assembly by a vote of 33 ayes to 25 noes passed the Act.16 It passed the Senate on April 14, by a vote of 15 ayes to 12 noes,17 and was approved by the governor April 19.18 All of the delegates from southern California, in the territory affected by the proposed segregation, voted for the bill. The legislators from the northern counties divided, in the Senate, eleven voting for and twelve against, and in the Assembly, 27 for and 24 against the Act.19

The election on the above measure took place at the appointed time. The returns from the election showed the following result:


These figures show that the measure carried by a good vote beyond the necessary two-thirds required.20

While the above measure was under consideration in the legislature, a bill was introduced in the Assembly on February 17, entitled "an Act to authorize the citizens of the state of California residing north of the fortieth degree of north latitude to withdraw from the state of California and organize a separate government." The bill was referred to the committee on Colorado territory.21 The committee gave consideration to the bill, and made report, recommending that the matter be referred to the delegations included within the limits of the territory which it was proposed to withdraw, to-wit. Siskiyou, Del Norte, Klamath, Humboldt, Trinity, Shasta, Plumas, and Tehama.22 Nothing further came of it. It was felt at the time that the bill was proposed by northern members to offset or checkmate the demand of the southern delegates for a separate government for their constituents.23 The Sacramento Union considered it a sly satire on the southern movement, which its movers did not expect or desire to become a law24—like a bill later introduced to form a state below Tehachapi called "South Cafeteria."

2 Final events of the decade.—On January 11, 1860, the legislature in joint session elected the governor, Milton S. Latham, a native of Ohio, United States Senator to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator David C. Broderick.25 On January 12 the senator-elect sent a communication to the legislature relative to the six southern counties which had voted in favor of segregation. The message stated that he had, in compliance with the Act authorizing the six southern counties to vote upon the question of separation from the balance of the state, transmitted to the president of the United States a certified copy thereof, a statement of the vote, and also a paper embodying his own views on the question. He then said: "As the people of the state are deeply interested in any action Congress may take in the matter, and as I may soon be required, as a Senator, to urge or oppose, the formation of a new government for these counties, I think it proper to send herewith a copy of the paper referred to."

In the message to the president, Latham reviewed the action taken by the legislature and the results of the election under the legislative Act. He then declared the origin of this Act,

to be found in the dissatisfaction of the mass of people, in the southern counties of this state, with the expenses of a State Government. They are an agricultural people, thinly scattered over a large extent of country. They complain that the taxes upon their land and cattle are ruinous—entirely disproportioned to the taxes collected in the mining regions; that the policy of the State, hitherto, having been to exempt mining claims from taxation, and the mining population being migratory in its character, and hence contributing but little to the State revenue in proportion to their population, they are unjustly burdened; and that there is no remedy, save in a separation from the other portion of the State. In short, that the union of southern and northern California is unnatural.


It is well known that at the time of the formation of our State Constitution, the people of Southern California preferred a territorial to a State form of government. But, yielding their preference, they made commom cause with their brethren of the north, in the adoption of our present constitution though from that time forward they seem to have regretted the step.


The argument presented by Latham favored the division, and contended that the Act of the legislature was valid, though it had never been submitted to the people of the whole state. He held that Article 4, Section 3 of the Federal Constitution contained all the requirements for a division of the state. This being true, if the people in a severed portion preferred to be organized under a territorial government, nothing in the Constitution prevented. The communication of the governor was referred to the committee on Federal Relations.26 On January 14, Rogers, of San Francisco, introduced in the Assembly a concurrent resolution relating to the separation of the southern counties. It instructed the Senators and Representatives of the state and people in Congress to oppose the execution of the Act of segregation.27 This resolution was also referred to the committee on Federal Relations.28


Majority and minority reports were received from the committee on Federal Relations on January 26.29 The majority report asserted its agreement with Governor Latham's contention that "the act of the California legislature is valid," and that the Federal Constitution, which is superior to those of individual states, does not require any action by the people in case of a relinquishment of a part of a territory by a state to the Federal government. The report then took up the resolution introduced by Rogers, which it declared to be a "concurrent resolution of the legislature, brought forward and proposed without any demonstration in its favor on the part of the people,—to compel by instructions the Senators and Representatives of the state and people in Congress, to oppose the execution of their deliberate and solemn act of legislation, incorporated in the statutes of this state." The report continues:


Your committee, convinced of the impropriety of this mode of defeating the objects of a law, and impressed with the conviction that the best interests not only of the inhabitants of the Territory under consideration, but the whole people of California, as well as the entire community of the Pacific coast of the United States, will be promoted by the separation and the organization of a greater number of States along its shores than was contemplated in one thousand eight hundred and forty nine, could but view the adoption of the resolution with unfeigned regret.


The minority report was an argument against the legality and constitutionality of the proposed mode of separation. It contended that the statement in the constitution that, "all political powers are inherent in the people—government is instituted for the protection, security, and benefit of the people," would not be worth a farthing if it could be destroyed by Congress in the manner proposed, whenever a legislature could be found complaisant enough to sanction such a proceeding. It was contended, further, that whenever a division should be made, it would have to be done in the same way as the constitution was adopted—by all concerned—and in a manner that gives them a voice in a way a mere enactment does not. There is also expressed the fear that in the present state of public feeling, growing out of the Kansas trouble, there would be opened another field to be fought over. The minority, therefore, would prevent the separation on the grounds of its illegality and of public policy.30

On March 1 arose the question of approving or rejecting the majority report of the committee on Federal Relations, and it was approved by a vote of 37 ayes to 26 noes.31 Immediately following this action, a bill was introduced to repeal the act providing for a vote on segregation passed by the last legislature,32 but this measure did not come to a vote.

In the Senate, a committee took up the questions involved in the governor's recommendation, and reported favorably a bill providing for the segregation of the southern counties in accordance with their vote.33 But there seems to have been no further action taken. The country was now facing the issues which culminated in the war between the states. Secession and approaching civil conflict left no place for the question of state division, and so the matter rested until after the Civil War and Reconstruction.


1. Journal of the Assembly, 1858, 564, 565.

2. Sacramento Union, February 8, 1859.

3. Ibid., February 5, 1859; Journal of the Assembly, 1859, 230.

4. Los Angeles Star, February 19, 1859, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 58.

5. Journal of the Assembly, 1859, 230.

6. Ibid., 1859, 341, 342.

7. Ibid., 350-352.

8. Statutes of California, 1859, 310, 311.

9. Bancroft, History of California, VII, 254, 255.

10. Sacramento Union, February 5, 1859.

11. Ibid., February 16, March 16, 1859.

12. Southern Vineyard, February 18, 1859, in Hayes' Constitutional Law, 59.

13. Ibid., April 22, 1859.

14. Sacramento Union, February 8, 1859.

15. Los Angeles Star, February 19, 1859.

16. Journal of the Assembly, 1859, 474.

17. Journal of the Senate, 1859, 744.

18. Statutes of California, 1859, 310, 311.

19. Journal of the Senate, 1859, 744; Journal of the Assembly, 1859, 474.

20. Sacramento Union, September 29, 1859.

21. Sacramento Union, February 18, 1859.

22. Hayes' Constitutional Law, 57.

23. Ibid.

24. Sacramento Union, February 18, 1859.

25. Journal of the Assembly, 1860, 118-123.

26. Journal of the Assembly, 1860, 125-132.

27. Ibid., 155.

28. Ibid.

29. Ibid., 228.

30. Journal of the Assembly, 1860, 228-233.

31. Journal of the Assembly, 1860, 412-413.

32. Ibid., 460.

33. Journal of the Senate, 1860, 415.


As has already been intimated, writers on California history quite generally have attributed the movement to divide the state, in the decade under discussion, to the influence of slavery and slavery propagandists, whose purpose from the beginning was to secure a part of California for slavery. Royce, in his California, asserts that William M. Gwin, with other southerners in the constitutional convention, was working a deep-laid scheme to effect a division of California, the purpose being to secure a part of it for the South's institution.1 Mr. J. M. Guinn, on the same point, is quite definite. He says:

The scheme of Gwin and his southern associates was to make the Rocky mountains the eastern boundary. This would create a state with an area of about four hundred thousand square miles. They reasoned that when the admission of the state came before Congress, the southern members would oppose the admission of so large an area under a free state constitution and that ultimately a compromise might be effected. California would be split in two from east to west, the old dividing line, the parallel of 36̊ 30’, would be established and Southern California come into the Union as a slave state.2

Other writers make similar statements as to the purposes of supposed slavery advocates in that convention.3 The writers then carry their assertions concerning the purposes of alleged slavery advocates to the question of state division after admission. Guinn says:

The admission of California into the Union as a free state did not, in the opinion of the ultra pro-slavery faction, preclude the possibility of securing a part of its territory for the "peculiar institution" of the south. The question of state division which had come up in the constitutional convention was again agitated. The advocates of division hoped to cut off from the southern part, territory enough for a new state The ostensible purpose of division was kept concealed. The plea of unjust taxation was made prominent. The native Californians who under Mexican rule paid no taxes on their land were given to understand that they were bearing an undue proportion of the cost of government, while the mining counties, paying less tax, had the greater representation. The native Californians were opposed to slavery, an open advocacy of the real purpose would defeat the division scheme.4

Tuthill, in his History of California, makes the statement: "As early as 1852, the Chivalry had unsuccessfully attempted a convention with the secret purpose of dividing the State and erecting the southern half into Slave Territory."5 A recent article says, "The Gwin party hoped to divide California into two states and hand the southern over to slavery";6 while another writer has asserted that "From the adoption of the state constitution in 1849 to 1861, the southern wing of that party [the Democratic] did everything in their power to divide the State, their purpose being to make a Slave State out of the southern portion of it."7

A study of the history of the state division movement, however, does not indicate that the pro-slavery motive had the preponderating influence in the movement which these writers have attributed to it. In fact, it shows that there is small basis for their assertions. In the first place, their statements concerning the purpose of slavery advocates in the constitutional convention are incorrect. A recent writer, by an analysis of the votes taken in the constitutional convention on the crucial question of the eastern boundary, has shown conclusively the baselessness of the repeated assertions concerning an alignment of northern and southern men, and of slavery and anti-slavery forces, with reference to the boundary question, and has demonstrated that the repeated charges that southerners were manipulating and working in that convention to secure conditions for the further extension of slavery cannot be deduced from a study of the debates and votes of the convention.8 But there was a purpose, on the part of some in that convention, to secure division. This, however, has been shown to have had its cause in the unalloyed desire of the native Californians to be placed under a territorial form of government, in order that they might avoid being united with a people they did not understand, and whose domination they feared.9

As to the movement carried on through the decade to divide the state, it must be said that the writers referred to, in assigning causes for it, seem to have had their views determined too much by reasoning from what they supposed was a deep-laid plan of slavery propagandists in the constitutional convention. During the decade of the agitation for division, charges were made that there was back of the movement the purpose to make slave territory out of a part of California. But these were denied, in several instances by the very newspapers which had made them, and beyond inferences, charges, and innuendo, the evidence to support the claim that slavery conspiracy was fundamental in the division movement is scant. To hold, as one writer does,10 that the ostensible purpose was kept concealed through a decade, is to ask much of prejudice and credulity. On the other hand, the history of the movement shows that during the years under discussion the facts of differences of country and people of the northern and southern parts of the state, the feeling that injustice was done to a section and a class, the desire of the native Californians for a separate territorial government, the developing life of the western frontier seeking a larger representation in Congress, and the continued problem of adjustment of a great and diverse population, were factors manifesting themselves in clear and definite form. Now and then slavery discussion was an incident in the movement, but at no time does the slavery propaganda appear as a determining factor. It is truer, on the basis of the evidence to say that slavery discussion was occasionally injected into the movement to divide the state than to say that the division movement grew out of the slavery propaganda.


1. Pp. 261-269.

2. Guinn, J. M. A., History of California, and an Extended History of Its Southern Coast Counties, I, pp. 114.

3. See Fitch, How California Came Into the Union (in pamphlets on California, 26:5); Bancroft, History of California, VI. pp. 283; Hunt, Genesis of California's First Constitution, in Johns Hopkins University Studies, V, 13.

4. Guinn, A History of California, and an Extended History of Its Southern Coast Counties, I, 204.

5. P. 576.

6. Article on "California," Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition.

7. Carr, Pioneer Days in California, 346.

8. Goodwin, "The Eastern Boundary of California in the Constitutional Convention," in The Quarterly, XVI, 254, 255.

9. See above, pp. 104-105.

10. See above, p. 138.