The Fight For Slavery In California: Based on an article by James M. McPherson Robert Wesley Bridger Jr History 141, 71154
Creation Of California With the annexation of Texas in 1845 and the land received from the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the United States grew by a third and Mexico was reduced by more than half. New territories were formed with these additional lands, to include California, and with it the question of slavery. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 transferred California from Mexico to the United States.
Arguments Over Slavery Many Historians feel that the Civil War was very unnecessary. They say that slavery had reached much of its natural limits, that much of what would make slavery profitable could not grow in the newly acquired lands of the south west. It is possible that many of the northern senators pushed the issue due to re-election desires. Both the territories of Utah and New Mexico legalized slavery. California had southern senators and representatives that were pro slavery, yet the state itself would never formally see it.
Growth And Statehood October of 1849, with the great migration to California for the Gold Rush, California soon found itself as populated as a few of the Eastern states, so they drew a constitution and petitioned Congress for admission. Many southerners felt that the problem was that the new California constitution banned slavery. The South began to fear the admission of another free state, and that it would cause an off balance in power. Senator Henry Clay came up with a compromising proposal that would temporarily settle the dispute between free and slave states.
Politics In Early California A group known as the “Chivalry” became the political leaders of early California. They were mostly Southern born and pro slavery. Even though California was a free state, its Chivalry politicians always voted pro slavery in issues arising in congress. In 1859, the state legislature was considering a bill to split the state in two (north and south), with the idea of the south becoming a new slave state. Despite a lot of support, the bill would die, and California would remain one state. The Chivalry had been known to kill off the opposition, and this would later lead to the citizens finding a distrust in them and pushing them out of power. Along with them went much of the desire to legalize slavery.