California, the Last Frontier

By Robert Durrenberger; G. Etzel Pearcy et al. | Go to book overview
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1
California as a Distinct Region

Each time I come to California -- and this is the third time -- I am struck more and more by the fact that California is not only one of the greatest states of the Union, but is also, unlike any other state of the Union, a Country as well as a State. One reaches California either over the vast and silent ocean, or else across two lofty mountain ranges and through a wilderness, much of which is likely to remain forever unpeopled, a scorched and arid wilderness, almost as silent as the sea. One feels that one is entering a new land. There is a new dry gleam and a new clear brilliance in the sunlight; there are new wild flowers and new trees. Everything is unlike the Mississippi Valley, or the gently undulating plains that rise from it to the eastern base of the Rocky Mountains. California, moreover, great as is the diversity of hill and valley within it, is all one country, not cut up by nature into different regions, but one in its structure and general character.1

IMMENSITY, diversity, and distinctiveness are threads which run through almost all commentaries on the California scene. The idea of California as a land apart, a country in itself, has persisted for a long time. It began with the mythical golden island of Montalvo early in the sixteenth century, was enhanced through the building of a Spanish empire along the Pacific Coast, and was firmly implanted in the minds of all the world with the discovery of gold

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1
James Bryce, British Ambassador to the United States, at the University of California Commencement Exercises, May 12, 1909.

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