CALIFORNIA
AND THE UNION
CHAPTER 20

California’s rapid growth underlay its quick transition into statehood. By the end of its first decade as a state, population growth continued to increase at a prodigious 310 percent. By 1860, the state could boast of a population of 380,000. Those residents born outside the state outnumbered the native-born by two to one.

With General Zachary Taylor’s election to the presidency in 1848, the Whig party took over eastern governmental positions. This created a flood of unemployed Democrats, some of whom moved westward. Among them was a New York Irish politico named David Broderick. Once in California, he quickly sought to transfer New York City’s ward system to San Francisco city government.

Another new leader was William M. Gwin of Tennessee, one of California’s first two United States senators. Gwin and Broderick soon developed loyal followings. In an age of political simplicity, these men attained power almost immediately. Settlers were so absorbed in their daily lives—mending leaks in their cabin roofs, lining wells with bricks, and fencing property boundaries—that they showed relatively little interest in politics.

After the ratification of California’s constitution, the first legislature met at San Jose in December 1849, and Peter H. Burnett, a pioneer from Oregon, was sworn in as governor. Burnett, a Democrat, remained in office until January of 1851. He was succeeded by another Democrat, John McDougal. These early governors performed their duties for the most part ably but did not generally demonstrate extraordinary leadership capacities.

Among the first tasks to which the new state’s politicians turned their attention was the organization of new counties. The former military governor, General Bennett Riley, had divided the state into ten districts to be represented at the constitutional convention of 1849. These districts were subdi

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