M.G. VALLEJO, FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES
(Extensions of Remarks - October 19, 1999)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E2136-E2137]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                M.G. VALLEJO, FRIENDS AND ACQUAINTANCES

                                 ______
                                 

                          HON. LORETTA SANCHEZ

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                       Tuesday, October 19, 1999

  Ms. SANCHEZ. Mr. Speaker, I insert the following for the 
Record:***HD***M.G. Vallejo, Friends and Acquaintances

                          (By Galal Kernahan)

       When the Senate and the House of Representatives approved 
     an ``Act for the Admission of California into the Union'' on 
     September 9, 1850, its ``Birth Certificate'' had been 
     reviewed and found in order, whereas, the people of 
     California have presented a constitution and asked admission 
     into the Union, which constitution was submitted to Congress 
     by the President of the United States.
       1999 is American California's Constitutional 
     Sesquicentennial. Forty-eight elected delegates met in 
     Convention in Monterey and finished their work September 12, 
     1849. That work was approved in California-wide voting on 
     December 13, 1849.
       What follows is a glimpse of the human side of how this 
     remarkable bilingual, multicultural state charter came into 
     being. Chief source for the discussions and actions of the 
     Monterey Convention one hundred and fifty years ago is an 
     official 477-page account of what happened. Called ``Browne's 
     Debates,'' it was published in English and in Spanish. It was 
     bound in Washington, D.C., in 1850, in order to be properly 
     presented together with the California Constitution to the 
     U.S. President and appropriate officials.
       The seal of the State of California is more than a little 
     strange. It centers on a seated lady. At her feet a Grizzly 
     bear munches grape clusters. Considering the relative scale 
     of things, that is one huge woman! Grizzlies average 500-600 
     pounds and can top out at almost twice that. It looks like a 
     dumpy dog compared to her.
       Well California is vast. And as First Assistant Secretary 
     Caleb Lyon explained to our 48 Constitutional Forefathers, 
     Saturday, September 29, 1849, in Monterey's Colton Hall 
     schoolhouse: ``She (the goddess Minerva . . . spring full 
     grown from the brain of Jupiter) is introduced as a type of 
     the political birth of the State of California . . .'' In 
     other words, we jumped straight into being a State without 
     spending any time in Aunt Sam's womb as a Territory.
       And the bear? . . . emblematic of the peculiar 
     characteristics of the country.''
       Monterey-born Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo well knew those 
     peculiar characteristics. Bears could be mean: bullying, 
     armed, irregular ``Bear Flaggers,'' meaner. They locked him 
     up and mistreated him. He facetiously suggested that, if the 
     bear had to remain in the Seal, it should ``be represented as 
     made fast by a lasso in the hands of a vaquero.'' The idea 
     lost by five votes.
       The convention was crawling with ambitious cub lawyers. 
     They averaged from four months to a year or two in 
     California. They were impressed with the symbolism--the miner 
     with his rocker, ships on the waters, snow-clad peaks of the 
     Sierra Nevada. ``Eureka'' (found it!) was a nifty motto too.
       On Friday, October 12, 1849, after a traditional official 
     thank-you to Chairman Robert Semple (like Vallejo, another 
     42-year-old from Sonoma), they trooped over to pay respects 
     to California's Military Governor Brigadier General Bennett 
     Riley. Before parting for San Joaquin, Los Angeles, San Luis 
     Obispo, San Francisco, Sonoma, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, and 
     San Jose, they partied away the night. Each chipped in $25 
     for an historic blow-out, a real two-violin-guitar fandango. 
     A 31-gun cannon salute heralded what would be American's 31st 
     State . . . eleven months later.
       On leaving next day, Henry Hill and Miguel de Pedroena 
     wondered if printed copies of California's ``Birth 
     Certificate'' would reach their remote San Diego district 
     before people voted. Not to worry. Ratification carried 
     12,872 to 811 on a rainy November 13, 1849.
       The most important thing the Constitution proved is that 
     CALIFORNIANS BUILD THEIR STATE TOGETHER. They have from the 
     start.
       That doesn't mean it was a September Song in rustic 
     Monterey in 1849. Delegates connived, bickered, blathered, 
     were or became friends . . . or enemies. California 
     diversity--as it always can--made the Convention work well 
     enough for good things to happen.
       The issue of slavery was tearing the United States apart. 
     Furies, that would explode in

[[Page E2137]]

     Civil War more than a decade later, spun across a continent 
     like dust devils. Patience of men, who differed, dwindled. 
     Some brought short-fused tempers to California's backwater 
     capital.
       A twenty-six-year-old, Henry Tefft, born in Washington 
     Country, N.Y., was a Wisconsin resident before he reached 
     California three months shy of the Convention. He managed to 
     be elected a delegate from San Luis Obispo. Attorney James 
     McHall Jones, 25, was born in Scott County, Kentucky, and 
     lived in Louisiana before he began a similarly brief 
     residency here. He came representing San Joaquin.
       Jones was sure Thefft insulted him in convoluted argument 
     about voting apportionment, but the animosity ran deeper than 
     that. It quickly escalated towards the point-of-honor stage 
     that would make a duel unavoidable.
       Others acted automatically to head off tragedy. While they 
     raised parliamentary questions about who, if anyone, should 
     apologize to whom, Latino delegates muddled things further by 
     announcing, ``The question appears to be respecting certain 
     English words, which we do not understand. We desire to be 
     excused form voting.'' Tempers cooled. (An anti-dueling 
     Constitutional provision passed later . . . delinked from the 
     incident by a few days.)
       At Monterey, the summed lives of seven Californios totaled 
     293 years. Add the twelve years' residency of Spain-born 
     Miguel de Pedroena, and this aggregated to 305. The other 40 
     delegates had been logged 154 California years between them 
     all. Five were foreign-born. John Sutter, 47, from 
     Switzerland, operated the sawmill where the gold was 
     discovered that started the rush. The remaining 35 grew up in 
     States of the North and South. Regional hangups were 
     reflected in their comments. Where would an extended Mason-
     Dixon line divide California? Or the Missouri Compromise 
     boundary?
       The Wilmot Proviso had been like a pole thrust in American 
     wasps' nest. In 1846, before President James Polk warred with 
     Mexico to take half its land, he bargained to buy it. 
     Pennsylvania Representative David Wilmot tried to tie a 
     string to money sought from Congress. He twice persuaded the 
     Lower House to condition appropriation on the commitment that 
     ``neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist 
     in any part of said territory.'' The U.S. Senate stalled the 
     first try by adjourning before the bill could come before it; 
     on the second, it passed its own message without any anti-
     slavery language.
       In the 1848 Treaty of Peace, the U.S. paid $15 million for 
     California and what became the American Southwest. Word of 
     the stymied Proviso had ricocheted around the country by then 
     with States and communities lining up for or against. It 
     echoed in distant Monterey. While Utah and New Mexico became 
     territories, California entered the Union as a Free State in 
     1850. It was thanks in part to another deal by ``Great 
     Pacificator,'' Senator Henry Clay, the same legislator who 
     pulled the Missouri Compromise out of a hat a quarter century 
     earlier.
       Colton Hall rhetoric was, by today's standards, gratingly 
     racist. Though not without their defenders, African-Americans 
     and Native Americans were trashed. There was nasty talk about 
     Chileans, Native Hawaiians, and Australians drawn by the 
     discovery of gold. In San Francisco, they risked being 
     lynched.
       Transplanted Northerners and Southerners at Monterey knew 
     each others' arguments by heart. They said much but no longer 
     heard much. Theirs were dialogues of the deaf. Californios 
     nudged everyone a bit off balance. There was language. Debate 
     on land tenancy took an idiotic turn for Vallejo when he 
     misheard ``freeholders'' as frijoles (free-HO-les, beans). 
     There was culture. Courtliness and gente-de-razon class 
     consciousness seemed Southern, but their color-free views 
     sounded downright Northern.
       A Santa Barbara Californio explained, ``Many citizens of 
     California have received from nature a very dark skin. 
     Nevertheless, there are among them men who have heretofor 
     been allowed to vote, and, not only that, but to fill the 
     highest public offices. It would be very unjust to deprive 
     them of the privileges of citizens merely because nature had 
     not made them white . . .''
       When is black-and-white not black and white? With 16 months 
     in California, Virginia-born Monterey Delegate Charles T. 
     Botts, 40, claimed, ``. . . no objection to color . . . I 
     would be perfectly willing to use any word which would 
     exclude the African and Indian races . . .''
       A Californio gift to our Original Constitution makes a 
     married woman's property her own. It seemed a novel, somewhat 
     daring idea to transcontinental newcomers, but Convention 
     Secretary Henry Wager Halleck, 32, reasoned thus: ``I am not 
     wedded either to the common law or the civil law, nor as yet, 
     to a woman; but having some hopes that some day or other I 
     may be wedded . . . I shall advocate this section in the 
     Constitution. I would call upon all the bachelors in this 
     Convention to vote for it. I do not think we can offer a 
     greater inducement for women of fortune to come to California 
     . . .''
       The Convention interpreter must have smiled. William 
     Hartnell landed, a young English merchant, in sleepy Monterey 
     in 1822. He married Teresa a De La Guerra daughter. Already 
     multilingual, his Spanish became flawless. They had 18 
     children.
       There was contention about the new State's boundaries. Some 
     argued California encompassed everything just taken from 
     Mexico and stretched to Montana and Colorado. Tennessee-born 
     William Gwin, 44, was recently of Louisiana. Not yet three 
     months on the Pacific Coast when he arrived at the Convention 
     representing San Francisco, he predicted: ``I have no doubt 
     the time will come when we will have twenty states this side 
     of the Rocky Mountains. When the population comes, they will 
     require that this state shall be divided.''
       Some immediately visualized one-for-the-South and one-for-
     the-North and . . .
       Jose Antonio Carrillo (at 53 the oldest man there) came to 
     the Convention toying with the idea California might be split 
     at San Luis Obispo to leave the southern part a Territory. He 
     changed his mind. Now he remembered that, when he was alcalde 
     (mayor) of Los Angeles, he had seen Spanish maps that bounded 
     California with the Sierra Nevada line on the east.
       About a fourth of the delegates made three-fourths of the 
     speeches. Yet you can still sense the presence and influence 
     of the not-so-talkative ones. With few exceptions, they 
     prevailed on big issues.
       1999 marks the Sesquicentennial of California's Original 
     1849 Constitution, our U.S. ticket of admission. Diversity 
     worked. CALIFORNIANS BUILD THEIR STATE TOGETHER! Even greater 
     diversity works today. It is our ticket to the world.

     

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