Now, something that you probably would NOT have supposed about California during the 1850s. The Gold Rush, which brought a lot of Americans west, was SO not the regular kind of migration (if you want the regular kind of migration on the same latitude that people started from, look at the settlement of Oregon) that a significant number of the people who became California's first representatives in Congress were Southerners, and pro-slavery southerners, to boot. This led to a fairly spectacular duel (which will also fill in your understanding of San Francisco street names) and a Unitarian minister whose statue was one of the initial two that the state of California put in Statuary Hall in the Capitol Rotunda.
I know that sounds confusing and a little garbled, but it will all be made clear below the fold.
My source for most of this is an excellent book that I taught in a summer course the one time I taught the US to 1865 without a textbook: Leonard Richards, The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War
California, of course, was the star attraction of the Compromise of 1850. It already had a constitution that forbade slavery, and that was a sticking point for many Southern congressmen. It was admitted as a state without any alteration in its constitution, but, in return, the South got a strengthened fugitive slave law that provided the magistrate adjudicating cases of fugitive slaves a $5 bonus if he determined that the black man before him WAS owned by someone. As a new state, California sent two congressmen and two senators to Washington. The Congressmen were both northern, as was one of the senators, John Charles Frémont. The second senator, however, was a native of Mississippi who had in fact represented Mississippi in the House of Representatives, William Gwin and here's his biography from the Congress bioguide website:
GWIN, William McKendree, a Representative from Mississippi and a Senator from California; born near Gallatin, Sumner County, Tenn., October 9, 1805; pursued classical studies; graduated from the medical department of Transylvania University, Lexington, Ky., in 1828; practiced medicine in Clinton, Miss., until 1833; United States marshal of Mississippi in 1833; elected as a Democrat from Mississippi to the Twenty-seventh Congress (March 4, 1841-March 3, 1843); declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1842; moved to California in 1849; member of the State constitutional convention in 1849; upon the admission of California as a State into the Union was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate and served from September 10, 1850, to March 3, 1855; reelected to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy occurring at the expiration of his term, caused by the failure of the legislature to elect, and served from January 13, 1857, to March 3, 1861; chairman, Committee on Naval Affairs (Thirty-second and Thirty-third Congresses), Committee on Post Office and Post Roads (Thirty-sixth Congress); an outspoken proponent of slavery, was twice arrested for disloyalty during the Civil War [my emphasis]; traveled to France in 1863 in an attempt to interest Napoleon III in a project to settle American slave-owners in Mexico; retired to California and engaged in agricultural pursuits; died in New York City September 3, 1885; interment in Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, Calif.Yes, Mississippi. As Kevin Starr observes,
North-South rivalry . . . would structure the politics of California for the rest of the decade as pro-Southerners, Whigs and Democrats alike, calling themselves "The Chivalry" (snip) sought to keep the thirty-first state under the control of Southerners.Gwin controlled the California delegation for several years (Frémont drew the straw for the short term, and ended up being the Republican candidate for president in 1856), but he was challenged by David Broderick, a "free-soil" Democrat from New York. Here's what the Senate website has to say about Broderick:
Broderick was born in Washington, D.C., in 1820, the son of a stonemason who worked on the Capitol. His family later moved to New York City, where Broderick worked as a stonemason and a saloon keeper. He read constantly and became a shrewd student of human nature as he observed the superheated political culture of New York City's ward politics. An antislavery Democrat in search of a political future, he joined the 1849 gold rush to California. He settled in San Francisco, where he quickly made a fortune in real estate.Naturally, this caused a great deal of antagonism. Gwin, of course, couldn't do anything especially rash, but he wasn't the only "Chiv" in California. Hence, the rather spectacular duel.
Elected to the California state senate, Broderick rapidly became a power broker within the Democratic Party's antislavery wing and set his eyes on a seat in the U.S. Senate. He used his power in the legislature to stall, for nearly two years, a vote on the reelection of Senator William Gwin, a member of his party's proslavery faction. Finally, in 1857, California's other Senate seat opened and Broderick negotiated a deal with Gwin under which Broderick would take that seat's full six-year term, leaving Gwin the four-year balance of the blocked seat. Broderick's price for supporting Gwin was full control of California's federal patronage appointments.
His opponent was California Chief Justice David Terry, also a pro-slavery man. When Terry accused Broderick of following the wrong Douglas (Frederick, not Stephen), Broderick called Terry a "miserable wretch" and that was enough to incite a challenge. Carl Nolte remembered the duel in the San Francisco Chronicle on its 150th anniversary. Since dueling was illegal in the City and County of San Francisco, the duel took place on the Daly City side of Lake Merced. The weapons were Belgian pistols, which have hair-triggers. Broderick's went off before he could aim it, and Terry hit Broderick in the side.
San Francisco went into mass mourning. 25,000 people showed up for his funeral in Portsmouth Square, and his friend Edward Baker eulogized him. Both Broderick and Baker had streets in San Francisco named after them, and our first apartment in San Francisco was in fact on Sacramento Street between Broderick and Baker.
There is some debate about how much Broderick's death turned California against the Confederacy. Starr says there was no serious danger of that happening. Richards is less convinced, but we have evidence that an effort had to be made to keep California in the union, and one of the two people who California memorialized in Statuary Hall was there because he was responsible for that effort. This is the Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King. Here is how the Architect of the Capitol describes Starr King:
In 1860 he accepted a call from the First Unitarian Church of San Francisco. In California during the Civil War, he spoke zealously in favor of the Union and is credited with saving California from becoming a separate republic. In addition, he organized the Pacific Branch of the Sanitary Commission, which cared for wounded soldiers. A fiery orator, he raised over $1.5 million for the Sanitary Commission headquarters in New York, one-fifth of the total contributions from all the states in the Union. The relentless lecture circuit exhausted him, and he died in San Francisco on March 4, 1864, of diphtheria.
The statue of Thomas Starr King represented California in the National Statuary Hall Collection from 1931-2009.Congress passed a law in 2000 that allows a state to replace one of its statues if
(A) the request has been approved by a resolution adopted by the legislature of the State and the request has been approved by the Governor of the State, and (B) the statue to be replaced has been displayed in the Capitol of the United States for at least 10 years as of the time the request is made, except that the Joint Committee may waive this requirement for cause at the request of a State.Apparently, this was done so Kansas could replace a statue of one of its governors during the Bleeding Kansas period with one of Dwight David Eisenhower. Yes, we have a diary on this in the archives! You of course know who replaced him, apparently at the insistence of Ken Calvert (R-
So that's our episode for this week. Next week, Keith930 will regale you with the story of Joaquin Murieta while I spend the weekend in the Bay Area.
1:02 PM PT: Thanks for promoting this, Community Spotlight!