The 1849 California convention was started by the residents of California as a move to allow them independently make their own choices concerning their political and social lives. At this time, the state of California had seen an influx of people of different races in the region. The Mexicans were also immigrating to the pacific coasts to participate in trade and to work in the goldfields of California.
The head of the military government who was known as Brigadier General Bennett Riley decided that a convention should be called. The aim of the convention was to represent the people of California in Washington DC and to establish law and order into the area following an influx of immigrants. The convention was held in the city of Monterey in California. The eight delegates who were there in the 1849 Californian convention were of Mexican origin. They included, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, José Antonio Carrillo, Juan Bautista Alvarado, Jacinto Rodriguez, Pablo de la Guerra, Manuel Dominguez, Jose Maria Covarrubias, and Pedro Sainsevain, (David, 1980).
Before the convention took place in California, Mexico had become independent from Spain. As a result, California had pledged an alliance with the government of Mexico. Mexico opened up an international trading area since Spain had discouraged foreign countries to trade in California. Thus, the town of Monterey developed both economically and commercially. The natives of California at that time were referred to as the Califonios. The interaction of Mexicans and these Califonios also increased and soon many married into Califonios and became Mexicans. Therefore, the number of Mexican born in America significantly increased.
These Mexicans had an enormous influence on the constitution of 1849. The 1849 California convention took place in order to fulfill the quest of California to become one of the states of the US. The Mexicans had a role to play in this constitution. First, there was an increase in the number of Mexicans entering the US to seek fortune in the goldfields. This was because the war between America and Mexico had ended. This was one of the main reasons that made California become a state. Another reason why Mexicans had a major role in the 1849 constitution is that part of the constitution was derived from using elements of Mexico. For example, the law states that women had certain rights according to the Mexican constitution. Another factor that geared the convention to be partly Mexican was that there were eight Mexican delegates in the convention. These delegates did not speak English properly. Therefore, the proceedings of the convention had to be translated to Spanish for their sake. Consequently, the final constitution was written in Spanish and English. Other factors that made the quest for a new constitution to take place were the gold rush in California. Many people from different races and ethnic groups had come with the hope of finding a better place. Other social factors, such as slavery and the rights of women in the society also contributed to the convention (University of California Library, 2001).
The constitution of 1879 was inspired by several factors. First is the gross corruption of the heads of states and city government. Second is the heavy taxation that was placed upon the poor income low class. Another factor that led to the constitutional reform of 1879 is the tyranny of railroads. The huge presence of the Chinese in California also contributed to the constitutional reforms. On the pacific coasts, the numbers were overwhelming. These Chinese had come to America to work in the gold mines, to work in the farms, and to construct the transcontinental railroad. In the year 1876, around twenty-two thousand Chinese immigrated into the states. The Chinese had been blamed for most of the economic problems that were taking place in California. The American workers were subjected to low wages and a lack of employment started becoming less for them. In 1882, an act was passed that excluded Chinese people from entering the US (Bean, 1968). However, such opposition to the Chinese did not discourage them but encouraged them to stay and fight for their right in America. After that act, a movement erupted that demanded a constitutional convention against the anti-Chinese movements. This occurred in 1878 under the workingman’s party of California.
The effect of the 1879 movement was seen in all alien races. Article 19 gave the legislature power to control and prevent any cooperation from employing the Chinese. They were also discouraged from immigrating to the US. All contracts that included Chinese labor were made void. The 1879 constitution also affected the non-Chinese. They were prohibited from holding any agricultural land in California (David, 1980). The constitution also had an effect on landowners. Farmers paid taxes of up to 125 million dollars. Landowners on the other hand whose land laid idle paid 38 million. This move was purposed to bring equality in the state. Another effect of the constitution was the education sector. The minimum school years were increased from three months to six months per year. State funds were allocated to sustain free primary schools.
The California state constitution has several similarities and differences to the US constitution. For example, Article 3 of the California state constitution divided the state government into the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. These are the same divisions present in the US constitution.
There are numerous differences between the two constitutions. First, the California constitution allows the governor to accept some parts of the bill and remove other parts. These are referred to as veto bills and are usually submitted for approval. This is in contrast to the US government where the president is the only one required to veto the entire bill. The second difference is that in the Californian constitution, voters elect the lieutenant governor separately from the state governor. However, in the US constitution, the president and the vice president are usually elected as a pair by the electoral and they run together. The third difference is that in the California government, the people usually elect judges. They have terms of up to 12 years. However, in the US constitution, the president appoints the court judges. After the appointment, the judges are confirmed by congress. Their term is lifetime unlike in the California constitution where they only serve for 12 years (Bean, 1968). The fourth difference is that the US constitution applies to state laws. The Californian constitution is prohibited from violating rights that are included in the US constitution. Therefore, the US constitution applies to all states while the California constitution only applies to the state of California.
Bean, W. (1968). California; an interpretive history. New York: McGraw-Hill.
David, L. T. (1980). Our California Constitution; Retrospections in this Bicentennial Year. Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly, 3, 697-750.
University of California library, (2001.), Paths to Empire: Constitutional Convention and Statehood. Paths to Empire: Constitutional Convention and Statehood. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/Exhibits/Looking/pathstoempire.html