California: Statehood and Immigration

Statehood and Immigration

With the gold rush came a huge increase in population and a pressing need for civil government. In 1849, Californians sought statehood and, after heated debate in the U.S. Congress arising out of the slavery issue, California entered the Union as a free, nonslavery state by the Compromise of 1850. San Jose became the capital. Monterey, Vallejo, and Benicia each served as the capital before it was moved to Sacramento in 1854. In 1853, Congress authorized the survey of a railroad route to link California with the eastern seaboard, but the transcontinental railroad was not completed until 1869. In the meantime communication and transportation depended upon ships, the stagecoach, the pony express, and the telegraph.

Chinese laborers were imported in great numbers to work on railroad construction. The Burlingame Treaty of 1868 (see Burlingame, Anson) provided, among other things, for unrestricted Chinese immigration. That was at first enthusiastically endorsed by Californians; but after a slump in the state's shaky economy, the white settlers viewed the influx of the lower-paid Chinese laborers as an economic threat. Ensuing bitterness and friction led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 (see Chinese exclusion).

A railroad-rate war (1884) and a boom in real estate (1885) fostered a new wave of overland immigration. Cattle raising on the ranchos gave way to increased grain production. Vineyards were planted by 1861, and the first trainload of oranges was shipped from Los Angeles in 1886.

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