The Growth of California in the Late 19th Century and the Development of a Unique State History Number: Date: California stands out among the states within the United States of America, sometimes being referred to as a nation-state, a state that has risen to almost global stature, with a high economy backing it1…
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Change came for California beginning in the middle of the 19th century. Previously owned by Mexico, then the Spanish as a consequence of Spanish advance towards the Pacific, in 1848 the land changed from the Spanish2, and in 1850 it was admitted to the Union of the United States of America3. Despite this, interest in the state by Americans was not immediate, and it took until near the end of the 19th century for the news of ‘merchant adventures’ to reach the ears of Americans, and for them to begin to develop a fascination with the state4. This change in statehood was of crucial importance, as under Spanish rule, colonists of California were restricted from trading with the Americans. However, as a consequence of the necessity of the trading, and the daring of the Americans, trade often happened despite the restrictions5. A second force that struck in the middle of the 19th century was the gold rush which began in 1849. This resulted in the rapid migration of many more individuals that would normally occur in the course of settlement. Men, women and children travelled many hundreds of miles of dangerous and unknown terrain for the hope California and the promised riches offered. The gold was not the only driver, for California offered a large supply of game, natural resources and many possibilities6. In May of 1869, another monumental step was made; the Central Pacific Railway was completed. The tracks spanned the United States from the East to the West, linking the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. This success meant large changes for California, oxen were no longer crossing the terrain carrying weary travelers, and the populations at the mines were dwindling. Instead the cities and agriculture began to grow substantially, with migrants coming to the state through the railroad7 (Cleland – 394-396). The final change which set California free to grow as a state and to form its own history and future was the rewrite of the constitution of 18798.By this time the state was already growing rapidly, and was recognized among the ten most urbanized states within the United States, with its agricultural prowess growing at a fast rate9. The constitution developed in 1949 was powerful, and the constitutions of 21 other states were consulted when deciding how to word the constitution. It represented a complete rejection of all the legal systems that had occurred in California prior to it becoming a state10. The 1879 rewrite of the constitution built on this, becoming a strong document, and empowering California to move forward as a state. The period between the mid and the late 19th century was a period of turbulent change for California. Before it even joined the Union, the Spanish state had experienced an extreme influx of migrants from throughout the country as a consequence of the gold rush and the desire for a better land to settle. The changes incorporating the growing state into the new Union as well as the increase connection through the rail system, and the revised constitution gave California the space to grow and to develop as a state in its own right, forming its own unique history. Bibliography Cleland, R. G. A History of California: The American Period, The Macmillan company 1922). Pincetl, S. S. Transforming California: A Political History of Land
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