Thursday, September 9, 2010
California Statehood - by Garrison Keillor
From Garrison Keillor's "The Writer's Almanac" ... for Sept. 9, 2010
On this day 160 years ago, California became a state. It was the 31st state admitted to the Union, just after Wisconsin and right before Minnesota.
It was a state born of the Compromise of 1850, an elaborate bargain between the North and the South over slavery. Under the compromise the territories of New Mexico and Utah would decide for themselves whether slavery were allowed, and California would be admitted to the Union as a free state.
In the late 1700s, California was settled by Spanish priests, who built missions up along the coastline. Mexico went to war against Spain to fight for independence, won, and so in 1821 got their independence. California was a part of the Mexican empire.
A couple of decades later, the United States was on its roll toward the West. In 1845, the U.S. annexed Texas, and California the year after.
The U.S. Congress declared war on Mexico, and sent in the U.S. Army and Navy to northern Mexican territory to crush resistance. The Mexican-American war lasted about two years.
When the badly defeated Mexican military gave up, and it was time for them to sign a peace treaty, the American troops occupied Mexico City. The U.S. more or less dictated the terms of the treaty to Mexico — the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo — and Mexico ended up losing a full 55 percent of the territory it had before the war.
The Gold Rush began in 1848, the population skyrocketed, and California became a state on this day in 1850, as part of that Compromise of 1850. It's now the most populated state America. And California's Central Valley is one of the most productive farming areas in the world, growing fruits, vegetables, and grains, and keeping a lot of dairy and meat cows. It's where about one-third of America's food comes from.
Non-California writer Truman Capote said, "It's a scientific fact that if you stay in California you lose one point of your IQ ever year." Comedian Fred Allen said, "California is a fine place to live — if you happen to be an orange."
Novelist Alison Lurie said, "As one went to Europe to see the living past, so one must visit Southern California to observe the future." San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti called Southern California the place "where the American Dream came too true."