Saturday, November 8, 2008

New Constitution in Monterey

(Monterey in 1849 from the The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, found here, considered in the public domain.)

In September of 1849, just as the Gold Rush was kicking into high gear, 48 delegates convened in Monterey to perform what historian Kevin Starr calls an "astonishing" act of politics – they created, in a matter of a few days, a fully functioning state government and a comprehensive state constitution. Slavery was banned, and women were granted more property rights than in other states. (Tragically, though, Native Americans, Chinese Americans, and African Americans were denied citizenship and full protection under the law.) A grand ball was held in Monterey to celebrate the constitution on Oct. 12, 1849, one of the great, glittering nights in the state's history. One eyewitness watched the joyous mingling of Hispanics and Yankees and said the sight was "an image of hope for the future."

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