On This Day in History: California Became a State

One hundred and seventy-one years ago on this day in history, California was granted statehood by the United States of America.

California officially became the 31st state on September 9, 1850. However, there is a rich history surrounding and abetting that statehood that commenced with the end of the Mexican War.

In  February 1848, Mexico and America signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended that war. From this end and through this treaty, much of the west became ratified and available for United States’ statehood. However, that didn’t instantaneously mean that they were bonafide red, white, and blue.

Much of the western land was uninhabited and lawless due to the lack of governmental entities sanctioning it and a sparse population.  

The Gold Rush was the only reason that statehood, specifically Union (northern) statehood, as quickly as it did. Only days before the treaty’s signing, Americans first found gold along the American River near Sacramento. 

When Americans discovered this, the population out west expanded nearly overnight, with everyone who traveled the Oregon Trail hoping to strike it rich through fortune or entrepreneurial pursuits. 

While the sudden increase in population played a role in the original argument for including California in the Union, the gold was too convenient to ignore. After all, without America officially absorbing the land that would become California, the government would have no right to claim gold found there.

Nevertheless, there was opposition, particularly from the growingly dissatisfied Confederate (south) portion of the United States. Since California chose to be a Union state, the southern state representatives viewed this as the north stacking their numbers.

Thanks to the Compromise of 1850, the U.S. Congress included California in the United States–on this day, in 1850.

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