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The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War

av Leonard L. Richards

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
1234165,903 (3.85)14
It has always been understood that the 1848 discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada influenced the battle over the admission of California to the Union. Now, historian Richards makes clear the links between the Gold Rush and many of the regional crises in the lead-up to the Civil War. Richards explains how Southerners envisioned California as a new market for slaves, only to be frustrated by California's prohibition of slavery. Still, they schemed to tie California to the South with a southern-routed railroad and worked to split off the southern half as a separate slave state. Richards recounts political battles in Washington and feuds, duels, and perhaps outright murder in California as the state came close to being divided in two.--From publisher description.Includes information on Chivalry Democrats, Jefferson Davis, Democratic Party, Stephen A. Douglas, free soil movement, John C. Fremont, Know Nothing Party, Mexico and Mexicans, James K. Polk, Republican Party, Sacramento, San Francisco, secession, Zachary Taylor, Transcontinental Railroad, Whig Party, etc.… (mer)

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If you think politics of today is strange, read this story about the crazy actions during the decade preceding the Civil War. Duels, raids into Mexico, Nicaragua, and Cuba, vote buying, political machines, patronage... we live in relatively tame times! Very interesting text and well worth reading. ( )
  addunn3 | Jul 19, 2018 |
A well written account for California's role in the coming of the Civil War. Easy to breeze through, while getting a solid understanding of the various bills and sentiments of the politicians of the era. ( )
  BridgettKathryn | Sep 6, 2015 |
I was at first disappointed in this book because it wasn’t more about the gold rush and less about California politics in the early years before and right after statehood. I guess I should have read the reviews first. Still it’s was enjoyable. Richards’ discussion of the effect of the gold rush is fascinating. How so many people rushed to the gold fields that San Francisco was, for awhile, a ghost town. How ships would come into the harbor and find hundreds of other ships—from China and Peru and Australia as well as the US and Europe—deserted by their crews. How the resulting gold increased the world’s supply of gold by a significant factor. How California gold helped finance the Civil War and how stopping the ships from California to Washington, usually carrying at least a million dollar’s worth of gold, was a Confederate priority. I don’t remember reading that in my Civil War history books, but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention.Among the people who came to California for the gold rush were many who had been politicians, even elected officials, in the States they left back East. A significant number of them were from the South. At that time, the southern wing of the Democratic Party was the strongest. The Whig party was fading, and the Republican Party (Lincoln would be its first President) was just beginning. California came into the union as a free state—and that was the basis of the political battles because a significant number of the powerful politicians in California at the time were Southerners. The fights in California—and they were fights, with duels and even murder as tactics—were between the southern wing of the Democratic party, represented primarily by William Gwin of Mississippi and David Broderick of New York, representing the northern (Stephen Douglas) wing of the party. They battled over changing the constitution to ban slaves. Southerners argued that if ever there was appropriate work for black men it was gold mining. Northerners argued that the wealth from California gold should go to hardworking white Americans. There was talk of dividing California into two states, with Southern California entering the Union as a slave state called Colorado. There was talk of California seceding in 1861, not to join the Confederacy, but to declare a separate country—which seems scarily realistic considering how far it was from the contiguous states at that time. They battled over the route of the transcontinental railway—Southerners wanted a southern route ending in Southern California, arguing that the weather was better and there were no mountains. The book has interested me in that 10-15 year period before the beginning of the Civil War when the US was expanding westward and Southerners, many with exhausted plantations in the East, sought to extend their way of life West, as of course did Northerners. There’s a sense in which the “battle for hearts and minds” over slavery occurred during those years primarily in the West, where there were few abolitionists. ( )
1 rösta fourbears | Apr 24, 2010 |
Have you ever wondered what was involved in bringing a new state into the union? This book details the history of the statehood of California as well as the politics that surrounded the procedure following the discovery of gold in 1847.

Just as the Mexican-American War is ending, gold is discovered at Sutter's Mill in the Sacramento Valley. Now the word Gold Rush is not exactly accurate. Word was sent to Washington of the discovery, but they didn't believe it at first. By the time the gold hunters were "rushing" off to California, months had passed. The new miners came from parts of California, the eastern United States, Mexico, Australia, China and South America. Some travelled around the Cape Horn, others crossed the isthmus and then back north up the Pacific coasts. Either way it took months to get to the gold fields.

With the influx of all the gold hunters, California, part of the land settlement with Mexico, had sufficient population to apply for statehood immediately. Californians wanted to be admitted to the Union as a free state and drafted a constitution stating that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in the State." However, the Southern Slave states were adamant that they needed room to expand and that due to Missouri Compromise the southern portion of California, at least, should be open to slavery.

California's statehood became a major bone of contention between the abolitionists and the pro-slavery lobbies of the day. Unionists fought secessionists, fistfights turned into duels. Henry Clay proposed a Compromise which would aid the South in retrieving runaway slaves while California was admitted as a free state. Just as a deadlock seemed imminent, President Taylor, strongly in favor of California statehood without compromise, dies leaving Millard Fillmore (who was in favor of the legislation) to support and sign the documents. Would matters and history have been different if Taylor had lived? We will never know.

The men that were elected to represent California in the Senate were actually Southern slaveholders and voted in numerous instances in the South's favor prior to the war. To reach California without going by sea, a need for a transcontinental railroad was debated. Southerners wanted a route through Texas, while Northerners wanted the route to go through the Nebraska territory. The need for land required the organization of the Kansas and Nebraska territories.

In the decade before the election of Lincoln, the California Senators, Gwin and Broderick were major players in the controversies between the North and South. Broderick who was violently opposed to Buchanan due to a Buchanan's handling of the patronage positions in California, fought with Stephen Douglas against the statehood submission from Kansas. Gwin, on the other hand, was close to Buchanan and when the issues came to a head, knocked out not only his fellow Californian but Stephen Douglas from their positions of influence in the Senate.

Due to the loss of his influence, Broderick encountered difficulties when he returned to the west for elections, and was killed in a duel the day after elections were held. Gwin and his followers were blamed for the "assassination" of Broderick. Later, Gwin's return to Washington went unnoticed due to the recent activities of John Brown in Harper's Ferry. The nation, due to the politics of North vs. South, was being torn apart. How appropriate that, at the same time that North and South were ripping each other apart, the politicians of California sent a bill to Congress to separate California into two states?

When the war finally began, California remained on the side of the Union and its yearly gold shipment supported the war effort throughout.

Did the discovery of Gold in California, hasten the call to war while assisting the Union during its trial? How interesting it might be if we could re-write history?

This was a well-crafted book telling the tale of California's statehood using the people that created it. The prologue starts with the duel in which Senator Broderick is killed and then the story weaves its way through the state history bringing the reader full circle to that point in time showing all the while the importance of the men and the events involved. ( )
7 rösta cyderry | Feb 1, 2010 |
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It has always been understood that the 1848 discovery of gold in the Sierra Nevada influenced the battle over the admission of California to the Union. Now, historian Richards makes clear the links between the Gold Rush and many of the regional crises in the lead-up to the Civil War. Richards explains how Southerners envisioned California as a new market for slaves, only to be frustrated by California's prohibition of slavery. Still, they schemed to tie California to the South with a southern-routed railroad and worked to split off the southern half as a separate slave state. Richards recounts political battles in Washington and feuds, duels, and perhaps outright murder in California as the state came close to being divided in two.--From publisher description.Includes information on Chivalry Democrats, Jefferson Davis, Democratic Party, Stephen A. Douglas, free soil movement, John C. Fremont, Know Nothing Party, Mexico and Mexicans, James K. Polk, Republican Party, Sacramento, San Francisco, secession, Zachary Taylor, Transcontinental Railroad, Whig Party, etc.

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