California is a state of the United States of Mexico. It is one of the six states created by the Mexico City Constitution of 1820. Its capital and largest city is San Francisco, and its second largest city is Puerto Hancock. Its chief executive is the Governor of California. California was the site of the California Gold Rush of 1838-45, and the birthplace of Kramer Associates.
The name California was applied to an area on the west coast of North America in the sixteenth century by the Spanish explorers Fortún Ximénez and Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. By the eighteenth century the name "Las Californias" was applied to the Pacific Coast of New Spain running from the Baja Peninsula to the area of San Francisco Bay. At the Mexico City Convention of September 1820 creating the U.S.M., the area was organized into the state of California, with its northern border at the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
In the first national elections under the Mexico City Constitution on 12 August 1821, Albert Burley of the Liberty Party was elected to one of California's four Senate seats (the other three likely going to Continentalist Party candidates, though Sobel does not say for certain). Burley, as one of six Libertarian Senators, became a leading figure in the party. During the 1827 Mexican elections, Burley accused President Andrew Jackson of appropriating ten percent of federal revenues for his personal use, a charge he later withdrew.
President Jackson's Grand Tour of the U.S.M. ended at San Francisco, where he addressed the state legislature on 24 December 1823. Jackson spoke of the country's future, saying: "I ask Californians to join in our quest." He went on to say that in the "voyage through time and space" California would have "the greatest frontier of all the Mexican states," though it was unclear to many at the time and since just what he meant. After Jackson's address, Secretary of War Arturo Aragon told reporters that he had been referring to the state's agricultural potential, though Sobel states that others thought that the president was contemplating new conquests, possibly starting with Russian Alaska. Jethro Stimson, in his 1950 book Jackson and the Pacific Dream, believed that Jackson sought to expand the U.S.M. across the Pacific.
California Gold Rush
The Mexican economy was mostly unaffected by the Panic of 1836, with the notable exception of the Jeffersonian cotton industry, which was hard-hit by the economic downturn, and by competition from cotton growers in Egypt and India. Then, in February 1838, gold was discovered in Santo Tomás, California, and the California Gold Rush began. In September, Jackson sent most of the Mexican Army to keep order in the gold fields and prevent foreigners, mostly North Americans, away. "This is Mexican gold," Jackson said, "and will be used to serve Mexicans. All others will be given a clear notice: leave or be shot." Within five years of the discovery, California's population had risen until it the the second-highest in the U.S.M.
Under the Mexico City Constitution, Assembly seats were apportioned under a complicated formula based on the proportion of free men in each state. As a result, in the 1820s the state of Jefferson had 34 of the Assembly's hundred seats, with the other 64 distributed among California and the other four states. As the free population of Mexico grew, the Assembly seats were re-apportioned after each decennial census. Following the 1850 census, Jefferson's share of the seats fell to 24, while California's grew to 29, the largest in the Assembly.
The 1833 Mexican elections saw Jackson and the Continentalists challenged by Senator Miguel Huddleston of Durango, a Jeffersonian Anglo who had married an Hispana wife and converted to Catholicism. Under Huddleston, the Libertarians maintained their six Senate seats and won 46 out of 100 seats in the lower house of Congress, the Assembly. Six years later, when Jackson stepped down, the Continentalists were in disarray. They ultimately nominated John Mason, a Jeffersonian cotton planter who had left for California in the early days of the gold rush and struck it rich. Mason proved to be an inept campaigner, and Huddleston was able to lead the Liberty Party to its first national victory. The Libertarians won all four of California's Senate seats, helping them to a 17 - 7 majority in that body. When the newly-elected Senate met in September, it selected Huddleston as the country's second president.
Huddleston's term as president was largely unsuccessful. He disappointed his abolitionist supporters by making no effort to curb slavery, and his attempts to improve relations among Mexico's various ethnic groups failed. Above all, his desire to improve relations with the newly-unified Confederation of North America ran counter to the growing border conflict between the two countries in the disputed Broken Arrow region between Mexico del Norte and the North American confederation of Vandalia. This provided an opening for the Continentalist leader Pedro Hermión of Jefferson, who warned of imminent war with the C.N.A. in his Scorpions in a Bottle speech in May 1843. In the 1845 Mexican elections, Hermión led the Continentalists to victory, winning back two of California's Senate seats on the way to winning control of the Senate by 14 seats to 10.
Rocky Mountain War
Fighting between the two countries began on 4 September 1845, two days before Hermión's inauguration, and by the end of the year the C.N.A. had launched a full-scale invasion of Mexico del Norte. The first three years of the war saw the Mexicans defeat a series of North American incursions into Mexico del Norte, Durango, and Jefferson, and Hermión's popularity rose with each victory. However, in 1849 North American Governor-General Henry Gilpin launched an ambitious campaign aimed at capturing San Francisco. A North American army led by General David Homer drove across the Rocky Mountains and entered California via Williams Pass in June 1850. General Francisco Hernandez, commander of the California Guard, fought Homer's army at the Battle of San Fernando in July. Over the course of three days, Hernandez was able to halt Homer's advance and force him to withdraw back to the Williams Pass. However the battle left the California Brigades exhausted, and Hernandez was also forced to withdraw back to San Francisco. By the fall of 1850, Hernandez was able to advance again on Homer's army, trapping it in Williams Pass while a second Mexican army led by General Michael Doheny came at them from the east. Unfortunately, Doheny's army was trapped in its turn by the arrival of a second North American army under General FitzJohn Smithers in November. All four armies were trapped in the pass over the winter, and the Mexicans ultimately lost 66,000 out of 97,000 men (though North American losses were even more severe).
When news of the catastrophe reached Mexico City in June, public opinion immediately turned against Hermión. Several unsuccessful attempts were made on his life before he was finally shot and killed on 19 June after making a special address to Congress. His assassin, Emiliano Zangora, shouted "Viva Huddleston y Paz!" before being killed in his turn by the Congressional guard. This left the Libertarians in a precarious position, since their leading figure was now implicated in Hermión's death. After long deliberations, the party's leadership chose Assemblyman Hector Niles of California as its presidential nominee. Niles was a San Francisco businessman with a reputation as an economic expert. Despite being a member of the opposition party, Niles headed a special committee in charge of armaments. Niles said little during the campaign except to pledge himself to end the war "in such a manner as to preserve our integrity and honor."
Niles' opponent, Acting President Raphael Blaine, also ran on a peace platform, but was hampered by the need to simultaneously run on the memory of the martyred Hermión. In desperation, Blaine resorted to personal attacks on Niles, calling him "the faceless wonder of San Francisco" and ridiculing his butterfly collecting hobby. Blaine's negative campaign proved futile in the face of Mexican voters' desire for peace. The Libertarians won 15 seats in the Senate, including three from California, and 52 Assembly seats, including 18 of California's 29. In his brief inaugural address on 5 September, Niles offered to meet Gilpin "at a place of the Governor-General's choice, where we may end this sad conflict in good will."
Once in office, Niles adopted a defensive military strategy that Gilpin interpreted as admission of weakness. Gilpin launched a new series of offensives, including a naval bombardment of San Francisco and a second attempt to invade California through Williams Pass. Gilpin's efforts were uniformly unsuccessful, and by the winter of 1853 the people of the C.N.A. had turned against him, voting in the opposition Conservative Party in the February 1853 Grand Council elections. Gilpin's successor, William Johnson, accepted Niles' offer of a negotiated peace, and on 1 August 1853 an armistice brought an end to the fighting, while teams of negotiators met in The Hague.
Recovery From War
With peace restored, Niles set about repairing the damage of war. He ordered his Secretary of Home Affairs, Fidel Sonora, to "make an inventory of assets and liabilities, to determine where we stand." Sonora reported back that conditions were better than expected, since the majority of the fighting had taken place in the undeveloped areas of Mexico del Norte, Arizona, and California. He recommended that federal aid go mainly to Indian tribes living in the war zones. Sonora also reported that the war had not interrupted gold production in California, and since little had been exported for sale since 1845, the reserves would provide the nation with reconstruction capital.
Apart from the two North American attacks through Williams Pass and the naval bombardment of San Francisco, California suffered few ill effects from the war. Although gold production continued to fall, California's agriculture production soared as a fruit and vegetable industry sprang up in the northern part of the state. By 1860 California's wines, dried fruits, and tinned vegetables made up a significant part of Mexico's economy. By 1877 the British travel writer Charles Nightingale was able to write: "This state has all the qualities of Manitoba with a far more salubrious climate than that northern paradise. The land is rich, the people friendly, the prospects inviting. Heaven, thy name is California!"
In the 1855 Hague Treaty ending the war, most of the disputed area was awarded to the C.N.A., which was already in possession of it. Sobel states that a clause was inserted into the treaty at Mexican insistence that the territory should have been part of the C.N.A. under the 1799 Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. If Niles hoped the inclusion of the clause would fend off criticism of the peace terms, he was mistaken. Continentalist leader Benito Calzón insisted that the treaty was a "betrayal of the memory of Pedro Hermión," and that Niles had "bartered away our birthright in Mexico del Norte for a questionable peace with a dastardly foe." The "lost provinces" of Mexico del Norte became a perennial political issue of which the Continentalists took full advantage. The reaction against the Hague Treaty and Niles was so great that he was unable to leave the Presidential Palace for fear of assassination attempts.
Niles received the presidential nomination of the Libertarian caucus in 1857, and ran on his record of ending the war and rebuilding Mexican prosperity afterwards. However, the issue of the "lost provinces" was too potent to resist, and the Continentalist candidate, Arizona Governor Arthur Conroy, won a convincing victory, leading his party to win 59 out of 100 Assembly seats, including 14 of California's 29 seats, and 14 out of 24 Senate seats, including two of California's four.
Conroy's presidency saw the rise to prominence in California of Bernard Kramer, a miner-turned-businessman who made a fortune in the Gold Rush. Kramer shared in the general idolization of Pedro Hermión, and as his wealth grew, he began providing financial backing to Continentalist politicians. In 1865, he and fifteen other wealthy California businessmen formed a consortium called Kramer Associates to finance an interoceanic canal in Central America. When Conroy declined to support Kramer's ambitions, he arranged for the Continentalists to nominate his own candidate, Senator Omar Kinkaid, for president. Thanks to Conroy's electoral reforms, the president was popularly elected in 1869, and Kramer's money allowed the Continentalists to field an army of paid speakers to support Kinkaid, allowing him to win the election. When Kramer funded a coup d'etat in Guatemala in March 1870, Kinkaid recognized the new government.
Not all Mexicans were content to allow their government to be controlled by Kramer and other wealthy businessmen. Senator Carlos Concepción of Chiapas, a Mexicano nationalist and the leader of the radical wing of the Liberty Party, denounced Kramer for propping up the Anglo-dominated government. In the 1875 presidential campaign, Concepción broke away from the Liberty Party to establish the radical Workers' Coalition. Although Kinkaid was re-elected in 1875, Concepción won 11% of the vote, which allowed him to declare a "moral victory" and launch a revolutionary movement called the Moralistas aimed at overthrowing the government in Mexico City.
The rise of the Moralistas shook Kinkaid out of his complacency, and he embraced the reform program of his mainstream Libertarian election opponent, Senator Thomas Rogers of Arizona. There were rumors in Mexico City that Kinkaid intended to throw his support behind Rogers in the upcoming 1881 Mexican elections. However, Kinkaid's assassination on 7 December 1879 turned Mexican politics upside-down. Kramer accused Rogers of being behind the assassination, and when the Mexican Senate met to choose Kinkaid's successor, Rogers was unable to gain a majority. The Senate was deadlocked until Rogers agreed to support the elderly Senator George Vining of Jefferson as a caretaker to serve out the remainder of Kinkaid's term.
Vining proved to be more ambitious than his supporters anticipated. He insisted on being granted full presidential powers, and one of his first acts was the creation of a secret police force, the Constabulary, to combat the Moralistas. Kramer was able to arrange for his own man, Pedro Hermión's son Benito Hermión of the Jefferson & California Railroad, to be named Commandant of the Constabulary.
Although he never specifically says so, Sobel implies that Hermión's subsequent actions were done at Kramer's direction. By the summer of 1881 the Constabulary was able to drive the Moralistas back to their bases in the western mountains. The threat to the government seemed over, when the Constabulary carried out a raid against the Workers' Coalition's national convention in Palenque in July, killing 34 delegates including party leader José Godoy. The result was a nationwide Mexicano uprising that brought the threat of revolution back to life. Vining instituted a series of repressive measures that turned the U.S.M. into a police state. However, although he delayed the national elections until September, he refused to cancel them. On 12 September, nine days before the scheduled elections, Vining died of an apparent heart attack. When the Senate met to choose a successor, Senator Frank Hill of California, acting on orders from Kramer, suggested that no Acting President be chosen, and that instead the Cabinet should act as a body until the election. Possibly due to further influence by Kramer (though Sobel doesn't say so), the Senate accepted Hill's suggestion.
When the Cabinet met on 15 September, Hermión claimed to have proof that several members of the government, including two of his fellow Cabinet members, were in the pay of the French Revolutionary government. At his urging, the Cabinet voted to suspend the elections indefinitely, create an extra-constitutional chief executive called the Chief of State, and appoint Hermión himself to the office. When Hermión appeared before the Senate the next day to seek its ratification of the Cabinet's decisions, Rogers and the other Libertarians objected strongly, and the meeting was adjourned without any action. That night, the recalcitrant Libertarians were arrested by the Constabulary, or else fled the country as Rogers did. On the morning of 17 September, a rump Senate of 14 members voted to approve the Cabinet's actions, and the 20-year Hermión dictatorship began.
Under Hermión's rule, Kramer Associates exercised complete control of the states of California and Arizona. When Bernard Kramer's successor, Diego Cortez y Catalán, sought to create a border incident to spark a war between Mexico and Russia in 1898, California Governor Alberto Puente did as he ordered, and reported on a series of "border incidents" to Hermión. Although he had opposed Cortez's dispute with Russia, Hermión was obliged to go to war once a Russian regiment invaded California. Although Cortez was satisfied with the Mexican conquest of Alaska in 1898, Hermión was not. The following summer, he sent the Mexican Pacific Fleet in an amphibious invasion of Siberia. As Mexican forces advanced into Asia, Hermión's ambitions grew, until in April 1901 he declared himself Emperor of Mexico.
Having lost control of Hermión, Cortez was determined to remove him from power. He convened a meeting of Hermión's political enemies at his hacienda outside Sacramento on 1 August, and outlined his plan to remove the dictator from power. On the evening of 15 October, the Kramer Guard, led by Commandant Martin Cole, surrounded the Imperial Palace. Hermión fled the next morning, disguised as a servant, and Cole proclaimed himself the head of a provisional government. The following June, national elections were held, and former Senator Anthony Flores was elected president.
The Chapultepec Incident
The Liberty Party was revived, and in 1914 nominated Senator Albert Ullman of California as its presidential nominee. Ullman's opponent was Secretary of State Victoriano Consalus. Thanks to President Flores' popularity, Consalus was able to win majorities in every state except Arizona and Mexico del Norte, including 68% of the popular vote in Ullman's home state. Consalus faced an invasion of Mexico by French President Henri Fanchon. Fanchon's forces were defeated, but left behind a group of 8,000 Negro slaves who had run away from their plantations to join the invading army. Consalus ordered the captured slaves tried for treason, an act that resulted in international condemnation, as well as the formation of the Friends of Black Mexico, an anti-slavery organization in the C.N.A.
As the date of the verdict approached, riots broke out in Chapultepec, and on 4 January 1916 the Federal Prison was stormed by thousands of young people, many of them North Americans of the F.B.M. The imprisoned slaves were freed at a cost of hundreds killed and thousands injured. Consalus and Governor-General Albert Merriman were able to avert war over the Chapultepec Incident, but the event caused a radical change in Mexican politics. Fear of Negroes stalked the country, and Consalus was forced to institute a program of internal passports and curfews. Libertarian politicians who favored manumission were savagely denounced, and Ullman was shot at while entering his home. Consalus commissioned various studies of the situation, but the problem seemed intractable. The president summed it up by saying, "If I retain the institution I will be pilloried. Should I ask for its end, I will be crushed."
A resolution finally came with the election in 1920 of General Emiliano Calles, the hero of the French war. Despite running a very poor campaign, Calles was able to gain 54% of the popular vote (though he only gained 33% of California's 6.1 million votes). Guided by Ullman, who served as his Secretary of State and political mentor, Calles gave an address before Congress shortly after his election in which he stated, "Slavery must be abolished in Mexico. We shall try to do so by constitutional amendment, but if this is not possible, other ways will be found." Calles and Ullman did not lay out a specific plan; instead, they allowed the pro-slavery politicians to come up with a plan for a simple bill that would be passed by a voice vote in each house of Congress. With backing from Kramer Associates, the bills were introduced and passed in May 1920, and the process of freeing Mexico's slaves began.
A groundswell of opposition to manumission was led by Assemblyman Pedro Fuentes of Chiapas. The summer of 1920 was known as the Bloody Season. Thousands of slaves were attacked, and 154 were killed. Pressure from anti-manumission constituents forced seventeen Assemblymen and two Senators to resign. The center of the anti-manumission movement was in Chiapas and Durango, while support for manumission was strongest in California. Tensions mounted until 22 September 1920, when President Calles personally faced down an anti-manumission mob in Mexico City.
Once the last of the slaves had been freed, Calles announced a second program that brought him into direct conflict with Kramer Associates. In an address to Congress on 22 March 1922, Calles announced his intention to hold plebiscites in the five territories conquered by Benito Hermión. Since Kramer Associates controlled the five territories economically and, behind the scenes, politically, K.A. President Douglas Benedict sought to block Calles' efforts. Benedict was in poor health, however, and his obstruction failed to prevent plebiscites being held in Guatemala, Alaska, and Hawaii in early 1923. The vote for statehood passed in the latter two territories, which were admitted as states in November 1923.
Fuentes' opposition to manumission gained him the leadership of the opposition United Mexican Party, and he won the party's presidential nomination in the 1926 Mexican elections. Calles had expended much of his political capital in his fights for manumission, and when Fuentes made it clear that he did not intend to repeal the Manumission Act, Calles ceased to actively campaign against him. On election day, Fuentes won 53% of the popular vote, including just over 50% of California's 6.7 million votes.
The Jackson Reorganization
The battles over manumission (which he had opposed) and the statehood plebiscites (which he supported) convinced Fuentes that K.A. had too much control over Mexico's political process. On 17 June 1929, he announced the formation of the Zwicker Commission, which would "investigate large corporations in the United States of Mexico, and make suggestions for legislation." For the next five years, the Zwicker Commission sought in vain to untangle K.A.'s labarynthine structure, while Benedict's successor, John Jackson, fought back with a well-funded publicity campaign and a hopelessly complicated corporate restructuring.
The leading critic of Fuentes' battle with K.A. was Senator Alvin Silva of Durango. Silva sought to return Mexico to the days of the Hermión dictatorship, with K.A. running the nation's economy to suit itself while the political leadership focused on foreign conquest. Silva was not open about his plans, speaking instead of "the search for the Mexican sould" and Mexico's "national destiny." When Fuentes ran for re-election in 1932, Silva led the Liberty Party to a victory with 55% of the national vote, though in California he won only 40% of the state's 7.2 million votes.
Silva lost no time in putting his program into action, increasing Mexico's armed forces and signing a military alliance with the Germanic Confederation in 1934. However, this brought him into conflict with Jackson, who intended to expand his company's reach in Asia and wanted no military conflict there. For reasons that Sobel does not make clear, Jackson announed in February 1936 that he was moving his company's corporate headquarters from San Franciscio to Luzon in the Philippines. Jackson's news, combined with the realization that K.A. had been selling securities for weeks and converting its funds to gold, set off the Panic of 1936, plunging the world into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1880s. Mexico was largely spared from the effects of the recession, and Silva was able to win re-election in the 1938 Mexican elections, winning 54% of the vote nationally, though only 40% of California's 7.6 million votes.
The Rainbow War
When the Global War broke out in October 1939, Mexico was initially left out of the fighting, which pitted the Germanic Confederation against the United British Empire. Silva grew increasingly uneasy as his German allies won a series of smashing victories against the British and their French and Turkish allies. By the end of 1941, the Germans had conquered India and invaded Indo-China, which was a Japanese client state. Fearing that there would be nowhere for Mexico to go, Silva signed a secret accord with Siberia, and on 1 January 1942 the two nations attacked the Japanese and invaded China. Although the Mexican-Siberian forces initially made major gains in China, an attempted invasion of Japan in 1944 failed, and by 1946 Silva's forces were in retreat. Jackson had been aware of Silva's plans, and he had created an informal alliance between K.A., Japan, and Australia that served to blunt Mexico's attacks.
Silva had suspended the 1944 Mexican elections, and the result was an insurrection called the Rainbow War led by a freedman named Philip Harrison of the Black Justice Party and Armondo Santa Cruz of Causa de Justicia. Harrison's guerrillas targeted members of the other races in the northern states, including California, while Santa Cruz's Mexicanos attacked Harrison's group as well as the others. Smaller outlaw groups appeared in every state, some of them no more than bandits seeking plunder. Silva claimed that the Rainbow War was being masterminded by K.A.
Meanwhile, Mexico's military forces continued to suffer defeat. Japanese and Australian forces recaptured the Pacific islands, while Siberia fell in 1947 to the Japanese. As the Mexican Pacific Fleet fell back to its major base in Hawaii, carrier-based Japanese aircraft carried out bombing raids on San Francisco and other California ports. The attacks ended in 1948 as the Japanese prepared for simultaneous invasions of Hawaii and the Aleutians. The Japanese invasion attempts both failed with heavy losses, and the Japanese ceased offensive actions against the U.S.M.
The domestic insurrections combined with the military defeats to turn public opinion against Silva and the war. Silva sought to retrieve the situation by announcing in July 1949 that national elections would be held the following January. The U.M.P. had to act cautiously to avoid accusations of treason, and chose to nominate Admiral Paul Suarez, former commander of the Pacific Fleet, as its presidential candidate. Although Suarez sought to continue the war with a change in strategy, he became the de facto peace candidate. The campaign was marked by political violence by both sides, and on election day, Suarez won a narrow victory that was disputed by Silva and the Libertarians. Silva claimed that there were irregularities in the balloting in California, which Suarez won by only 40,000 out of 8.7 million votes cast. As the date of Suarez's inauguration approached, the political violence grew worse, with protests in Mexico City leading to bloodshed.
With the country on the verge of civil war, a group of eleven garrison commanders led by Colonel Vincent Mercator seized power the day before Suarez's inauguration. Mercator formed a military junta led by Marshal Felix Garcia with himself as Secretary of War. Both Silva and Suarez were arrested. Mercator enlarged the Constabulary and ruthlessly crushed both the Black Justice Party and Causa de Justicia, restoring order to the U.S.M. He also nationalized much of Mexico's industry, which he suspected was controlled by K.A.
Mercator allowed sham elections to be held in 1965, but continued to wield power behind the scenes as Secretary of War. As of 1971, California, along with the rest of Mercator's Mexico, remains a military dictatorship with a republican facade.
Sobel sources for the state of California include Charles Nightingale's An American Journey: Views of Mexico and North America in 1877 (London, 1880); Evans Craford's California Gold: Its Impact and Implications (Mexico City, 1894); David Gould's Gold and Railroads, Profits and Losses (Mexico City, 1948); Walter Ramspeck's The California Gold Rush of '39 (New York, 1956); Stanley Tulin's The Kramer Associates: Its Origins (London, 1965), The Kramer Associates: The Cortez Years (London, 1970), and The Kramer Associates: The Benedict Years (London, 1971); and Thomas Mason's The Jefferson-California Axis of 1866-1876 (London, 1968).
This was the Featured Article for the month of October 2015.
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