Slavery and California Boundaries

The slavery question played a distinct part in the settlement of the boundaries of California in the constitutional convention of 1849, and in attempted divisions of the State later. In 1849, “the southern faction led by Gwin made the eastern boundary of the inchoate state the crest of the Rocky Mountains. Gwin’s plan was to make the area of the state so large that Congress would refuse to admit it as one state, and would divide it into two states on the line of the Missouri Compromise 36 degrees 30 minutes. The Northern men in the convention discovered Gwin’s scheme and defeated it by a reconsideration of the boundary section at the very close of the convention.” Up to the Civil War, the question of the State division repeatedly aroused the pro-slavery element, who ”reasoned that if a new state could be cut off from the southern portion, it could be made slave territory. Many pro-slavery men had settled in that section, and although slave labor might not be profitable, the accession of two pro-slavery senators would help to maintain the balance of power to the South in the Senate.”