Peter Burnett was an important figure in the early history of Oregon and California. A lawyer, businessman, farmer and speculator, Burnett gained his greatest fame in government. He was in Oregon’s territorial legislature before moving to California, where he became that state’s first elected governor in late 1849.
But his legacy is mixed because he wanted blacks to be excluded from both places. He also proposed heavy taxation on foreign immigrants and worked to remove Native Americans. Those ideas proved unpopular and Burnett resigned the governor’s job in 1851 after a year in office.