The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War

califgoldrushRichards, who writes well for a professor, retells the rather familiar story of the California Gold Rush’s aftermath, but he tells it from an interesting point of view. Despite the fact that Mexican California forbade slavery and the American 49ers banned Negro slavery in the constitution of their new (1850) state, Southerners in and out of Congress dreamed and plotted to make California a slave state.

Some, like James Gadsden (of Gadsden Purchase fame), even hoped to split off southern California as a slave state, leaving the north a “Free Soil” state. Southerners had more influence on the West Coast than their numbers suggested, but California remained loyal to the Union, even sending two military expeditions, under Cols. Patrick E. Connor and James H. Carleton, eastward in the Civil War. Wisely, the author tells his tale by means of a series of connected mini-biographies of the men quarreling over the fate of antebellum California. —Richard H. Dillon

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