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The Republic of California


Today I learned that my home state used to be its own country. Guess how long the great nation of California was in existence? It was a country for about 24 days. Yes, I realize that is not even a month, but it is an interesting story anyway.

In 1846, California was conquered not once, but twice, by the Americans. At that time, Mexico controlled California. Californios (people who were born in California) knew that other countries like the United States had their eye on the state. A small but growing number of Americans were settled in California. A group of them wanted to take over the state and make it an independent republic. On June 14, thirty-three men stormed the Sonoma "fort" where the most powerful Californio, General Mariano Vallejo, lived. Vallejo was not too worried, and did not even fight. He knew that Mexican rule was not very strong and hoped the United States would take control. The American rebels arrested Vallejo and sent him to Sutter's Fort.


An easy victory surprised the Americans. They did not know what to do next. Some people wanted to loot the fort, but one man named William Ide stepped up and made a plea for peace. They raised a new flag to show they had taken over. The flag was made from a piece of white cotton and had a grizzly bear painted on it. The bear was meant to be scary, but many people thought it looked more like a pig. In the upper corner they painted a star, to show California's support of Texas, which was also fighting for independence from Mexico. The bottom of the flag had a red band and the words "California Republic." Today, California's state flag is like the original Bear Flag (with a different grizzly that hopefully does not look so much like a pig).

William Ide took control as the first and only president of the nation of California. No one knew that the United States had declared war with Mexico, because it wanted more land. Before long, the American Navy arrived and raised the United States flag. The Bear Flag was taken down. That was the end of the independent republic. After the end of the Mexican War and the discovery of gold in 1848, California was well on its way to becoming the thirty-first state of the union.

I wonder what California would be like if it still was its own independent republic. What would the country of California look like today?

California has the largest population in the U.S. -- we even have more people than the whole country of Canada. It is the leading U.S. producer of lemons, strawberries, broccoli, and garlic. California is also the only producer in the country of such yummy foods as grapes, almonds, artichokes, olives, and kiwi.

Do I think California should seek its independence? Should we take all of our millions of people and crops and sit around eating California cheese and sipping California wine while munching on a handful of California almonds and comparing garlic breath?

Something tells me that may not be the best idea. We can keep our bear flag flying, but there are some good things about having those Stars and Stripes as well.


Please email me at: neda@ustrek.org


Links to Other Dispatches

Stephanie - The Alamo's top tall tales
Nicky - Fighting over money