Soon after the outbreak of war in 1846, United States forces invaded the Mexican province of Alta California. Seven months later, on January 13, 1847, representatives of both countries signed the Treaty of Cahuenga in the San Fernando Valley, ending the fighting. For three years thereafter, California remained under American martial law. During this period, our population exploded following the discovery of gold, giving impetus to the demand that California be admitted to the Union. In 1849, leaders from around the future state met in Monterey to draft the first constitution, which was approved on November 13 of that year by a vote of 12,064 to 811. Peter Burnett was elected governor, and in January, 1850, the State Legislature began its first two-year session.
As our lawmakers went about establishing the basic institutions of state governance, the United States Congress argued about whether to admit California to the Union as a slave or free state or as two separate states, one slave and one free. The issue was resolved by the famous Compromise of 1850, and on September 9th of that year California was admitted to the Union as the 31st state.
The observance of Admission Day was once prominent in the civic life of our state and nation. On September 9, 1924, by order of President Coolidge, the Bear Flag flew over the White House in honor of California's admission to the Union. In 1976, I vetoed a measure to remove the observance of Admission Day as a state holiday, writing: "For 125 years California has celebrated its admission into the Union on September 9th. To change now comes a bit late in our history and hardly seems in keeping with the Bicentennial Spirit." In 1984, however, Governor Deukmejian signed legislation eliminating our traditional observance of Admission Day on September 9th in favor of a "personal" holiday—convenient to some but in no way respectful of our storied founding.
California's early history is too often neglected in schools and among our citizens. For that reason, I call upon Californians to pause and celebrate Admission Day this year by reflecting on how it was that California became the 31st state.