History Podcasts

Why was California admitted as one big state rather than split up?

Why was California admitted as one big state rather than split up?

In this answer, Mark points out that when California was admitted to the Union as a free state, that changed the balance between free and slave states, leading to the Compromise of 1850.

Why indeed, then, didn't they just split it into two or three states, and declare the southern part slave and the northern part free? It's certainly big enough in area to comprise several states. (Or was it that the population wasn't large enough?)


California could not be broken up at the time as it only contained about 90,000 residents and the minimum resident requirement to become a state was at the time 60,000. so to split it up into 3 states you would have to wait till you have 180,000 residents with 60,000 in distinct areas to facilitate a split.


California is Leaving

For the first time in its history, California lost a House seat. California Democrats are resorting to conspiracy theories about President Trump and the census, but these are the numbers they got after spending $187 million on outreach and after rigging the census to make sure illegal aliens would continue to participate. And those are far better numbers than California deserves.

The decline and fall is not a surprising development out here where moving trucks are a frequent sight and everyone knows a family that is moving.

I know three of them in under two years.

The population numbers only tell part of the story of a big state that is rapidly losing its future.

California’s fastest growing population is senior citizens. By 2030, every 1 in 3 Californians will be over the age of 50. The over 60 population will increase by 166 percent by 2060 going from 5.5 million to 13.5 million. Hotel California is rapidly becoming a retirement community.

By 2030, California will have a higher percentage elderly population than Florida.

In 1970, the median age of Californians was 27 years old. Jerry Brown became the state's youngest governor of the century. When he next ran for office, he became its oldest governor at the age of 72. California’s median age is now 38. And it’s only headed north from there.

By 2050, a third of LA will be over 65 and by 2060, the median age in LA will be 48.

California’s elderly population is increasing faster than any other age group. While the young population will remain flat, the middle aged population will only increase by a fifth, even as the elderly population more than doubles. These numbers paint a portrait of a state with no growth.

The state’s birth rate fell 10% just last year. A one month comparison actually showed a drop of 23%. While the pandemic suppressed birth rates, the numbers had been dropping in California long before anyone had ever heard of Wuhan. Two years ago it hit the lowest level in a century down to half of the state’s 1990 birth rate. In the last decade, California’s birth rate dropped twice as much as the national average defying its own demographic destiny.

The news is much worse than these numbers make it look.

States with a large older population are often more conservative, but that’s less likely to happen to California. The fastest growth among its older population isn’t among white people, but the large Hispanic population that fundamentally altered the state’s demographics and politics.

A generation of cheap labor is coming of age. Its members are a lot less likely to leave the state than white seniors. As a Calmatters fellow noted, “older Californians are actually more likely to be immigrants than younger Californians”. They’re also more likely to be lower income.

These estimates are just projections of the future. They show trend lines rather than the escalating consequences of a state that is becoming increasingly unlivable.

California’s golden years were fueled by new industries and cheap land. The land isn’t cheap and the industries are pricing themselves out of the youth population they used to attract. Millennials have been moving out of New York and California in large numbers, and heading to Texas, Nevada, and Arizona. Industries will be forced to follow their potential workforce.

Big Tech monopolies will still maintain their Bay Area enclaves for now, but older and more traditional tech firms are heading to Texas. Sleeping six to a room in a decrepit building converted into a dorm may be part of the price of admission in start-up culture, but even much of the tech industry is opting out of the hellscape of the talent rat race.

This exodus probably won’t have good political consequences for either California or Texas.

The middle class provides political and economic stability and it’s vanishing from the state at rapid rates. What’s replacing it is an itinerant hipster class drawn to Big Tech and the entertainment industry, driven by radical politics, but with no commitment to the state.

This same hipster class wrecked New York City, before abandoning it in droves, and is busy wrecking its hubs in Portland and Seattle. Not to mention any other cities where it got a foothold.

It’s why California’s birth rate has declined twice as fast as the rest of the country.

California swapped a settled and more conservative population for a more itinerant population of millennial hipsters and immigrant laborers. The state lost its future even as the gross population numbers still looked good because there were still people even if they were becoming less likely to have children, buy homes, or do any of the things that a settled population actually does.

The short term fix looked good on the census, it looked good economically, but it had no future, and the state is slowly coming off the high and coming face to face with a bleak future.

California’s doom loop of radicals wrecking its cities and the state, enabled by the cheap labor imported to cater to their whims, is just getting started. As conservatives and the middle class flee the state, it becomes even more of a playground for urban elites, trashing rural counties, enabling crime, social dysfunction, and economic ruin that they expect to be immune from either because they’re walled off, expect to move on, or not to be alive when the social bill comes due.

Jerry Brown’s old California could outgrow and survive its worst follies, but the new California isn’t actually growing and is running out of the future it’s burning through at a rapid rate.

California Democrats are complaining that population growth has slowed because of President Trump’s immigration enforcement. But that hasn’t stopped immigrants from heading to other states. Their real problem is that younger immigrants and migrants are less interested in California because its economic potential and opportunities are running out like everything else.

The cost of living relative to the economic rewards are unappealing even to many illegal aliens. Those who do come are more likely to have plans for more profitable work in organized crime.

Meanwhile, poll numbers show that California Latinos have been turning on Governor Newsom over the lockdowns. The state’s new working class is on a collision course with the Democrats, and the Democrats are getting nervous because without constant migrant churn, new immigrants supplementing and displacing the old, their political hegemony might come apart.

The coalition between cheap labor and radical Democrats worked as long as there was work to go around. As California’s social stability collapses, its economic growth will go with it.

A reckoning is coming and a lost House seat is the least of it.

A scam works as long as everyone involved thinks they have something to gain. It falls apart when they wake up and realize that the Nigerian prince will never write them that check.

California Democrats have been writing checks post dated to the future. But there’s no future and the demographic checks are starting to bounce.

"My own belief is that California has a unique place on the planet. It's been a place of dreams,” a younger Jerry Brown would rhapsodize. But it turns out that California is not such a unique place after all. It’s a land of dreams, and dreams are not a good basis for policy. When leftists turn their dreams into reality, they wake up to discover they’re living a nightmare.


Causes of the Mexican-American War

Texas gained its independence from Mexico in 1836. Initially, the United States declined to incorporate it into the union, largely because northern political interests were against the addition of a new slave state. The Mexican government was also encouraging border raids and warning that any attempt at annexation would lead to war.

Did you know? Gold was discovered in California just days before Mexico ceded the land to the United States in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Nonetheless, annexation procedures were quickly initiated after the 1844 election of Polk, who campaigned that Texas should be “re-annexed” and that the Oregon Territory should be “re-occupied.” Polk also had his eyes on California, New Mexico and the rest of what is today the U.S. Southwest. When his offer to purchase those lands was rejected, he instigated a fight by moving troops into a disputed zone between the Rio Grande and Nueces River that both countries had previously recognized as part of the Mexican state of Coahuila.


Why was California admitted as one big state rather than split up? - History

by Rockwell D. Hunt, Ph. D

The question of slavery extension made California an integral part of the territory of the United States the birth, a half-century ago, of the free State of California, inflicted a mortal wound upon the enemy of human freedom.

It had long been an admitted principle in American politics that free states could be admitted only when accompanied by slave states. Thus, from almost the beginning of the century, there had been maintained in the National Senate an equality of state representation between North and South. After the admission of Texas in 1845 there were twenty-eight states, in fifteen of which slavery existed, but the admission of Iowa in 1846 and Wisconsin in 1848 restored the numerical equality between free and slave states. In the meantime California was rapidly developing, and, complaining at the absence of civil organization, she clamored more and more loudly for organized government. What disposition was to be made of California was a question that possessed an absorbing interest. The acquisition of the vast province of California was a chief act in the drama of our war with Mexico, an act whose national and political import was fraught with profound significance. The Mexican war, far from being the result of a sudden movement, had been more or less distinctly anticipated, at least since the declaration of independence of Texas in 1836. California, toward which the United States had cast many a covetous glance since the days of the Lewis and Clark expedition, came early to be definitely considered on of the richest prizes to be won by the conflict with Mexico, as evidenced by Commodore Jones’ premature conquest of Monterey in 1842, by the Frémont expeditions, which were largely the result of Senator [Thomas] Benton’s interest in the West, and by General Kearny’s expedition to New Mexico and California.

The friends of slavery extension viewed with real alarm the rapidly growing population and the marvelously expanding industry of their North. Their alarm was fast being transformed into desperation as it became clearer and clearer from a mere glance at the map that the vast Louisiana purchase and the Oregon country offered indefinite fields for freedom, but furnished scanty hope for slavery. Besides, the Missouri compromise looked most forbidding. The Southern leaders felt, and felt deeply, that something drastic must be done, for they never would admit the predominance of the North. “What, acknowledge inferiority!” At all hazards, therefore, the South, perceiving the North rapidly outstripping her in population, yet trained for generations to a feeling of superiority and accustomed to a habit of command, determined to see slavery not only protected where already existing, but to perpetuate it as a living, growing power. How tremendous a mistake it was to identify the development of the South with the presence of human slavery and to suppose her very existence bound up with the extension of the “peculiar institution” is just coming to be perceived, but cannot be fully understood until another half century of freedom and reconstruction shall have left its benign influences of progress and light.

The world knows how the actuating causes in California’s conquest by the United States became the rock of offense upon which our Union well nigh split. By virtue of the abolition of slavery throughout the republic of Mexico in 1829 the province of California fell into the possession of the United States with no taint of that institution, and the express prohibitive law was an inherent obstacle at the very threshold of the desire of the South. Moreover, grave difficulties must need to be settled before slavery could be introduced into California. If the Missouri compromise were to be made applicable to the newly acquired territory the spoils of the Mexican war must at least be divided on the parallel of 36 degrees 30 minutes.

While the national issue was yet seeking clear definition the question of slavery in California settled itself with astonishing rapidity by sheer force of local conditions that were wholly without precedent. It was observed that neither the soil, nor the climate, nor the products of any portion of California were adapted to slave labor, and that property in slaves would be utterly insecure here. The contemporaneous press reflects the views of the more intelligent Americans in California. The Californian of March 15, 1848, says:

“We entertain several reasons why slavery should not be introduced here. First, it is wrong for it to exist anywhere. Second, not a single instance of precedence exists at present in the shape of physical bondage of our fellow men. Third, there is no excuse whatever for its introduction into this country (by virtue of climate or physical conditions). Fourth, Negroes have equal rights to life, liberty, health and happiness with the whites. Fifth, it is every individual’s duty, to self and to society, to be occupied in useful employment sufficient to gain self-support. Sixth, it would be the greatest calamity that the power of the United States could inflict upon California. Seventh, we desire only a white population in California. Eighth, we left the slave states because we did not like to bring up a family in a miserable, can’t-help-one’s-self condition. Ninth, in conclusion we dearly love the ‘Union,’ but declare our positive preference for an independent condition of California to the establishment of any degree of slavery, or even the importation of free blacks.”

“While we sincerely entertain these views, and value the union with the United States as highly as we should, the simple recognition of slavery here would be looked upon as a greater misfortune to the territory than though California had remained in its former state, or were at the present crisis, abandoned to its fate. * * We believe, though slavery could not be generally introduced, that its recognition would blast the prospects of the country. It would make it disreputable for the white man to labor for his bread, and it would thus drive off to other homes the only class of emigrants California wishes to see, the sober and industrious middle-class of society. We would, therefore, on the part of 90 per cent of the population of this country, most solemnly protest against the introducing of this blight upon the prosperity of the home of our adoption. We should look upon it as an unnecessary moral, intellectual and social curse to ourselves and posterity.”

As soon as the effect of the discovery of gold began to be felt, when citizens of all ranks became diggers for the yellow metal, the introduction of slaves would have been even more vigorously opposed, and in truth, would have been plainly intolerable. The editor of the Alta California, February 22, 1849, thus states the case:

“The majority—four-fifths, we believe—of the inhabitants of California are opposed to slavery. They believe it to be an evil and a wrong * * and while they would rigidly and faithfully protect the vested rights of the South, they deem it a high moral duty to prevent its extension and aid its extinction by every honorable means.”

“The causes which exclude slavery from California lie within a nutshell. All there are diggers, and free white diggers won’t dig with slaves. They know they must dig themselves they have come out here for that purpose, and they won’t degrade their calling by associating it with slave labor. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. They have nothing to do with slavery in the abstract or as it exists in other communities * * they must themselves swing the pick, and they won’t swing it by the side of negro slaves. That is the upshot of the whole business.”

Alexander Buchner, in his Le Conquerant de la Californie, without hesitation affirms: “It was the gold of California that gave the fatal blow to the institution of slavery in the United States.”

But the representatives of the South in national councils were by no means so ready to accept the inevitable and thereby to see their prize snatched from their hands, only to be used against themselves. The military rule of Commodore Stockton and of General Kearny was unwelcome to the Californians, who were not slow to express their desire for organized government. But Congress had been busy with the concerns of war, while the famous Wilmot proviso was crystallizing the forces of North and South. At that early stage, while war was yet in progress, mature plans for the permanent territorial organization of California could hardly be expected. Congress adjourned March 3, 1847, having made no provision for the new possession. This first failure was in no sense remarkable but that our National Legislature should for a second and third time absolutely fail to meet the exigencies of the case, while the Californians, under Mason’s and Riley’s rule, were reiterating their demands for civil organization, growling ominously meanwhile, is an indication, not that California was being ignored, but that she had become a stupendous issue, a mighty problem, the though of whose solution struck terror to the heart of the South.

The war had ended, peace had been proclaimed, some solution must be reached. There was but one. The Constitutional Convention, which met at Monterey at the call of Acting Governor Riley, unanimously adopted the resolution that: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, unless for punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in this State.” While the unanimous vote for a free state by no means put an end the question of slavery in all its phases, it may easily be seen that the die had been cast—there could be no retreat. So profound was the national influence of this vital decision that Dr. Wiley was led to pronounce it the “pivot point with the slavery question in the United States” Our great commonwealth of the Pacific entering the Union as the sixteenth free State destroyed forever the equilibrium between the North and South.

The bitter debate in the Constitutional Convention on the question of California’s boundary, which came perilously near resulting in the overthrow of the work of the entire session, shows that at bottom it was the final struggle of the pro-slavery forces. It was secretly argued that by making the State very large, as was advocated by [U.S. Senator] Gwin, it would not be necessary to divide it by an east-and-west line, thus adding one state to the South. The present eastern boundary was carried by the narrowest circumstance.

The closing scenes of the convention, highly dramatic in themselves, were enacted on Saturday, October 13, 1849. Copies of California’s new Constitution being printed at the earliest possible moment, that document was quickly carried to every town and mining camp and ranch. Candidates for various offices took the field political speeches began to multiply in the land, and in an incredibly short time events took on the aspect of an ordinary campaign.

November 13th, the day appointed for the general election, proved to be stormy, which accounts for the light vote polled. A fortnight before, Governor Riley had prophesied that the Constitution would be ratified by the almost unanimous vote of the qualified electors of the country. The forecast was safe, since, of a total vote of 12,785, only 811 were against the Constitution. For the office of Governor Peter H. Burnett received more than double the vote of his leading opponent, Winfield S. Sperwood, and in the contest for Lieutenant-Governor, John McDougal was successful over A. M. Winn, Edward Gilbert and George W. Wright were elected to represent California in the lower house of the Congress. Early the next month a Gubernatorial proclamation declared the Constitution to be “ordained and established as the Constitution of the State of California.”

Conformably to section 9 of the schedule to the Constitution the first Legislature assembled on December 15th for temporary organization in San Jose, the new seat of government. Of more significance, doubtless, was the fact that on the following Thursday, December 20, 1849, the State government of California was formally established. Governor-elect Burnett being installed with appropriate ceremonies, and Governor Riley laying down his authority.

While General Riley did not always succeed in maintaining perfect consistency in the discharge of his ill-defined duties as acting Governor of California, he unquestionably rendered services of the highest value alike to commonwealth and Nation in perfecting the State organization and bringing, as it were, this new member to the very threshold of the Union. If at times he was somewhat overcautious and withal a strict constructionist as to his own instructions from Washington, we must commend the firmness of his administration, the statesmanlike tact he displayed in leading on the people and his clearly evinced patriotism.

Whatever legal objections might be raised against putting into operation a State Government before admission into the Union and in anticipation of Congressional approval, General Riley had with good reason judged “that these objections must yield to the obvious necessities of the case for the powers of the existing government were too limited and its organization too imperfect to provide for the wants of a country so peculiarly situated, and of a population which is augmenting with such unprecedented rapidity.” California, though now a fully constituted State so far as local governmental machinery was concerned, yet remained outside the Union.

New states are regularly formed by enabling acts of Congress out of territories of the United States, organized under its authority or acquired in an organized condition from foreign states. It is well known that previous to the Constitutional Convention at Monterey, California was not an organized Territory of the United States, also that the convention did not meet at the free instance of the people, but at the call of a de facto Governor. It is therefore clear that the organization of the California State Government was wholly without exact precedent. This fact has been perceived by Mr. Gwin, who thus stated the case, in part, on the floor of the convention:

“Our situation, sir, is entirely different from that of any other State ever admitted into the Union. * * We have determined by the unanimous vote of this body, that as soon as our constitution is ratified by the people, this Government shall go into operation. We elect our Governor, and all the subordinate officers of the State we are a State to all intents and purposes. Being a State we send our Senators and Representatives to the Congress of the United States, not as a State going out of a territorial into State Government, but as a State that has sprung full-grown into existence and when we officially notify the Congress of the United States that we are a State, we do it through our duly elected Representatives, who appear there to demand admission into the Union.”

Almost immediately upon the organization of the first State Legislature, John C. Frémont and W.M. Gwin were duly elected to the United States Senate these, together with Representatives Gilbert and Wright, set out in January, 1850, for Washington and in March they laid before the two Houses certified copies of the new Constitution and their own credentials, and in a long memorial, comprising a concise history of the Golden State, requested, “in the name of the people of California, the admission of the State of California into the American Union.”

In the meantime the question of the admission had risen to supreme interest and importance in national councils. Southern leaders were almost beside themselves at the imminent prospect of losing the richest country of the Mexican cession. The excitement, which had been increasing with every day of added debate, was still further intensified by the arrival of the California Representatives. Their presence in Washington was regarded by many prominent men of both sections as unwarrantable, but more particularly was it deemed a serious affront to the pride of the South.

The main question, in itself presenting the gravest difficulties, was greatly complicated by numerous other issues, which need not be reviewed here. The passions of excited men were being aroused to such an extend that ominous conflict, if not sanguinary strife, seemed inevitable, when Henry Clay, the great pacificator, reached the determination to effect a compromise.

The world is familiar with the result. The omnibus bill, in its integrity, failed to pass, but the leading measures embodied by that remarkable composition were one by one passed as separate acts. At last the question of California’s admission was nearing final settlement. Although Congress had repeatedly disappointed the people of California, and had caused delays that were unjust as well as vexatious, no sound argument based on facts and local conditions could not be adduced against admission. The stern logic of living facts was plainly against the South, as identified with slavery extension, even though the compromise of 1850 was seemingly victory for the slave power. The irrevocable exclusion of slavery from California was a rebuke at once extremely irritating and perilously prophetic. Calhoun, then almost in a dying condition, is reported to have invited Gwin to an interview, in the course of which that champion of the South solemnly predicted as an effect of California’s admission the “destruction of the equilibrium between the North and the South, a more intense agitation of the slavery question, a civil war and the destruction of the South.”

The California bill was finally passed in the house, September 7th by a vote of 150 to 56. The Senate concurred two days later, September 9, 1850, it received the approval of the President and California was received into the sisterhood of states. Nine months had Congress been in session, and still many matters of real importance remained neglected.

Angry feelings were being engendered among Californians when the defeat of the omnibus bill gave probability of another of those troublesome delays. The limit of endurance was not far removed. One placing his ear to the ground might have heard grumbling utterances such as betoken approaching rebellion. The Bear Flag Republic was called to mind, and Bear Flag sentiments of independent existence for California were openly expressed. But one autumn day, when hope was almost gone, the strain was suddenly removed. To employ the words of a well-known writer “Intelligence of the admission of California reached San Francisco on the morning of October 18th. The revulsion of feeling was instant and extreme business was suspected, and the whole population congregated on Portsmouth square to congratulate each other.”

To-day a new generation celebrates the semi-centennial of that great event in a “greater” San Francisco, fortunate metropolis of New California, We of the new generation do well to pause if but for a brief season, with reverent gratitude to the Omnipotent Ruler of Nations for past blessing and present bounty, and to take a lesson from our revivified history and draw lasting inspiration from the honored pioneers who have safely bridged the years of the half century. San Francisco Chronicle
September 9, 1900

Rockwell Dennis Hunt was a frequent contributor to southern California history journals, with special emphasis on the early history of the state. He was editor of the five-volume California and Californians (1926), as well as author of a string of California history books. Professor Hunt, born 1868, still wrote of California history as late as 1962 when he published Personal Sketches of California Pioneers I Have Known. He wrote this 1900 article, about the admission of California into the Union, while in his early 30’s.


Are some states headed for Splitsville? Movement grows to allow sections of states to break away

When Donald Trump was elected, a lot of people in California signed a petition supporting the state’s secession from the U.S. It was hard to take the movement seriously—didn’t we fight a war over this?

But there is another secession movement in California, and elsewhere in America, that is getting genuine attention from political pundits. While it may be unlikely to succeed, the idea of intra-state secession—a section of a state splitting off to form its own state—has been growing in popularity. And there’s even a Constitutional procedure for doing it.

In recent decades, the political differences between rural areas and metropolitan areas seem to have become more severe. This has caused political splits in certain states, where, often, those rural areas, with lower populations, feel stifled by their city brethren.

As Joel Kotkin, a fellow at Chapman University in Orange, Calif. and author of The Human City: Urbanism ForThe Rest Of Us, tells Fox News, “The worst thing in the world to be is the red part of a blue state.”

He looks at his home state of California and sees numerous clashes between the coastal cities of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and the more conservative counties in the interior. This has led to the New California Movement, already organized in 35 counties, seeking to create two states where there was one. Other plans have California splitting into three states, or even six. It should be noted that these new states would still be bigger than many on the East Coast, and more populous than many in the West.

Kotkin feels this movement is driven by policies like the $15 minimum wage, “which makes sense in San Francisco, but doesn’t make sense in Fresno.” He adds those running California are “fundamentally authoritarian” with “not a lot of tolerance for any kind of economic or political diversity.” As he puts it, their attitude is “’We know the truth, we know what’s right, and it has to apply to everyone.”

Kotkin further notes it’s not just California where this blue versus red battle is brewing, but up the West Coast, where eastern Oregon battles against the policies of Portland, and eastern Washington against Seattle. For that matter, there’s Chicago against downstate Illinois, and New York City versus upstate New York. And the policy divisions are not just economic, but often traditional versus progressive politics regarding issues such as marijuana, gun control and the environment.

This is why there’s a movement in New York for upstate to split from downstate. As Republican state senator Joseph Robach puts it, “We’re completely overwhelmed. by the policies of New York City.” In 2009 and 2011 he introduced bills to hold a referendum on secession. And in 2015 there was a rally in favor of carving out a new state, supported by more than a dozen groups frustrated by the policies of Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.

All this secession talk has captured the notice of University of Tennessee law professor Glenn Reynolds, who recently put out a new paper, “Splitsylvania: State Secession and What to Do About It.”

He notes that Article IV, section 3 of the Constitution allows for new states to be admitted into the union, though no new state can be formed within an old state without the consent of the state legislature as well as Congress. That’s a pretty high hurdle. But, as Reynolds told Fox News, not insurmountable.

It’s been done before, but long ago. For example, Vermont split from New York in 1791, Maine split from Massachusetts in 1820, and West Virginia split from Virginia during the Civil War in 1863. There haven’t been any states formed by secession in modern U.S. history.

What’s more, Americans seem to have gotten used to the idea of 50 states, with Hawaii the last admitted to the Union in 1959. As Reynolds points out, “for most of the country’s history we added a new state every couple of decades. now we act as if 50 is set in stone. There’s a plausible argument that we would be better off with more states. It would be more representative.”

While it would seem that state leaders wouldn’t want to give up power, Reynolds offers a scenario where politicians might greet the formation of a new entity. “If you’re a California politician, you spend a lot of time trying to fight your way to the top. And the trouble is it’s a really big state—there are a lot of other people trying to fight their way to the top. [If the state splits, there’s] a smaller pond, but you’re a big fish.”

More important than forming new states, however, Reynolds feels we should address the disputes that make citizens support secession. Part of the problem, he believes, goes back to the Supreme Court case “Reynolds v. Sims” (1964), which declared state legislatures (as opposed to the U.S. Senate) have to be apportioned according to population, not geographical area. As Reynolds explains, “under the old system, rural areas got more representation, and under the new system they got much less.” This has helped lead to the present-day situation where rural areas feel underserved.

Reynolds hopes there can be less dramatic solutions than secession, such as Congressional statutes (or in some cases executive orders) to ease the pressure. Reynolds thinks they have the Constitutional authority to remedy the situation, particularly under the Guarantee Clause, which states “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government.”

Reynolds points to civil rights laws, passed to protect unfairly treated minorities, as a model for how Congress might take action. He notes “most federal laws. are written to leave states the power to make stricter regulations, but if it seems like the burden. is falling disproportionately on a minority in a state that has no real political power. then I think it’s fair for the federal government to step in and protect them.” To Reynolds, this could mean laws limiting how far states can go regarding “the environment, firearms, wages and. things that people in rural areas are unhappy about.”

This may seem like extreme intervention to some, but it’s a lot less extreme than secession.

As Reynolds puts it, “when you have people talking about wanting to split from their state, and form a new one, there’s obviously some significant unhappiness, and if we can do things that are relatively low cost. to remedy it, I think probably we should. At least we should think about it.”


The Senate Has Always Favored Smaller States. It Just Didn’t Help Republicans Until Now.

It&rsquos been decades since Congress first introduced legislation to make Washington, D.C., a state, and 27 years since such a bill got a full (losing) vote in the House of Representatives, but in late June, a historic step was taken: A majority in the House voted in favor of legislation that would make Washington, D.C., a state for the very first time.

Of course, this bill won&rsquot be signed into law this year given the clear partisan calculus involved &mdash making D.C. a state would almost certainly give Democrats two additional senators thanks to the District&rsquos deep blue hue. But it&rsquos important we understand why the Democrats are waging this fight now and why we might see more fights over admitting states in the years to come.

The answer boils down to unequal representation.

On the one hand, the Senate has always been unequal, long giving less populous states an outsized voice relative to their population. 1 But for more than a century, this hasn&rsquot posed much of an issue: Until the 1960s, Republicans and Democrats competed for both densely and sparsely populated states at roughly the same rate

But over the last several decades, that&rsquos changed. The parties have reorganized themselves along urban-rural lines, and there is now a clear and pronounced partisan small-state bias in the Senate thanks to mostly rural, less populated states voting increasingly Republican. In fact, it&rsquos reached the point that Republicans can win a majority of Senate seats while only representing a minority of Americans.

One way to observe this growing partisan bias in the Senate is to compare the party makeup of senators elected to represent the 15 most populous states (which have collectively housed about two-thirds of population since the turn of the 20th century) to the partisan makeup of senators elected to represent the 25 least populous states (which have collectively housed roughly a sixth of the population consistently since the 1960s). As the chart below shows, the partisan makeup of the Senate was fairly even until the 1960s, when Republicans started to amass a partisan advantage in less populated states. 2

What happened? Much of this follows from the post-civil rights realignment of American partisan politics, in which the Democratic Party became more consistently liberal (and thus more appealing in big, largely urban states), and the Republican Party became more consistently conservative (and thus more appealing in small, largely rural states). But that gap has also widened in recent years, especially starting in 2015, when Republicans took back a Senate majority, flipping seats in small states like West Virginia, South Dakota, Arkansas, Alaska and Montana &mdash all states that will be tough for Democrats to regain in 2020.

And what this has meant practically is that Republicans now hold a majority of Senate seats while only representing a minority of Americans, as you can see in the chart below. 3

This imbalance is significant because it poses a real obstacle to Democrats taking back a Senate majority in 2020. Take Democrats&rsquo current odds of retaking the chamber. The Cook Political Report recently said Democrats are favored to win the Senate, but considering Democrats currently lead the generic ballot for Congress by over 8 percentage points and have a similar margin nationally in the presidential race, it&rsquos remarkable that they still are only slight favorites to control the upper chamber.

Even if D.C. or Puerto Rico were states (as some on the left advocate), Republicans would still have the advantage. It&rsquos true that the statehoods of D.C. and Puerto Rico would help Democrats close the small-state gap, but even if both were states and elected two Democratic senators, Republicans would still have had a two-seat majority in 2019, while only representing 48 percent of the population.

The Senate has always held a contested place in America&rsquos democratic system because of its non-proportional qualities. For the first half of the 19th century, the Senate was a bulwark for the South, with an equal balance of slave and free states despite the growing Northern population advantage. And in the second half of the 19th century, Republicans attempted to &ldquostack&rdquo the Senate by admitting a large number of Republican states into the union, starting with Nevada in 1864 (population of just 6,857(!) in the 1860 census), Nebraska (1867), Colorado (1876), Montana, Washington, and North and South Dakota as separate states in an 1889 omnibus, and Idaho and Wyoming in 1890.

But despite rising prairie populism spreading through the Great Plains to the Mountain West in the 1890s, Republicans&rsquo hopes for a stacked Senate didn&rsquot work out quite as planned. And thanks to the way the American two-party system developed in the 20th century, with Democrats and Republicans both containing urban liberal and rural conservative wings, the small-state bias of the Senate never became a real partisan issue &mdash until now. It will likely remain an issue, too, as long as one party is able to win a majority in the chamber while only representing a minority of the population.


Opposition

OneCalifornia, also known as No on Proposition 9, led the campaign in opposition to Proposition 9. ⎞]

Opponents

Officials

Former officials

Parties

Organizations

Arguments

  • Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who was a candidate for governor in 2018, stated, "California’s success is in being a cohesive state, particularly in a time of Trump and Trumpism. And now we’re the fifth-largest economy in the world — why would we cede that?" ⎨]
  • Businessman John Cox (R), who was a candidate for governor in 2018, said, "Tim Draper has alerted people to the mismanagement of the state, which I agree with him on, but I don’t think that’s the answer." ⎬]
  • Steven Maviglio, a Democratic political consultant, said, "This just goes to show that a billionaire with a wacky idea can get about anything on the ballot. This doesn’t solve a single problem in the state or add a single job." ⎪]
  • Eric Bauman, chair of the California Democratic Party, stated, "There have been repeated attempts to break up California, and the voters have said over and over and over again that we aren’t interested in doing that. It’s going to be more money flushed down the toilet. Only one guy is behind it, and everyone is against it." ⎨]

The Toledo War

The disputed strip of land during the Toledo War.

During the early 1800s there was a conflict between Michigan and Ohio (and we don’t mean a football rivalry). At the time Ohio had already been admitted into the union while Michigan was still a territory.

The dispute during the Toledo War (also known as the Ohio-Michigan War) began with different interpretations of the geographic boundaries and features between the State of Ohio and the Michigan Territory. Both governments were claiming sovereignty over a 468 square mile region, which became known as the Toledo Strip.

Until the year 1818, the Michigan Territory had ownership over the eastern section of the Upper Peninsula (the yellow region in the graphic above). The territory then expanded to include the rest of the Upper Peninsula, the entire State of Wisconsin and other parts of the Midwest.

Due to a financial crisis the Michigan Territory was under pressure from Congress and President Andrew Jackson, at which point the Michigan Territory accepted a resolution from the government.


When Adding New States Helped the Republicans

Putting new stars on the U.S. flag has always been political. But D.C. statehood is a modest partisan ploy compared with the mass admission of underpopulated western territories—which boosts the GOP even 130 years later.

About the author: Heather Cox Richardson, a professor of history at Boston College, is the author of How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Struggle for the Soul of America.

Today, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform is scheduled to hold the first hearing in a quarter century on whether to admit the District of Columbia as a state. Over the past year, Puerto Rico’s tribulations after a deadly hurricane have invigorated the statehood movement there, too. Adding the 51st and 52nd stars to the flag might seem like a dramatic change to Americans who haven’t seen a new one in nearly six decades—and Republicans have been quick to characterize the very notion as a radical move. In June, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warned that a House plan to admit the two jurisdictions to the union would give the Democrats four more senators, permitting them to impose “full-bore socialism” on America, and he pledged to stop it.

The number of states in the union has been fixed at 50 for so long, few Americans realize that throughout most of our history, the addition of new states from time to time was a normal part of political life. New states were supposed to join the union when they reached a certain population, but in the late 19th century, population mattered a great deal less than partisanship. While McConnell is right to suspect that admitting Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia now would shift the balance in Congress toward the Democrats, the Republican Party has historically taken far more effective advantage of the addition of new states.

In 1889 and 1890, Congress added North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming—the largest admission of states since the original 13. This addition of 12 new senators and 18 new electors to the Electoral College was a deliberate strategy of late-19th-century Republicans to stay in power after their swing toward Big Business cost them a popular majority. The strategy paid dividends deep into the future indeed, the admission of so many rural states back then helps to explain GOP control of the Senate today, 130 years later.

During the Civil War, the United States government had organized new territories in the West at a cracking pace, both to keep the Confederacy at bay and to bring the region’s mines and farmland under government control. The territories produced silver and gold, but didn’t attract the flood of settlers that would force immediate statehood, as the California gold strikes did in 1850. The war created a labor shortage, and there was work enough back East to give migrants pause before challenging the Apache, Comanche, Lakota, and Cheyenne, who controlled the West. Congress admitted Nevada in 1864, but by the end of the decade, the addition of new states had stalled. Then, after the 1870 readmission of Georgia, the last of the Confederate states, the drive to organize the West became entangled in the desperate struggle between Republicans and Democrats to control the nation.

The admission of Colorado, in 1876, showed the way. In the 1874 midterm elections, Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives for the first time since the Civil War. Just before Democrats took over, Congress struck a tentative agreement to admit two new states, Colorado and New Mexico, both controlled by Republican machines. Colorado had slightly fewer than 40,000 people in 1870, and New Mexico had more than 90,000. In March 1875, Congress let statehood for Colorado go forward before the upcoming election, but the admission of New Mexico stalled. A coalition of Democrats joined with eastern Republicans, who howled, according to an 1876 New York Times article, that New Mexico was inhabited by “ignorant, priest-ridden ‘Greasers’”—a slur for people of Mexican origin—and should not be given “the right to send two Senators to vote equally with those of New-York, Pennsylvania, and other great States of the Union.”

Colorado’s admission was momentous. In the 1876 election, the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes lost the popular vote, but the new state’s three electoral votes kept his candidacy alive long enough for a Republican-dominated temporary electoral commission to award him the presidency in one of the most hotly contested presidential elections in the nation’s history.

The Republicans had won every presidential election from 1860 to 1876, and controlled both houses of Congress for all but two years of that period, but their governing majority was evaporating. In 1880, after a major Democratic scandal, the Republican James A. Garfield won election by only slightly more than 8,000 votes out of almost 10 million cast, and in 1884, a Democrat, New York’s Grover Cleveland, won the presidency. For Republicans, Cleveland’s election signaled the apocalypse. They had come to believe that the key to American prosperity was the Republican tariff system, which protected American business. Democrats, in contrast, complained that tariffs drove up the price of consumer goods and enabled industrialists to collude to raise prices. Cleveland won by promising to reduce tariff rates. Worse for Republicans, the South had gone solidly Democratic after 1876, and by the time of Cleveland’s victory it was clear it would remain so for the foreseeable future. Not for the last time, Republicans protested that the nation was falling to socialism.

So they changed the political equation. Vowing to regain the White House, Republican leaders first flooded the country with pro-business literature, and then chose the nondescript Ohio Senator Benjamin Harrison, who would toe the line on the tariff, as their nominee for president. Next they tapped a Philadelphia department-store entrepreneur, John Wanamaker, to persuade wealthy industrialists to invest in the Republican war chest, constructing a modern system of campaign finance. Their advertisements and threats that Democrats would destroy the economy enabled Republicans to win control of Congress. Harrison lost the popular vote by about 100,000 votes, but he won the election in the Electoral College. (When Harrison piously declared that “Providence has given us this victory,” his campaign manager scoffed that “Providence hadn’t a damn thing to do with it. [A] number of men were compelled to approach the penitentiary to make him President.”)

In the face of an emerging Democratic majority, Republicans set out to cement their power. The parties had scuffled for years over admission of new states, with Democrats now demanding New Mexico and Montana, and Republicans hoping for Washington and Dakota (which had not yet been divided in two). Before the election, Congress had discussed bringing in all four states together, but as soon as the Republican victory was clear, Democrats realized they had to get the best deal they could or Republicans would simply admit the Republican states and ignore the Democratic ones, as they had done in 1876. So on February 22, 1889, outgoing President Cleveland signed an act dividing the Dakota Territory in half, and permitting the two new territories, along with Montana and Washington, to write constitutions before admission to the union the following year. They passed over New Mexico, which had twice the population of any of the proposed states.

Republicans did not hide their intentions. In the popular Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, President Harrison’s son crowed that the Republicans would win all the new states and gain eight more senators, while the states’ new electors meant that Cleveland’s New York would no longer dominate the Electoral College. When the Republicans’ popularity continued to fall nationally, in 1890 Congress added Wyoming and Idaho—whose populations in 1880 were fewer than 21,000 and 33,000 respectively—organizing them so quickly that they bypassed normal procedures and permitted volunteers instead of elected delegates to write Idaho’s constitution.

Democrats objected that Wyoming and Idaho would have four senators and two representatives even though there were fewer people in both together than in some of Massachusetts’s congressional districts, but Harrison’s men insisted that they were statesmen rather than partisans. They accused Democrats of refusing to admit any states that did not support their party—a reversal of the actual record—and claimed Republicans supported “the prosperous and growing communities of the great West.” But moderate Republicans sided with the Democrats, pointing out that the Harrison administration had badly undercut the political power of voters from populous regions, attacking America’s fundamental principle of equal representation.

Harrison’s men didn’t care. “The difference between the parties is as the difference between the light and darkness, day and night,” one supporter argued in Frank Leslie’s. The Republican Party, he insisted, must stay in power to protect Big Business. If that meant shutting more populous territories out of statehood and admitting a few underpopulated western states to enable a minority to exercise political control over the majority of Americans, so be it. Today, the District of Columbia has more residents than at least two other states Puerto Rico has more than 20. With numbers like that, admitting either or both to the union is less a political power play on the Democrats’ part than the late-19th-century partisan move that still warps American politics.


Here's Why Washington D.C. Isn't a State

W ith Washington, D.C.’s mayor calling for a November vote on statehood, it raises the question, why wasn’t the nation’s capital made a state in the first place?

First, it’s worth remembering that Washington, D.C. was not always the capital. George Washington first took office in New York City, and then the capital was moved to Philadelphia, where it remained for a decade. Washington, D.C. was founded as the capital in 1790 as a result of a compromise between Alexander Hamilton and northern states, and Thomas Jefferson and southern states. Hamilton’s economic policies consolidated power in the bankers and financiers who primarily lived in the North, so the compromise moved the capital physically more South, to appease Jefferson and southern leaders who feared northern control of the nation.

But the lack of statehood for the capital is enshrined in the Constitution. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the document reads, “The Congress shall have Power To …exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States.”

James Madison outlined the reasoning behind this provision in Federalist 43, calling the arrangement an “indispensable necessity.” He wrote, “The indispensable necessity of complete authority at the seat of government, carries its own evidence with it… Without it, not only the public authority might be insulted and its proceedings interrupted with impunity but a dependence of the members of the general government on the State comprehending the seat of the government, for protection in the exercise of their duty, might bring on the national councils an imputation of awe or influence, equally dishonorable to the government and dissatisfactory to the other members of the Confederacy.”

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