The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 30, July 1926 - April, 1927 Page: 86
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
question Congress could not organize a territorial government for
New Mexico or California. From the administration in Washing-
ton came many promises, but no substantial relief. The settlers
were told that the military government established in California
under the laws of war had by the termination of the war, become
a "Government de facto," to continue with the presumed consent
of the people, until Congress should provide for them a territorial
government. But the settlers could appreciate neither the prom-
ises nor the fine reasoning of the administration in Washington.
They were not willing to accept the doctrine of international law,
namely, that all the laws in force in a ceded province must continue
in force till superseded by the laws of the government to which the
territory had been ceded. They were not even fully convinced of
the sanctity of "that undefined thing, that nonsense which had so
long been palmed upon the world as the laws of nations." More-
over, in the peculiar case of California, they argued, these prin-
ciples could be disregarded. They acknowledged that the power
to legislate for the territories was vested in Congress, but since
that body neglected to exercise its prerogative, they believed they
would be justified in acting for themselves. The right to institute
a government for the protection of life, liberty, and property, they
claimed, was based upon the "original and natural right of society
to protect itself by law."3
We thus find here a struggle between two theories of right:
"legal right" and "moral right," sometimes called "natural right."
The first was sponsored by the administration, the second, by the
settlers. Much may be said in favor of the argument of the set-
tlers. When Congress, after grappling for two sessions with the
matter of government for the territories acquired from Mexico,
could not, because of the slavery question, come to any agreement,
then the settlers were justified to act for themselves. And this
they did. They organized a government and adopted a constitu-
tion for a free state; fixed the boundaries of the state, and applied
to Congress for admission into the Union.
Admission of California Into the Union: The action of Cali-
fornia simplified the issue for the North, but it exasperated the
3The opinions of the settlers and of the United States authorities are
found in H. Ex. Doe. 17, 31 Cong., 1 Sess. (573); Monterey Californian,
1846-1848; San Francisco California Star, 1847-1848; San Francisco Alta,
1849-1850; Burnett, Recollections of an Old Pioneer, 287-334,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 30, July 1926 - April, 1927, periodical, 1926; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117142/m1/100/: accessed June 29, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.