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Exchange of correspondence relating to the proposed "removal" of the California State capital from Sacramento, 1852 June 30
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Exchange of correspondence relating to the proposed "removal" of the California State capital from Sacramento, 1852 June 30


Pierce, Winslow S., 1819-1888


Graham, J. S. (James S.)


Hastings, S. Clinton (Serranus Clinton), 1814-1893


The story of the migration of California's state capital during the initial years of statehood is well documented. When the 1st Legislature (1849-1850) met in San Jose prior to statehood, it was decided that the location of the permanent seat of government would be put to a vote in the coming election. Contenders included Monterey, San Jose, Sacramento and the a new town to be built expressly to serve as the capital by Mariano Vallejo. This proposal was accepted by the voters and, accordingly, the 2nd Legislature (1851) - again meeting in San Jose - passed a bill to relocate to the new town of Vallejo for following session.
Thus, the 3rd Legislature convened in Vallejo on Jan. 5, 1852. Immediately protests began about conditions there and by Jan. 16th the Legislature had voted to remove temporarily to Sacramento, home of the new Governor, John Bigler. By the end of this session no consensus had been reached as to the permanent location of the capital but a return to Vallejo for the 4th session was voted on.
The following exchange of letters takes place on June 30 of 1852 after adjournment of the 3rd Legislature in Sacramento. The three letters provide an inside view of government agencies participating in, and reacting to, the politically sensitive question of where the California state capital should be located.
The first letter is from James S. Graham, the Superintendent of Public Buildings for the state of California to Winslow S. Pierce, State Comptroller. The subject is the impending move of the government offices from the temporary capital in Sacramento to the "Seat of Government", location unspecified, as mandated by the recently-adjourned 3rd Legislature. Graham writes: "I beg leave to inform you that I am and have been constantly ready and desirous since the adjournment of the Legislature in accordance with law to take charge of and remove the State furniture to the Seat of Government. With a view to inform myself as to the time that will best suit your convenience to have said law carried into effect I would most respectfully ask that you will name a day when I may proceed to said removal without detriment to the business of your office."
The State comptroller replies on that same day. Mr. Pierce begins by seeming to protest the need for Mr. Graham to state his readiness to proceed in the relocation. He goes on to state his own reluctance to move and hints at Mr. Graham's status as a relative newcomer to the government. "As to your next enquiry as to when or "what day you could proceed to "carry said law into effect" I would most respectfully answer that as an humble officer among the seven heads of the several departments (yourself (personally I am pleased to say) among the number, and subordinate to the executive I will lose no time in informing on my part in informing you of my readiness to proceed to a Seat of Govt. when I find the others named above preparing to do so - I must from motives of delicacy & modesty decline taking the [three words crossed out] initiative, having followed [one word crossed out] their lead with success heretofore when I regret to say you were not of our number."
He concludes this letter with the comment: "Relative to a removal without detriment to the business of this office [line crossed out] I will say that it is my sincere conviction that a removal at this time would seriously embarrass & deter the business of this office, as well as others & work great injury to the public interests." This letter is unsigned and is possibly a draft as there are repeated phrases and several words crossed out.
On that same date, the State comptroller also writes to S.C. Hastings, then serving as Attorney General of California. In this letter Mr. Pierce states: "I desire your opinion on the following named laws as applied to the Superintendent of Public Buildings." He cites various sections of state law and specifies: "Concerning the superintendent of public buildings & removing furniture & defraying the expense therof" I wish to know it would or would not be proper to audit pay accounts for expenses incurred by the Superintendent of Public Buildings in purchasing, repairing, removing furniture or fixing or fitting up the offices of [officers of govt?] which payment of which may not be authorized by any existing law to be paid." The letter ends in mid-sentence - again it may have been a draft that was never sent.


1852 (issued)


California -- Capital and capitol -- History
California. -- Office of State Controller -- Records and correspondence
Pierce, Winslow S -- 1819-1888 -- Correspondence
Graham, J. S. (James S.) -- Correspondence
Hastings, S. Clinton (Serranus Clinton) -- 1814-1893 -- Correspondence


Exchange of correspondence relating to the proposed "removal" of the California State capital from Sacramento, 1852 June 30
Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.

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Unrestricted. Please credit California State Library.