Very few people have had as much impact in shaping California as Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Vallejo was born in Monterey in 1807, when that city was the capital of Alta California in the Viceroy of New Spain. As a young man, Vallejo worked as a clerk for English merchant William Hartnell, learning English, French, and Latin. Vallejo was serving as personal secretary to the Governor of California, Luis Arguello in 1821, when news of Mexico’s independence from Spain reached Monterey. He then enrolled as a cadet at the Presidio of San Francisco.
In 1833 Vallejo was promoted to commander of the Presidio, and two years later to Comandante of the Fourth Military District, the highest military command in Northern California. As a prominent leader and landholder, Vallejo began to feel that joining the United States would afford California the best opportunities to develop. Though he was briefly detained during the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846 and subsequently imprisoned for a short time at Sutter’s Fort, Vallejo remained committed to the cause of California joining the United States, and formally renounced his allegiance to the Mexican government.
In 1849, Vallejo was an influential member of the California Constitutional Convention, which ratified that document on May 7 th of that year in Monterey. This was the document – produced in both English and Spanish – that formed the basis for California law and government until 1867, and which provided the legal framework for California to join the United States the very next year.
After California’s admission to the United States in 1850, Vallejo was elected as a member of the first California State Senate, thereby making him the only person to serve in a governmental leadership position in both Mexico and the United States.
Mariano Vallejo’s influence in shaping the state of California can still be seen in the city of Vallejo and the nearby city of Benicia, which is named after Vallejo’s wife.
We hope you will visit next week when we’ll discuss the history of Los Angeles.