There are many Benicians more qualified to write of historic Benicia than I. Nevertheless, though with some trepidation, I have agreed to examine and bring to you some examples of the legislative record of that singular state legislative session privileged to be convened in Benicia from 1853 to 1854.
First, for context, it is important to remember that California was Mexican territory up to the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in 1848 and its transfer to American sovereignty. Subsequently, California became the 31st state on September 9, 1850.
Benicia began its existence in 1848 and was the first “Anglo” town in California. It was also the first incorporated city. It was certainly first in the hearts of its new citizens, especially Robert Semple and Thomas Larkin, who acquired the land rights from General Vallejo for $100. (Assuming Southampton was included, not a bad buy!)
A large number of schools were established in the first years of Benicia's history, which was the source of the unusual nickname “the Athens of California." The first two were Blake's School for Boys and the Benicia Young Ladies' Seminary, both founded in 1852. Benicia became a center of refinement and culture among remote California villages and rough gold mining camps. It was said that it was aided in this achievement by its quiet, its beautiful setting and its distance from both gold and the noisier attractions of San Francisco.
Following statehood, the capitol of California shifted, along with complaints about housing, from San Jose to Vallejo, before coming to its temporary rest in the newly constructed city hall of Benicia. The first legislative act noted below, was, from our parochial point of view, its most important!
The Fourth Session of the California legislature as officially stated (was) “Begun on the Third of January,1853 and Ended On The Nineteenth Day of May, 1853, At the Cities of Vallejo and Benicia.” As noted in Chapter X1 of the statutes enacted during this session, the following act was passed: To provide for the Permanent Location of the Seat of Government.
Whereas, in and by an Act entitled “an Act for the permanent location of the seat of Government, passed February the fourth, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one, it is provided, that if said M.G. Vallejo shall fail or refuse to comply with the terms of his proposition, in whole or in part, then said Act to be void:
And whereas, said Vallejo has petitioned the Legislature to be released from the performance of his bond, given under said Act, and expressed his inability to comply with the conditions thereof: Therefore,
The People of the State of California, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows:
Section 1. On and after the fifth day of February, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three, the permanent Seat of Government of this State, shall be, and the same hereby is, established and located at the city of Benicia, situated upon the Straits of Carquinez, in the County of Solano.
Section 2. That M.G. Vallejo be and hereby is released from the performance of his said bond, upon condition of his releasing by good and sufficient release, to be approved by the Attorney General, any and all claims, for relief or damages, against this State, founded upon or growing out of anything connected with the location or removal of the Seat of Government at or from Vallejo.
Section 3. That it shall be the duty of the Attorney General, as soon as said Vallejo shall have executed and delivered said release to deposit the same in the office of the Secretary of State, and to communicate these facts to the Legislature; and upon receiving such communication, the second section of this Act shall be deemed to be performed and complied with. -Approved, February 4, 1853
Voila!! This baby is ours!!