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Auction 15: Fine Collection of Californiana Formed by Daniel G. Volkmann Jr.

Lot 20: Alta California's Declaration of Independence

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Alta California Declares Its Independence from Mexico
Early California Imprint–Two Copies Known

20. CALIFORNIA. ALTA CALIFORNIA (Mexican Territory). DIPUTACIÓN TERRITORIAL. [Broadside commencing]: En el Puerto de Monterrey de la Alta California, á los siete dias del mes de Noviembre de mil ochocientos treinta y seis...La Alta California se declara independiente de Mejico mientras tanto no restablesca el sistema Federal que se adopto el ano de 1824.... [Signed at end]: Jose Castro. Juan B. Albarado. Antonio Buelna. Jose Antonio Noriego. [Monterrey: Santiago Aguilar, 1836]. 32.3 x 22 cm; 12-1/4 x 8-5/8 inches. Framed, double glazed. Small hole at fold, light stains, creased where folded, otherwise fine. With the printed book label and pencil manuscript notes of Thomas W. Streeter on verso and manuscript title head in pencil written by Edward Eberstadt.

     First edition. AII, California 17. Cowan, Spanish Press, p. 16. Fahey 22 (locating only this and the Bancroft copy). Greenwood 23. Harding 22. Libros Californianos, p. 26 (Wagner list). Streeter Sale 2482 (this copy). The printer of this broadside was California’s second printer, Santiago Aguilar (Bancroft, Pioneer Register, p. 28), and this broadside was his second imprint. After the success of the revolution fomented by Juan Bautista Alvarado and José Castro, California’s first printer, Agustín Zamorano, was forced into exile on November 4, 1836 (three days before the present imprint). The government seized Zamorano’s press, and Santiago Aguilar was put in charge. After creating twenty-two imprints, Aguilar made the mistake of giving aid to an abortive revolt that erupted at Monterey on July 1, 1837. The only measurable loss of the fizzled revolt was that Señor Aguilar was fired from his job as Public Printer. Thereafter, Vallejo took Zamorano’s historic press to Sonoma (see next entry for a Sonoma imprint).
    Another ominous manifestation of the political rumblings felt during the 1830s in Mexico’s northern provinces, this Declaration of Independence by Alta California occurred the same year as that of the Texans, although the issue was more peacefully resolved in California. Reflecting yet another province aggrieved by the neglect and insouciance of the Mexican central government, this declaration states that Alta California will be an independent state until the central government of Mexico is reformed and reverts to its former situation. The declaration printed here sets up a full government apparatus for Alta California, including appointing leaders, providing for a legislature, and establishing a constitution. One of its highly unusual features is Article 3, in which Alta California declares that only the Catholic faith may be practiced publicly but that citizens will not be molested for their private religious views.
    The prime mover behind this document was Juan Bautista Alvarado (1809-1882) , governor of Alta California from 1836 to1842. During his short tenure as governor of the independent Alta California, he managed to win the support of the majority of the populace, although he was regarded with suspicion by certain elements until his regular appointment in 1838. Working in concert with his uncle, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who at the time was military governor, Alavardo regrettably accomplished little in the way of progress or reform, leading to the removal of both men in 1842. Not to be stymied, the Alvarados again led another successful revolt in 1844 against governor Manuel Micheltorena, but the Bear Flag Revolt (see entry 111 herein) was their permanent undoing since they had neither the means nor the will to resist the yanquis. (Vallejo was in fact sympathetic to the U.S.) In the same year as this declaration, Texas, of course, flamed into full armed revolt and eventually won its independence.

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