Part II, Lesson 2: California's First Constitution
Focus Question:

How did California's constitution reflect the values of the political majority? (Prejudices, greed and distrust intermingled with a sense of justice and fair play during the framing of the state constitution.) 

Student Learnings: 

a. Students will read excerpts from speeches made at the California Constitutional Convention, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, newspaper editorials and articles, private journals, etc. They will be exposed to a range of opinions regarding the rights and responsibilities of California's multicultural population. 

b. Students will predict what the state constitution will say about slavery and other issues concerning race. 

Constitution, diversity, federalism, states' rights, Manifest Destiny 

Franchise, suffrage, citizen, treaty, constitutional convention 


1. Introduction to students: Tell students that they will be reporters covering the California Constitutional Convention, September 1-October 13, 1849. They will be looking at it with one of four ethnic groups in mind, since they will be "covering" that group. 

Review with them the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787 that they learned about earlier in the eighth grade, and the process by which a territory becomes a state, which they learned about in Lesson 1. 

The convention delegates know that it is important for California to achieve statehood so that they may legally establish a state legislature and develop laws in an orderly fashion. Therefore, they must quickly draw up a constitution that the people of the state must approve, and which must then be submitted to Congress for approval, so that California may qualify for admission to the Union. 

California has suddenly acquired a large and very diverse population, and it continues to grow. How will the delegates (and eventually the state) deal with all the different people, many of whom do not speak English? What, if anything, will the state constitution say about them? 

Note to teacher:

California is operating under a mixture of political systems because it was so recently a province of Mexico. Some people are still following the laws of Mexico, although they were not always strictly enforced in previous years because California was so far from Mexico City.  

Time Allotment:

Two to four periods, depending on activities and time spent on discussion, assessment, etc. 


a. Student Worksheet #2-1 (Primary Source Statements By and About ___) 

b. Student Worksheet #2-2 (Artwork Inquiry) 

c. Student Worksheet #2-3 (Written Document Analysis Worksheet) 

d. Resources #2-1 to #2-22
A variety of images, primary sources consisting of excerpts from journals, diaries, proceedings of the California Constitutional Convention, census data, etc. 

Part II, Lesson 2 
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