How was the border between these two determined?

For an imaginary line, it sure caused a ruckus. When Spain and Mexico owned the area known as California (Alta and Baja), there was no real boundary .I guess you just rode east until somebody shot at you and told you to get off his land, pronto!, and thatís where you drew the line. But, once the U.S. took most of the West from Mexico in 1848, and the major cities in California wanted to petition Washington to become an official state, it was time to decide exactly where the line was and what shape the state would be.

At the constitutional convention held in Monterey in 1849, one faction wanted to scoop up all of the Utah territory and draw the boundary somewhere east of Salt Lake City. Opponents argued that Washington would never allow the admission of such a greedy state, and perhaps a line east of the Sierras was really more modest and realistic. I havenít found reports of actual fistfights in my research, yet, but the state-boundary issue was nearly a deal breaker at the convention.

The east-of-the-Sierras crew finally convinced the other side that a state including all the Utah Territory would be pretty hard, if not impossible, to govern. Also, nobody from the Utah Territory had been invited to the Monterey convention, and they might liked to wake up some morning and find out they suddenly lived in the new state of California. And, besides, Mormons in Salt Lake were already typing up their own petition to Washington for the state of Deseret.

There was actually less controversy about drawing the actual boundary line. The northern boundary was set along the 42nd parallel. The southern boundary had already been determined by the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo with Mexico. The northeast corner of the state would be the point where the 42nd parallel met the 120th meridian, to include the Sierras. Follow the 120th parallel south to the point where it intersects the 39th parallel (Lake Tahoe), then draw a straight line south to the intersection of the 35th parallel with the Colorado River. The river would form the remainder of the boundary to the Border with Mexico. Everybody was satisfied, they went home, Washington pondered the proposal, and California became a state in 1850.

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