The Journal of San Diego History
July 1966, Volume 12, Number 3
Elvira L. Wittenberg, Editor
Barbara Lamb, Assistant Editor
Tim MacNeil, Assistant Editor

By Lucy Lytle Killea

Images from the article


This thesis has most conveniently been divided into two parts; the first part which is presented in the July 1966 Quarterly includes Chapters I-V covering the early years of Mexican rule of Alta California and San Diego to 1835. Also included is the detailed account of the three years of local self-government in San Diego from 1835-1837.

The second and final part of this thesis which will be presented in the October 1966 Quarterly includes Chapters VI-IX, opening with an account of the internal sectional struggles in Alta California during the mid-1830’s and concludes with an analysis of San Diego’s changing fortunes during the Mexican period.



The origins of the major forces that combined to give San Diego its political character during the twenty years from 1825 to 1845 can be found in the Spanish character and Spanish institutions. Environment, personal ambitions and political conflicts had an abrasive effect on this Spanish heritage; these gave the New World progeny its distinctive features.

The change from Spanish to Mexican rule in 1821 had little effect on the territorial scene in California or on the local setting in San Diego until the first Mexican Governor from the capital arrived at the end of October in 1825. Prior to that time the change over was presumably of no great concern to the Californians, except perhaps to the missionary fathers, who had a strong attachment to the Spanish crown and apprehension regarding the role of the Church under republicanism.

In the period from its founding as a presidio in 1769, to 1825, when Mexican Governor José María Echeandía made it his headquarters, San Diego was primarily a military establishment to protect the missions within its jurisdiction and to provide a vital link in the chain of missions and fortresses established to secure the territory against foreign encroachment. Beginning in 1825, a series of gradual changes gave San Diegans more of a stake in political developments. This interest reached its height ten years later when the citizens of the pueblo petitioned for and received approval to form their own local government. The San Diego of the mid-1830’s provided some of the important political figures that contested the ascendancy of the North in managing Alta California’s affairs. When the southern leaders lost that engagement, San Diego’s influence and political vitality declined to the extent that by 1845, on the eve of the American occupation, San Diego had become disassociated from the main political currents of the territory.

The spotlight will be focused on San Diego during the 1830’s when its political activity as a Mexican pueblo was at its height. To give this period of greatest activity meaning and perspective, the causes and effects of this expansion and contraction of political involvement in such a short time will also be examined.



On the eve of the nineteenth century San Diego was a small presidio and mission, and it is doubtful that the Mexican cry for independence sounded by Father Hidalgo in 1810 was given more than passing notice. Events in Spain were of greater moment and concern although the time lag in communications delayed the effect.

Under the Napoleonic occupation of Spain the still-free Cortes convened in Cádiz in 1810 and included for the first time delegates from the Spanish colonies. The liberals dominated the sessions that drew up and approved a new Spanish constitution on March 19, 1812, but a deep cleavage between the liberals and conservatives was created that carried over into the colonies in America. The Constitution of 1812 was primarily of symbolic importance in Spain, by investing in the people for the first time the responsibility for their own laws, but for the colonies, a short time later independent, it exerted a great deal of influence on their future political life. Mexico was especially affected, and some of the delegates from New Spain to the Cortes at Cádiz later were among Mexico’s political leaders. The liberal fervor of the Constitution of 1812 carried over in some respects into the Mexican Constitution of 1824, whose federal framework was modeled after that of the United States.

It is in the Mexican municipal government, and more specifically that adopted by San Diego in 1835, that we see the strongest Spanish influence, little adulterated by Mexican rule. The structure and role of local Spanish government went back to Roman institutions in Spain, and for the Spanish colonies were found in the Law of the Indies. For California, the first specific regulations regarding pueblos were issued in 1773, and in 1791 the commanding general of California specifically authorized commanders of presidios to grant house lots and lands to those soldiers and citizens who desired a fixed place of residence.1

The Spanish Constitution of 1812 and decrees of the Cortes in 1812 and 1813 provided the specific regulations under which San Diego was established as a pueblo, because even with Mexican independence the Spanish laws relating to municipalities were embraced for Mexican use. In 1823, the Mexican Congress passed an elaborate set of rules for the ayuntamientos (town councils) of the territory of California.2 These specified in laborious detail how and when meetings of the ayuntamientos should be conducted, but they did not modify the basic principles of Spanish law on which the municipal government was to be based. Thus, the legal basis for San Diego’s emergence as a pueblo was laid.

Aside from the formal structure provided for local government, the political events in Spain and Mexico were laying the groundwork for the political future of Alta California and San Diego in other ways. Many of the seemingly senseless conflicts that later plagued Alta California and San Diego, discussed in later chapters, had their beginnings in the Spanish and Mexican turmoils of the first quarter of the nineteenth century.

In Mexico, the revolutionary resentment against Spanish rule was most evident in the ayuntamientos, and this spirit contributed to the revival of their importance. They were the only political instruments for self-expression the creoles (Spaniards born in America) had, since the important political positions were usually reserved for the guachapines (Spaniards from Spain). The ayuntamiento was one of the few institutions in colonial Spanish America that retained any semblance of local autonomy. From the time of discovery in the fifteenth until the opening of the nineteenth century, the increasing centralization of power under the crown over the centuries left little leeway for local rule. Nevertheless, the office of regidor (councilman) was sought by the creoles because it had considerable prestige in colonial society.

Regidores were regarded as of the higher ranks of the untitled aristocracy and the natural leaders of public opinion in the community. To that extent the [ayuntamientos] continued to represent local sentiment.3

This description seemed to…depict also the attitude of the residents toward the local government later achieved for San Diego. There was considerable pride attached to gaining an autonomous status as a pueblo and in holding office even though the scope for action was limited.

California’s geographic isolation from Spain and Mexico was reflected in California’s non-involvement in Mexico’s struggle for independence. The citizens of Alta California generally remained loyal to Spain in sentiment, but they took no part in the conflict. They were affected in a number of ways, however. After 1810 there were almost no supply ships arriving from the port of San Blas in Mexico, the normal supply depot for Alta California. Although the provincial food supply was by now adequate, no money was forthcoming for the soldiers in the presidios, and the missions were required to provide at least the bare minimum in return for written military requisitions that were never honored by authorities in Mexico City. This uncomfortable debtor-creditor relationship was the first indication of the eventual conflict that would develop over mission properties. The Spanish ships were to a large extent supplanted by the Boston traders who brought in the luxury goods the upper class desired. Though few in number, these Yankee traders had a large influence among the Californians when they became part of their communities and families and controlled a major part of the trade. Their presence, their business success, and their acceptance by the Californians eased the way for larger numbers of American settlers and even American military forces a few years later.

During the period from the final break with Spain in 1821 until the Mexican Constitution was adopted in 1825, some efforts were made to give California a government more in keeping with liberal ideas. In 1822 the incumbent governor, Pablo Vicente de Solá and his advisory board (junta), which was the closest California had come to a representative body, after accepting the Mexican Empire, devised procedures to elect a representative to the Mexican legislature. The elections were held, and Solá was selected to represent California. Before he could depart, a representative of the new Mexican Government, Don Agustín Fernández de San Vicente, canon of the cathedral at Durango, arrived to assure a satisfactory change over to Mexican rule. Fernández insisted upon the recall of the governor’s commissioners from the pueblos and the placement of the ayuntamientos in full control. He also called for the organization of a provincial legislature (diputación), and when Solá was about to appoint a Spaniard to succeed him, the canon again intervened in favor of having the diputación and the army officers make the choice. The result was that Luis Argüello, a native Californian, became the governor (jefe político). The change to a republic in 1823 was accepted without vocal opposition. A plan of government for Alta California was devised in January, 1824, but it was discarded within a year when instructions were received from Mexico. The final step of accepting a republican constitution was taken without difficulty.

Alto California as a whole had about 3,270 white inhabitants (gente de razón) in 1820, and this number increased to 4,250 in the ten years to 1830.4 Only the coastal strip was inhabited by the white people, and the individual presidial settlements or pueblos were small. San Diego is credited with a population of 450 in 1820, 475 in 1828, and 520 by 1830, an increase of 70 inhabitants in ten years.5 These figures were for the entire San Diego district, which included the missions of San Diego, San Luis Rey, and San Juan Capistrano, as well as the presidio. The number of gente de razón at the presidio in 1830 was given as 400, with the addition of 150 Indians, and with only two or three foreigners in the entire district. The mission guards required about half the soldiers assigned to the presidio, and at least one-half the disabled soldiers lived in the growing pueblo settlement, so that the actual force at the presidio proper by 1830 was about one hundred men.6

In the early 1820’s the first house was built in the area where the center of the pueblo of San Diego would eventually develop. By 1825 a few homes had been built by retired or disabled soldiers; also a few civilians began to join the movement to establish their residences outside the presidio walls. A number of factors probably prompted this movement. Hubert H. Bancroft gave one when he reported that in 1826 a commission of three officers complained that the presidio buildings were in a “deplorably ruinous condition.”7 The French explorer Captain A. Duhaut-Cilly visited San Diego in 1827. He reported that the port was without doubt the best in all California, and he recommended highly hunting small game on Point Loma. However, of the presidio and pueblo he had the following to say:

Of all the places we have visited since our coming to California, excepting San Pedro, the presidio at San Diego is the saddest. It is built upon the slope of a barren hill and has no regular form: it is a collection of houses, all the more gloomy because of the dark color of the bricks, roughly made, of which they are built. Under the presidio on a sandy plain are seen thirty or forty scattered houses of poor appearance, and a few gardens badly cultivated.8

Another description of San Diego, as seen two years later in 1829 by Alfred Robinson, gave a fuller view of the kind of life the people led there, but for the physical appearance of the town it also revealed little enthusiasm:


On the lawn beneath the hill on which the Presidio is built stood about 30 houses of rude appearance, mostly occupied by retired veterans, not so well constructed, in respect either to beauty or stability, as the houses at Monterey, with the exception of that belonging to our administrator [of the shipping firm] — Don Juan Bandini — whose mansion, then in an unfinished state, made fair, when completed, to surpass any other in the country,9

The military commander of a presidio had the right to grant house lots, and in San Diego he evidently did grant them to those who wanted them. Although there was a method prescribed by law for the granting of lands, there seemed to have been no written titles provided for the earliest house lots in San Diego.10

San Diego had been completely under military rule since its establishment in 1769, and fifty-three years later, as Mexican authority replaced the Spanish, this was still the case. First, in 1822, fealty was given to the Mexican Emperor Agustín Iturbide and later in April 1825, after Iturbide had been deposed by Santa Anna, the republican constitution was presented to the people of San Diego to receive their oath of loyalty. There was almost no alteration in the practice of political rule in Alta California from the time that it was a province of Spain under the Constitution of 1812 until it became a Mexican territory ruled by an appointed governor under the liberal-federalist Mexican Constitution of 1824.

Under this Constitution Alta California became a territory, lacking sufficient population to become a state, and its representative in the Mexican Congress was without a vote. The Constitution made no provision for the territorial government. There seemed to be no authority for the president to appoint a governor or for a diputación to legislate locally, or even for the Mexican Congress to pass laws on territorial affairs.11 An advisory council to the president, called the Development Board of the Californias (junta de fomento de las Californias), existed until the end of 1827, and its recommendations were eventually made into laws or influenced the federal government’s administration of Alta California. Despite the lack of legal basis, the territory was the subject of decrees and legislation, and the territorial government was formed and allowed to operate.

The government of each of the territories was divided between two officers, each, in theory, independent of the other. The military responsibility was vested in the comandante general (commanding general), and the civil authority was given to a jefe político (literally political chief, equivalent to civil governor).12

The elected representatives (diputados) of the various districts with presidios and pueblos who had the role of advisers to the governor rather than legislators, were called to Monterey by Governor Argüello in the Spring of 1825 to ratify the Mexican republican constitution. The diputados from the south, including the one from San Diego, were unable to reach Monterey because they could not cross the swollen rivers fed by heavy rains. Therefore, only the northern representatives ratified the Constitution on March 26, 1825. It was then read in the plaza at Monterey and the oath of loyalty was administered by the Governor to the soldiers and citizens assembled.13 Copies were then sent to the presidios and pueblos. In San Diego the Constitution was ratified at the end of April by the officers, soldiers, and citizens.14 However, the priests, all loyal monarchists, refused, as they did in Monterey, to take any part in the ratification.15

Later in 1825, the two offices of comandante general and jefe político were filled by one person when the first appointee was sent from Mexico. Lieutenant Colonel José María Echeandía reached San Diego in late October, tired from his long journey and in poor health. He decided to remain there to enjoy the mild climate San Diego offered, rather than proceed to Monterey. Therefore, Governor Luis Argüello, whom Echeandía was replacing, made the journey to San Diego to relinquish his position to his successor.

Echeandía was accompanied by eight officers, a platoon of artillerymen, a detachment of infantry, and nine Dominican friars. Apparently only the officers on his personal staff remained with him in San Diego, and one of the Dominicans was the schoolteacher at the presidio for a time.16 A new treasurer or financial officer for Alta California, José María Herrera, was also appointed in 1825, but he was largely independent of Encheandía’s control, his superior being located in Sonora.17

One authority stated that all the new arrivals in 1825 “including the new governor and treasurer were, with the exception of [two army officers], Mexicans of a class by no means particularly desirable as citizens. They came as carpet-baggers, controlled only by their personal ambitions.”18

Governor Echeandía, a controversial political figure, has been presented as a villain or a hero in the individual impressions of his contemporaries, depending upon the circumstances of their relationship. He has been described as a man of scholastic bent and training.19 Robinson, who met him for the first time at San Diego in 1829, related that he was “a tall, gaunt personage, who received us with true Spanish dignity and politeness.”20 Duhaut-Cilly, in his account of his visit to California, commented that Echeandía “enjoyed the most extensive power, and he frequentIy made ill use of it,” With the diputación, he was, according to Duhaut-Cilly, a complete despot and allowed no voice to be raised against anything he proposed.21 He was a representative of the liberals and was disposed to sponsor measures favored by them.

Juan Bandini described the rule of Echeandía as a time of change. The Californians began to like public life in the roles of diputados, alcaldes, and regidores. “They became interested in political affairs, and not lacking restless types who would hurry to put into practice their new ideas,… for the first time there appeared in California the revolutionary spirit…”22

Echeandía’s stay of five years in San Diego hastened the development of the pueblo and heightened the interest of its inhabitants in political affairs. The people of the area soon assumed that San Diego had become the capital although no such transfer from Monterey had actually been made.23 Bancroft commented that “the presence of the jefe politico naturally did something toward enlivening the normal dullness of life at this presidio; and it tended to make San Diego more prominent than before in territorial history.”24 Echeandía made several lengthy visits north, however, to convene the diputación in Monterey and to quell revolts against his authority.

The relations between the Governor and the territorial legislature began calmly enough but later were not always harmonious. At the end of 1826, Governor Echeandía evidently ordered a new election to replace the diputación that had been suspended by Governor Argüello. On February 18, 1827, five electores de partido25 met. Lieutenant Agustín V. Zamorano was elector from San Diego and was chosen as secretary for the meeting.26 The electores designated seven vocales (regular legislators) and three suplentes (substitutes) for the territorial diputación to assemble at Monterey on June 14,27 and the Governor started north in March to preside over its sessions. On this trip he was absent from San Diego about a year.28

In April of the following year — 1828 — Governor Echeandía called for a meeting of the diputación in San Diego. According to Bancroft, citing Alvarado,29 it met only “to protest holding the meetings outside the capital, to listen to Echeandía’s views, and to adjourn.”30 Another election to choose electors was held and they in turn selected four new members of the diputación31 and a new representative to Mexico City.32 Again the Governor called the members of the diputación to meet on January 1, 1829, but only some of them attended. They were so unmanageable that Echeandía had to dismiss them. Then, a call to meet in Monterey in June was not complied with. Bancroft commented that the legislature may therefore be considered as not having been in session during 1828 and 1829.33

The record was better for 1830. In March Governor Echeandía went to Monterey to preside over the regular sessions of the diputación held from July 10 to October 7, with one month off to harvest the crops.34 Measures for secularization of the missions, which Governor Echeandía had been instructed to carry out, were among the legislative proposals presented by the Governor. After some consideration the territorial diputación passed the plan of secularization, which was then forwarded to Mexico City in early September for the government’s approval.35

During the summer of 1830 an ayudante inspector (assistant inspector), Lieutenant Colonel José María Padrés, was sent from Mexico to help Echeandía, and with him came Licenciado (attorney) Rafael Gomez as asesor (legal advisor). Colonel Padrés was a radical and persuasive liberal, and his political influence was immediately exerted among the young Californians to imbue them with ideas of liberalism. He was to return to California later as the center of a bitter controversy over disposition of the mission properties.

In implementation of a proclamation by the Governor, a primary election was held in San Diego on August 22, 1830,36 at which thirteen electors were chosen to select an elector de partido (district elector) to go to Monterey.37 On October 3, the elector from San Diego joined four others from throughout the territory at Monterey, and they elected Carlos A. Carrillo of Santa Barbara as representative to Congress for 1831-32, with Juan Bandini of San Diego as suplente. The next day they also chose three new members of the diputación and three suplentes.38

San Diego’s local affairs during Governor Echeandía’s first several years in office were managed largely from the presidio, but the local citizens seemed to become increasingly involved in these responsibilities. The position of comisario subalterno (revenue collector) was taken from military hands in 1828 and turned over to Juan Bandini by gubernatorial appointment. José Antonio Estudillo was “a kind of associate collector with Bandini, and at the same time treasurer of municipal funds.”39 Although the newly-arrived army officer, Agustín Zamorano, was chosen elector from San Diego in 1827-28, a long-time resident and civilian in the person of Juan María Osuna was elected to that office in 1830.40

The framework for citizen participation in governmental processes was beginning to take shape in San Diego. Political experience was being gained by participation in territorial affairs. At the same time the pressures that were to give impetus to increased political activity were being built up.




The forces initiating the change to convert San Diego from a presidio to a pueblo were basic ones. The desire for small plots of land to grow vegetables and other foodstuffs for family use led some people to move outside the presidio in the mid-1820’s, and this exposed position was considered safe, because the Indians were no longer hostile, many of them having gathered into the missions under the supervision of the missionaries. Of the sixty-nine men in the presidial company in 1821, forty-one were said to have families.1 Children who had been born within the presidio walls were now young men and women who were marrying and forming their own families.

The missionaries demonstrated the lucrative business to be found in raising cattle to meet the demands of the American hide ships that were coming to the California coast with increasing frequency. The desire for large tracts of land to graze cattle began the conflict between the ranch owners and the missionaries. The latter, following the site pattern of the Indian villages, had established the missions in the areas of the best land, and the lands used or claimed by the missions were extensive by the time the people living in the presidios began to think of establishing their own ranches. The first large land grant in the San Diego district had been made in 1823,2 and by 1830 seven ranches had been established.3 What wealth there was in San Diego was largely that of the ranchers. These same people were the most potent political forces as San Diego obtained its own government. The presence of unpaid, underfed troops contributed to the turmoil during the period of Mexican rule. In the internal conflicts for power as well as in the struggles against the representatives of Mexico City, the discontent of the soldiers played its part. A revolt of the troops at Monterey in November, 1829, was serious enough to cause Governor Echeandía to gather what forces he could in San Diego and march north to put down the revolt. The revolutionary fervor did not seem to reach San Diego at this time.4 Robinson described the events from the perspective of San Diego:


The busy preparations for war commenced. Old rusty guns were repaired, hacked swords were sharpened, rude lances made, and all of the force that could be mustered was soon on its way to meet the enemy…

Several weeks elapsed ere we received information of the success of the government party. They had defeated the rebels and the ringleaders were taken to San Blas.

The population of San Diego being somewhat reduced in consequence of the departure of the troops, the town was dull in the extreme…5

The rivalry and sectional jealousy between the North and South of Alta California began early and was clearly evident from the beginning of Governor Echeandía’s term. He gave the southerners reason to believe that the territorial capital should be in the South, and the leaders of the North resented bitterly what they considered neglect on his part.

The see-saw struggle in Mexico between liberalism and centralism entered into the California scene but was often obscured and altered by the issue of the secularization of the missions. Liberalism as a political creed in California often seemed to be little more than a screen for obtaining mission property or a means for fostering private schemes. Personal ambitions naturally motivated the Californians as well as the Mexicans, and with relatively little effective law enforcement machinery, the unscrupulous were often successful.

Juan Bandini of San Diego came within the category of the ambitious, and his scruples were found wanting by some of his contemporaries as well as by some historians. While representative in Mexico City in 1833, he interested José María Padrés, who had fostered liberal ideas and aims during a short stay in California, and José María Híjar, another liberal politician, in a colonization scheme which included plans for taking mission property. A change in Mexico’s presidents in 1834, with a switch in political philosophy from liberalism to centralism, thwarted their efforts.

San Diego’s new-found prominence was not easy to forego when Echeandía’s replacement from Mexico City arrived, and the ensuing civil war, which was almost without bloodshed, resulted in part from an effort of the San Diegans to retain a leading role in political affairs.




Governor Echeandía had gone to Monterey in March, 1830, and he was still there Seven months later when his successor, Lt. Colonel Manuel Victoria, arrived in San Diego. Colonel Victoria had been in Loreto, Baja California, as commanding general for that territory and probably traveled by land to Alta California.1 The question of who would go to meet whom was finally resolved “after some confusion and prestige tugging,” and Colonel Victoria went to Monterey where he took over formally from Governor Echeandía on January 31, 1831.2

Colonel Victoria’s appointment was the result of a change in government control in Mexico from the liberals to the centralists. To halt the secularization of the missions was the immediate issue he had to face, and he did it head-on. Governor Echeandía’s secularization measures, which had been approved by the diputacíon and forwarded to Mexico City in September, would not become law until they received governmental approval. With the change in government it was a foregone conclusion that they would not be approved. José María Padrés, who had been in California only a few months as assistant inspector, persuaded Governor Echeandía to issue a decree of secularization on January 6, 1831. The Governor then promptly issued orders to implement it, which included making Colonel Padrés a commissioner (comisionado) for one of the missions.3 Before he reached Monterey, Colonel Victoria had intercepted Governor Echeandía’s secularization decree and countermanded it, even though he had not yet been installed formally as governor. From San Diego reaction against secularization was prompt. Captain Santiago Argüello, of the San Diego presidio, sent a protest to Echeandía on January 21, 1831, because the troops at San Diego had to have mission supplies, which could not be obtained by requisition if the productive lands were in private hands.4

A few days after turning over the gubernatorial office to Victoria, Colonel Echeandía left for San Diego, where he presumably was to delay only long enough to pick up some of his personal belongings.5 Although he was under orders to report to the War Department in Mexico, ten months passed, and he still had not left.6 As it was reported by a San Diego resident, Colonel Echeandía “returned to live here in San Diego as a private gentleman, in rooms in the house of the Señores Estudillo, who supplied him with food and other help.”7

Governor Victoria was a contrast in character and temperament as well as in political beliefs to his predecessor. Alfred Robinson saw him for the first time on January 10, 1831, in Santa Barbara as he was making his way up the coast to Monterey to take over from Governor Echeandía. Robinson described him as follows:


Señor Victoria was a tall, lean, half-Indian kind of person, with sufficient resolution and courage to constitute him, in his own opinion, a legion amongst this unsophisticated race of Californians. He came unattended and required no ceremonious reception.8


Governor Victoria was a man of action, and he did not hesitate to take measures he considered necessary for bringing law and order, ruthlessly if required, to Alta California. In three aspects of his rule he gave cause for complaint. First, he failed to convene the territorial diputación, claiming that its members had been illegally elected. Second, he administered justice so ruthlessly that to the Californians the punishment seemed excessive for the crimes committed. Also, he did not see that proper court procedure was observed. Third, he banished from Alta California two of its citizens, Abel Stearns, recently naturalized, and José Antonio Carrillo, as well as José María Padrés. The latter was shipped to San Blas, while Stearns and Carrillo were banished only to the frontier. The opposition to Governor Victoria mounted, and although initially the most vociferous protests came from the North, the Southern opposition finally took the form of a revolt conceived in San Diego. In mid-November, 1831, the leaders of the opposition in the South received word that Governor Victoria was planning to go south and “that he intended to hang [Pio] Pico and [Juan] Bandini for their efforts in behalf of the diputación.”9 Actually, Governor Victoria had been receiving reports on development of the opposition from Captain Pablo de la Portilla who was in command of San Diego. The Governor reported to Mexico City on November 21, 1831, as follows:

… the state of unrest found at that presidio [San Diego], forces me to make an expedition, which I shall start tomorrow towards that place, with the object of restoring peace or of completely informing myself of everything, and I shall proceed with the energy which circumstances may demand, the result of which I shall have the honor of reporting … at the earliest opportunity from said Presidio.10

What Governor Victoria could not anticipate was the disastrous results of the expedition for himself. The next and last time he saw San Diego was two months later when, badly wounded, and having surrendered to his opponents, he was carried into San Diego to be put aboard a ship for passage to Mexico,

When Governor Victoria’s opponents in San Diego heard that he was preparing to move against them, they met to decide their own action. José Antonio Carrillo, who had come back from Baja California, Pio Pico, and Juan Bandini gathered for discussions, and “after ten or twelve days of preliminary plotting,”11 on November 29 they wrote out and signed a pronunciamiento. This “Plan of San Diego,” as it was called, was a lengthy, wordy document.12 The essential points were that:


  1. Victoria must be suspended from office;
  2. The diputación should meet; and
  3. The military and political commands should be conferred upon different persons until the central authority in Mexico had resolved the problem.

The three instigators of the Plan then gathered a few companions, and, when fourteen strong, they proceeded to take the presidio by “surprise.”13 Juan Bandini gives the details as follows:

The garrison at San Diego was composed of more than seventy soldiers of artillery, cavalry, and infantry, with their officers. This force could not be counted on to help the pronunciados, which made the enterprise all the more daring. However, it appeared that desperation had reached its limit, and this handful of citizens decided to carry forward their plan. On the night of November 29, 1831, the fourteen went to the main barracks, took it by surprise, arrested the soldiers, and leaving five men on guard, divided the others into three groups [of three each], to take by surprise the command headquarters, the cavalry, and the artillery park. The plan succeeded, leaving the garrison under control of the pronunciados…. Right was on their side, and by their determination they were able to secure all of the garrison.14

The next day an additional statement was published that was signed by the original three—Pico, Carrillo, and Bandini—as well as by CoIonel Echeandía and all of the officers at the presidio. This document declared that the signers chose Colonel Echeandía to reassume the political and military command until the supreme government resolved the question or until the diputación met and designated two persons to take the separate commands.15

Echeandía assumed leadership in the South, and he sent the southern forces under Captain Pablo de la Portilla to Los Angeles, where a total of about one hundred and fifty men were gathered. Meanwhile, Victoria marched south toward Los Angeles with a force of about thirty. The two groups met on December 5, 1831, a few miles from Los Angeles near Cahuenga. Victoria tried to get Captain Portilla to come over to his side, and when this failed, a few shots were fired, presumably in the air. Several of Portilla’s men stood their ground as the others withdrew, and a head-on clash with Governor Victoria and several of his group resulted. A man on each side was killed, and Victoria was severely wounded. He was taken to San Gabriel Mission for treatment, where he formally surrendered to Echeandía the next day. On December 9, Colonel Echeandía visited him at his bedside in the mission, and Victoria agreed to leave California as soon as his wounds permitted. Echeandía issued a circular letter that same day to the commanders of the presidios and to the ayuntamientos of the pueblos. He told of the revolt at San Diego, its causes, Victoria’s fate, and then added:

… According to the dictates of the civil and military laws, we are faced with the necessity of determining who shall provisionally assume the political and who the military office, thus assuring internal peace and the integrity of the nation and leaving me free to continue on my way to report before the supreme authorities.

It is hereby made known that on this date I have convoked the [diputacións] in order that, when [its members are] assembled, they may study the affairs that are within their competence. Meanwhile, I await their decision in regard to the revolt, a copy of whose plan I attach for your better understanding.16

In the North, San Francisco, San José and Monterey gave their support to the San Diego plan. The meeting of the diputación was set for early January in Los Angeles, and in late December the northern members of the diputación began making their way south.17

The diputación met in an extraordinary session on January 10, 1832, with Pio Pico, the senior member, presiding. The first order of business was to suspend Victoria from the office of governor and to appoint a committee to prepare the case against him to be sent to the central government.

The next major step, that of appointing a successor, was based on the national law of May 6, 1822, which stated that in the absence of a civil governor, the senior member of the diputación should assume the office. On January 11, Pio Pico was unanimously chosen as civil governor ad interim, and the secretary of the diputación was instructed to notify the provisional governor, Colonel Echeandía, so that he might proclaim their action to the territory. The diputación then voted to request Echeand&iactue;a to call a meeting of the military officers serving in Alta California that they might name the person to act as commanding general in accordance with the military regulations.18

Copies of the minutes were sent to Echeandía, and the legislative session was suspended until he should go from San Diego to Los Angeles. When he was not heard from the diputación finally reassembled on January 26 and inducted Pio Pico into office as governor ad interim the next day.19 Echeandía refused to support the selection of the diputación, however, and less than three weeks later Pio Pico resigned.

The formation of unexpected opposition from the North caused the diputación to accept Echeandía’s leadership and in effect to recognize him as provisional governor. In Monterey, Agustín Zamorano, who had come to Alta California with Governor Echeandía in 1825 as his secretary and who had had the same position under Governor Victoria, formed a movement to oppose Echeandía and the activities of the diputación. He obtained the support of the North, especially the foreigners of British and American extraction, who, were concerned primarily with avoiding disorders that could interfere with their business enterprises. Initially he also obtained the support of Los Angeles by dispatching a military force to that area. After some maneuvering of opposing military forces and a considerable exchange of verbal charges, an arrangement was agreed upon to divide Alta California into two areas of control, with Zamorano having under his command all the territory from San Fernando north, and Echeandía that portion from San Gabriel south. The two “pretenders” were still trying to reach a formal agreement when word from Mexico City reached San Diego in June, 1832, that Brigadier General José Figueroa had been appointed the new governor of Alta California.20 This news ended the negotiations, and Alta California remained quiet while awaiting the new appointee’s arrival.



Governor Figueroa arrived by ship at Monterey on January 5, 1833. He had been prominent in Mexican political affairs and had served as commanding general of Sonora and Sinaloa. His first act was to grant amnesty to all of those who had participated in the revolt against Governor Victoria under the San Diego Plan and in the subsequent disorders. He then proceeded to reestablish the governmental authority that had been divided, and in July, 1833, after attending to affairs concerning the northern frontier, he began a tour of the South that lasted until September, He was able to make the trip only after recovering sufficiently from a serious illness that had caused him at one point to ask the Government to accept his resignation. The same ailment brought about his untimely death a little over two years later.

The purpose of his trip to the South was to investigate the condition of the mission Indians in order to carry out the instructions he had received on secularization. Figueroa was to try to undo any secularization of the missions that might have been accomplished under Echeandía’s largely abortive attempt in January, 1831, before he had turned over his command to Victoria. The current Governor was also to prepare recommendations for secularization of the mission system under the Spanish law of 1813.1 Steps toward releasing the Christian Indians from the mission system seemed to be more advanced in the South than elsewhere. Echeandía, during his usurpation of power in the South in 1832, had appointed comisionados (commissioners) from the military ranks for the missions of San Diego, San Luis Rey, San Juan Capistrano, and San Gabriel. The comisionados were to supervise the distribution of the mission lands to the Indians. While no other formal measures to secularize the missions appeared to have been taken, the Indians had become restless, discontented, and even dangerous under his policy of arming them for possible use against Zamorano’s forces from the North and of promising them “freedom” in the near future.

While in San Diego, in July, 1834, Governor Figueroa wrote a report to Mexico City warning the Government against a ” ‘clique of conceited and ignorant men’ who were plotting to separate California from Mexico, and as a means to that end would do all in their power through their representative [in Congress, Juan] Bandini, to secure a separation of the military and civil commands.” He declared that any such change would be “‘the germ of eternal discord,’ as there was not a single Californian even tolerably qualified for the Office.”2

Governor Figueroa recommended only the most gradual emancipation of the Indians, but while his recommendations were being sent to the superior government, the Mexican Congress passed a sweeping secularization bill on August 17, 1833, with its implementation provided for in a governmental decree of the following November. With the time-lag for communications, these measures were not known immediately in Alta California. Figueroa himself issued in July, 1833, a series of regulations for gradual emancipation, to go into effect provisionally until approved by the diputación and by the ,supreme government.3 He applied these to three missions in the San Diego district: San Diego, San Luis Rey, and San Juan Capistrano and appointed Captains Santiago Argüello and Pablo de la Portilla as comisionados.

Governor Figueroa had called for the election of a new diputación in the fall of 1833, none having met that year. The electors who selected the new diputados also elected Juan Bandini again as the representative to Congress.

The new territorial diputación met in May, 1834. Governor Figueroa reported to the diputación that three Indian pueblos had been established under his rules of secularization and were flourishing.4 The legislature drew up its own plan for the missions, which resembled that of Figueroa, and it was promulgated by the Governor on August 9, 1834. It called for the initiation of secularization measures in ten missions, with the others to follow.

While these events were taking place in Alta California, Juan Bandini was planning in Mexico with Padrés and Híjar to form a colonizing company and commercial enterprise for Alta California to utilize mission property for the settlement of the colonists. Success seemed assured with the appointment of Híjar as civil governor to replace Figueroa in the non-military part of his job, and also as director of colonization. Padrés, as ayudante inspector and as sub-director of colonization, was to be Híjar’s number one man in both jobs. After they had departed from Mexico by ship to Alta California, President Santa Anna decided to join forces with the centralists and ousted the liberal Vice-President who had given the appointments to Híjar and Padrés. Santa Anna dramatically dispatched an overland messenger to outstrip the seagoing colonists and their leaders to warn Governor Figueroa that the appointment held by Híjar as civil governor had been rescinded. One of the ships, with Híjar and Bandini and part of the group aboard, landed at San Diego on September 1, 1834. Of this visit Bancroft said:


The new-comers were hospitably received at San Diego, the officers and prominent individuals being the guests of Bandini and his friends, while the rest were distributed at various private houses or lodged in tents and warehouses.5

The colonists then moved north in small groups. The other ship had sailed directly to Monterey.

Governor Figueroa was able to thwart the plans of Padrés and Híjar to assume control of the government and their special target, the mission properties. The young Californians with whom Padrés had had such influence a few years earlier were no longer so easily persuaded by his eloquence. One of the reasons may have been that he supposedly brought from Mexico his own candidates to fill the posts of administrators of the missions. In any event, the diputación was solidly behind Governor Figueroa in his refusal to turn over control of the missions to the colonizers. The secularization plans of Figueroa and the diputación as agreed upon prior to the arrival of the colonists were to be implemented until further instructions were received from the supreme government. Governor Figueroa managed to ship Padrés and Híjar back to Mexico in May, 1835, and with their departure the controversy over their colonization scheme came to an end.

For Juan Bandini, the results were also unfavorable. He complained in later years that Figueroa had “spread the idea that the Company … was involved in secret deals.”6 In addition to the vice-presidency of the commercial company, Bandini had returned to Alta California with a government appointment as visitador (inspector) of customs. The administrator of customs refused to allow Bandini to inspect the Monterey customs house, however, and he also ordered his subordinates not to allow Bandini access to the customs facilities. Bandini did reign supreme in San Diego, which he “persisted in regarding as the open port of California” instead of Monterey.7 His adversary, the customs administrator, accused him of smuggling and succeeded in getting him fined and suspended from office. This conflict influenced Bandini in his support of the Mexican Government against the rebellion of the Californians of the North led by Juan Bautista Alvarado one year later in 1836. Alvarado had been an appraiser at the Monterey customs house and later a close associate in the abortive revolution of Bandini’s accuser.8

The other political developments in Alta California appeared to be unspectacular. A new representative, José Antonio Carrillo, was sent to the Mexican Congress at the beginning of 1835. Within a few months, Carrillo had Alta California in a state of high excitement when he obtained a decree of Congress, dated May 23, 1835, that made Los Angeles the capital of Alta California instead of Monterey. Official word of the change was not received in Alta California until December, 1835. In the meantime, Alta California lost its governor when Figueroa died on September 29, 1835. The vacancy his death created opened the way for renewed political uncertainty and controversy.



We are of the opinion, Sir, that whatever might be the number of individuals who live in a settlement, one way or another, they ought to have in their local government, the same guarantees, and the same organization as the general constitutional provisions [of the nation provide]; also,… they ought to enjoy the privilege of electing their agents, and these ought to be limited in their terms of office.1

In these words addressed to the Governor of Alta California on February 22, 1833, six of San Diego’s leading citizens requested approval for the establishment of a pueblo with its own government to manage local affairs. They stated that their immediate concern was to free the civilian inhabitants from the military rule of the commander of the presidio. This one-man rule, they declared, had stifled the growth of the community by discouraging prospective newcomers from settling where they thought they could not find “the necessary protection for their commerce, or investment, and because they know that here public instruction is retrogressing, and as a consequence the individual happiness of its citizens.2

The inhabitants of San Diego had a lengthy Spanish tradition of local self-rule to support them in their desires and Spanish laws explicitly giving them the right to petition for municipal government. The earliest ones antedated the establishment of San Diego.

The Compilation of the Laws of the Indies, which included the many laws regulating life in the colonies, was issued by Spain in 1681. It had specific provisions for the establishment of towns, which in the Roman tradition inherited by Spain, were more like city-states, with a large surrounding area dominated by the municipal center. The next special proviso for municipal organization was the instruction of the Viceroy in Mexico, Don Antonio María de Bucareli y Urusu, to “the Commandant appointed to the new establishments of San Diego and Monterey,” on August 17, 1773.3 The commandant was given the power to designate common lands, and to distribute lands to individual Indians provided they settled in the town or mission. The commandant had the same discretionary power to distribute land to the other settlers provided they lived in the town. A few years later, in 1779, the Spanish Governor of California, Don Felipe de Neve, issued instructions for the creation of a municipal government where needed and appropriate, in order to develop the public services required by a community. Then, in 1791, the Spanish military commander of the area that included California not only authorized the commanders of the presidios “to grant and distribute house-lots and lands to the soldiers and citizens who may solicit them to fix their residences on,” but he also specifically limited the grants to the area within the four leagues granted to the municipality.4 Thus, before the opening of the nineteenth century, the regulation of municipal life had already been established.

However, one basic legal authorization was specifically cited by the articulate San Diego citizens who requested the right to establish their own municipal government. This was the decree of the Spanish Cortes of May 23, 1812, called “Formation of the Constitutional Town Councils.” It provided among other things the following:


  1. Every pueblo with a population of less than one thousand which had no ayuntamiento (town council) and which had good reason to have one could inform the provincial legislature of its requirement; this body would in turn request permission from the government for the formation of the ayuntamiento if it found the petition of the pueblo reasonable.
  2. Pueblos with less than two hundred inhabitants should have one alcalde, two regidores, and one síndico procurador (city attorney), and those between two hundred and five hundred should have four regidores instead of two, with increased representation in another alcalde and other regidores for still larger towns.5

The period when San Diego asked for approval of its own government was one of uncertainty and change in Alta California. By the beginning of 1833, the first turbulent period of the division into North and South bad been weathered, and Governor José Figueroa was on his way to Alta California. He had instructions to restore peace, and he began conciliating all parties as soon as he arrived on January 14, 1833.6

The San Diego petitioners sent their request directly to the governor, instead of through the legislature, as the law stipulated, because the territorial legislature was not in session in 1833. The diputación assembled in Monterey on May 1, 1834, and on May 4, Governor Figueroa presented to that legislature San Diego’s appeal. His letter stated in part:


I have the honor to present a renewed petition by various residents of the port of San Diego, asking for the creation of municipal authorities for the political government of that Pueblo.

This petition cannot be more just: the law of May 23, 1812, created those public officials and commanded the establishment of Ayuntamientos…. Because the formation of these bodies is entrusted to you by…the constitution…I believe that you ought to accede to it.

…I am of the opinion that…there belongs to San Diego an Alcalde, four Regidores, and a procurador because of having four hundred and thirty-two inhabitants, according to what appears from the statement made by the petitioners….7

On May 6 the petition was turned over the legislative Committee on Government and Police, which by May 26, had reported out its formal proposal. This was approved by the diputación as a whole on June 3 and sent to the Governor for transmittal to Mexico City. Evidently at this point, Governor Figueroa decided to inform officially the commander of the presidio, “in order that he may report what he deems necessary.”8 The commander in San Diego, Captain Santiago Argüello, long-time San Diego resident, who had been elected suplente to the Congress in Mexico for Alta California in 1828, and a suplente of the territorial diputación in 1830, indeed had some comments to make. Reflecting his pique regarding the harsh words used in the citizens’ petition against military rule, and evidently his resentment in being by-passed, he had the following to say to the diputación:

According to the attached census taken of this settlement numbering six hundred fifty-three souls,9 it is eligible for an Ayuntamiento in conformity with the laws on the subject; and may I be permitted to say in favor of the aforementioned military class, that I have agitated for the establishment of the…[Ayuntamiento], even going so far as to propose to some citizens of this settlement that they express themselves on the subject which I would accompany with a [supporting] report.

I think some gentlemen of this…[legislature] will not contradict me herein, or perhaps they will take into consideration the zeal I have shown in the matter by being a substitute member of the…[diputación]. It seems to me that this is all I should report in view of the foregoing Superior Decree.10

The proposal was then returned to the diputación and the Committee on Government and Police had a modification to suggest on August 2 that was accepted that same day by the diputación as a whole. There seemed to he the practical problem of whether there would be enough civic-minded citizens to keep the municipal offices filled over a period of time, with suitable replacements to take the offices when the terms of the incumbents expired.11 Therefore, although according to the Spanish law of May 23, 1812, San Diego was entitled to four regidores, the diputación approved an ayuntamiento composed of one alcalde, only two regidores, and one síndico procurador. The diputación called for the election of these officials in time to assume their duties on January 1, 1835.12

The final step of transmitting the decision of the diputación to the government in Mexico City was taken by the Governor on August 6, 1834, with the request that the Secretary of State bring it to the attention of the President “in order that he may be pleased to decide that which he deems proper.”13

San Diego was now officially a pueblo. This meant that its own representatives, within narrow limits, could deal with local problems. The ayuntamiento, composed of the alcalde as the presiding officer, and the regidores and síndico procurador, was entrusted with the administration of the political and economic affairs of the pueblo.

The duties of an ayuntamiento included regulation of the use and disposition of land within the specified four leagues of the municipality, levying and collecting local taxes, providing roads, guarding the health and comfort of the inhabitants, providing local police and maintaining the jail, controlling distribution of goods and prices, and encouraging and regulating agriculture, trade and other businesses. The ayuntamiento also received for publication the decrees and proclamations of higher authorities.

The alcalde had only honor, not salary, for his recompense, and acceptance of the office was compulsory.14 In addition to his role as president of the ayuntamiento, he had special judicial functions. He tried minor cases, and those he could not or was not authorized to decide, he referred to higher authority, usually in writing. The judicial practice was very informal. It usually consisted in calling together the offending parties and arriving at a judgment and fine or punishment on the spot.15 The regidores could be given special areas of re responsibility by the alcalde, but usually the ayuntamiento in a place as small as San Diego decided problems as a body or left them for the alcalde to decide. For example, in March, 1837, the ayuntamiento of San Diego decided that each regidor should take his turn in assisting the alcalde. The síndico procurador was the equivalent to the city attorney and was charged with promoting and defending the interests of the pueblo. An onerous part of his job was over-seeing the prisoners in the local jail. They were utilized to some extent on public works, and when city funds were low, they were allowed to work for private citizens in return for their meals.16

The manner in which the elections were to be held was carefully spelled out in Spanish and Mexican laws. On the first Sunday of December the voters chose the electors to whom were entrusted the task of selecting the officials of the ayuntamiento.17 The citizens of San Diego had already been to the polls a few times in the period since the end of Spanish rule to choose an elector (elector de partido) to participate in the choice of the members of the territorial diputación and of a representative to the Mexican Congress.

The first primary election for the San Diego voters to choose local electors was probably held on December 18, 1834.18 There is no known record of the number of votes cast. The thirteen electors who received the approval of the voters then met promptly on December 21 to select the four officials San Diego was permitted to have.19 Their choice of officials to serve during the year 1835 were: alcalde, Juan María Osuna; regidores, Juan B. Alvarado and Juan María Marrón; and sindico procurador, Henry D. Fitch.20

According to Santiago Argüello’s account some years later, on January 1, 1835, he installed the first mayor by giving him his staff of office.21 The new town council held its first meeting that same day. The alcalde then informed the military commander of the separation of their respective spheres of authority, and Captain Argüello, in turn, provided an inventory of the documents in the archives of San Diego.22 One of the first acts of the ayuntamiento was to appoint a secretary and a juez del campo (judge of the plains, responsible for regulation of the cattle industry). The secretary’s appointment was not approved by Governor Figueroa, because the choice was a military man. The Governor also found the secretary’s salary of twenty dollars a month excessive, and it evidently was reduced to fifteen dollars for the next appointee.23

The area of jurisdiction of the alcalde and the ayuntamiento did not coincide. Soon after taking office, the alcalde was informed by the governor that his political authority did not extend beyond the presidio settlement but that in the administration of justice his jurisdiction extended to all of the settlements (of the district).24 In other words, only in his role as “judge of the first instance” did his jurisdiction extend beyond the pueblo.

This ruling by Governor Figueroa probably was prompted by the secularization laws passed by the territorial diputación on August 9, 1834. By the time San Diego’s first elected officials had taken office, secularization of the missions had begun in the San Diego district. Indian pueblos had been established at San Dieguito (by Indians formerly at the San Diego Mission) and at Las Flores (by Indians of San Luis Rey).25 These pueblos, according to the law passed by the legislature, were to have their own municipal government. The diputación of each pueblo was responsible for the “economical management” of the pueblo, but in the administration of justice, they were to be “subject to the judges of the first instance constitutionally established in the nearest places.”26 In the cases of San Dieguito and San Luis Rey, this meant that the alcalde of San Diego held the judicial powers. There was a report of “trouble” between the San Diego alcalde and the comisionado (commissioner) at San Luis Rey in January, 1835, with “the latter claiming the right for its own alcalde and regidoress [for the indian pueblo of las flores, not the mission].”>27 This conflict led to the governor’s reminder to the San Diego alcalde of the restrictions on his political jurisdiction.

The new town council had a variety of problems with which to contend. Many were primarily of local interest, such as: support of school, money to take care of prisoners, requests for land, settlement of private debts, and checking of merchants’ weights and measures. Revenue for the city was obtained by leasing public lands, charging fees for land grants and taxing use of branding irons, butchering of cattle, and auctioneering. Taxes were also levied on stores, saloons, and entertainment. In addition, a municipal duty was due on each package landed in the port of San Diego for commercial purposes, and on liquors.28 The magnitude of the city finances is illustrated by the record of the January, 1837, statement of receipts and expenditures: the receipts were $13.62½ and the expenditures $9.62½.29

Of more general concern were the problems of dealing with discontent among the soldiers, organizing a citizens’ militia, and coping with unrest and lawlessness among the Indians. The political intrigues of the factions of North and South in Alta California also demanded attention during the three-year period that San Diego had a representative local government and will be treated subsequently.

Local elections were held in 1835 and 1836, following the same pattern as the initial local elections held at the end of 1834. One of the regidores was supposed to be held over each year to serve a two-year term.30

The primary electors, again probably thirteen in number, although only six are mentioned by name, gathered at the end of 1835 to choose the members of the new ayuntamiento.31 For alcalde, Santiago Argüello received six votes and Andrés Pico five.32 It may have been that the latter gentleman, who was on the nominating committee, refrained from voting in his own election contest. If the other candidate was also an elector (his son was), this would account for only eleven votes being cast. Santiago Argüello had retired from military service earlier in the year and was therefore eligible for elective office. He was the military commander who only a scant two years previously had been castigated by San Diego’s leading citizens in their plea to the governor for their own ayuntamiento.

In the record of the election for local officials at the end of 1835, there is a note regarding the appointment by the alcalde of two election commissioners, Henry D. Fitch and Juan Bandini, over a month before the election, which was to be held on the first Sunday of December. The officials were to draw up the list of eligible voters and provide them with certification of their eligibility.33 This same procedure, in accordance with Mexican law, was recorded for the local election at the end of 1836 and also for the selection of electores for choosing a representative to the territorial diputación that same year.34

In the election of December, 1836, José Antonio Estudillo was named alcalde, and two regidores and a sí ndico procurador were chosen.35 This proved to be the last local election of an ayuntamiento for San Diego under Mexican rule. Changes in Mexico from a federal to a centralized form of government had a direct bearing on San Diego. The centralized control reached down to the small communities, where the elected ayuntamientos were abolished and jueces de paz (justices of the peace) appointed to take over the direction of essential community functions.

In June, 1837, the San Diego anyuntamiento took an oath of allegiance to the centralized system, but it was not until September that the mayor was officially informed in writing that the alcalde was to be replaced by an appointed juez de paz. It was later during the month of September, 1837, that Alcalde Estudillo wrote to the governor:

I note that there should not be in this pueblo any municipal council as it lacks the requisite number of inhabitants, and that until a juez de paz is appointed, the alcalde is to act as such. Please tell me if the rest of the council are to cease their functions.36

He must have received an affirmative reply, because with little ado, the San Diego ayuntamiento passed out of existence. José Antonio Estudillo first became acting juez de paz and then was appointed to that position. The seeming lack of concern over the loss of San Diego’s representative government is implied from the absence of comment in the available records. This indifference may have been in part due to the preoccupation of the citizens with the dilemma of two governors claiming authority in Alta California and a further deterioration in the strained North/South relations. The added burden of Indian raids against the ranches that threatened San Diego itself gave the San Diegans immediate practical problems to distract them from the more abstract one of the loss of some of their powers of local rule.



1. Irving B. Richman, California Under Spain and Mexico (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1911), pp. 346-347, quoting Bancroft Collection, St. Pap. Miss. & Col., vol. i, p. 323.

2. Hubert Bancroft, California Pastoral: 1769-1848 (San Francisco: The History Co., 1888), pp. 539-547.

3. C. H. Haring, The Spanish Empire in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1947), p. 176.

4. Hubert H. Bancroft, History of California (San Francisco: The History Co., 1884-1890), II, 653.

5. Ibid., pp. 544-545.

6. Ibid., p. 544.

7. Ibid.

8. “Duhaut-Cilly’s Account of California in 1827-28,” Quarterly of California Historical Society, VIII, No. 3 (Sept. 1929), p. 218.

9. Alfred Robinson, Life in California Before the Conquest (San Francisco: Thomas C. Russel, 1925), p. 35.

10. Applications of Juan Bandini, Jose Antonio Estudillo, and Santiago Argüello in 1849-50 before the U. S. Land Commission stated that “titles to lots on which they had lived since the ‘old times’ before 1930 [were made] when ‘grants of that class were made verbally’.” San Diego Archives, MS., 8, cited by Bancroft, History, 11, 665, n.

11. Bancroft History, III, 2.

12. George L. Harding, Don Agustin V. Zamorano: Statesman, Soldier, Craftsman, and California’s First Printer (Los Angeles: The Zamorano Club, 1934), p. 18.

13. Bancroft, History, III, 7.

14. Ibid., II, 550, n.

15. Ibid., III, 7.

16. Bancroft, History, II, 549.

17. Later, in 1827, Echeandia charged Herrera with misuse of funds and had the legislature suspend him from office. Herrera subsequently (1829) took part in a revolt of the troops at Monterey against Echeandia. Finally he was imprisoned and in 1830 shipped out of Alta California.

18. Harding, p. 21.

19. Richman, p. 235.

20. Robinson, p. 34.

21. Duhaut-Cilly, Quarterly of California Historical Society, VIII, No. 2 (June 1929), 161-162.

22. Juan Bandini, Historia, de Alta California, 1769-1845 (MS, 1847: Bancroft Library, Berkeley, Microfilm C-D7), p. 175.

23. Bancroft, History, III, 11.

24. Ibid., II, 550.

25. Electors from the districts of the territory.

26. Bancroft, History, II, 544.

27. Ibid., III, 35.

28. Ibid., II, 550, n.

29. Juan Bautista Alvarado was one of the northern leaders and later governor.

30. Bancroft, History, III, 41.

31. Ibid.

32. Santiago Argüello of San Diego was chosen as suplente. Bancroft, History, III, 45.

33. Ibid., p. 42.

34. Ibid., p. 43.

35. Harding, p. 48.

36. Bancroft, History, III, 50.

37. Ibid., II, 551, n.

38. Ibid., III, 50.

39. Ibid., II, 543.

40. Ibid., p. 544.


1. Bancroft, History, II, 544, n., citing from Estudillo, Doc. Hist. of Cal., MS, i, 170.

2. Bancroft, History, II, 547, n.

3. Ibid., p. 663, n.

4. George Tays, “Revolutionary California: The Political History of California during the Mexican Period, 1822-1844.” (Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1932), p. 86.

5. Robinson, p. 97.


1. Bancroft, History, II, 550, n.

2. Ibid., III, 182.

3. Harding, p. 49.

4. Argüello to J. M. Echeandia, January 21, 1831, Cal. Arch. Dept. St. Pap., MS, III, 6-7, cited by Tays, p. 386.

5. Tays, p. 132.

6. Ibid.

7. Raymond S. Brandes, “Times Gone By in Alta California: Recollections of Senora Dora Juana Machado Alipaz de Ridington (Wrightington) — Bancroft Library, 1878, “The Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly, XLI (September 1959), 211.

8. Robinson, p. 130.

9. Bancroft, History, III, 200, citing Pio Pico, History of California, MS., 23-24.

10. Manuel Victoria, to Minister of War, Monterey, November 21, 1831, MS., 52-6-6-7 in Archivos General de Guerra y Marina, Mexico (Transcript in Bancroft Library), quoted in Tays, p. 133.

11. Bancroft, History, III, 200.

12. Ibid., pp. 202-204, n., gives full translation.

13. Ibid., p. 201, notes that the takeover must have been pre-arranged, although the forms of a surprise were observed.

14. Bandini, pp. 183-185.

15. Harding, p. 56.

17. Bancroft, III, 212-213.

18. Harding, p. 84, citing from Minutes of sessions of diputacion at Los Angeles, January 10-11, 1832, in Legislative Record, M.S., I, 173-83.

19. Harding, p. 85.

20. Tays, p. 261, citing from “J. M. Echeandia to A. V. Zamorano, San Diego, June 19, 1832,” MS., No. 37. 52-6-6-10. Archivo, Gen. de Guerra y Marina Mex. Transcript in Bancroft Library.


1. Bancroft, History, III, 235-236. This law of the Spanish Cortes provided for secularization of the missions ten years after their founding, if certain conditions had been met; the churches were to be turned over to parish priests and the Indians provided with land and their own municipal governments.

2. Ibid., p. 247, quoting from letter of July 24, 1833, Figueroa to Minister of Relations, in Dept. St. Pap., Ben. Mil., M.S. lxxxviii. 11-12.

3. Ibid., p. 328.

4. Ibid., p. 339

5. Ibid., p. 267.

6. Bandini, p. 162.

7. Bancroft, History, III, 371.

8. Ibid., pp. 370-373, 452, 483.


1. Record of Proceedings [Expediente] on the Establishment of Municipal Councils in the Districts of the Presidio of San Diego and Santa Barbara, year of 1834,” MS., San Diego History Center, Accession No. 2098 Serra Museum Library, p. 3. (The document is a tracing of the original, which is now in the U. S. National Archives. The tracing was received from the County Clerk’s Office, 1943.) A full translation of the petition included in the Expediente made by this writer is given in the Appendix.

2. Ibid., p. 5.

3. John W. Dwinelle, Colonial History of San Francisco (San Francisco: Towne and Bacon, 1863: reprinted by Frye & Smith, San Diego, 1924), pp. 2-3 of addenda.

4. Ibid., p. 17 of addenda.

5. Ibid., pp 18-20 of addenda.

6. Bancroft, History, III, 240.

7. Expediente, pp. 4-5.

8. Expediente, p. 16.

9. Capt. Argüello evidently was reporting the number of people in the San Diego District, for which the military command was responsible, instead of for the settlement of San Diego, given as four hundred thirty-two by Governor Figueroa. The smaller figure would be the one used for determining the eligibility of San Diego for a municipal government.

10. Expediente, pp. 17-18.

11. Expediente, “Report of the Committee on Government and Police to the Diputacion, August 2, 1834,” p. 22.

12. Expediente, pp. 23-24.

13. Ibid., p. 29.

14. Mary Floyd Williams, “Mission, Presidio and Pueblo: Notes on California Local Institutions under Spain and Mexico,” California Historical Society Quarterly, I (July 1922), 33-34.

15. Frank W. Blackmar, Spanish lnstitutions of the Southwest (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1891), p. 291.

16. Bancroft, History, III, 617, n., 618. n.

17. Expediente, p. 24, states that they shall be elected on the days designated in the Mexican law of June 12, 1830. The text of the pertinent portion of the law is unavailable, but it obviously contained the same provisions in this regard as the decree of the Spanish Cortes of May 23, 1812, which is the basis of the Mexican laws on municipalities. Blackmar (p. 190) stated that this law remained in force in Mexico until repealed in 1850.

18. Bancroft History, III, p. 613, n.

19. According to the laws of the Spanish Cortes, towns of less than one thousand inhabitants were entitled to nine electors (Blackmar, p. 190). San Diego, however, had thirteen electors in a previous election (1830) to select an elector de partido to represent San Diego in choosing diputados and a representative to the Mexican Congress. (Bancroft, History, II, 551, n.) The same number of electors were retained for the municipal elections. The manner in which the district was divided to provide thirteen electors is unknown.

20. Bancroft, History, III, 615, n.

21. “Disposition Of Santiago Argüello, Los Angeles, July 5, 1854,” published in Pueblo Lands of San Diego: Exceptions to Survey Made by John C. Hays, July 1, 1858 (San Francisco: Mullin, Mahon & Co., 1869, p. 27.

22. “Record of Official Correspondence of the Alcalde of San Diego, 1835-1839,” based on Selected Documents from the Records of the Board of California Land Commissioners, Records of the General Land Office, R.G. 49, U. S. National Archives, Item No. 3, referred to hereafter as National Archives Index; “Index of Spanish and Mexican Documents of San Diego County, California, Surrendered to the U. S. Surveyor General’s Office, November 20, 1891,” made by Benjamin Hayes, Section titled “Political — 1835,” Item No. 1, p. 8, referred to hereafter as Hayes Index.

23. National Archives Index, Item Nos. 3, 6, 11; also Hayes Index, Items Nos. 1, 8, p. 8.

24. Bancroft, History, III, 617, n., citing San Diego Archives Ms., Feb. 10.

25. Ibid., p. 339.

26. Ibid., n., from the translation of the “Provisional Law for the Secularization of the Missions of Alta California, August 9, 1834,”

27Ibid., p. 617, n.

28. Theodore H. Hittell, History of California, (San Francisco: N. J. Stone & Co., 1897), II, 206.

29. Hayes Index, Section, “Alcaldes, Jeuces de Paz, 1837,” Item 5, p. 32. 616 n.: [In the 1834 election] the 2nd

30. Referred to in Bancroft, History, III, 616 n.: [In the 1834 election] the 2nd regidor was elected for two years, so that Marron held over…[In the 1837 ayuntamiento] Machado should have been held over as 1st regidor, but declined to serve on account of bad health.”

31. Hayes Index, Item No. 43, p. 12.

32. Bancroft, History, III, 616 n.

33. Hayes Index, Item No. 85, Nov. 6, 1835, p. 23.

34. National Archives Index, Item No, 54, P. 19, Item No. 67, p. 21.

35. Bancroft, History, III, 616, n.

36. National Archives Index, Item Nos. 165, 166, p. 37, no legible date. The items are in chronological order and fall between ones dated in September and December, 1837.

The second part of this paper, to be published in the Quarterly’s next issue, will cover the ten years from 1835 to 1845. During this period the conflicts between northern and southern Alta California were intensified, with the South finally losing supremacy to the North. The paper concludes with an analysis of San Diego’s changing fortunes during the Mexican period in the larger context of development in Alta California and in Mexico that paved the way for the American occupation and conquest.