“A Thousand Drinks!” - Toasting California’s First State Capital

California’s first state legislature was known for more than simply laying the groundwork for eventual admission to the Union.

In 1849 Charles White and James F. Reed of San Jose travelled from San Jose to Monterey in order to persuade members attending the state’s first constitutional convention to designate San Jose as the state capital.  On Nov. 13 the initial state constitution was adopted and San Jose became the first capital of California.  The action of forming a state was unusual in that California had not yet been accepted into the American Union.

The legislature that convened in San Jose on Dec. 17, 1849 (delayed from a scheduled Dec. 15 start by torrential rain), became well known not only for the serious-minded hard work accomplished by the legislators, but also for the infamous proclamation made at the end of each session by Senator Thomas Jefferson Green: "Let's have a drink! Let's have a thousand drinks!"  The legislators would then reportedly pack into a nearby saloon. This session became known as “the Legislature of a Thousand Drinks”.

The legislature’s achievements, along with arguments from other elected representatives including Senators John C. Frémont and W.M. Gwin, managed to convince the U.S. Congress and President Millard Fillmore to officially name California as the 31st state on Sept. 9, 1850.

In 1851, the legislature became unhappy with the location of the state capital, with proponents of change arguing that there were no buildings suitable for a state government. Powerful State Senator Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo pointed out that Vallejo’s area made a more appealing location considering nine-tenths of the state’s officials travelled through Vallejo to get to San Jose.  By order of the second legislature on Feb. 14, 1851, the capital was ordered removed from San Jose to land donated by Vallejo in what is now Benicia.  The capital was moved again, from Vallejo to Sacramento, on January 16, 1862.

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