Prior to the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill, the non-Indian population there was only 14,000 by 1852 it was 250,000 (California became a state in 1850). In the first decade of the Gold Rush, $550 million in gold was mined in California, amounting to about half of the world’s total gold output. California gold created an enormous windfall of wealth thatmultiplied as it circulated through the economy. It created the development of America’s capital markets (markets that channel the wealth of savers to those who invest it into long-term productive use). That capital accelerated America’s incredible industrial and economic expansion of the late 19th century.* There is a legend that Missouri senator David Rice Atchison served as president for oneday in 1849. At the time, federal law designated the inauguration of the president to take place at noon on March 4. But in 1849, March 4 was on Sunday and President-elect Zachary Taylor refused to be inaugurated on the Sabbath. Just before adjourning, congress selected Atchison serve as President Pro Tempore until Monday, March 5th. But he wasn’t considered President at the time, and a number of legal arguments preclude assigning him the title.** The landing at Vera Cruz was the first and largest amphibious American military assault until World War II. *** Kearny had Fremont arrested and returned to Washington, D.C. where he was court-martialed for mutiny, disobedience and conduct prejudicial to military discipline. President Polk set aside Fremont’s punishment. After returning to California, Fremont became a multimillionaire when gold was discovered on his property. In 1850, following California’s admittance to the union, he was elected one of the state’s first senators. In 1856, he would be the first Republican Party nominee for president.
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