California seceding? It wouldn't be the first time.

Donald Trump just made history as the first man in the history of our republic to be elected president without ever having served in public office or the military. He will step into the office having won in an upset, and as one of the most galvanizing presidential candidates since Abraham Lincoln. In the presidential election of 1860 Lincoln won the office without even appearing on the ballot of any Southern state, which quickly prompted the secession of South Carolina and six other states.

Lincoln - Douglas Debate
In the spirit of 1860, today we have some disgruntled Californians talking about seceding from the United States because of an incoming president. But if Californians were to seriously explore setting themselves up as an independent republic, it wouldn't be the first time.

The concept of secession is as old as America. In 1814 the New England Federalist Party began holding a series of meetings called the Hartford Convention, in which they discussed secession because of their disagreements with circumstances of the War of 1812. The Republic of Texas was a result of the same style of thinking and existed for a decade, beginning in 1836. The American Revolution was nothing more than secession from Great Britain. Certainly the most famous act of secession was the one that gave us the Confederate States of America. Abraham Lincoln, himself, during his famous debates with Stephen Douglas, argued that any group of people should be able to throw off their old government for one that suits them better.

But one of the most obscure acts of secession is that of California in 1846 in which a small band of rebels, led by United States Captain John C. Fremont and others, stood militarily against the Mexican government. California at that time was undoubtedly Mexican, but was of an almost fluid status, due to local governing conflicts, disputes regarding promises made to immigrants, and the never-ending thought that Mexico and the United States would go to war.

To put it simply, Americans near Sonoma began to assemble with the thought of creating their own republic. They armed themselves, created battle flags, issued proclamations, and challenged authority. The revolt lasted just a month, and there was only one pitched battle - more a skirmish, to be honest.

But the small revolt wasn't quelled. It was simply replaced with a larger one. The United States did declare war on Mexico, and the battle flags of the rebels were replaced with the flags of the United States. The United States won that war, and California became the 31st state in 1850.

Alcatraz - Photo courtesy of D. Ramey Logan
Personally speaking, I'm in general agreement with the concept of secession, and admit that there are places in California I love to visit. But I can barely imagine what it would be like to show a passport if I wanted to visit Alcatraz in San Francisco, go on a wine tour of the Napa Valley, or head down to San Diego for the International Comic-Con.

If California did secede from the United States, there's one thing they wouldn't have to worry about. You see, the California insurgents of 1846 were called Los Osos - The Bears - and their uprising was called the Bear Flag Revolt because of their flags. That's right. The current California state flag, with its grizzly bear, red star, and bold "CALIFORNIA REPUBLIC" is based on the secessionist Bear Flag of 1846. Simply put, California already flies the flag of an independent republic. Long may it wave.

International Comic-Con

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