Essay on the significance of the California Gold Rush

Essay by wazupall05High School, 11th grade February 2004

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The discovery of America is based around the quest for lands unknown, the promise of freedom, and, most importantly, gold. Therefore it is no surprise that the discovery of gold in California came to be known as the new "El Dorado". This finding quickly brought a surge of Americans of all ethnicities, along with Europeans, South Americans, Australians, and Asians, all searching for a land filled with promises of financial profit, freedom and equality. Although many of these entrepreneurs walked away with only disappointment, leaving a trail of native blood, the large and diverse population which sprouted in California and other previously nearly uninhabited western states foreshadowed the largely diverse population, controversial policies, and racial and sectional tension to come nationwide.

John Marshall was hired by Swiss-American John Sutter to oversee the construction and maintenance of a sawmill on Sutter's land. On the fateful morning of January 24, 1848, Marshall was making a routine inspection along the American River when he caught a glimpse of something in his eye.

He stooped over to take a look, and after careful observation and a series of tests that took all of 20 minutes, Marshall was convinced that the substance he found was gold (Wright 265-267). With this discovery, he and his fellow crew members brought the substance to John Sutter four days later, who, after much skepticism, agreed that the substance was indeed gold. The discovery was originally discussed to be kept secret, but "...within six weeks, all of Sutter's workers had deserted his stores, farms, and ranches to look for gold" (Time-Life 128). Soon after, a piece was written in the Californian proclaiming the find of gold at Sutter's Mill, and a report was written to the president from California's military governor, Colonel R.B. Mason, conforming the rumoring suspicions of the...