What It Means to Be American
Peter Hardeman Burnett had probably the most impressive list of achievements of any leader in the early American West. He served on the supreme court of the Oregon Territory and became the first governor of California.
So why has he been forgotten?
Because sometimes history gets things right. Burnett’s stellar resume could not offset his blatant racism and inept leadership, which have denied him a prominent place in the region’s history.
Burnett is best remembered, if he is remembered at all, for his governorship of California, in 1849. He resigned in 1851, with little to show for his time in office, other than failed attempts to win enactment of an exclusion law against African Americans. He made questionable decisions that undermined his leadership, including changing the 1850 Thanksgiving observance ...