Juan Alvarado: Governor of California, 1836-1842
Juan Bautista Alvarado (1809-1882), a brilliant and ambitious politician, led California to transitory independence from Mexico in the decade before the American government took over the future state. In this biography of California's first civilian governor, Robert Ryal Miller illuminates much of the history of the Mexican period and the transition to American rule.
Aided at first by his young uncle -- Commandant Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo -- Juan Alvarado led two armed revolts against Mexico, declaring himself governor of California at the age of twenty-seven. His administration emphasized education, cultural affairs, the court system, and private property rights. During his term in office -- he was the first governor to serve a full six years -- California was transformed from a poverty-stricken frontier garrison state to a proud pastoral economy based on widespread private ownership of ranches and farms.
This informative account of Alvarado's life is based primarily on the 1,200-page manuscript that he dictated in 1876 to an agent of historian Hubert Howe Bancroft and on his "Notes on California History, " prepared in connection with a lawsuit over ownership of the 17,000-acre Rancho San Pablo (northeast of San Francisco), where Alvarado lived for more than thirty years after he left office.