Culture, congressional images and decision-making: the case of California from 1840 to 1850

Throughout the 1840's, United States' Congressmen collectively perceived California to be a land of contrast. In the Congressional mind's eye, California was viewed either as a land without economic rival or as a no man’s land. To Congressmen, then, not only did California represent an Asiatic paradise, a potential commercial empire and the territorial fulfillment of America's drive to the Pacific, but also a vacuous desert which was inhabited be (by?) a mottled population. These particular images as well as others generated by Congressmen during the 1840's, however, were not formed in isolation nor did they exist in isolation. Instead, these images reflected the early Nineteenth-Century American cultural environments, and later, influenced the type of Congressional legislation which was enacted to change California geography from one of Hispanic to one of Anglo-American cultural dominance. It is the purpose of this thesis to analyze the nature of Congressional images as they were vocalized in debate during the 1840's. Through the use of measurement techniques called content analysis and construct elicitation, the specific content and structure of these images are re-defined. Moreover, the cultural bases upon which these images were initially formed are described as is imagery influence on the Congressional decision-making process.