"We have the tacit support of Governor Burnett of California."
Peter Hardeman Burnett (November 15, 1807– May 17, 1895)
Public DomainPeter Hardeman Burnett (November 15, 1807– May 17, 1895) - Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Peter Hardeman Burnett was an American politician and the first state Governor of California, serving from December 20, 1849 to January 9, 1851.*

His most significant political contribution was in helping to facilitate a number of racist and xenophobic policies, including the exclusion of African Americans from the state (lasting until 1926) and various federal and state Californian laws disenfranchising foreign labourers, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act.

With regards to the local indigenous peoples of California, Burnett made his position clear in his Inaugural Address: ‘That a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct, must be expected...’ This policy would continue with successive administrations, where the state offered $25 to $50 for evidence of dead Indians.



* The reference to Governor Burnett is made somewhat anachronistic by references in the same chapter to Paredes and to General Worth. Paredes died in September, 1849, and Worth died in May of that same year. Peter Hardeman Burnett did not assume the role of Governor of California until December 1849.