During the 1850s, a number of proposals were introduced that would have prohibited all further entry of African Americans into the State of California. However, none of those proposals was adopted into law. 

One such proposal, called the “Nigger Bill” by those who proposed it, was introduced in 1858. The text of that proposal is provided below for the insights it provides into how the ruling elite in the California legislature framed the character and the status of African Americans as the state and its counties were settling in to the U.S. way of doing business.

April 21 [1858] on “Nigger Bill” *

Mr. President

The Committee on Federal Relations to whom was referred Assembly Bill No 395. Entitled “An Act to restrict and prevent the immigrations to and residence in this State of Negroes and Mulattoes” have had the same under Considerations and beg leave to report. That in the opinions of your Committee a law of this Character has become a necessity in California.

The position of the free negro in this state is a peculiar one, he is not the equal of the white man, socially or politically, he can not testify in our courts, or exercise the right of suffrage, hence in our judgement it is not good policy, on our part, to encourage the immigrations, of any class of persons incapable of appreciating and enjoying, to the fullest extent our institutions.

The negro is by nature indolent and in a state of freedom becomes a ready prey to vice, particularly in our large cities. We deem it unnecessary to refer to the conditions of the free Negro, in portions of our union(?), as a proof of the evil of harboring them here in our midst.

The presence of the free negro here is a constant source of disquiet, for we are sorry to say, that there is not wanting, a clan of white men, in our state: whom a false philantrophy leads to fasten the ignorant hide of the free negro, so that he becomes insolent and defiant and if in sufficient numbers would become dangerous, as evidenced by recent occurrences in one of our cities

That there are here in California many worthy and industrious free negroes, your Committee do not deny, in fact we know many who for industry sobriety and good conduct, would be a good example to many of our white citizens, but these are exceptionable instances.

The Bill does not interfere with those free negroes, already here, but simply requires them to procure a certificate of Registry, from the County Recorder in the County of their residence, to show that they were residents of this state prior to the 1st day of October 1858. This portion of the Bill is necessary to render it Effectual.

Believing therefore that the further immigration of free negroes and Mulattoes into this state, is not desirable, we beg leave to report the Bill back to the Senate and recommend its passage without amendment.

All of which is respectfully submitted

Senate Chairman of Committee on Federal Relations

Isaac Allen