Skip to content
Deacon Keith Fournier Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you. Help Now >

Peter Hardeman Burnett

Free World Class Education
FREE Catholic Classes

First American Governor of California, U.S.A. b. in Nashville, Tennessee, 15 Nov., 1807, of Virginian ancestry; d. at San Francisco, California, 16 May, 1895. At an early age he was taken by his father to Missouri, where amid primitive conditions of life he succeeded in obtaining an elementary education. At the age of nineteen he returned to Tennessee, and soon after married Harriet W. Rogers, to whom he attributed much of the success of his later career. After his marriage he started in business for himself, studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1839. He also edited "The Far West", a weekly paper published at Liberty, Missouri. About this time he became a member of the Church of the Disciples, or Campbellites, founded by Alexander Campbell, a seceder from the Baptists. In 1843, removing with his family to Oregon, he took a prominent part in the formation of the territorial government and was a member of the legislature from 1844 to 1848. During this period the published debate between Campbell and Bishop Purcell of Cincinatti fell into his hands, and though after reading it he still remained a Protestant, his confidence in Protestantism was considerably shaken. He then began a systematic investigation of the true religion, became convinced of the truth of the Catholic claims, and in June, 1846, was received into the church at Oregon City by Father De Vos.

Free Online Catholic Classes for Anyone, Anywhere - Click Here

In the year 1848 Burnett went to California, where he was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly and took a leading part in its Proceedings. He was appointed judge of the superior tribunal in August, 1849 and did good work in the framing of the State Constitution. In September he was chosen chief justice, and on the thirteenth of November of the same year he was elected the first American Governor of California, though California was not admitted as a State into the Union till September, 1850. He resigned the governorship in 1851 and resumed the practice of law until his appointment in 1857 as a Justice of the Supreme Court of California by Gov. J. Neeley Johnson. His term expired in October 1858. He was also President of the Pacific Bank from 1863 to 1880, after which he retired from active business. In 1860 Judge Burnett wrote his famous book "The Path which led a Protestant Lawyer to the Catholic Church" (New York, 1860), wherein he bases his conversion on clear-cut logical principles. With regard to this work Dr. Brownson says "In writing his book, Judge Burnett has rendered a noble homage to his new faith. . . . Through him California has made a more glorious contribution to the Union than all the gold of her mines, for truth is more precious than gold, yea, than fine gold" (Brownson's Review, April, 1860). This was followed by his work on "The American Theory of Government, Considered with Referenee to the Present Crisis" (2d ed., New York, 1861). During the period of his retirement he published "Recollections and Opinions of an Old Pioneer" (New York, 1860), which "is especially valuable in connection with the early political and constitutional history of the Pacific coast" (Nation, XXX, 389), and "Reasons Why We Should Believe in God, Love God and Obey God" (New York, 1884).

We ask you, humbly: don't scroll away.

Hi readers, it seems you use Catholic Online a lot; that's great! It's a little awkward to ask, but we need your help. If you have already donated, we sincerely thank you. We're not salespeople, but we depend on donations averaging $14.76 and fewer than 1% of readers give. If you donate just $5.00, the price of your coffee, Catholic Online School could keep thriving. Thank you.

Help Now >

 St. Benedict Home Blessing Door Hanger  BOGO 50% OFF

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.


Act of Contrition PDF

Free PDFs: Hail Mary, Our Father, How to Pray the Rosary & more

PDF educational resources for Students, Parents, and Teachers and it’s 100% FREE. How to Pray the Rosary, Hail Mary, Our Father, Saints, Prayers, Coloring Books, Novenas, Espanol and more. All FREE to download and faithful to the Magisterium. Download Now >

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.

Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.