This article traces California's constitutional development from 1849 through 1911, examining how and why California's constitution developed into a quasi-legislative document that constitutionalized policies involving corporations, banks, railroads, taxes, and other economic relationships, thereby limiting the power of the legislature. I argue that drafters of California's constitutions deliberately curtailed legislative power and transformed class issues into constitutional ones. California's experience was consistent with state constitutional developments throughout the United States, especially in the West. Advocates of constitutional reform saw state legislatures as corrupt captives of "capitalists" and other "special interests" that could not to be trusted to serve the people's interests. These issues permeated debates over constitutional reform in California and other states from the 1840s through the initial decades of the twentieth century, leading to the adoption of the initiative and referendum.

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