Imagine this: You own hundreds of thousands of acres of land. You have power. You have control. You lay down the law that all must obey.
There’s only one problem: Few people live on your land. There is almost no one to obey the laws you set down. This was the problem facing Mexico ever since it had won its independence from Spain in 1821. It needed more people to settle in California (or Alta California, as it was then called). Mexico’s solution was land grants, gifts of land to settlers. The government used the land grants to lure people to California. And it worked! Many land grants became huge ranchos, or cattle ranches. The population grew. But the growth caused problems.