Major episodes of Mesozoic plutonism in California correlate with periods of oblique subduction and trench-parallel transport of western California along intrabatholithic faults. Major episodes of plutonism occurred in the Late Jurassic, during left-oblique convergence, and in the mid-Cretaceous, during right-oblique convergence. In contrast, a conspicuous lull in plutonism (but continuation of volcanism) in the earliest Cretaceous coincides with a time when the North America-Farallon convergence vector, although large in magnitude, was oriented perpendicular to the trench. This correlation suggests that plutonism is facilitated by strike-slip faulting within the batholithic belt; one explanation, which helps to solve the plutonic room problem, is that plutons are passively emplaced at releasing bends in the strike-slip faults, and volume is conserved by thrusting at the trench. If this correlation is generally applicable, then it implies that mid-crustal plutonism is limited beneath arcs in which the convergence vector is subperpendicular to the trench. Continental growth in such arcs may occur dominantly by volcanism.