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Sine Die


In the waning days of the convention, the last of the major concerns were addressed. Suffrage was partially adopted, with women voting in school-related elections only. The Australian ballot issue, which involved printed ballots and private voting, was sidestepped when E. A. Williams provided a substitute clause that required the legislature to pass legislation ensuring the secrecy of the ballot. The Prohibition question was not made part of the Constitution, but a fully developed section was created and attached in subscript stating that a Prohibition Clause would be voted upon separately.

After the Committee of Arrangement and Adjustment submitted the full constitution with recommended changes to the Committee of the Whole on August 13th, each section was brought up and voted upon in succession. Motions to adopt, amend or revise were debated, and in most instances the recommendations of the Committee were adopted and sent on to the Committee on Enrolling and Engrossing for final processing.

But as letters and telegrams began to pour in over the placement of the capital and other institutions by constitutional mandate, the session once again erupted. As expected, the communities of Grand Forks and Jamestown petitioned heavily, but other communities also protested including Grafton, Wahpeton, Pembina, and St. Thomas, among others. At a public demonstration in Milnor on August 14th, they burned the Constitution in effigy. Claims were made that the convention had oversteps its authority, but without a constitutionally placed capital, many convention members believed that each legislative session would be mired down in an attempt to relocate it. Once again the Committee of the Whole debated the issue up to the last moments of the convention and finally held to their original decision.

Apportionment, setting the legislative districts, was completed on the 16th. The last major hurdle to be dealt with was the railroad rates and taxes. This had been the first file introduced at the convention. Rates would be set by the Railroad Commissioners. As a common carrier, all railroad property used in conducting its business, such as the roadbeds, yards and buildings were exempt from taxation. Other lands were taxed.

On August 17th, the Constitutional Convention met in an evening session. Minor changes in punctuation and grammar were made and then the North Dakota State Constitution in its final form was submitted to a vote of the members. With a vote of forty ayes, twenty-three nays and twelve absent and not voting, the constitutional was adopted. After 45 days, the Constitutional Convention was finally over. The new Ship of State would now have a rudder, and hopefully a sound one, for with its many mandates, the first legislative session promised to be a stormy one.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis


Journal of the Constitutional Convention for North Dakota , Publisher Bismarck, N.D., Tribune, State Printers, 1889.

Official report of the proceedings and debates of the first Constitutional Convention of North Dakota, assembled in the city of Bismarck, July 4th to Aug. 17th, 1889 . Publisher Bismarck, N.D., Tribune, State Printers, 1889