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The Final Days

10/21/2014:

On October 16th, Territorial Governor Mellette and Secretary Richardson met in Bismarck and canvassed the election results. Completed on the 17th, they made the arrangements to provide a certified copy of the vote along with a certified copy of the North Dakota State Constitution to President Benjamin Harrison. It was hoped that the Presidential Proclamation could be issued as early as October 20th. The newly elected legislators and State officials began arriving at the Capitol preparing for the beginning of first legislative Session of the State of North Dakota set for November 1st.

However, according to the Jamestown Weekly Alert , things were not progressing as smoothly concerning South Dakota’s preparations. While a copy of North Dakota’s Constitution had been properly certified and beautifully engrossed, a copy of South Dakota’s Constitution had not been suitably prepared. There was no original copy in Secretary Richardson’s Office and no certified copy could be found. Only a typewritten copy was available which meant a significant delay, for as much as a week in the issuing of the proclamation for South Dakota. After telegraphing the South Dakota officials in Pierre for a copy of the Constitution, the Weekly Alert reported that Governor Mellette chose to retain North Dakota’s documents to ensure that there would be no separate proclamation. Because of the delay, the Presidential Proclamation could not be expected prior to October 27th.

On hearing this, Governor Elect John Miller, who had tentatively set the opening date of the Legislative Session for November 1st, moved it to November 12th. Noting that the canvassing of the Montana votes was going slowly, which also may have an impact on when the Proclamation would be issued, he then decided to subsequently move the first day of the Session to November 19th.

Although the Constitution provided sixty days for each Legislative Session, Section 56 of the Constitution allowed for the first session to run for a term of one hundred and twenty days. The first two weeks would most likely be occupied with the election of the two Senators to Congress. Then the Legislature also needed to set legislative districts, compile a full body of laws, provide for taxation, and set up the institutions mandated in the Constitution. It would be a busy session full of complex issues that could reach well into spring. Any further delay could be costly.

In the Nation’s Capital, newly elected Congressman, Henry Clay Hansbrough was sending daily messages back to the anxious citizens of Dakota. The President was working out the details on the proclamation to admit the two news states; it would, however, be an agonizing two weeks before the proclamation came.

Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis

Sources:

The Bismarck Tribune October 25, 1889

Jamestown Weekly Alert October 24, 1889

Official Report of the Proceedings and Debates of the First Constitutional Convention of North Dakota Assembled in the City of Bismarck, July 4thto August 17, 1889 Tribune, State Publisher, Bismarck, ND