The Dignity of Statehood
Territorial delegates have represented territories in Congress since the late 1700s, when territories bound for statehood were granted representation in Congress. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 predates the Constitution, and provided for government of the Northwest Territory. This authority was extended under the Constitution. Early laws did not specify the duties of the territorial delegates. It was up to Congress and the delegates themselves to establish the function of the office. It was decided that delegates would serve in the House of Representatives, but they are not members of the House. They can serve on committees, but they cannot vote and are not counted as part of the quorum.
J.W. Raymond was a delegate for Dakota Territory. On this date in 1883, the Grand Forks Herald reported that Raymond was not very hopeful about the territory’s prospects for statehood. The problem was, not surprisingly, politics. At the time, Congress was fairly evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Democrats were quite certain that if Dakota was admitted as one state, it would be Republican. That would change the balance of power. The Democrats resisted any move that would put more Republicans in Congress.
Raymond said that he could see one very reasonable solution. He suggested that the territory be split. Politicians were certain that if the territory was divided, South Dakota would go Democrat while North Dakota would be Republican. Raymond said it was a solution that would satisfy Congress.
But there was another problem, and that was in the territory itself. Raymond said there was too much contention between the northern and southern parts of the territory. The people in each region were at odds, with the south leaning Democrat and the north leaning Republican. Raymond doubted the two sides could agree on a course of action. He said he did not hold out much hope for Dakota statehood as either one or two states.
However, almost six years later, on November 2nd 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed the approval for admitting the two states of North and South Dakota – the culmination of a long, hard process.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Grand Forks Herald. “Dakota’s Demand for Admission.” 29 December, 1883.
Congressional Research Service. “Delegates to the U.S. Congress: History and Current Status.” "https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40555.pdf" https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40555.pdf Accessed 23 November, 2015.