Sedition·com (mature content)
History of the United States by Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard
» PART VI. NATIONAL GROWTH AND WORLD POLITICS
» CHAPTER XVIII

«·Mining and Manufacturing in the West · The Influence of the Far West on National Life·»


The Admission of New States

The Spirit of Self-Government.—The instinct of self-government was strong in the western communities. In the very beginning, it led to the organization of volunteer committees, known as “vigilantes,” to suppress crime and punish criminals. As soon as enough people were settled permanently in a region, they took care to form a more stable kind of government. An illustration of this process is found in the Oregon compact made by the pioneers in 1843, the spirit of which is reflected in an editorial in an old copy of the Rocky Mountain News: “We claim that any body or community of American citizens which from any cause or under any circumstances is cut off from or from isolation is so situated as not to be under any active and protecting branch of the central government, have a right, if on American soil, to frame a government and enact such laws and regulations as may be necessary for their own safety, protection, and happiness, always with the condition precedent, that they shall, at the earliest moment when the central government shall extend an effective organization and laws over them, give it their unqualified support and obedience.”

People who turned so naturally to the organization of local administration were equally eager for admission to the union as soon as any shadow of a claim to statehood could be advanced. As long as a region was merely one of the territories of the United States, the appointment of the governor and other officers was controlled by politics at Washington. Moreover the disposition of land, mineral rights, forests, and water power was also in the hands of national leaders. Thus practical considerations were united with the spirit of independence in the quest for local autonomy.

Nebraska and Colorado.—Two states, Nebraska and Colorado, had little difficulty in securing admission to the union. The first, Nebraska, had been organized as a territory by the famous Kansas-Nebraska bill which did so much to precipitate the Civil War. Lying to the north of Kansas, which had been admitted in 1861, it escaped the invasion of slave owners from Missouri and was settled mainly by farmers from the North. Though it claimed a population of only 67,000, it was regarded with kindly interest by the Republican Congress at Washington and, reduced to its present boundaries, it received the coveted statehood in 1867.

This was hardly accomplished before the people of Colorado to the southwest began to make known their demands. They had been organized under territorial government in 1861 when they numbered only a handful; but within ten years the aspect of their affairs had completely changed. The silver and gold deposits of the Leadville and Cripple Creek regions had attracted an army of miners and prospectors. The city of Denver, founded in 1858 and named after the governor of Kansas whence came many of the early settlers, had grown from a straggling camp of log huts into a prosperous center of trade. By 1875 it was reckoned that the population of the territory was not less than one hundred thousand; the following year Congress, yielding to the popular appeal, made Colorado a member of the American union.

Six New States (1889-1890).—For many years there was a deadlock in Congress over the admission of new states. The spell was broken in 1889 under the leadership of the Dakotas. For a long time the Dakota territory, organized in 1861, had been looked upon as the home of the powerful Sioux Indians whose enormous reservation blocked the advance of the frontier. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills, however, marked their doom. Even before Congress could open their lands to prospectors, pioneers were swarming over the country. Farmers from the adjoining Minnesota and the Eastern states, Scandinavians, Germans, and Canadians, came in swelling waves to occupy the fertile Dakota lands, now famous even as far away as the fjords of Norway. Seldom had the plow of man cut through richer soil than was found in the bottoms of the Red River Valley, and it became all the more precious when the opening of the Northern Pacific in 1883 afforded a means of transportation east and west. The population, which had numbered 135,000 in 1880, passed the half million mark before ten years had elapsed.

Remembering that Nebraska had been admitted with only 67,000 inhabitants, the Dakotans could not see why they should be kept under federal tutelage. At the same time Washington, far away on the Pacific Coast, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, boasting of their populations and their riches, put in their own eloquent pleas. But the members of Congress were busy with politics. The Democrats saw no good reason for admitting new Republican states until after their defeat in 1888. Near the end of their term the next year they opened the door for North and South Dakota, Washington, and Montana. In 1890, a Republican Congress brought Idaho and Wyoming into the union, the latter with woman suffrage, which had been granted twenty-one years before.

Utah.—Although Utah had long presented all the elements of a well-settled and industrious community, its admission to the union was delayed on account of popular hostility to the practice of polygamy. The custom, it is true, had been prohibited by act of Congress in 1862; but the law had been systematically evaded. In 1882 Congress made another and more effective effort to stamp out polygamy. Five years later it even went so far as to authorize the confiscation of the property of the Mormon Church in case the practice of plural marriages was not stopped. Meanwhile the Gentile or non-Mormon population was steadily increasing and the leaders in the Church became convinced that the battle against the sentiment of the country was futile. At last in 1896 Utah was admitted as a state under a constitution which forbade plural marriages absolutely and forever. Horace Greeley, who visited Utah in 1859, had prophesied that the Pacific Railroad would work a revolution in the land of Brigham Young. His prophecy had come true.

The United States in 1912

Rounding out the Continent.—Three more territories now remained out of the Union. Oklahoma, long an Indian reservation, had been opened for settlement to white men in 1889. The rush upon the fertile lands of this region, the last in the history of America, was marked by all the frenzy of the final, desperate chance. At a signal from a bugle an army of men with families in wagons, men and women on horseback and on foot, burst into the territory. During the first night a city of tents was raised at Guthrie and Oklahoma City. In ten days wooden houses rose on the plains. In a single year there were schools, churches, business blocks, and newspapers. Within fifteen years there was a population of more than half a million. To the west, Arizona with a population of about 125,000 and New Mexico with 200,000 inhabitants joined Oklahoma in asking for statehood. Congress, then Republican, looked with reluctance upon the addition of more Democratic states; but in 1907 it was literally compelled by public sentiment and a sense of justice to admit Oklahoma. In 1910 the House of Representatives went to the Democrats and within two years Arizona and New Mexico were “under the roof.” So the continental domain was rounded out.


«·Mining and Manufacturing in the West · The Influence of the Far West on National Life·»