Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
MINNESOTA, a state in the American Union. That portion east of the Mississippi was a part of the territory ceded by Virginia, and was left out of the limits of the last entire state formed out of the northwest territory. (See
—BOUNDARIES. The boundaries assigned by the enabling act, and accepted by the state constitution, were as follows: "Beginning at the point in the centre of the main channel of the Red River of the North. where the boundary line between the United States and the British possessions crosses the same; thence up the main channel of said river to that of the Bois des Sioux river; thence up the main channel of said river to Lake Traverse; thence up the centre of said lake to the southern extremity thereof; thence in a direct line to the head of Big Stone lake; thence through its centre to its outlet; thence by a due south line to the north line of the state of Iowa; thence cast along the northern boundary of said state to the main channel of the Mississippi river; thence up the main channel of said river, and following the boundary line of the state of Wisconsin, until the same intersects the Saint Louis river; thence down said river to and through Lake Superior, on the boundary line of Wisconsin and Michigan, until it intersects the dividing line between the United States and the British possessions; thence up Pigeon river, and following said dividing line, to the place of beginning."
—CONSTITUTION. Two constitutional conventions, one composed of republicans and one composed of democrats, were organized under the enabling act. Both met July 13, 1857, and, having finally come to a mutual understanding, agreed upon the same constitution, and adjourned Aug. 29. The joint constitution was ratified by an almost unanimous popular vote. It forbade slavery, "feudal tenures of every description," and leases of agricultural land for more than twenty-one years. The governor's term was fixed at two years. The right of suffrage was given to white male citizens over twenty-one, on a residence of one year in the United States and four months in the state. The capital was fixed at St. Paul, with a permission to the legislature to remove it. Under this constitution the state was admitted by act of May 11, 1858. The following amendments were made to the constitution in subsequent years: in 1858 the governor was allowed to issue not more than $5,000,000 in bonds, secured by a pledge of the faith and credit of the state, to aid certain railroads within the state; in 1860 the foregoing amendment was expunged, and the levy of any tax to pay the interest or principal of the bonds issued was prohibited, unless the levy should be ratified by a popular vote; in 1868 the word "white" was struck out of the suffrage clause; and in 1876 the legislature was empowered to allow women to vote at school elections.
—GOVERNORS. Henry H. Sibley, 1858; Alexander Ramsey. 1858-62; Stephen Miller, 1862-6; Wm. R. Marshall, 1866-70; Horace Austin, 1870-74; Cushman K. Davis, 1874-6; John S. Pillsbury, 1876-82; I. F. Hubbard. 1882-4.
—POLITICAL HISTORY. The political history of the state may be briefly summed up in the statement that it is and has always been a republican state. Its electoral votes have always been cast for republican candidates, and all its governors, United States senators and congressmen have been republicans, with the exceptions of the first governor, Sibley, Senator Rice, and the congressman from the second district in 1879-81, who were democrats. The republican majority in the state has been steadily increasing, as shown by the votes for governor in the following years 1865, 17,335 to 13,864; 1875, 46,175 to 35,373; 1879, 55,918 to 41,583. The only reasonably close election was in 1869 when the republican vote was 27,348 to 25,401. The legislature has always been republican in both branches, usually by a two-thirds or greater majority. In 1874, an exceptional year, the republican majority was only twenty-one to twenty in the senate, and fifty-four to fifty-two in the house, but it immediately and rapidly increased again until in 1881 it was twenty-nine to twelve in the senate and eighty-six to twenty in the house.
—The most important question in state politics has been that of the state's railroad bonds. The original constitution prohibited the loaning of the credit of the state to any corporation. The desire of the people for railroad improvement led them in April, 1858, to adopt the amendment noticed above, under the constitution: the vote in its favor was 25,023 to 6,733. Under this amendment $2,275,000 in bonds, guaranteed by the faith and credit of the state, was issued and transferred to third parties. In the panic which immediately followed, the railroads defaulted, and the state foreclosed on their lands, road beds and franchises, which were transferred to new railroads and have developed the present railroad system of the state. In 1860 the new amendment, practically repudiating the bonds, was passed. In 1869 a bill to set aside 500,000 acres of land for the payment of the bonds passed both houses, but was not signed by the governor. May 2, 1871, a proposition to submit the claim of the bondholders to arbitration was submitted to a popular vote and was defeated, 21,499 to 9,293. Governor Pillsbury omitted no opportunity, from his inaugural Jan. 7, 1876, until October, 1881, to urge upon the legislature the duty of some provision for the payment of the "dishonored bonds," and their final settlement is largely due to his unremitting exertions. The act of March 1, 1877, authorized the issue of new 6 per cent. bonds at the rate of $1,500 for $1,750 and accrued interest. Bonds were not to be issued until the people should ratify an amendment setting aside 500,000 acres of land to secure their redemption. The amendment was defeated, June 12, by a vote of 59,176 to 17,324. In 1881 most of the bondholders offered to surrender their bonds on payment of one-half their face value; and the legislature accepted the terms, March 2. Soon afterward the state supreme court decided that the repudiation amendment of 1860 was void, as it impaired the obligation of a contract; and that the legislature was competent to pay this, as a legal and valid indebtedness of the state. In October the arrangement was consummated, and the long suspended debt was canceled.
—Apart from this question, interest in state politics has been confined to occasional attempts to remove the state capital, a bill for which purpose was passed and vetoed in 1869, and to attempts to organize distinct farmers' or temperance parties. None of these last have as yet met any great success.
—Among the more prominent leaders in state politics have been the following; Ignatius Donnelly, republican representative 1863-9, and democratic candidate for representative in 1878; Mark H. Dunnell, republican representative 1871-83; S. J. R. McMillan, justice of the state supreme court 1864-74. chief justice 1874-5, and United States senator 1875-87; Alexander Ramsey, whig representative from Pennsylvania 1843-7, governor of Minnesota territory 1849-53, and state 1858-62, and secretary of war under Hayes; Henry M. Rice, democratic United States senator 1858-63; Henry H. Sibley, governor in 1858, and democratic candidate for representative in 1880; Wm. D. Washburn, republican representative 1879-85; Wm. Windom, republican representative 1859-69, United States senator 1870-81 and 1881-3, and secretary of the treasury under Garfield.
—The name of the territory and state was given from that of its principal river, an Indian word, said to mean "sky-tinted water."
—See 2 Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; 9 Stat, at Large, 403. 11: 167, 285 (for acts of March 3, 1849, Feb. 26, 1857, and May 11, 1858, respectively); Smith's Constitutional Convention of 1857; Neill's History of Minnesota (1858); Gale's Upper Mississippi (1600-1867); Tribune Almanac (1859-81): Messages of Gov. Pillsbury (Jan. 7, 1876-Oct. 12, 1881); Porter's West in 1880, 250.
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