ARKANSAS, a state of the American Union, formed from the Louisiana purchase (see ANNEXATIONS, I.; LOUISIANA). It was separated from Missouri as Arkansaw territory by act of March 2, 1819. No enabling act was passed, but a popular convention, Jan. 4, 1836, claiming "the right of admission into the Union, consistent with the federal constitution, and by virtue of the treaty of cession by France," formed a state constitution (see TERRITORIES), and under this Arkansas, after much opposition, was admitted by act of June 15, 1836. The boundaries of the state were fixed by the constitution as follows: "Beginning in the middle of the Mississippi river at the parallel of 36° 30' north latitude: thence west to the St. Francis river; thence up the St. Francis river to the parallel of 36° north latitude; thence west with the Missouri boundary line, and south with the Indian territory boundary, the Red river, and the Mexican (Texas) boundary to Louisiana; thence with the Louisiana boundary to the Mississippi and up the Mississippi to the place of beginning."
—The constitution fixed the capital at Little Rock. The governor was to hold office for four years. The powers of the legislature as to slavery were similar to those of Alabama. The state was made suable in its own courts, but this privilege was abolished by amendment, Feb. 12, 1859.
—In politics the state was steadily democratic in both presidential and state elections until the close of the rebellion. A whig opposition was maintained until 1856. In 1849, in a scarcely contested election, the vote for governor was 3,290 democratic, and 3,228 whig; but in all other years the whig vote was generally about thirty per cent. of the total vote. After 1856 the American party, or know-nothings, and the constitutional union party, took the place of the whigs with about the same proportion of the total vote.
—In 1861 the state at first showed no disposition to secede, preferring "co-operation" (see BORDER STATES, SECESSION). In state convention, March 18, a conditional ordinance of secession, to be submitted to popular vote, was defeated by a vote of 39 to 35. Instead of it an ordinance was unanimously passed submitting to the people, at an election to be held on the first Monday of August, a choice between secession and co-operation. The convention was to be re-convened and its action governed by the result of the election. The proclamation of president Lincoln, April 15, (see REBELLION) and a demand for a quota of troops from Arkansas to enforce it, caused the re-assembling of the convention, which passed an ordinance of secession, May 6, by a vote of 69 to 1. It purported to repeal, abrogate, and set aside all laws and ordinances whereby the state had become a member of the Union, to dissolve the union existing between Arkansas and the other states, to resume to Arkansas the powers delegated to the federal government, to absolve her citizens from all allegiance to the United States, and to re instate Arkansas in the rights and sovereignty of a free and independent state. May 18, the state was admitted as one of the confederate states.
—The people of the section of the state north of the Arkansas river seem to have been unionists from the beginning, for arrests of suspected persons by the confederate and state authorities in that part of the state became general toward the end of 1861. In September, 1863, Little Rock was captured by the federal army, and steps were immediately taken to reorganize the state government. By special orders from president Lincoln an election was called for March 28, 1864, but in the meantime a state convention had formed a new constitution which abolished slavery and repudiated the right of secession and the rebel debt, but restricted the right of suffrage to white male citizens. The constitution was ratified and state officers chosen, March 14. In September the confederate forces regained about two-thirds of the state and reorganized their legislature, but within a month they had again lost the state, this time forever. The "loyal" state government retained control of the state until its functions were suspended by the act of March 2, 1867 (see RECONSTRUCTION). Under the provisions of this act a state convention met Jan. 7, 1868, and adopted a new constitution which acknowledged paramount allegiance to be due to the United States, denied the right of secession, made suffrage universal (excepting persons under disabilities by the 14th amendment), and repudiated the rebel debt. This constitution was ratified March 13, 1868, and the state was re-admitted June 22. The state passed at once under republican control, and the disfranchised classes kept up an intermittent disturbance of the public peace for some years. In 1870 a section of the dominant party, commonly known as "brindletails," became dissatisfied with the republican administration and joined the democrats in assailing it and impeaching the governor for bribery and corruption. In 1872 the republican governor ordered the registration law of 1871 to be disregarded and the law of 1868 to be followed, thus again disfranchising the persons whose disabilities had been removed since 1868. The legislature, in January, 1873, canvassed the votes thus cast and declared Baxter, the regular republican candidate, elected by 3,111 majority; but the democrats claimed a majority of 1,598 for Joseph Brooks, the brindletail candidate, indorsed by the democrats. Brooks, after several suits in different courts, obtained judgment of ouster against Baxter in a circuit court, and seized the public buildings by an armed force, April 15, 1874. Civil war followed until the legislature met, May 13, and called for federal interposition. This was at once given, and the Brooks forces were disbanded. The principal result of the disturbance was the calling of a state convention for July 14, 1874. It formed a new constitution, which was ratified by popular vote. In addition to the provisions above given of the previous constitution, it took away all patronage from the governor and reduced his term of office to two years; prohibited him from suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, and from proclaiming martial law; and abolished all registration laws. The state has since been democratic.
—The name of the state is taken from that of its principal river, an Indian word which has no known meaning, but has no connection with the name of Kansas. Its pronunciation was declared to be Arkansaw by a resolution of the state senate in 1881. The state is popularly known as The Bear State, from the supporters of its coat of arms.
—GOVERNORS: Jas. S. Conway (1836-40), Archibald Yell (1840-44), Thos. S. Drew (1844-8), John S. Roane (1848-52), Elias S. Conway (1852-60), Henry M. Rector (1860-64), Isaac Murphy (1864-8), C. H. Smith (military governor under general Ord, March, 1867-July, 1868), Powell Clayton (July, 1868-January, 1873), Elisha Baxter (1873-7; superseded by new constitution, November, 1874), A. H. Garland (1875-7), William R. Miller (1877-83)
—See Poore's Federal and State Constitutions; Tribune Almanac, 1838-81: Appleton's Annual Cyclopœdia, 1861-80; and authorities cited under SECESSION and REBELLION. No history of Arkansas has been published. On the question of its admission as a state, see TERRITORIES; 1 Benton's Thirty Years' View, 627; 12, 13 Benton's Debates of Congress. The act of March 2, 1819, is in 3 Stat. at Large, 493; the act of June 15, 1836, 5 Stat. at Large, 50.