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even in his own party. One consequence was that in the Democratic wing of the constitutional convention in 1857, despite the fact that Gorman was chairman of the committee on the executive department, the convention itself so clipped and amended the powers of the executive proposed by him, as to make the governor head of the administration in little more than name. In the compromise committee the Republicans, whose territorial experience had been shorter, and who had themselves proposed a very powerful executive, were able to compel the acceptance of but a single added power for the governor, namely that which provides that "he shall take care that the laws are faithfully executed.”27
The legislative assembly consisted of a council and a house of representatives. Both were elected directly by the voters for terms of two years and one year, respectively.28 Any qualified voter was eligible to the assembly, but residence in the respective districts was required. The number of members was fixed at not more than fifteen for the council and thirty-nine for the house. The assembly reached its maximum size in 1856. Population in the various counties and districts was to be the basis of the apportionment, which was to be "as nearly equal as practicable.” Sessions were limited by the act to sixty days, but by a law approved July 18, 1850, Congress authorized the next annual assembly to remain in session for ninety days.29 Considering the term of representatives—a single year—it is fair to presume that annual sessions were contemplated. The joint legislative power of the governor and legislative assembly extended to "all rightful subjects of legislation" consistent with the federal constitution and the organic act of the territory.80 All laws were required to be submitted to Congress and they stood unless disapproved. No laws might be passed, however, interfering with the primary disposal of the soil by the federal government, taxing federal property, or taxing the property of non-residents at a higher rate than that of residents. 31
The supreme court of the territory consisted of a chief justice and two associates. Sitting separately in the districts to which they were severally assigned, the same three men held the three district courts also. There was in addition a provision for the creation of probate courts and justices of the peace.
It was provided in the act that, as the government lands in the territory were surveyed preparatory to sale, sections sixteen and thirty-six in each
27 Minn. Const., art. 5, sec. 4.
28 Organic act, sec. 4. The Northwest Ordinance, 1787, sec. II, had provided that the lower house, itself elected by the voters of the territory, should nominate ten fit persons, of whom Congress, and later the president, should choose five to be the council in the territorial legislature. This scheme was continued in the act for Indiana territory (1800), Michigan territory (1805), and Illinois terri. tory (1809). The acts of 1836 and 1838 for the organization of Wisconsin and lowa territories made the council as well as the lower house elective by the voters. 20 Stat. at Large, 9:440.
In the legislative session of 1851 it was possible, due to the length of the session, to pass some of the most important laws of the territorial period. 80 Organic act, sec. 6.
See also Northwest Ordinance, sec. 14, art. IV.
township were to be "reserved for the purpose of being applied to schools in said Territory, and in the state and territories hereafter to be erected out of the same."32 This was merely a reservation for future use, not a grant. One of the leading incentives for seeking statehood not many years later was the hope of the people to get actual control of these lands.
The laws of Wisconsin territory were temporarily extended over the new territory.34 This was undoubtedly due, in the main, to the fact that most of the population of Minnesota in that day was east of the Mississippi and had formerly lived under the laws of Wisconsin, rather than Iowa territory. The people's own laws were, therefore, simply continued in effect.
3. TERRITORIAL POLITICS. The political history of Minnesota territory divides itself rather sharply into two periods. The earlier, from 1849 to the summer of 1855, was distinguished chiefly by the absence of clear-cut party alignments. Being incapable of electing their principal territorial officers, the voters found no occasion for the organization of political parties. There obtained, furthermore, a strong conviction that there was little to be gained and possibly much to be lost by partisanship. What the territory needed from Congress was appropriations and beneficial legislation for the development of the territorial resources. Only as the people maintained a united front in support of their delegate and abstained from partisan activity, could they expect, no matter which party controlled Congress, to obtain the maximum of results from their efforts. There was called into being, therefore, a bi-partisan "Territorial Party.” It had no formal organization, and was more in the nature of a truce between the normal party groups than a party of itself, yet it enjoyed .considerable influence in the earlier years.35
This is not to say that the citizens of the territory forsook their American birthright, nor that they entirely ceased to be political animals. Personal politics simply took the place of party struggles. There were “Fur" and "Anti-Fur." Sibley had his following, and so too had his rival, the shrewd and able Mr. H. M. Rice. In later years Mr. Gorman attempted to create a like personal party, but with less success. All three of these men were Democrats by inclination if not by public declaration and they all came sooner or later to ally themselves openly with the fortunes of the Democratic party. Among those who were known or reputed to be Whigs, both Mr. Ramsey and Mr. M. S. Wilkinson may be mentioned as having led small personal factions.
89 Organic act, scc. 18. This was only the second instance in American history of the reserva. tion of two sections of land in each township for school purposes. Orfield, Federal Land Grants to the States, p. 44.
* Orfield, op. cit., p. 148.
In the absence of partisan election statistics, it is impossible to say with precision just how the people were divided politically in these early years. It must be remembered, however, that the nation had been in the control of the Democratic party, with but few and unimportant intermissions, since the days of Jefferson. In the west Jacksonian democracy had arisen to supplant Jeffersonianism, with the effect that Democratic supremacy became in that region more than ever the normal political condition. It is true, indeed, that Minnesota became an organized territory in 1849 under a Whig administration and that Governor Ramsey and the other office-holders in the territory had Whig affiliations. For reasons not necessary to discuss here, these men were unable to increase very greatly the number of Whigs in Minnesota. At heart the majority of the people of the territory were probably Democrats, and when in 1852 the Democratic party won a national victory, the people looked forward with satisfaction to the day early in 1853 when a Democratic would succeed the Whig administration in the territory.
During the four years of Ramsey's administration, the Democrats of the territory remained without thorough party organization. They were undoubtedly aware of their own numbers and potential strength, yet they were too intelligent not to perceive that while the 'Whigs controlled both the national and territorial administrations it was better to postpone organization, working in the meantime in harmony with the Whig administration through the colorless "Territorial Party." They continued to be only nominally organized almost solely for reasons of policy. The arrival in the territory of Gorman and the other Democratic office-holders, while it did not have much outward effect on the political situation, did serve to change greatly the attitude of the Democratic politicians towards the shackles which bound them to non-partisanship. They became increasingly restive under this restraint. On the other hand, the rank and file of the party, more confident than ever of their strength and security since the national party victory of 1852, found it easier than ever to pursue a policy of political inactivity. In this position the body of the voters had the support of several of the leading men and newspapers of the territory.86
The result was that for another two years, from 1853 to 1855, nothing of importance was done to provide a political organization for the territorial democracy. In fact the party fell into almost hopeless division due to the feuds of the leaders, Sibley, Rice, and Gorman. In 1855 there was open schism between the two chief factions,37 and this condition of demoralization was made worse during this and the two following years by the attacks of the Pioneer and Democrat, the Rice organ of St. Paul, upon the
88 On the early politics of Minnesota, see Wallace, Political History of Minnesota Territory, 1849-1853, an unpublished monograph (University of Minnesota); Minn. in Three Cen., 2:447 ff.; Smalley, Hist, of Repub. Party, pp. 145-48.
37 Minn. in Three Cen., 2:484-86.
administration of Gorman. It was not until the meeting of the constitutional convention in July, 1857, that the Pioneer and Democrat, having laid away the cudgels with which it had been belaboring Mr. Gorman, was able, for the first time in its history, to congratulate the Democratic party of the territory upon the unanimity which it had at last attained. This period of healing of old wounds came almost too late, for in the meantime the Republican party had been formed and had for two years profited greatly by the factional disturbances among the Democrats.
But it was not the petty affairs of the territory as such which were destined to divide the men of Minnesota into two hostile political groups. As it happened, it was nothing less than the great national issue created in 1854, the question upon which was founded the Republican party, which was to precipitate in Minnesota territory the formation of local parties. The uneasy and apprehensive quiet which had filled the land following the passage of the compromise measures of 1850 was shattered with almost electric shock and suddenness in 1854 by the passage of the KansasNebraska measure repealing the Missouri Compromise.
Kansas was thrown open to slavery. Nebraska was threatened. The whole western domain with the exception of Minnesota seemed instantly at the mercy of the slave power. From freedom-loving men throughout the North came startled, angry, bitter voices. They felt that they had been betrayed by the South. They were injured beyond words. In their pain and confusion men forgot party; the party system temporarily gave way to chaos. Few elections in our history present a more confused aspect than the congressional canvass of 1854. Only two facts can be said to have stood forth with any clarity: First, the slavery issue had been revived and raised to first place; and second, with the emergence of that issue, the Republican party had been born.
The wave of emotionalism which swept over the North throughout 1854 and the years which followed could not fail to reach Minnesota. As the rush of northern settlers into the western country brought on those struggles known as "the war in Kansas," the voice of "bleeding Kansas" filled the air. Skilled newspaper correspondents sent almost daily stories to the northern press, denouncing the "border ruffians” or pleading in their defense. For weeks at a time some of the Minnesota newspapers ran little other news from the outside world than the tales of this frontier strife. Every breeze from the South seemed freighted with blood-curdling tales. Every boat which ascended the river brought not only an occasional "freedom shrieker" and a new batch of middle western newspapers, but also a fresh supply of the New York Tribune, which was widely read in the territory. All of these periodicals simply increased the emphasis on Kansas and the slavery issue.
* under this e confident
victory of tivity
. In the lead
Meetings of protest were early held in Minnesota. One of the most important occurred in St. Anthony, March 29 and 30, 1855.38 Such Whigs as William R. Marshall and Alexander Ramsey were leaders in this meeting, but a number of anti-slavery Democrats are also reported to have attended. The name “Republican” was used in connection with this meeting, but it was reserved for a later assemblage to organize the party. Resolutions were adopted condemning the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and proclaiming the power and the duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all new states. The meeting also took the unexpected step of demanding a prohibitory liquor law.
The St. Anthony meeting was followed by one on a larger scale in St. Paul in July 39 This may be considered the first territory-wide Republican convention in Minnesota. The platform adopted by this gathering “reaffirmed” the purpose of the Republicans "to array the moral and political powers of Minnesota, whether as territory or state, on the side of freedom, and to aid in wielding the whole constitutional force of the federal government, whenever we can and wherever we can, against the existence of slavery.”40 The platform then proceeded to insist upon the abolition of slavery wherever possible, to denounce the repudiation by the South of the Missouri Compromise, and to assert a purpose to take hold of the territorial government for the purpose of keeping slavery out of Minnesota. The last resolution in the platform gives some indication of the character of the early Republican party in Minnesota. It was a resolution insisting upon the prohibition of the liquor traffic throughout the territory.41 The platform and the subsequent address to the people appear to have been written in large part by some of the leading clergymen of Minnesota, men who might have been classified among the “moral” rather than the “political powers” of Minnesota, and who were strong in the belief that human slavery to liquor must be destroyed along with all other forms of servitude.
The earnestness and the success of the Republicans drove home to the Democrats also, in the course of a few years, the need of better party organization. In the fall elections of 1855 the lines were already drawn quite clearly between the parties, but the Democrats, though divided among themselves, won an easy victory. In 1856 the Republicans succeeded in carrying the lower house of the territorial legislature which was to sit early in 1857. This partial defeat spurred the Democrats to renewed efforts to
38 Minn. in Three Cen., 2:481-83; Smalley, Hist. of Repub. Party, pp. 148 ff.
40 The platform will be found in Smalley, op. cit., pp. 150-53; also in Daily Minnesotian, July 27 and 28, 1855.
4 The sentiment in favor of a prohibitory liquor law had been strong in Minnesota from the early territorial days. In 1852 the territorial legislative assembly passed a prohibition law, but made it dependent upon the approval of the voters. The electors ratified the measure; but it was subsequently declared unconstitutional by the territorial courts and it did not go into effect. Minn. in Three Cen., 2:462-66.