« AnteriorContinuar »
THE PRE-TERRITORIAL PERIOD
1. INTRODUCTION. The period in the history of Minnesota which antedates the organization of the territorial government in 1849 is important for the constitutional history of the state in several respects. It is, in the first place, as true of Minnesota as it is of any of the western states, that its constitution is the result of historical development. What was done in 1857 was not the writing of something entirely new. Neither did it consist, as some writers seem to suggest, in the clipping of numerous provisions from the constitutions of other states and the putting of these together into a state constitution without thought of their bearing on Minnesota conditions. It is more nearly in conformity with the facts to say that from the first day that English-speaking white men set foot in the Northwest territory a course of events was begun which in the fullness of time dictated to the people of Minnesota some of the most important clauses in their constitution. Furthermore, the experiences of the pioneers under the various territorial governments which succeeded each other in the control of the Minnesota country, constituted a very solid education in the fundamentals of administration in a new and undeveloped country. In 1857 this experience stood some of the members of the constitutional convention in good stead. Those in the territory who had not been brought up under the harsh circumstances of the frontier came largely from the New England and Middle Atlantic states. Coming westward a number of them stayed long enough in Michigan, Wisconsin, or some other northwestern state or territory to get a strong grasp on the constitutional principles in force in these different localities, and thus it came about that much of what was written into the constitution of Minnesota was drawn directly from the constitutions of the newly formed states immediately to the east and south, though many provisions, also, came from older and more eastern states. Permeating the whole west, and controlling the thought of its people with almost irresistible force in these antebellum days, were the tenets of Jacksonian democracy; not a few of these, also, as for instance the prejudice against banks, had great influence upon the men who drew up the original constitution of the state. Therefore, we cannot wholly neglect the governmental and political events for many years preceding the calling of the first and only constitutional convention of Minnesota.
This early history is important, also, because it alone can tell us how Minnesota came to have her present boundaries. The southern, eastern, and northern boundaries of Minnesota had all become fixed by 1857; it remained only to be decided whether all the territory from Iowa to Canada should constitute one territory, and if so, then to determine its western limits.
Lying almost at the geographical center of North America, and contributing of her waters to three great continental river systems, the region now occupied by Minnesota was from early times the meeting place of the conflicting territorial claims of the great nations. France, Spain, and Great Britain have all, at one time or another, held title to some part of the territory of Minnesota. By purchase, negotiation, or warfare these nations were all finally ousted, and the United States succeeded to their claims. No sooner, however, had the federal government inaugurated its policy of setting up new states in the national territory, than there began a new series of disputes, often of more than local importance, between the territories or between the smaller communities within them, as to what should be the bounds of each incoming state. Every interested group tried to determine these limits most advantageously for itself. Irresistible geographic facts very naturally decided many of these contests; where they were wanting, however, local and congressional politicians had almost complete freedom of action. In the end, as the conclusion of a whole series of these disputes, the boundaries of Iowa were fixed in 1846 and those of Wisconsin in 1848, leaving Minnesota no choice of boundaries on the south and on the east.
The hammering out of the boundaries of Minnesota was, therefore, a double process. One series of events, lying in the international field and made up of explorations, settlements, wars, and diplomacy ended in 1818 when all of the territory now comprised within the state of Minnesota was brought definitely under the American flag. The other, coming within the scope of American domestic politics, consisted in the marking out upon the map of one state after another in the Northwest and Louisiana territories. For Minnesota this process ended in 1857 when its western boundaries were drawn where they now are.
2. INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY SETTLEMENTS AFFECTING MINNESOTA. Ву right of discovery, exploration, and settlement of the Mississippi and St. Lawrence valleys, France claimed, prior to 1762, nearly all the present territory of the state. Minnesota east, by which we mean that portion of the Minnesota of today which lies east of the Mississippi, and Minnesota west, which signifies that portion of Minnesota lying west of the Mississippi and within the Louisiana Purchase, were at this time under one flag.1 The English had discovered Hudson bay, however, and their claims included the waters flowing into it. Though it was not known at this time, a large part
1 It is an anachronism to apply the term "Minnesota cast” and “Minnesota west" to these regions for any period prior to about 1848. However, the argument of convenience outweighs all other considerations.
of present-day Minnesota, lying in the valley of the Red River of the North, was actually within the British claims.?
In 1763 at the end of the Seven Years' War—the French and Indian War of our school histories-a vanquished France, utterly defeated at sea and in Canada, was forced to relinquish practically all her boundless North American territories. To England went Canada and all that territory east of the Mississippi to which France had held any claim. To Spain, who had fought on the side of France, and who had suffered losses and needed compensation, fell the western half of the Mississippi valley,—the so-called Louisiana territory. At this time eastern Minnesota was taken from France and added to the British possessions in Canada and the Red river valley, while Spain succeeded France in Minnesota west. For the time being the French were completely ousted from Minnesota.
The arrangements of 1763 stood until 1783. In the latter year was signed the treaty of peace that finally established the independence of the United States. By this treaty the new nation came into possession of all the territory west of the Alleghanies, south of the Great Lakes, east of the Mississippi, and north of the Spanish possessions in Louisiana and the Floridas, a territory which France had transferred to England but twenty years previous. Spain still controlled the Floridas and Louisiana territory, including Minnesota west. The English right to the Red river valley was not changed by the Treaty of 1783.
The boundary between British and American possessions defined in this treaty, as it particularly concerns Minnesota, gave proof of the vagueness of human knowledge at that time concerning the great central regions of North America. The line ran through Lake Superior from the water communication between Lake Huron and Lake Superior “northward of the Isles Royal and Phelipeaux, to the Long Lake; thence through the middle of said Long Lake, and the water communication between it and the Lake of the Woods, to the said Lake of the Woods; thence through the said lake to the most northwestern point thereof, and from thence on a due west course to the river Mississippi; thence by a line to be drawn along the middle of the said river Mississippi until it shall intersect the northernmost part of the thirtyfirst degree of north latitude."
The line to be drawn from "the most northwestern point" of the Lake of the Woods “on a due west course to the river Mississippi” simply could not be drawn. The sense of vastness and grandeur evoked by the mere mention of “the mighty Mississippi" seems to have impressed men with the belief that it rose much farther in the northwest than is actually the case. Undoubtedly the British little thought that a river with an outlet in Hudson bay rose many
: This region may be called “Minnesota northwest." For practical purposes it is usually considered as a part of Minnesota west, and for the period after 1818 this is entirely justifiable. See the map, p. 7, showing the three regions.
miles southward of the "most northwestern point" of the Lake of the Woods. At any rate the northern boundary as traced to the Lake of the Woods could not possibly articulate with the western boundary along the course of the Mississippi by the east and west line prescribed. A great gap was left between these two dangling ends which had later, with some inconvenience, to be closed.
Before the settlement of this detail, events of far reaching effect had thrown Louisiana territory, including Minnesota west, into the lap of the United States. In October, 1800, Napoleon induced Spain to accept the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso, by which Spain conditionally turned Louisiana back to France. Napoleon's aim was nothing less than a great colonial empire in America. In the course of the next three years, however, his colonial ambitions suffered a serious check in San Domingo. At the same time his danger in Europe became great and his sea forces probably seemed too small to warrant any attempt to retain Louisiana. In his extremity and in preference to letting it fall into the hands of the British, he made a hasty treaty with the startled envoys of the United States, thrusting into their hands a prize greater than any man could have dreamed or imagined. Louisiana had hardly been taken over by the French before it was transferred to the United States. At a single bound the American territory was extended from the Mississippi to the Rocky mountains.
By 1803, therefore, all the present territory of Minnesota, with the exception of the Red river valley and the doubtful strip of country from the headwaters of the Mississippi to the Lake of the Woods, had come into the possession of the United States. Already in the Jay Treaty of 1794 doubts had been expressed as to the northwestern limits of the United States as defined in the Treaty of 1783, and a joint survey had been proposed. The acquisition of Louisiana territory greatly enhanced the concern of the American government over the northwestern boundary question. The Treaty of Ghent in 1814 at the close of the War of 1812 having done nothing toward its solution, a convention was finally signed at London, October 20, 1818, by which the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude was adopted as a simple compromise of American and British claims from the Lake of the Woods westward to the Rocky mountains. Thus was settled the last international
8 The treaty of 1803, dated April 30, contained this important provision relative to the govern. ment of this region: "Article III. The inhabitants of the ceded territory shall be incorporated in the union of the United States and admitted as soon as possible according to the principles of the federal constitution to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages and immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the meantime they shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty, property and the religion which they profess.” Malloy, Treaties, 1:508, 509.
* Article IV. “Whereas it is uncertain whether the river Mississippi extends so far to the north. ward as to be intersected by a line to be drawn due west from the Lake of the Woods," etc., it was agreed that a joint survey should be made, and if the line due west would not reach the Mississippi, “the two parties will thereupon proceed, by amicable negotiation, to regulate the boundary line in thai quarter according to justice and mutual convenience, and in conformity to the intent of the said treaty (of 1783].” Jay Treaty, November 19, 1794, in Malloy, Treaties, 1:590, 593.