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CHAPTER IV

ELECTING AND ORGANIZING THE CONSTITUTIONAL

CONVENTION

I. THE APPORTIONMENT OF DELEGATES. The first apportionment for representation in the legislative assembly of the territory was made by proclamation of the governor in 1849 and ratified by legislative act the same year. The territory grew rapidly in population in the next two years and in 1851 it became necessary to reapportion representation. The same process was carried out in 1855, the apportionment of that year standing practically unchanged through 1857. One additional representative was, however, given by an act of 1856 to the fifth council district and allotted to the counties of Lake and St. Louis.

The reapportionment of 1855 was brought about at a time when party divisions had hardly taken place and when sectional animosities had not reached that point of bitterness which characterized them in 1857, and it was consummated in all respects but one in an unusually fair manner. The exception was that in the act providing for the reapportionment the Pembina district was guaranteed one councillor and two representatives without any regard to the population of that district. Everyone knew that the white population of Pembina was very small and that the representation allowed was really in excess of the deserts of that district. The remainder of the apportionment was carried out under the statute by a committee of five representing the two houses. This committee was bound by the provisions of the law to apportion representation to ten of the eleven districts in exact proportion to their population. The work seems to have been done with a just consideration of the needs and claims of every section of the territory and there seems to have been no complaint of partisanship when the result was known.

1 Terr. Sess. Laws 1849, ch. 3, sec. 6. * Ibid., 1851, ch. 6.

Ibid., 1855, ch. 9. Ibid., 1856, ch. 35. Ibid., 1855, ch. 9, sec. 18.

• See the reports of the work of the apportionment committee in the Daily Minnesotion, Aug. 9, 1855, and in the Daily Pioneer, Aug. 10, 1855.

? Joseph R. Brown, who had helped to bring about a fairer apportionment in 1851 was also a member of the committee in 1855. He later spoke with pride of his success in getting a just apportionment of representation for the people west of the Mississippi. Pioneer and Democrat, Oct. 14, 1856. Cf. Rep. Deb., pp. 225-26.

The fact that this apportionment was substantially fair in 1855 does not necessarily demonstrate that it was fair in 1857. During the spring and summer months of 1855, 1856, and 1857 there was a tremendous rush of population into Minnesota. Tens of thousands of people came to settle in the territory in each of these years. The great bulk of the influx spread itself out over the southeastern counties and up the fertile valleys of the Minnesota and its affluents. The census of 1857 indicates that the region south of Stillwater, St. Paul, and St. Anthony, from Winona to a point westward of St. Peter, had by that year already become the most populous portion of the territory. It would seem, therefore, to have been only a matter of justice to have taken a new census and to have made a new apportionment when the constitutional convention was to be elected in 1857. This was the view of those living in southern Minnesota, at least, and for this they struggled during the regular legislative session of 1857, but in vain.' The party in power realized that if a reapportionment were made it would give a great advantage to the opposition, which was strong in the southern and eastern portions of the territory. In spite of the fact that the enabling act left the western and most populous half of the Pembina district outside of the proposed state, and that a scrupulous observance of the spirit of that act would have required at least that the representation from that district be reduced, the dominant group would not yield even on this point.10 The election of June i to choose delegates to the constitutional convention was conducted under the apportionment of 1855, and the result was that the Democrats went into the election with a great advantage over the Republicans. That this was, in the main, perfectly legal, cannot be gainsaid, and it is a truism that it is customary for parties to take such advantages of each other if they can. But it handicapped the Republicans in their efforts to gain control of the constitutional convention.

A calculation based on the census of 1857 shows that the quota per delegate in the first, second, third, fifth, seventh, and eleventh districts, the districts in which the Democrats were likely to have the upper hand, was only 885 people. The districts in the southern part of the state, on the other hand,--the fourth, sixth, eighth, ninth, and tenth, in which the Republicans were likely to win,-averaged 1733 people per delegate elected. The Democratic group of districts contained a population of approximately 49,600, and they elected fifty-six delegates. The normally Republican districts had over

8 Folwell, Minnesota, pp. 120-21. Cf. Robinson, Early Econ. Cond. and the Devel. of Agric, in Minn., pp. 43-44.

The census of 1849 showed only 4,780 people in the territory; in 1855 the appor. tionment committee estimated the population to be 49,600; and in 1857 the census showed 150,037.

The bill introduced in the council in the regular session of 1857 by C. W. Thompson of Houston county for the calling of a constitutional convention had as one of its chief objects the aim of bringing about an apportionment of delegates which would be fair to southern Minnesota. It passed the council with an amendment which apparently guaranteed the Pembina district its usual representation, but was subjected to drastic revision in the house of representatives, and was turned to the council too late for action by that body. See p. 58, footnote 41.

10 See p. 66, footnote 84. Cf. Rep. Deb., pp. 223-26.

90,000 population, yet they were apportioned but fifty-two delegates. 11 Had there been a fair apportionment throughout the territory of the proposed state based upon a census taken early in 1857 the Democratic group of constituencies would have been entitled to a number of delegates slightly upwards of thirty-eight, whereas the Republican districts would have been able to elect almost seventy."

2. THE CAMPAIGN, AND THE ELECTION OF JUNE I. The enabling act, passed on February 26, became generally known throughout the territory during the month of March. Governor Gorman's call for a special session of the legislature was published at about the same time, creating the impression that legislation by the territorial assembly was needed before the election of delegates could be held. Since the election was set for June 1, and the terms of the expected legislative action, not completed until May 25, seem not to have been known in some districts until a day or two before the election, there was but a short time for the holding of a campaign.

Lack of time was coupled with inadequate organization of the parties. The Democrats, who had but recently found even the slightest necessity for anything more than nominal unity, were chided severely by their newspaper for their lack of interest and their disorganization. Perhaps this scolding was overdone. On the other hand, the Republicans, whose organization was more recent than that of the Democrats, and still incomplete, were the recipients of powerful aid from outside the territory. During the early summer Lyman P. Trumbull, Owen Lovejoy, Edwin M. Stanton, and Charles Hughes, of New York; Galusha A. Grow, of Pennsylvania; and William Bross, of Chicago, worked diligently in the territory to build up the Republican organization.13

A person of inquiring mind might well be puzzled over the feverish activity of the Republicans. Was there, perchance, some danger that Minnesota would adopt a slave constitution? Were there great national issues at stake? Did the Republicans, perhaps, differ radically from their opponents on the proper organization of a state government? And the answer to all must be, that of issues there were none. So far, at least, as the newspapers

11 The counties west of the Mississippi, south of St. Anthony, and as far west as the great bend in the Minnesota river, or in other words the counties of southeastern Minnesota, were considered at the time as being the stronghold of the Republican party. They have, therefore, been classed as “normally Republican” for the purposes of this discussion. See map, p. 76.

12 It is here assumed that a census taken in the spring of 1857 would not have shown such striking discrepancies as were brought out by the federal census in the summer of that year. matter of fact, the latter census proved the southern part of Minnesota to be grossly under-represented. This was essentially an injustice to that section and not to the Republican party, since both parties cut into each others' strongholds to an extent sufficient to increase the Democratic and decrease the Republican quota per delegate. For example, the Republicans carried Chisago county, with its four delegates and a population quota per delegate of only 440.

13 Daily Minnesotian, St. Paul, May 16, 1857, ff. Cf. Minn. Hist. Col., 9:173.

As a

of the time give evidence, there was no important preliminary debate on constitutional questions. Not even the boundary issue, important as it was, became a party question, for it really divided both parties. Democratic newspai ers made an issue of the negro-suffrage question, but their charge that the Republicans as a party favored equal suffrage for negroes was not true."* The simple truth seems to be that this was almost entirely a prestige election from both the national and the local point of view. Each of the parties wished to be able to claim that Minnesota belonged in its camp, and to be in a position to command the votes of Minnesota's delegation to Congress. The campaign was nearly devoid of all ideas save that of carrying Minnesota for

the party.

There was some dispute as to whether partisanship should be allowed to enter the struggle for seats in the convention. The Daily Minnesotian of St. Paul, Republican, settled this point to its own satisfaction in these words: "It is idle to talk about having no politics in the convention. It will be all politics.” The Minnesotian purposed to lend its aid to "this desirable end." The slave power, it said, must be defeated.15 Many Republicans and Democrats took the opposite view. They felt that the parties had better unite in an effort to bring Minnesota speedily into the Union. There would be ample time for party strife thereafter. In this view they were supported by a wholly extraneous consideration. The spring was late and cold; many farmers, newcomers to the territory and dependent for their success upon their first or second year's crops, would find it exceedingly inconvenient to leave their plowing and planting to attend the polls. In order not to alienate this vote at future elections by making undue demands upon it in this, party leaders from both sides met in several of the agricultural constituencies to nominate so-called "Citizens' Tickets" composed presumably of half Republicans and half Democrats. There being no other candidates, these "tickets" were elected, and the result was a sort of proportional representation. This was the case in the Cottage Grove district of Washington county, and in Mower county.16 In this way the Democrats gained one delegate from

14 Cf. Dem. Deb., pp. 529-31. But in the Republican wing of the convention, negro suffrage was voted down, and the best that the radical minority could do was to get the convention to agree to submit the question to the voters separately at the constitutional election. Rep. Deb. pp. 349-66, 367-76, 551-52.

Despite the paucity of issues as between the parties and the politicians, at least one intellectual, Mr. J. W. Taylor, endeavored to arouse some interest in the questions of constitutional law and political organization which the convention would be called upon to settle. His views were too radical for popular acceptance, for among other things he recommended the abolition of the state senate, a limitation of legislative powers, the strengthening of the governor's position, and the conferment upon the legislature and the people of the power to recall the governor before the expiration of his four-year term. Pioneer and Democrat, May 24, 1857. Mr. B. B. Meeker of St. Anthony published his views on constitutional questions, and the Democratic central committee gave some advice on the same subject to the voters, but there was nothing unusual in what they proposed. Pioneer and Democrat, May 10, 19, 1857.

15 Daily Minnesotian, April 6, 1857.
10 Pioneer and Democrat, June 5, 6, 1857.

Mower county, whom they would otherwise not have had. The Republicans should perhaps have gained one in the same way from Washington, but the gentlemen elected both served with the Democrats.

There were a number of eleventh-hour nominations. In the scramble "bogus Democrats" were elected as Democrats, if there was any truth in the charges of the Pioneer and Democrat.17 In the Glencoe district, Martin McLeod heard of his nomination only two days before the election. He was defeated by a close vote, despite the efforts of his friends, both Democratic and Republican. The chief cause of his failure seems to have been that his Republican opponents had their printed ballot in the voters' hands before the election.18 The case of Mr. H. C. Wait of Stearns county was peculiar. He was apparently an estimable gentleman of uncertain politics. The Republicans gave him a nomination, thinking he was one of them. The Democrats thereupon refused to name him. When two days before the election, according to his own statement, he first heard of his nomination, he declared himself a Democrat. He was elected, but whether by the votes of Democrats or of Republicans does not appear. When the convention split into two bodies, he aligned himself with the Democrats, and the Republicans denounced him bitterly as a traitor to their cause. 19

The electorate for this election consisted of "the legal voters,” according to the enabling act.20 The organic act laid down the essential requirements for voters; it permitted declarants as well as citizens to vote.21 Already the territory contained considerable groups of Germans, Irishmen, and Swedes of too recent immigration to permit of their naturalization, but nonetheless able to vote as declarants.

The vote throughout the territory was generally considered to have been light. It was especially so in the agricultural districts. The Pioneer and Democrat said that "We do not think that in the country more than half the vote was polled.”22 The towns fared better. The Democratic strongholds of Stillwater and St. Paul, and the more doubtful St. Anthony, must have polled nearly a full vote.

Charges of election frauds were numerous, and fairly well authenticated. In St. Paul, according to the reliable Advertiser, over seven hundred illegal votes were cast, of which five hundred were cast in one ward. In this ward it was charged that a brutal mob took the polls and held them all day, voting their own members as often as they wished. The Advertiser averred that

17 Ibid., June 1, 1857.

18 McLeod Papers, 1856-1857; letters of John McLeod, and Wm. S. Chapman, to M. McLeod, June 1, 1857; M. McLeod to J. H. Stevens, June 21, 1857.

19 Dem. Deb., pp. 71-72; Pioneer and Democrat, June 6, 25; July 16, 1857. This Democratic newspaper listed Mr. Wait as a Republican on both June 6 and 25.

20 Sec. 3.
21 Sec. 5.

22 Pioneer and Democrat, June 6, 28, 1857.

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