Volume 2


Printed by the Clio Press Iowa City, Iowa 1918
Copyright 1918 by Clarence Ray Aurner

Transcribed by Sharon Elijah, June 21, 2013

pgs 49-56

Iowa had not been a separate territory very long when Governor Lucas thought it should make some plans to become a state. That was in 1839 when it had about thirty thousand people. It would be necessary to ask the Congress of the United States for permission to form a state government which would take the place of the territorial government. But the people, it seems, were not ready for such a step; they were too busy improving their new farms, building houses, and doing many other things near at home to think about voting or asking for a new state.

Governor Robert Lucas did not stop with one trial, however; he was not the kind of a man who gave up at one attempt. Again, in 1840, the voters of the territory were asked to decided whether or not a convention should be called to make a constitution. Still the people, that is the voters, said “no”, and in such cases the people are the ones who decide. The same thing happened again in 1842, so that it began to appear that the Territory of Iowa was about good enough to be kept always. Perhaps the chief reason for the unwillingness to become a state was the additional expense that would fall upon the citizens of Iowa; for it was well known that a territorial government where many expenses were paid by the United States was cheaper than that of a state.

By 1844 there were more voters and much was said about the wisdom of changing the territory into a state; and when the vote was taken it was found that there were more for than were against it. A convention was then called to draw up a constitution for the State of Iowa. But it was easier to call a convention than to make a constitution that the people would have; and after seventy-two men selected from the different parts of the territory, had spent nearly a month in putting the constitution into form, the voters would not approve their work, although they voted twice on the question in 1845. There were some good reasons for the refusal; the chief one, it seems, being the boundaries which Congress wanted the new state to have.

pg 51

It should be remembered that the Territory of Iowa when it was set apart in 1838, included not only the present State of Iowa but all of the two Dakotas east of the Mississippi River and all of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River (See map, p. 41). In making the state boundaries, then, it was under-stood that this large area would be cut down to a reasonable size. The question how this should be done made the trouble between congress and the voters of the territory. In one plan the northern boundary would have run from where the Big Sioux River empties into the Missouri River in a northeasterly direction to the river known then as St. Peters, but now as the Minnesota, and from that point on until it joined the Mississippi at the mouth of that stream (See map, p.53).

pg 53

By that plan there would have been a very long stretch of river on the eastern side and a short portion on the west. The State would probably have been a little larger, but it would have been given rather an ugly shape. By another arrangement the western boundary would have been a straight line joining the present southern boundary, at a point about two-thirds of the distance across the State from east to west, to an east and west line forming the northern boundary from the Mississippi to the bend in the Minnesota River (See map, p. 54). That would have been a better shape than the other one described, but it would have cut off all of the river on the west side.

pg 54

Since the people would have neither of these arrangements, a new convention was called in 1846. In this convention, which consisted of thirty-two members, the present boundaries were fixed; and they were approved by Congress. The voters were again called upon to accept or reject a constitution and there were only about 450 more votes for it than were against it; so one may conclude that all were not yet very anxious for a state government. Perhaps everybody was satisfied, however, when on December 28, 1846, Iowa was admitted as one of the United States. When Congress has passed an act admitting a territory as a state, the territory has forever given up its privilege to say whether or not it will be a state; it has agreed to stay by the Union. To be sure the state makes its own laws, as mentioned in the first chapter of this book; but at the same time it must obey the constitution and the laws of the United States.

From July 4, 1838, to December 28,1846, it is seen, Iowa had been an independent territory; and during that time there had been three governors. These were Robert Lucas, appointed in 1838; John Chambers, appointed in 1841; and James Clarke, appointed in 1845. All of them, of course, were appointed by the President of the United States as all governors of territories are. When the election came on in the State, all the officers had to be elected, and Mr. Ansel Briggs was chosen as the first Governor in October, 1846. Along with him there were elected a Secretary of State, an Auditor of State, a Treasurer of State, and a superintendent of Public Instruction.

It will be understood that there were not nearly so many officers to elect at that time as in these days. But there were the same parts to the State government; that is the legislature or the General Assembly, makes all the laws; the Governor and the other officers who help him to enforce the laws; and the courts of the State and of the counties, which see that the law is correctly understood. Perhaps it would be better to say that the courts interpret, or explain the laws.

In the days of the Territory of Iowa the two houses in the law-making part of the government were called the Council and the House of Representatives. They met once a year. The council, or the highest body of the legislature, was changed in the constitution to the Senate; and the General Assembly or legislature met once in every two years. The First General Assembly came together at Iowa City, the capital, on November 30, 1846, which, as may be seen, was almost a month before Iowa was admitted as one of the United States. Before a new constitution was adopted (in 1857) the General Assembly held six regular and two extra sessions. The governor may call the members of the two houses together when business of importance demands an extra session.

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