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votes.53 Indeed, one Republican made the charge that there had been no election whatever in the Pembina district, and another report was published that only eleven votes all told had been cast in the whole district for delegates to the constitutional convention.54 Five of these, it is alleged, were cast by men living west of the Red river who journeyed to the eastern side of the river on the day of the election for the purpose of casting their votes.
Another charge which the Republicans made has some substance also. They insisted that no federal office-holder could take his seat in, or be eligible to, the constitutional convention. In the enabling act it was provided that the election of delegates should be "held and conducted, and the returns made, in all respects in conformity with the laws of said territory regulating the election of representatives."55 Under the organic act of the territory which was the fundamental law regulating elections to the territorial legislature, it was provided that "no person holding a commission or appointment under the United States, except postmasters, shall be a member of the legislative assembly."56 Construing these two together, the Republicans averred the conclusion would have to be reached that federal office-holders could not be elected delegates.
The Republicans also made objection to at least one Democratic delegate. Mr. J. P. Wilson of Pembina, on the ground that he did not have a local residence in the district from which he was elected.57 They assumed in this case also that the provisions of the organic act relative to the qualifications of members of the territorial council and house of representatives applied to delegates to the constitutional convention. Section 4 of the organic act provided that "the members of the council and of the House of Representatives shall reside in and be inhabitants of the district for which they may be elected respectively." It is alleged in Mr. Wilson's case that he was and always had been a resident of Minneapolis. The St. Paul Times, which was not always reliable, even went so far as to say that he had never been near Pembina in his life.58
In connection with the charges which the Republicans made in a general way against the qualifications of some of the Democratic delegates, it is interesting to observe the terms of the act of the territorial legislature which provided for the payment of the expenses of the convention. According to this act, the qualifications of delegates to the constitutional convention were to be "the same as the qualifications for members of the House of Representatives of the legislative assembly."59 Admitting that the act was valid,
53 Rep. Deb., p. 301.
4 Ibid., pp. 301-2.
55 Enabling act, sec. 3.
56 Organic act, sec. 8.
7 Rep. Deb., p. 301.
Terr. Sess. Laws, extra sess., 1857, ch. 99. sec. 6.
though even the Republicans did not assert that it was, there can be no question that the Republicans had grounds for objecting to the seating of federal office-holders and non-residents in the convention.60 The question arises, however, whether the act had any validity whatever. Certainly the Republicans themselves did not acknowledge the legality of that section which permitted delegates to be elected from the entire territory rather than from within the bounds of the proposed state.
But if the territorial act was invalid, then the question arises as to whether the enabling act itself forbade non-residents and office-holders under the federal government from being elected to seats in the convention. The only provision of the enabling act which can be construed in this way is that quoted above relative to the holding of the June 1 election.61 The Democrats contended that this provision related solely and exclusively to the method of conducting the election. The Republicans insisted that it had a broader meaning, and that it laid down the rules also as to what persons were eligible to election. It is now too late to pass upon this question.
The Republicans remained in session throughout the day on Monday, July 13. The next morning at nine o'clock they repaired again to the hall of the house of representatives to enter upon their deliberations. They continued occupied throughout the morning and about twelve o'clock were disturbed by the appearance of Secretary Chase at the entrance to the hall.63 He demanded possession of the hall "for the use of the constitutional convention." President Balcombe of the Republican wing replied that that body was already in possession of the hall and he refused to give it up to Mr. Chase. Thereupon Chase withdrew and turning to the Democratic group who had followed him up to the door, he is reported to have said “The hall to which the delegates adjourned yesterday is now occupied by a meeting of the citizens of the territory who refuse to give possession to the constitutional convention." The omnipresent Mr. Gorman thereupon moved that "the convention adjourn to the council chamber." This was the smaller room of the two in which the territorial legislature had held its meetings and was located in the west wing of the capitol building. It was to this room that the Democrats then withdrew and from that time until the end of the convention, the two groups continued to meet separately.
The old capitol, in which these meetings were held for a period of over forty days, was destroyed by fire in 1881. It appears, however, that the building was small and not too well constructed. When ex-Governor Gorman grew excited one day in his denunciation of the Republican wing of the convention, it appears that his words could be heard by the body sitting at the
60 See pp. 67-68.
Enabling act, sec. 3.
Rep. Deb., p. 27.
Ibid., p. 28; Dem. Deb., pp. 3-4.
Ibid., p. 4.
opposite end of the building.65 Clearly they were not separated from each other by any great distance. Furthermore, throughout the greater part of this period the conventions met daily at the same hours morning and afternoon and it must have been necessary for the members to have rubbed elbows with each other very many times as they came and went through the same entrance. That the proceedings must have become very painful to them at times cannot be doubted but it appears that none of them ever took a light or humorous view of the situation. It was only years afterward that several of the members had reached that point of mellowness where they could look upon the whole proceeding as a farce.66 During those hot days of July and August, 1857, both bodies maintained their positions with great stiffness. Each claimed to be the only legitimate constitutional convention and each denounced the other for being responsible for the split that had occurred. Individual members maintained friendly relations with each other. There were no blows exchanged and there is even some evidence that they held casual intercourse from time to time with reference to the procedure of the respective conventions. Officially, however, even to the end, each body refused to give any recognition to the other. It was this fact which made compromise so difficult.
The following is an extract from a letter by B. E. Messer, who sat in the Republican wing of the convention, to John H. Stevens, dated July 23, 1857: "The storm is not over. At this moment I hear the thunder from the Council Chamber. Gorman is and has been speaking for the last hour and more in the most excited manner, most of which so far as I have heard is a tissue of falsehoods. But let them do their worst we trust the people will e'er [ere] long be undeceived and put in possession [of] the facts." Stevens Papers, Minnesota Historical Society.
66 Flandrau, Hist. of Minn., 1900 ed., p. 112. Hist. Col., 15:403.
Folwell speaks of it as a "roaring farce." Minn.
THE CONVENTIONS AND THE COMPROMISE
1. THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE CONVENTIONS. It is commonly believed that the members of the Republican wing of the convention were younger and less experienced than the Democrats, and this is to some degree true.1 There were, however, other noteworthy differences between the conventions in the matter of personnel which the histories do not mention.
In the first place, it is fair to say that most of the Republicans who had seats in the convention were late-comers to the territory.2 Very many of them seem to have been immigrants of the years 1855 and 1856. The Democratic wing, on the other hand, had a larger number of members who had cast their lot with Minnesota in the earlier territorial days. It is also interesting to notice that the conventions differed in respect to the states from which the members had been drawn. Of the Republicans, forty-four per cent or nearly half had been born in New England and the majority of these seem to have come to Minnesota directly from the states of their nativity. Of the Democrats only twenty-three per cent claimed New England as their home. About an equal number of each convention came from the Middle Atlantic states, to be exact, thirty-one per cent of the Republicans and thirty-four per cent of the Democrats. On the other hand, only eight per cent of the Republicans had been born in the states formed from the Northwest territory, while twenty-three per cent of the Democrats had come from the same group. About an equal number of each convention were foreigners by birth, thirteen per cent of the Republicans, and twelve per cent of the Democrats.
In age there was no great difference between the members of the two groups. The average age for the Republicans was thirty-six and two-tenths years, for the Democrats thirty-seven and nine-tenths. The youngest Republican was twenty-three years old and the oldest was fifty-four; the youngest Democrat was twenty-six and the oldest was fifty-three. Certainly these differences are not of such importance that they could have had great influence upon the work of the two groups.
In occupations and interests, however, there seems to have been a marked dissimilarity. A number of the Democratic group were public officials, Indian agents, and traders with the Indians. There was apparently none such among
1 Folwell, Minnesota, p. 140.
The following paragraphs must be read as embodying tentative deductions rather than final conclusions, since all the important facts are not to be found in the available records. A table of biographical information printed at the beginning of the Republican debates proved to be of great value, since it enabled the author to get some small bits of information about each of the Republican members. The figures concerning the Democratic members are based upon a knowledge of the biographies of only thirty-five of their number; as to one third of the whole number of Democratic delegates nothing of importance could be learned.
the Republicans. The Republicans, on the other hand, contained a much larger group of farmers and small merchants and millers, and there were also four men among the Republicans who claimed to be ministers and three others at least who had been trained for the ministry. The Democrats did. not boast a single minister in their ranks.
In experience in public affairs the Democratic group had a great advantage over their rivals, at least as concerns the affairs of Minnesota. The Republicans, being recent immigrants, had had very little to say. It is perhaps not too conservative to say that if county, town, and municipal offices be excepted, not a dozen members in the Republican wing had held any public position. Their inexperience was soon to show itself in the work of their convention. From this point of view the Democratic members were a very different group of men. Among them sat ex-Governor Gorman, who had just resigned, Henry H. Sibley, who had been delegate to Congress for four years, Lafayette Emmett, the attorney general for the territory, a former territorial treasurer, the secretary of the territory, several territorial judges, an Indian agent or two, and at least a dozen who had sat one or more terms in the territorial legislature.
2. THE PROCEDure of the REPUBLICAN CONVENTION. With the exception of a few days, the Republicans held two sessions daily, one beginning at nine in the morning and running on into the noon hour and the other beginning at two-thirty in the afternoon and continuing until after five.3 The Reverend E. D. Neill, the historian of Minnesota, acted as chaplain for the Republican wing, opening each morning session with prayer. The Republican attendance was very good. It appears that on only one occasion was it necessary to discontinue business for lack of a quorum.
Furthermore, the Republicans proceeded at once to business. By the terms of the enabling act it was provided that the first business of the convention was to "determine, by a vote, whether it is the wish of the people of the proposed state to be admitted into the Union at that time." This business had to be done before the convention could proceed to draft a constitution. On the very first day, after the members had been sworn in and officers had been chosen, the Republicans proceeded to the consideration of several different resolutions designed to express the wish of the people to be organized as a state. Since there was still some hope that the Democrats would join them in their deliberations, and as they did not wish to appoint committees until this matter was decided, they passed a resolution on Friday the 17th postponing the appointment of committees until Monday, July 20. 3 For a typical day, see Rep. Deb., pp. 307, 325, 336.
4 Enabling act, sec. 3.
Rep. Deb., pp. 11-26.
• Ibid., p. 64.