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This day came, but the Democrats still continued obstinately by themselves. The committees were, therefore, appointed to prepare drafts of the various articles of the constitution and the work began. The very next day the committee on preamble and bill of rights presented its report. During July 21, 22, and 23 there was but one daily session and that in the morning, in order to permit the committees to prepare their reports. On July 24 the afternoon sessions were resumed and from that time until the end, the Republicans applied themselves assiduously to their task.
The discussions in the Republican convention gave evidence of a high order of intelligence among the delegates but showed at the same time that the members had less grasp of the problems of state government as well as of methods of parliamentary procedure than had the Democrats. They did a great deal of their business in committee of the whole and in convention and relatively less in the separate committees. One reason for this was the fact that they had created too many committees and had permitted them to overlap upon each other's spheres and to come into conflict with each other. This process was wasteful and disorderly and caused considerable bitterness. Two committees covering somewhat the same field would bring in different reports and propositions. Some reports had to be rejected and others were seriously modified. It was apparent throughout that the Republican members refused to be led and that each man insisted upon having his voice heard in connection with almost every proposition. Possibly this was due in part to the fact that the Republicans did not have as many and as outstanding leaders as did the Democrats.
More than their opponents also the Republicans exhibited traits of radicalism and of idealistic impracticality. A number of things which they proposed were designed to bring about a more democratic form of government than existed at that time in any state. They were great believers, for example, in the popular referendum and entertained a proposition to permit the legislature to refer any measure at will to the people.10 A number of them were sticklers for the ideal of brief constitution. Mr. Mills brought in a resolution to the effect "that the object of a constitution is to organize a government, prescribing the nature and extent of the powers of the several departments thereof; and that to engraft any legislative enactment thereon would be anti-Republican. Further, that a bill of rights should only be declaratory of general fundamental principles." There can be no question as to the soundness of the proposition, but when it came to writing the constitutional provisions themselves, the members had so many different propositions which they desired to have included that the net result, had all the 7 Ibid., p. 68.
Ibid., pp. 78-80.
• Ibid., pp. 89, 91-92, 96, 98, 100-1, 106-7, 111, etc.
10 Ibid., pp. 86, 204-5.
11 Ibid., pp. 152, 168. See also pp. 260, 273.
provisions been put together, would have been a longer document than the Democrats produced.12 Another phase of the Republican procedure, differentiating it somewhat from the Democratic, was the fact that some of the members seemed entirely irreconcilable and incapable of compromise. The question of boundaries for the state and that of negro suffrage and various other matters were brought up again and again after they were supposed to have been settled.
3. THE PROCEDURE OF THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION. The Democrats were unable to proceed at once to the business of a constitutional convention. There was a delay of many days before they could proceed to their work. The actual difficulty was that they had, even on paper, only fifty-four members and they needed somehow to recruit one more member before they could claim to have a majority of the convention. In the meantime certain repairs had to be made in the council chamber and this gave an excuse for adjournment for a number of days.13
Finally on the ninth day of the convention the committee on credentials presented its report. It had at this time satisfied itself that fifty-four members entitled to seats in the constitutional convention were prepared to act with the Democratic wing. In addition the committee had "unofficial evidence that Mr. Thomas Armstrong has received a majority of from forty to fifty votes for delegate to this convention from the county of Mower, but owing to the want of regularity in the evidence of that fact, your committee are not at present prepared to report upon the case, but will be prepared to do so as soon as official evidence can be obtained, which will be in a few days." This the committee deemed sufficient to constitute a convention, particularly in view of the fact that the fifty-four or fifty-five delegates whom they could claim represented, as they said, "a majority of 1635 of the popular vote of the territory."
Following the reading of this report, Mr. Flandrau introduced a resolution denouncing the Republican convention as "without the authority of law or of parliamentary usage, and revolutionary in its character."15 It was this resolution which precipitated a series of speeches running through this and the next three days, the general tenor of which was a denunciation of the Republican organization and a justification of what the Democrats had
12 Neither convention entirely finished its work; neither gathered all of its conclusions together into one draft. This work has been done for the purpose of this monograph by the author, and as is shown in chapter VI, infra, the Republicans had proposed a number of sections over and above what was necessary to make up a constitution.
13 Dem. Deb., pp. 7, 10, 12.
14 Ibid., pp. 12-16.
15 Ibid., pp. 17-18.
done.10 On the afternoon of Monday, July 27, the twelfth day of the convention, the Democratic wing finally got down to the first business of the convention, namely, that of adopting a resolution expressing the wish of the people to be admitted into the Union. Up to this time nothing had been done by the Democrats except to organize their group and to denounce their opponents. Seventy-seven of the first one hundred pages of the Democratic debates are given over to a consideration of the conduct of the Republicans.
The Democratic wing proceeded to the work of drafting a constitution. from July 27 to August II with a membership of only fifty-four delegates. On the day last named, the twenty-fifth day of the convention, the committee on credentials finally brought in a report declaring that Mr. Armstrong had actually been elected over Mr. Lyle, who was then seated in the Republican wing, by a majority of thirteen votes.17 This conclusion had been arrived at by the committee following some entirely ex parte proceedings and upon the basis of a charge that there had been illegal votes cast for Mr. Lyle. It is interesting to observe that the Republican convention at no time made any investigations of the various charges of fraudulent voting throughout the territory. Had this subject been opened up by some outside, impartial body, it is not at all unlikely that the Democrats would have lost as many members as they gained and possibly more.18 Of course the Republicans, who had already taken advantage of the technicalities with reference to the distinction between councillor delegates and representative delegates and who already claimed fifty-nine legal delegates, found no occasion to go into the question of fraudulent voting.
The Democrats had one difficulty which the Republicans did not have to face, and that was difficulty in keeping a quorum present to do business. They kept no full record of attendance and it is difficult to ascertain the exact number who were present from day to day. The Republicans of course charged that this was due to the fact that they did not have as many legally accredited delegates as they claimed and it appears from a study of the votes upon the various propositions that the Democrats did indeed attend very poorly.
One reason for this may be found in the fact that the Democrats did most of their work in committee and put relatively less stress on the procedure of the convention as a whole. They had fewer committees and smaller ones than did the Republicans and they devolved more power upon them. Furthermore, the boundary lines between their several preserves were fairly distinct and there was little conflict among them. Mr. B. E. Messer who sat in the Republican wing, seems to have been correctly informed when he wrote the following words to Mr. John H. Stevens: "The Democrats, it is
15 Ibid., pp. 18-96.
17 Ibid., pp. 397-99. 18 See pp. 73-74.
said, will push their constitution through by perfecting the whole thing in their standing committees, so that when it comes before the convention but little time will be needed to complete the whole. The Democrats will always follow their leaders without a word. I wish the Republicans were as well drilled, but such is not the case."19 Comparing the volume of the Democratic debates with that which issued from the Republican convention, it appears that there was almost if not quite twice as much debate in the Republican convention upon constitutional questions as there was in the Democratic. The whole proceedings of the Republicans ran to nearly if not over 450,000 words, whereas the Democratic proceedings are approximately 250,000 to 300,000 words; but a larger part of the Democratic than the Republican proceedings is devoted to matters other than constitutional. This would seem to bear out the general impression gained from a reading of the debates that the Democratic convention made relatively less change in the reports of the committees than did the Republicans.
4. THE MOVEMENT FOR A COMPROMISE. Within the territory the proceedings of the first day which resulted in a division of the convention into two bodies were very well understood, and the first response of the newspapers and apparently also of the members of the respective parties took the form of commendation of what had been done. Each group received assurances from their own partisans of support to the bitter end. No sooner, however, had the news reached the east than the leaders on both sides began to see that a mistake had been made. The occurrences in Minnesota looked entirely too much like what had been happening in Kansas. The more level-headed and conservative leaders of both parties in the east and south seem to have deprecated the course which events had taken in Minnesota. Strong pressure was soon brought to bear upon the citizens of Minnesota and particularly upon the conventions, to bring about a solution of the difficulties of the convention. Certain members apparently feared that there would be anarchy in Minnesota as there had been farther south. Gorman pointed out that "the split in the convention may affect the capitalists of the territory disadvantageously. It is feared that the credit of the territory may be injured."20 "It is not true, Mr. President," said Sherburne in the Democratic convention, "that we are in a state of anarchy. It is not true that there is ill feeling or ill blood between the members of the respective conventions: nothing but a feeling of kindness exists. Everyone deprecates the position in which we find ourselves. Every man I meet in the street uses the same language. And this feeling is not confined to the territory; men in the east who 19 Stevens Papers, Minnesota Historical Society, letter of Messer to Stevens, July 31, 1857. 20 Dem. Deb., p. 357. See also letter from John Elias Warren, in Pioneer and Democrat, Aug. 9, 1857.
are doing business here-men who are interested in our welfare, and who have the means of knowing the public sentiment from day to day, tell us that the people misunderstand the position in which we are placed, and that it is necessary, for the purpose of making ourselves understood, that we should adopt some measure by which we should show to the world that we are men and not children, and that we can meet together according to parliamentary usage."
It was not long, therefore, before there came to be talk in the territory of some compromise which would bring the two conventions together. Speaking in the Democratic convention on August 8, one member said he had heard of such a movement a week before.22 We have Gorman's word on the same day that he had discussed the matter with "Judge Mantor" of the Republican wing some time before, and it is evident that many had become convinced early in August that something should be done to settle the differences of the two conventions.23 It was especially undesirable to have two constitutions submitted to the people on separate days. It was agreed that it would be somewhat better to have two submitted on the same day, and best of all to have a compromise by which the two conventions could submit the same constitution to the people at a single election.
On the morning of Saturday, August 8, Mr. Sherburne introduced into the Democratic wing the compromise resolution which was ultimately the cause of bringing about an understanding.24 He asserted that he had thought of the project of submitting such a resolution for the first time the evening before and while he was alone.25 He had not discussed the matter, he said, with any person and he took full personal responsibility for what he did. His resolution stated that
Whereas, the persons who were elected by the people of this territory to represent them in a constitutional convention, having met at this capitol on the day appointed by law for such meeting, and having disagreed upon some immaterial questions which arose in the course of forming a temporary organization, separated and formed two distinct conventions, in numbers nearly equal, and are now forming two separate and distinct constitutions, to be presented to the people: and,
Whereas, proceedings so extraordinary in their character will have a tendency to injure the reputation of our people-to lessen the confidence of the other states in our integrity, stability and patriotism, and place us in a false position before the world: therefore,
Resolved, That a committee of five be appointed by the president of this convention to confer with a committee of an equal number (if appointed) of the duly elected members of that portion of them who are acting separately from us; and that it shall be the duty of such committee to consider and agree upon, if practicable, and report some plan by which the two bodies can unite upon a single constitution to be submitted to the people.
a Dem. Deb., pp. 350-51.
Ibid., p. 358.
Ibid., p. 357.
24 Ibid., p. 350.
25 Ibid., p. 360.