Dakota Datebook

Democratic Caucus


By the time the 1889 Territorial Legislature had passed its 30th day, the harmony that existed in the first weeks of the session had basically vanished. Statehood was within reach, and most people had hoped the Legislature would do nothing other than set the stage for the constitutional conventions, but instead, over four hundred bills had been introduced.


The passage of the bill to investigate the construction of the asylum at Yankton, and the subsequent veto by Governor Church, marked the beginning of a very contentious relationship between the governor and the legislature. Of eighteen House Bills passed and sent to the Executive Office in the first thirty-three days, only seven were approved by the Governor, two were approved without his signature, eight were vetoed, and one was recalled by the House to avoid another veto. At first there was concern over the vetoes, but soon it became a game, and as the vetoed bills came back from the Governor’s Office, they were passed to a newly formed unofficial Committee on the Veto.


Meanwhile, in a surprise move in Congress, William Springer of the House Committee on Territories adopted the Platt Dakota Bill from the Senate. He then immediately stripped it and inserted much of his Omnibus Bill, which again included New Mexico among the other states desiring statehood. However, there were enough changes in the bill to warrant many from Dakota to consider supporting it, even though it meant a new election on the question of division of the territory and a possible delay of up to a year before statehood could be attained.


There was also the possibility that President-elect Benjamin Harrison would call a special session of Congress. Those in Congress who supported statehood for the Dakotas hoped changes could be made to improve the bill. As rough as it was, the Springer Bill was their only chance this session, as Congress was nearing completion. Any leftover bills would be lost.


Back in Bismarck, the House Republicans had caucused on a number of issues, and not to be outdone, the House Democrats decided it was time to do the same. Well, actually, the House Democrat, since the only Democrat in the House was Edwin McNeil. The Honorable Edwin S. McNeil stood in front of a mirror in the Democratic Caucus Room, nominated himself as President, also as Secretary and Sergeant at Arms and, after a unanimous vote for each office, he took the floor and stated that it was a distinguished honor to preside over such a handsome and intelligent body of Democratic Statesmen. He thanked the caucus for the harmony and cooperation and cautioned on any desertion within the Democratic ranks.


Bismarck Daily Tribune February 7, 1889

Bismarck Daily Tribune February 8, 1889

Jamestown Weekly Alert February 8, 1889

Territory of Dakota, Journal of the Council of the Eighteenth Session of the Legislative Assembly, January 1889, Bismarck Tribune Printers & Binders, 1889

Laws of the Eighteenth Session of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Dakota, Bismarck Tribune Printers & Binders, 1889



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