Dakota Datebook

Week One of Convention

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


In 1889, during the first full week of the Constitutional Convention of North Dakota, much of the time was spent in setting up procedures, establishing credentials and organizing committees.  Governor A.C.  Mellette was asked to address the assembled delegates, and he stressed that the new constitution would be the framework of their future as a state, and that only the people of North Dakota, through amendments, would be able to undo the constitution once it was sanctioned.


The Reverend R. C. Wiley of the National Reform Association was then asked to address the assembly.  He spoke in favor of remembering God in the constitution.  There were ways of including religion, including a civil Sabbath, which was a dedicated day off for the working man.


Upon the arrival of the South Dakota delegation, the Committee on Division began their arduous task of dividing the territorial bills, property, and records between the two states.  However, another problem loomed – the exact location of the border had not been precisely established.  A mile and a half wide tract of land was in question.  It stretched from the Minnesota border to the Missouri River, a distance of almost two hundred miles. Those who had settled there needed to know if their taxes would be paid to North Dakota or South Dakota. There was also the matter of which counties would control the land and maintain the roads.   The Committee on Division was empowered with the task of determining the exact position of the Seventh Standard Parallel.


It was not until July 13th, the 11th day of the session that the first resolution was introduced.  As contentious as the final session of the Territorial Legislature had been toward railroad rates, it was not surprising that the resolution dealt with that same issue. It stated that all common carriers shall carry state militia, military officers as well as all executive, judicial and legislative members of state government at the rate of one cent per mile while on official duty.  Although the setting of railroad rates was probably not within the legal authority of the convention, it probably pleased the former legislators, who by their own blunder during the last session, were  now forced to pay full fare to and from the Constitutional Convention.   It served as a warning shot to the railroads that they had not been forgotten or forgiven.


Dakota Datebook written by Jim Davis



The Bismarck Weekly Tribune July 19, 1889

Official report of the proceedings and debates of the first Constitutional Convention of North Dakota, assembled in the city of Bismarck, July 4th to Aug. 17th, 1889. Publisher Bismarck, N.D., Tribune, State Printers, 1889.

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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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