IOWA'S STRUGGLE TO BECOME A STATE
Soon after Iowa became a territory, some of
its people began to talk about making it a state. In
November, 1839, Governor Lucas said it would be a good plan
for Iowa to think about writing a state constitution for
itself. Before a territory can become a state it must write a
constitution and present it to Congress.
VOTERS OPPOSE A CONVENTION
The legislature of the Iowa Territory decided
to give the voters a chance to say whether they wanted to send
men to a convention for the purpose of writing a state
constitution. An election was held in August, 1840. When the
votes were counted it was found that 937 had voted for a
convention and 2,903 against it. The people, therefore, do
not seem to have been as eager to have Iowa become a State as
was Governor Lucas.
John Chamber, the second governor for Iowa
Territory, also said it was very important that a convention
should be called to write a constitution. Another election
was therefore held by the legislature in 1842. At this second
election every county that Iowa then had voted against having
a convention. That meant that Iowa must wait longer for its
place on the flag.
The voters then did not cast their votes as we
now do at an election. The officers at the voting places made
two columns on a sheet of paper. At the top of one column
they wrote "Convention" and at the head of the other they
wrote "No Convention." If the voter said he wanted a
convention, his name was written in the first column; if he
did not want one, it was written in the second.
Many new people were coming to Iowa every year
and the population was growing rapidly. As the territory
grew, statehood became more and more necessary. Another
election was therefore called in 1844. This time the people
voted that a convention should be held and a constitution
FIRST CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
The convention that was called to write the
constitution met at Iowa City on October 7, 1844. There were
72 men, or delegates, present; they came from twenty-five
counties. The two main political parties at the time were the
Democratic and the Whig. Two thirds of the delegates were
Democrats and one third were Whigs. Most of the men knew very
little about making laws or writing a constitution.
A number of famous debates took place at this
first convention. Some of the questions that were discussed
were: "Should their meetings be opened with prayer?" "Should
banks be allowed to organize?" "What salaries should be paid
to state officials?" and, most important of all, "What should
be the boundaries of the new state?"
The convention worked for 26 days. It wrote a
constitution and sent it to Congress in December 1844.
Congress was to decide three things: first, was Iowa's
population large enough for a state; second, were the
boundaries fixed by the convention satisfactory; third, was
the rest of the constitution in harmony with the national
Three different sets of boundaries were
suggested for the new state. The first was proposed by Gov.
Lucas and later used by the constitutional convention. The
second was fixed by Congress and was called the "Nicollet
Boundary," because it was taken from a map that had been drawn
by a Mr. Nicollet. This second boundary made Iowa much
smaller than under the first one. The third was a compromise
between the first and the second and is the one that we now
have. It made Iowa much larger than the second boundary plan
but somewhat smaller than she would have been under the first.
WHAT CONGRESS DID
Slavery was the big question before Congress
when Iowa asked to become a state. There were then as many
free states in the Union as slave states. That meant that the
number of Senators in Congress who favored slavery or
represented slave states was as great as the number from free
states. Neither side was willing to let the other get more
votes. The only way whereby the number could be kept even was
by admitting a slave state and a free state at the same time.
Florida, a southern territory that wanted
slaves, was asking to be admitted as a state. Since Iowa
wanted to be a free state, Congress decided to admit the two
at the same time. It gave to Iowa the Nicollet boundary.
THE PEOPLE VOTE
The people of Iowa now had to vote whether
they wanted to have a state with the boundaries that Congress
had fixed. They did not like the boundaries proposed and
voted against statehood and Iowa had to continue as a
The legislature of the territory asked the
people to vote again. This time they were to say whether they
liked the constitution without the Nicollet boundaries. The
majority was against the constitution. This decision meant
that another convention would have to be called and a new
constitution written before Iowa could be a state.
SECOND CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
The Territorial legislature called another
convention. This time it had thirty-two delegates. It met at
Iowa City in May, 1846. The new constitution was written in
fifteen days. It was much like the first except that the
things which the people did not like in the first constitution
While the second convention was at work,
Congress voted new boundaries for Iowa, the same that we now
have. Another election was held on August 3, 1846, to vote on
the new constitution and the new boundaries. This time the
people voted by a small majority to become a state. There
were 9,492 votes for statehood and 9,038 against it.
Congress approved the new Iowa Constitution
early in December. President Polk signed the bill, which made
Iowa a state, on December 28, 1846.