NEGenWeb Project
Resource Center
On-Line Library




Picture or sketch

Old State Capitol Building, Omaha

      Almost as soon as the territory of Nebraska was born eager minds within her borders were looking forward to the time when she should stand an equal in the sisterhood of states. In 1858 the movement for immediate statehood began. The Omaha Times of May 13, 1858, asks for an expression of opinion on the question. On June 24 of the same year in an editorial, "The State of Nebraska," its editor, W. W. Wyman, discussed the objections to state organization and advocated the election of a legislature pledged to submit the proposition to the people. The next year both democratic and republican parties in their territorial conventions declared for immediate statehood. Governor Black in his message to the legislature which met December 9, 1859, advocated state organization, saying that Nebraska had about 50,000 population--which statement a census at that time would not have verified.

      On January 11, 1860, the legislature passed the act submitting to the voters at a special election, March 5, the question of calling a convention to frame a state constitution. The newspapers of both sides seemed afraid to discuss the subject; the politicians were the same. It was on the eve of the momentous election of 1860 and there were signs of the breaking of old party ties everywhere. When the votes were counted there were 2,094 for a convention and 2,732 against. The South Platte region gave a good majority in favor, but in Douglas and Sarpy there were overwhelming majorities against. The possible removal of the capitol was undoubtedly a factor in the result.

     The civil war came on and the great tide of migration westward was arrested. The energies of the west as well as the east were concentrated upon military instead of political af-

Picture or sketch

Scene Near Weeping Water, Nebraska.



fairs. It was not until April 19, 1864, that congress took the matter in hand and passed an enabling act to permit Nebraska to form a state constitution. As has frequently happened in politics there was a change of party attitude. The democratic party which had been the pioneer in demanding statehood in 1858 now opposed the movement as premature and calculated to impose burdens on the frontier population which it was not prepared to undertake. The republican party, which had taken on, temporarily, the convenient name of "Union" in order more easily to secure the support of the war democrats, resolved strongly in favor of immediate statehood.

      The enabling act, April 19, 1864, authorized the governor of Nebraska to call a special election on June 6th at which the people should vote on the proposition of immediate statehood and at the same time elect delegates to a constitutional convention. Two arguments were immediately and powerfully urged against the proposed change,--one that it meant more expense and taxes; the other that "if we have a state, we'll have a draft,"--riots and opposition were marking the progress of the draft in some parts of the union. The result was the defeat of the proposition. The delegates elected, however, met in Omaha on July 4, 1864, and adjourned sine die by a vote of 35 to 7.

     It was not until 1866 that the legislature again submitted to a popular vote the question of statehood. The two opposing political parties lined up against each other and the hottest political battle thus far witnessed in the new territory followed. The republicans nominated David Butler for governor and declared in favor of statehood. The democrats

Picture or sketch

Gov. Crounse's First Residence and Law Office at Rulo 1864. Photo Taken in 1901

named J. Sterling Morton for governor and resolved against statehood. The chief reasons offered for and against the organization of a state were those of economy,--the democrats maintaining that it was better to maintain a territorial government which was largely supported by appropriations from congress, until the population became greater,--the republicans contending that a state government would be no more expense than a territorial one to the people, when the advantages of income from congressional land grants was taken into account, and that it was better for the people to govern themselves anyway than to be ruled from Washington. The real difference was, however, one of politics. The republicans wanted another state in the Union to help carry out their reconstruction program and overcome the opposition of President Andrew

Prior page


Names index
Picture or sketch

@ 2002 for the NEGenWeb Project by Pam Rietsch, Ted & Carole Miller