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Minnesota Office of the Secretary of State

Secretary of State’s Note: Minnesota progressed under the territorial government, but many groups believed that progress would be accelerated if Minnesota were a state.

Henry M. Rice, delegate to congress from the territory of Minnesota, at the opening of congress in December 1856, introduced a bill for an act to authorize a state government for Minnesota.

The Rice bill proposed that the north, south, and east boundaries of Minnesota be continued, and that the west boundary be established as a line beginning at a point in the center of the main channel of the Red River of the North at the Canadian border and running south through Lake Traverse, through Big Stone Lake, to the Big Sioux River, and to the northwest corner of Iowa. In place of the Big Sioux River, Congress substituted a line from the outlet of Big Stone Lake due south to the Iowa border. Considerable controversy had arisen in the territory over proposed boundaries for the state of Minnesota. There were two general groups, the east and west group and the north and south group. The east and west group proposed the Missouri River as the west boundary, and a point just north of St. Paul as the north boundary. The Rice bill followed the proposal of the north and south group.

The bill for an enabling act was not without opposition in congress. However, Minnesota again found a friend in U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas who was still chairman of the senate committee on territories, as he had been when Minnesota became a territory. The enabling act passed Congress and was approved on February 27, 1857.

In addition to establishing state boundaries, the enabling act provided for a constitutional convention and an election of delegates to that convention. It further provided that the following proposals be submitted for the consideration of the constitutional convention: that 72 sections of land be reserved and set aside for a state university; that 10 sections be granted to the state to complete and erect public buildings at the capital; that all salt springs be granted to the state for its use; and that five percent of proceeds from the sale by congress of public lands lying within the state be used to build roads.

The enabling act also authorized the state of Minnesota to have one representative in congress and such additional representatives as the population of the state would entitle it to at the current ratio of representation. For the purpose of determining the population, the act authorized a census to be taken by the United States marshal. The census was completed in October 1857; the population of the territory was 150,037.


[Passed February 26, 1857]

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That the inhabitants of that portion of the Territory of Minnesota which is embraced within the following limits, to-wit: Beginning at the point in the center of the main channel of the Red River of the North, where the boundary line between the United States and the British Possessions crosses the same; thence up the main channel of said river to that of the Bois de Sioux river; thence up the main channel of said river to Lake Traverse; thence up the center of said lake to the southern extremity thereof, thence in a direct line to the head of Big Stone lake; thence through its center to its outlet; thence by a due south line to the north line of the State of Iowa; thence along the northern boundary of said state to the main channel of the Mississippi river; thence up the main channel of said river, and following the boundary line of the State of Wisconsin, until the same intersects with the St. Louis river; thence down the said river to and through Lake Superior, on the boundary line of Wisconsin and Michigan, until it intersects the dividing line between the United States and the British Possessions; thence up Pigeon river and following said dividing line to the place of beginning, be and they hereby are authorized to form for themselves a constitution and state government by the name of the State of Minnesota, and to come into the Union on an equal footing with the original states, according to the Federal Constitution.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That the State of Minnesota shall have concurrent jurisdiction on the Mississippi and all other rivers and waters bordering on the said State of Minnesota, so far as the same shall form a common boundary to said state and any state or states now or hereafter to be formed or bounded by the same; and said river or waters leading into the same shall be common highways, and forever free, as well to the inhabitants of said state as to all other citizens of the United States, without any tax, duty, impost, or toll therefore.

Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That on the first Monday in June next, the legal voters in each representative district then existing within the limits of the proposed state, are hereby authorized to elect two delegates for each representative to which said district shall be entitled according to the apportionment for representatives to the territorial legislature; which election for delegates shall be held and conducted, and the returns made, in all respects in conformity with the laws of said Territory regulating the election of representatives, and the delegates so elected shall assemble at the capitol of said Territory on the second Monday in July next, and first determine by a vote whether it is the wish of the people of the proposed State to be admitted into the Union at that time; and if so, shall proceed to form a constitution, and take all necessary steps for the establishment of a state government, in conformity with the Federal Constitution, subject to the approval and ratification of the people of the proposed State.

Sec. 4. And be it further enacted, That in the event said convention shall decide in favor of the immediate admission of the proposed State into the Union, it shall be the duty of the United States marshal for said Territory to proceed to take a census or enumeration of the inhabitants within the limits of the proposed State, under such rules and regulations as shall be prescribed by the secretary of the interior, with the view of ascertaining the number of representatives to which said State may be entitled in the Congress of the United States. And said State shall be entitled to one representative, and such additional representatives as the population of the State shall, according to the census, show it would be entitled to according to the present ratio of representation.

Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That the following propositions be and the same are hereby offered to the said convention of the people of Minnesota for their free acceptance or rejection, which, if accepted by the convention, shall be obligatory on the United States, and upon the said State of Minnesota, to-wit:

First: That sections numbered sixteen and thirty-six in every township of public lands in said State, and where either of said sections, or any part thereof, has been sold or otherwise been disposed of, other lands, equivalent thereto, and as contiguous as may be, shall be granted to said State for the use of schools.

Second: That seventy-two sections of land shall be set apart and reserved for the use and support of a state university, to be selected by the governor of said State, subject to the approval of the commissioner at the general land office, and to be appropriated and applied in such manner as the legislature of said State may prescribe; for the purpose aforesaid, but for not other purpose.

Third: Ten entire sections of land to be selected by the governor of said State, in legal subdivisions, shall be granted to said State for the purpose of completing the public buildings, or for the erection of others at the seat of government, under the direction of the legislature thereof.

Fourth: That all salt springs within said State, not exceeding twelve in number, with six sections of land adjoining or as contiguous as may be to each, shall be granted to said State for its use; and the same to be selected by the governor thereof within one year after the admission of said State, and, when so selected, to be used or disposed of on such terms, conditions and regulations as the legislature shall direct; provided, that no salt spring or land the right whereof is now vested in any individual or individuals, or which may be hereafter confirmed or adjudged to any individual or individuals, shall by this article be granted to said State.

Fifth: That five per centum of the net proceeds of sales of all public lands lying within said State, which shall be sold by Congress after the admission of said State into the Union, after deducting all the expenses incident to the same, shall be paid to said State for the purpose of making public roads and internal improvements as the legislature shall direct; provided, the foregoing propositions herein offered are on the condition that the said convention which shall form the constitution of said State shall provide, by a clause in said constitution, or an ordinance, irrevocable without the consent of the United States, that said State shall never interfere with the primary disposal of the soil within the same by the United States, or with any regulations Congress may find necessary for securing the title in said soil to bona fide purchasers thereof; and that no tax shall be imposed on lands belonging to the United States, and that in no case shall nonresident proprietors be taxed higher than residents.

Last updated: 1/21/2014 2:42:26 PM