10.18.2008

Division, it's not just for today

I don't always get the juiciest bits of historical gossip at work, but the other day a patron asked to see the signatures on the Minnesota Constitution the other day, and thanks to the Minnesota Historical Society, I was able to pull up both the original constitutions and transcripts.

That's right. Plural. Transcripts.

The Republicans and Democrats of 1857 Minnesota could not even work together to form a constitution for the new state. There are two versions of our state constitution because, even after they agreed to text, neither party could agree to sign the same document as the other. (According to MNHS the differences are primarily grammatical, and don't actually present difference in meaning).

Minnesota Reflections (Minnesota's digital library) includes the proceedings of both constitutional conventions in its collection, and both records include a lot of information about the delegates and their responsibilities, but nothing on the personal information level. The Secretary of State offers some bits of history (on their student site named, get this, History/Old Stuff) including the fact that when the constitution was put to vote, the ballots only allowed for a positive vote forcing those in opposition to write it in, and the fact that Congress ended up approving an amended constitution - not the original(s). (Although, some historians report that the Democratic constitution was submitted to Congress, but they approved the Republican version).

It is interesting to keep historical episodes of division along party lines in mind during intense election seasons. In 1974, an amendment to the constitution was voted on and passed that restructured the document for ease in reference, and that's what we have now.

1 comment:

tragicoptimist said...

I just need to reiterate just how much I love reading your musings about searches you did and the random things you found. Seriously ... we had 2 constitutions until 1974, and the SoS has a page named "History/Old Stuff"? So much that I did not know until I read this.