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Archives - State Agencies - Constitutional Convention, 1889


The Enabling Act of February 22, 1889, authorized North Dakota statehood and provided for a state Constitutional Convention consisting of seventy-five delegates to be selected from twenty-five districts in the state. The delegates were elected on May 14, 1889, and the Constitutional Convention opened in Bismarck on July 4, 1889. The president of the Constitutional Convention was Fred Fancher, the GOP caucus nominee.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention consisted primarily of farmers and lawyers with all but six from districts in the eastern half of the state. Twenty-three of the delegates were foreign born; none were natives of Dakota Territory. Politically, 51 Republicans dominated the convention, outnumbering 19 Democrats, two Prohibitionists, two Populists, and one Independent.

Twenty-three committees were created to draft the constitution. These included committees on Printing, Reporting, and Publication; Accounts and Expenses; Preamble and Bill of Rights; Legislative Department; Executive Department; Judicial Department; Elective Franchise; Education; Public Institutions and Buildings; Public Debt and Public Works; Militia; County and Township Organizations; Apportionment and Representation; Revenue and Taxation; Municipal Corporations; Corporations other than Municipal; Miscellaneous Subjects; Schedule; School and Public Lands; Temperance; Revision and Adjustment; and Impeachment and Removal from Office. The committees were required to prepare and submit draft sections of the constitution for consideration by the Convention.

Only a few issues were hotly debated by the Convention delegates. Women's suffrage was argued at length; the anti-suffrage forces were only partially successful in their efforts to insure an all-male electorate. The new constitution allowed women to vote in school elections and hold seats on school boards, and allowed voters to decide full suffrage for women at a later date.

Other issues, including a unicameral legislature, railroad taxation, prohibition, and location of public institutions, occupied the delegates. Controversy surrounding the location of public institutions was intense. Eventually forces favoring designation of the location of public institutions in the state constitution succeeded over delegates from the northeastern counties who supported legislative location of public institutions.

The constitution drafted by the Convention was lengthy and reflected reform ideas shared by many of the delegates. The constitution effectively limited the power of the state government and state officials and attempted to limit the power and influence of corporations and other "interests" on the state government. The constitution also provided for the location of thirteen state colleges and institutions and included a prohibition article that was required to be ratified separately from the constitution. Voters in the state ratified the constitution overwhelmingly on October 1, 1889, by a vote of 27, 441 to 8,107 and narrowly approved the prohibition article by a vote of 18,552 to 17,393.


1889 Enabling Act authorizes North Dakota statehood and provides for a state constitutional convention on February 22, 1889.

1889 Seventy-five delegates were elected on May 14, 1889.

1889 Constitutional Convention opened in Bismarck on July 4, 1889.

1889 Voters ratify the constitution on October 1, 1889.


31094 Records, 1889, one folder


Gray, David P. Guide to the North Dakota State Archives, 1985.

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