Iowa History Daily: October 7 - Iowa's Constitutional Convention

Iowa History Daily: On October 7, 1844, 72 delegates met at the Old Stone Capitol in Iowa City, Iowa Territory, for the purpose of framing a state constitution. Responsible for establishing the laws, offices, and borders, the efforts of the representatives resulted in the creation of the State of Iowa by the 28th United States Congress.

The question of statehood first appeared on a ballot in Iowa Territory in 1840, however the body politic voted down the measure 2,907 to 937. The measure again failed in 1842. As the population of Iowa doubled over the course of the early 1840s, support for statehood grew. Territorial Governor John Chambers started the paperwork, and got the initial approval from President John Tyler in early 1844.

With a new census underway to help make the case, Iowans voted in April 1844 to hold a constitutional convention. Charged with laying out the state’s boundaries, establishing initial offices, and laying out a lawmaking process, delegates descended on Iowa City in October of 1844. 21 Whigs and 51 Democrats made up the delegate pool, and participants ranged in age from 27 to 66 years old. The majority of those present earned a living farming (46), while physicians, mill-wrights, miners, mechanics, and merchants also found representation in Iowa City.

The most hotly debated issue of the convention came about when the delegates considered the northern border of the proposed state. Former Governor Robert Lucas, proposed a north-by-northeast running boundary stretching from the mouth of the Big Sioux River to the mouth of the Watonwan River, in what is now Minnesota, and then down the St. Peter’s River to the Mississippi River. Although the ‘Lucas Border’ didn’t pass the 28th US Congress, the proposed new state eventually did, and Iowa as we know it today came to be. #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar


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