Statehood Wanted by Settlers of Oklahoma Territory

Statehood Wanted

The establishment of a territorial government had been greatly desired. When it was secured, however, the people of Oklahoma were not satisfied. In the selection of men to be appointed as officers of the Territory, the President of the United States was free to choose men who were not citizens or residents of the Territory, and this was done despite the fact that strong "home rule" sentiments prevailed in Oklahoma. So the people of Oklahoma were soon longing for the organization of a state and its admission into the Union. A statehood convention was held at Oklahoma City, December 15, 1891, and, six weeks later, Delegate Harvey introduced the first statehood bill into Congress. Delegate Flynn introduced a statehood bill in the next Congress, in October, 1893. Both of these measures provided for the admission of Oklahoma and Indian Territory as one state. The leading men of the Five Civilized Tribes were bitterly opposed to this. Wearied of this, many of the supporters of the statehood movement in Oklahoma Territory began to advocate statehood for Oklahoma Territory alone. Beginning in 1894, this demand for "separate statehood" for Oklahoma Territory grew in force and influence. The element which favored "single statehood" for the two territories found itself opposed by powerful influences in both territories. This struggle continued to grow in bitterness for a number of years. Many statehood conventions were held and Congress was flooded with petitions and memorials. In May, 1902, Delegate Flynn succeeded in securing the passage of a bill, by the House of Representatives, which provided for the admission of Oklahoma Territory as a state. This measure did not come up for action in the Senate until the following December. The struggle became very intense and it seemed that the bill was sure to pass. In the end it was crowded out by other business. From that time on the movement for seperate statehood for Oklahoma Territory began to lose. Delegate McGuire introduced a seperate statehood bill in the House during the next Congress, but it did not pass.

In the summer of 1905, the principal chiefs of four of the Five Civilized Tribes united in issuing a call for a constitutional convention to meet at Muskogee, on August 21, for the purpose of forming a constitution of a state to be composed of the Indian Territory. One hundred and eighty-two delegates were elected to this convention but only one hundred and fifty of them attended its sessions. Pleasant Porter (see Biographies), the principal chief of the Creek Nation, was chosen as president of the convention and Alexander Posey (see Biographies), the Creek Indian poet, was made secretary. A constitution for a state to be named Sequoyah was framed by this convention and submitted to a vote of the people. Although it was adopted, in the election which followed, the vote was not as large as the projectors had hoped. The proposed state of Sequoyah was to be divided into forty-eight counties. The Sequoyah Constitution was submitted to Congress but no action was taken in regard to it. After the failure of this movement, all further hope of separate statehood for either Oklahoma or the Indian Territory was abandoned and the reunion of the two territories into one state seemed certain.

The end of the long struggle for statehood came when Congress passed an "omnibus" bill, prpularly known as the "Hamilton Bill", Chairman Hamilton, of the House Committee on Territories, being regarded as its author. This bill provided for the admission of Oklahoma and the Indian Territory into the Union as one state and for the admission of Arizona and New Mexico as one state. (The people of the last mentioned territories did not accept statehood under the terms of the Hamilton Bill.) The Hamilton Bill, properly known as the Enabling Act, was passed June 14, 1906, and was immediately approved by President Roosevelt. It provided for the holding of a constitutional convention to consist of 112 delegates, fifty-five of whom were to be from the Indian Territory, fifty-five from the organized counties of Oklahoma and two from the Osage Nation. Guthrie was designated as the temporary state capital; the new state was to have five congressional districts, the bounds of which were defined in the Enabling Act; the sum of $5,000,000 was voted to the new state in lieu of school land reservations which could not be made in the Indian Territory. The election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention was to be held on November 6, 1906.

Party lines were closely drawn in the campaign which prededed the election of delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Ninety-nine of the delegates elected were democrats, twelve were republicans and one was elected as an independent.

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Ann Maloney, Bartlesville, OK.
Copyright © 1998 Ann Maloney all rights reserved.