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Abraham Lincoln in Nevada


Sky of Nevada
Sky of Nevada

James W. Nye, appointed territorial governor by Buchanan’s successor, Abraham Lincoln, arrived in Nevada early in July 1861. He organized the new territory and called an election in which members of the territorial legislature and a delegate to Congress were chosen. A referendum showed overwhelming support for statehood, and a constitutional convention met in 1863 in Carson City, although without congressional approval, and drafted a constitution.

The contest over ratification of the new state constitution was bitter. To vote “yes” meant the automatic approval of a slate of candidates for state offices, as well as a property tax on mines.

Opponents denounced the proconstitution candidates as being too friendly to large mining interests. They also argued that powerful San Francisco mining corporations, which owned many Nevada mines, wanted an elected judiciary instead of the appointed territory judiciary because they believed elected judges would be easier to manipulate. A territorial judge had recently ruled against a large mining corporation in an important claims case. A prominent mining lawyer, William M. Stewart, who was associated with San Francisco mining interests, led the fight for the constitution, but small mine owners and workers were largely against it. In January 1864 voters rejected the constitution, and consequently statehood, because they believed it would largely benefit San Francisco mine owners. A severe depression then gripped the Comstock when the San Francisco corporations withdrew their investments.

Congress and the Lincoln administration, however, saw Nevada statehood as additional support for the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution (which outlawed slavery) and for Lincoln’s upcoming reelection. The U.S. Congress quickly passed the Nevada Enabling Act in March 1864 and by summer a new constitutional convention was convened.

The second constitutional convention met in the summer of 1864 with J. Neely Johnson as its president. The 1864 constitution was largely the same as the earlier one, with one major exception: Mine proceeds, not property, were to be taxed.

A large majority ratified this constitution and the document was telegraphed to President Lincoln, who signed it. Nevada became the 36th state on October 31, 1864. Republicans dominated the first state election, installing Henry G. Blasdel as governor. The legislature, meeting at Carson City in December 1864, selected two other Republicans as U.S. senators, the mining lawyer Stewart and the former territorial governor, Nye.

When Nevada joined the Union, it was smaller than it is today. The state’s eastern boundary had been extended east in 1862. It was extended again in 1866; in 1867 Nevada obtained its southern tip from the Arizona Territory. "Nevada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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