Colorado won proclamation as a state on August 1, 1876, the 38th state in the United States.
According to Colorado newspaperman and politician Jerry Koppel, Colorado’s path to statehood started in 1864, in an attempt to get another Republican state to boost Abraham Lincoln’s re-election chances. Coloradans rejected the proposed constitution in a plebiscite, however, which pushed the effort into the next Lincoln administration — which, sadly, a month into Lincoln’s new term, became the Andrew Johnson administration.
High politics: Colorado took a tortuous path to statehood. While Colorado was not frustrated so often nor so long as it’s nextdoor neighbor, Utah, laws proposed to bring the state into the union were vetoed twice by President Andrew Johnson. History from the Andrew Johnson National Historical Site in Greenville, Tennessee:
1. There was such a small population in the area, Johnson felt Colorado would fare better as a territory without the added taxation of statehood.
2. Also due to the small population, Colorado would have only one representative to speak for the people in Congress. (New York, on the other hand, had thirty-one).
3. Johnson felt the citizens of Colorado were not prepared for, and not all wanted, statehood. Johnson wanted to hold a census or an election there first. This would ascertain the number of people in the area, as well as find out what their strongest desire was.
1. Johnson didn’t agree with the Edmunds Amendment which said that Nebraska and Colorado had to give equal suffrage to blacks and whites as a statehood condition. Johnson felt this was unconstitutional because Congress couldn’t regulate a state’s franchise, and the people had not been allowed to vote on it.
2. After holding a census, Johnson felt the population was still too small for statehood.
NOTE: In addition, Johnson did not feel right about adding new states to the Union when the Confederate States had not yet been readmitted to the Union and were still unrepresented.
Congress sustained the veto.
Colorado Republican and millionaire Jerome Chaffee, serving as the Colorado Territory delegate to Congress, managed to get a statehood bill passed in 1875, in the second term of President Ulysses S Grant; Grant signed the law. Colorado drafted a state constitution that passed muster, Coloradans approved it, and President Grant declared Colorado the 38th state on August 1, 1876. Chaffee was elected one of the first U.S. Senators from Colorado by the new state legislature. In an odd footnote, President Grant’s son, Ulysses S Grant, Jr., married Chaffee’s daughter Fannie in 1881.
In 1875, Chaffee claimed 150,000 people lived in the state, but most historians think that figure was inflated; the 1880 census counted 194,000 people. Some historians doubt that count was accurate.
No doubt there are at least that many people in Colorado today. Several counties in the northeast corner of the state got together in 2013 to explore the possibility of separating from Colorado to form their own state. Does the political cauldron in Colorado ever cool? (Did those secessionists ever cool?)
Happy statehood day, to the Centennial State.
- Pueblo Chieftan editorial, “Happy birthday, Colorado,” July 30, 2015 (featuring a list of activities to celebrate)
- “Five ways to celebrate Colorado Day,” 303 Magazine
- “Celebrate Colorado Day at a state park,” Sterling Journal-Advocate (free admission at all 42 state parks)
- Free Admission Into Colorado State Parks On Colorado Day (k99.com)
- Rebellious Colorado Counties Move Forward With Plans To Secede (patdollard.com)
- Secession push highlights Colorado’s growing political schism (watchdog.org)
- Firestone: North Colorado secession public meeting recap (coyotegulch.wordpress.com)
- Marking the passing of maybe the most-criticized president ever (constitutioncenter.org)
- ‘North Colorado’ statehood movement could grow (denverpost.com)
- Grand Lake, at North American Educational Explorers, a site for teachers