THE ADMISSION OF NEW STATES
=The Spirit of Self-Government.=—The instinct of self-government was strong in the western communities. In the very beginning, it led to the organization of volunteer committees, known as “vigilantes,” to suppress crime and punish criminals. As soon as enough people were settled permanently in a region, they took care to form a more stable kind of government. An illustration of this process is found in the Oregon compact made by the pioneers in 1843, the spirit of which is reflected in an editorial in an old copy of the Rocky Mountain News: “We claim that any body or community of American citizens which from any cause or under any circumstances is cut off from or from isolation is so situated as not to be under any active and protecting branch of the central government, have a right, if on American soil, to frame a government and enact such laws and regulations as may be necessary for their own safety, protection, and happiness, always with the condition precedent, that they shall, at the earliest moment when the central government shall extend an effective organization and laws over them, give it their unqualified support and obedience.”
People who turned so naturally to the organization of local administration were equally eager for admission to the union as soon as any shadow of a claim to statehood could be advanced. As long as a region was merely one of the territories of the United States, the appointment of the governor and other officers was controlled by politics at Washington. Moreover the disposition of land, mineral rights, forests, and water power was also in the hands of national leaders. Thus practical considerations were united with the spirit of independence in the quest for local autonomy.
=Nebraska and Colorado.=—Two states, Nebraska and Colorado, had little difficulty in securing admission to the union. The first, Nebraska, had been organized as a territory by the famous Kansas-Nebraska bill which did so much to precipitate the Civil War. Lying to the north of Kansas, which had been admitted in 1861, it escaped the invasion of slave owners from Missouri and was settled mainly by farmers from the North. Though it claimed a population of only 67,000, it was regarded with kindly interest by the Republican Congress at Washington and, reduced to its present boundaries, it received the coveted statehood in 1867.
This was hardly accomplished before the people of Colorado to the southwest began to make known their demands. They had been organized under territorial government in 1861 when they numbered only a handful; but within ten years the aspect of their affairs had completely changed. The silver and gold deposits of the Leadville and Cripple Creek regions had attracted an army of miners and prospectors. The city of Denver, founded in 1858 and named after the governor of Kansas whence came many of the early settlers, had grown from a straggling camp of log huts into a prosperous center of trade. By 1875 it was reckoned that the population of the territory was not less than one hundred thousand; the following year Congress, yielding to the popular appeal, made Colorado a member of the American union.