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1. Feeling lucky? Constitutionally, & as Mark Twain helped transcribe, for a while Nevada did not. #50Weeks50Constitutions digs into the Silver State’s legal roulette, territorial bluffing, & anarcho-capitalist hold ‘em, only to settle on a long constitutional winning streak.
2. Acquired (taken) from Mexico in 1848, Congress placed almost all of what is now Nevada in the Utah Territory in the Compromise of 1850. But the rough-necked folks settling the Carson Valley resented this arrangement, dominated by Mormans in Salt Lake City.
3. In truth, the next decade had an ebb & flow of Salt Lake’s laissez-faire neglect vs attempts at direct control. Along the way Nevadans alternatively petitioned Congress for their own territory or tried to establish their own government Iceland-style.…
4. The 1st “constitution” of Nevada was a set of rules a group of Carson Valley settlers adopted in Nov 1851; basically a “squatters government.” Said squatters also petitioned Congress for their own territory. They even petitioned California, which refused to take them.
5. In 1854 the settlers hired a lawyer, William Cornwall, to write them a “constitution.” It “looked like a cross between a loyal American state & an independent republic.” But, it doesn’t appear to have been adopted or even voted on. I just hope they paid him a nice hourly rate.
6. In 1859 the settlers held a constitutional convention unauthorized by the territorial government. It met for 9 days & drafted a constitution largely modeled after California's. There was then an election for a legislature, but it only met once & failed to achieve a quorum.
7. Times during this period were tough in Nevada. Well, or perhaps a hell of a lot of fun, depending on your point of view.
8. In 1861, mostly due to the brewing war, Nevadans finally got their wish & Congress passed an act establishing the Nevada Territory. President Buchanan signed it two days before leaving office, on March 2, 1861.
9. In the midst of war (although not fought in Nevada itself) the Nevadan people (but not Congress) authorized a constitutional convention. The result looked a lot like the CA & NY constitutions. Much of the argument was on taxing mines.
10. I bet you’re dying to know the assistant to the convention stenographer? None other than Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain! He said of it “You can’t ‘dot’ an i, you know, w/o taking your pen up … They named the State ‘Nevada.’ It is a good enough name, & has no i’s in it.”
11. I talked a bit about Twain’s work in this old thread. His & his colleague’s notes were lost to history for almost a century. Also, his brother Orion Clemens was the territory’s first, and only, secretary.

12. When put to the voters the constitution went down in flames. This was partly due to opposition to mine taxes, but more so because a “yes” vote on the ballot was also a vote for a particular slate of state officers. This rightfully irked a lot of people.
13. So Nevadans tried again, this time with the help of Congress. It passed a law in early 1864 authorizing a constitutional convention & then if the *President* (but not Congress!) approved of the constitution, Nevada would become a state. (Nondelegation problem anyone?)
14. In this convention the mining tax was tweaked to please mining interests. Otherwise it was similar to the previous draft constitution. The people overwhelmingly approved it & on Oct 17, 1864 it was telegraphed to DC for $3,416.77, then the most expensive telegram in history.
15. Why the rush & expense? So President Lincoln could approve it & make Nevada a state in time for the November election! Republicans wanted not only 3 more electoral votes, but another state in case the electoral college threw it to the House, where each state would get 1 vote.
16. Of course, Lincoln won in a landslide, so it turned out not to matter. Nevada thus went forward with statehood way before many other western territories (including Utah) that had much higher populations. Born in battle, as Nevadans say, but born in politics too.
17. The original constitution was pretty standard for its day. A good sized bill of rights, governor veto power, elected judges, & a system of common schools. Plus, absolutely explicit supremacy of the United States (even SCOTUS!).
18. Since 1864 the constitution has been amended over 100 times, but a new version has never replaced the original. During the Progressive era initiative, referendum, & recall were adopted.
19. Sources:

Michael Bowers, The Nevada State Constitution
Michael Green, A History of the Silver State…
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