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1. New Mexico, the land of alien landings (allegedly), is this week’s stop for #50Weeks50Constitutions. New Mexico, the #LandofEnchantment has only had a single constitution—but there were a few drafts before Congress admitted it to the Union in 1912.
2. New Mexico’s territory came under Spanish control with an expedition in search of riches in the 1540’s. By 1609, the Spanish established a capital at Santa Fe, which remains the capital today. The Spanish controlled the land until Mexican independence in 1821.
3. But with the outbreak of the Mexican-American war in 1846 the land came under U.S. control. Control that was later formalized in 1848 with the treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The people originally thought statehood was the path forward, but Congress had a different idea.
4. In 1850 Congress created the New Mexico territory (which originally included Arizona) and established the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law. But it took over six decades, and few drafted constitutions before Congress finally admitted it as a state.
5. The Territorial Legislature tried twice in the 1860s to achieve statehood, but both constitutional conventions adjourned for lack of a quorum. So the legislature took it upon itself and drafted a constitution in 1872, but New Mexicans rejected it by a large margin.
6. One aspect that slowed the path to statehood was a distrust back East of New Mexicans. The culture was essentially foreign with lots of Spanish speakers and Catholics. But this distrust was later overcome due to the actions of New Mexicans during the Spanish-American war.
7. In 1906 Congress approved an enabling act that would have admitted a joint state of New Mexico-Arizona, called Arizona with the capital in Santa Fe. But the people of both rejected this idea so each territory continued on their path to individual statehood.
8. Finally, in 1910 (60 years after the territory was established) Congress passed an enabling act for New Mexico & called for a convention to draft a constitution. Republican delegates controlled the convention 71-29, but drafted a generally moderate document.
9. The delegates respected the cultural heritage of New Mexico and, as a result, the Constitution they drafted was published in both English and Spanish and mandated that all laws were to be published in both English and Spanish for at least 20 years.
10. Like other constitutions of the time, it was long and filled with minutiae that earlier constitutions left to future legislatures to determine. This distrust of future generations and legislatures led the drafters to adopt strict amendment procedures that Congress rejected.
11. The Constitution originally required a 2/3 vote in the legislature, approval of 40% of all voters *in* an election along with a majority approval of those voting on the actual amendment, with a limit on the number of amendments proposed in each election.
12. Congress conditioned approval on the New Mexicans amending the Constitution to require only a simple majority in the legislature, a simple majority vote by the people, & a removal on the limitation on the number of amendments in each election.
13. The people obliged and made the changes required by Congress. President Taft signed the admission proclamation, & with that, New Mexico became the 47th state a month before Arizona was admitted.
14. This constitution is one of two which does not protect the right of the people to assemble and petition (MN is the other). The Bill of Rights does protect all rights and privileges granted to the people of NM by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo & declared them “inviolate.”
15. The Treaty promised to protect & honor land grants previously given, even for the heirs of those grants & even with respect to community land grants for grazing & wood gathering. Though enforcement of this provision has proven difficult, the rights are protected.
16. This 1910 Constitution is still the current constitution, but that is not for lack of trying. A constitutional convention was called in 1969 which was approved by a wide margin. But the voters rejected the constitution drafted by this convention.
17. Though some changes in the draft 1969 constitution were later adopted by the people in piecemeal amendments like the expansion of the right to bear arms for hunting purposes.
18. This constitution has been amended over 170 times since its adoption, but the amendments have been placed directly in the constitution and the repealed provisions have been removed so while it has been often amended, it has grown by fewer than 10,000 words.
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