Washington State Constitution - Legacy Washington
The Washington State Constitution - 1889
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In December of 1888, Congress introduced an act to "enable" Washington, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana to become states. Among other requirements, Congress asked each prospective state to draft and ratify a state constitution.
An election was held to choose 75 delegates to frame a constitution for the State of Washington. The elected delegates assembled on July 4, 1889 in the Territorial Capitol Building in Olympia and labored through the hot summer to draft a constitution which would form the basis for all future Washington laws. On August 23, 1889, the convention concluded its work.
Miles C. Moore, the last governor of Washington Territory, called for an election to be held on October 1, 1889 to ratify the state constitution and elect the officers of the new state government. A vote of 40,152 to 11,879 approved the Washington State Constitution.
A certified copy of the Constitution of the State of Washington was sent by courier to President Harrison whose approval was necessary before Washington was proclaimed a state. Days went by with no word; finally on November 4, 1889 a message was received, stating that Governor Moore forgot to sign the Constitution and President Harrison could not approve it. Overnight a new copy was prepared (in long-hand since there were no copying machines in 1889), and it was sent to the President by courier the next day.
On November 11, 1889 the President issued a proclamation declaring Washington's Constitution approved. The State of Washington was admitted to the Union.
Washington's 1878 Constitution
In 1877 Orange Jacobs, Washington’s Delegate to Congress requested an enabling act which would allow Washington to become a state as soon as a state constitution was drafted and ratified by the voters. At the same time, an act was passed by the Washington Territorial Legislative Assembly to convene a constitutional convention.
Without waiting for action by Congress, Washington’s voters elected fifteen delegates who met in Walla Walla in the summer of 1878 and drafted a constitution. In November, 1878, the voters overwhelmingly approved the constitution with a vote of 6537 in favor, and 3236 opposed.
Although never approved by Congress, the 1878 Constitution is an important historical document which shows the political thinking of the time. It was used extensively during the drafting of Washington State’s 1889 Constitution, the one and only “official” Constitution of the State of Washington.