9.1.1 Rocky Mountain (1850-1900): Constitutions as Barometers of Political Change


  • Rocky Mountain settlers were acutely aware of their remoteness from Eastern centers of power, and had an abiding wariness of Eastern attempts to control their economic and political fortunes – a wariness that was reinforced by the struggle between Utah Mormons and territorial officials over whether the Church would be allowed to make a new state in its own image. 
  • Except for Nevada, the region’s territories achieved statehood during the Granger era, when other states were beginning to systematically regulate railroads and other large corporations for the first time, or as the Progressive reform movement was gathering steam.  In addition to incorporating many now-well established constitutional reforms from the Jacksonian era (see § __), the Rocky Mountain states’ new constitutions incorporated many Granger and Progressive legal reforms and added some other reforms unique to the region, particularly as to water use and women’s rights.   
 

 

Nevada

1864

Colorado

1876

Montana

1889

Wyoming

1890

Idaho

1890

Utah

1895

Jacksonian-era reforms:

Elective judiciary

X

X

X

X

X

X

Incorporation must be by general laws

X

X

X

X

X

X

Homestead exemption (or legislature required to enact such a provision)

 

X

X

X

 

 

Married women’s property law (or legislature required to enact such a law)

 

 

 

 

 

X

Granger-era reforms:

State prohibited from or limited in subsidizing internal improvements

 

 

X

X

 

X

Municipalities prohibited from or limited in subsidizing internal improvements

 

 

 

X

X

 

Limits on municipal debt

 

 

X

X

X

 

Limits on state debt and/or extension of credit

X

X

X

X

X

X

 

Railroads must maintain local office and make annual reports

 

X

X

X

X

X

Competing railroads may not consolidate operations

 

 

 

 

 

 

Railroads may not dilute stock

 

X

X

 

 

X

Legislature required to enact or may enact laws regulating railroad rates

 

X

X

 

X

X

Discriminatory railroad rates prohibited

 

X

 

 

X

X

Progressive-era reforms:

Good government:  initiative provision

 

 

(1905)

 

 

(1900)

Good government:  referendum provision

 

 

(1905)

 

 

(1900)

Anti-competitive behavior:  no interference with existing employment

 

 

 

 

 

X

Anti-competitive behavior:  no employer blacklisting

 

 

 

 

 

X

Anti-competitive behavior:  monopolies and price-fixing prohibited

 

 

X

X

X

X

Employers may not require employees to waive injury claims as condition of employment

 

 X

X

X

 

 

Department of labor, mining inspector and/or banking and corporation commission created

 

X

X

X

X

 

Compulsory arbitration of mining and public-service corporation labor disputes

 

 

 

 

 

X

Child labor restrictions

 

X

 

 

X

X

Eight-hour day on government works

 

 

 

X

X

X

Mining safety laws mandated

 

X

 

 

X

X

Women’s rights:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women’s suffrage

 

 

 

X

(____)

X

Women can vote for  and hold school-related offices

 

 

 

 

X

 

Key civil rights provisions:

Polygamy prohibited

 

 

 

 

X

X

Aliens allowed to own land

X

 

X

 

 

 

Segregated schools prohibited

 

 

 

X

 

 

Suffrage: literacy test imposed

 

 

 

X

 

 

Suffrage:  native Chinese excluded

 

 

 

 

X

 

Provisions new to the West:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unappropriated water is owned by the public

 

X

X

X

X

X

Property can be taken for construction of irrigation facilities, with compensation to owner

 

X

 

X

X

 

Forest conservation laws mandated

 

X

 

 

 

X

Anti-vigilante provisions

 

 

X

X

X