This column ran in the Sept. 8 edition of the Prairie Post.
In August of 1889 the North Dakota Constitutional Convention finished its work. It went to the voters on October 1 and by November the President signed the paperwork and North Dakota became another star on the flag.
That special election had a couple of issues for the voterâ€™s consideration. The measure to approve the Constitution passed by about 27,000 to 8,000 votes. The communities that got an institution like Jamestown with the State Hospital and Valley City with a teacherâ€™s college all voted overwhelmingly for the constitution. In all 14 communities got either a school, hospital or prison. Quite a load of public institutions for a new state with only 191,000 people.
The other measure on the ballot dealt with prohibition. This passed with 1,200 vote margin of 18,552 for prohibition and 17,393 against.
But the constitution had a few other clauses and I have to admit I donâ€™t know how many of these are still in force.
The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, speech and guaranteed the right to a jury trial.
It gave the right to vote to any man over the age of 21 who was an American citizen or had legally declared their intent to become a citizen more than one year before the election.
Women got the right to vote on all school elections.
But women got another perk from the new North Dakota constitution.
A woman was guaranteed the right to own property in her own name even if she was married. Quite a change from the principle that a married woman owned nothing on her own but only through her husband.
And children under the age of 12 couldnâ€™t work in mines or factories.
But many of the clauses of the constitution dealt with how businesses treated the citizens of North Dakota.
Corporations were prohibited from exchanging black lists of banned employees. This kept businesses from making lists of labor organizers and keeping them from working in the state.
And the constitution contained another, more generic, protection of citizenâ€™s rights in North Dakota.
The constitution states that no business can operate in a manner that â€infringes the equal rights of individuals or the general well being of the state.â€
The North Dakota constitution shows a great deal of distrust in business, especially corporations.
But it was not just the power of corporations that the writers of the state constitution wanted to limit.
The department heads, Agriculture Commissioner, Secretary of State, Attorney General and others are elected as the head of their own departments rather than being appointed and controlled by the governor. This kept the governor from having much power in state government.
It would appear the framers of the North Dakota constitution didnâ€™t trust anyone when it came to how the citizens of the state were treated.
I like that in a civic leader even if they were a little misguided on that prohibition thing.