Posted By admin on February 22, 2011
Ten days before he left office, and 100 years after George Washington became the nation’s first president, Grover Cleveland marked Washington‘s birthday by signing an act enabling Montana, South and North Dakota and Washington to be admitted to the union – if they could come up with constitutions.
“These four states will therefore come into the Union during the centennial year of our national government,” noted the New York Times. “But for the narrow strip of Idaho which stretches to the northern border between Montana and Washington, they would carry the union of states continuously across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.”
Cleveland’s signature came after years of political maneuvering in Congress, where Republicans were reluctant to admit a territory that leaned Democratic. Likewise, Democrat lawmakers were opposed to a package deal that would make states of Republican territories.
When Republicans gained control of Congress in 1888, lame duck Democrats dropped their objections to the admission of the Dakotas and Washington, which were all Republican.
It was the farthest Montana Territory had proceeded in four attempts to gain statehood – and it ultimately succeeded. A constitutional convention met in Helena in the summer to hammer out a constitution. Statehood followed on Nov. 8.