Minnesota has, at length, been permitted to take her place in the Union “upon equal footing with other states”. Congress, by a solemn act of legislation, approved by the President, has recognized her as a sovereign and independent member of the Confederacy—free, henceforth, from the trammels of Territorial vassalage, and bound by no allegiance to any earthly power outside her own limits, except to the Federal Union, to the extent prescribed by the Constitution of the United States. --Honorable H.H. Sibley, Governor of the State of Minnesota. Message to a joint convention of the Legislature, June 3, 1858.
So began Gov. Henry Sibley’s address to the legislature and the people of Minnesota following Minnesota’s admittance as the 32nd state of the Union on May 11, 1858. While a day of celebration, the governor used the occasion to express sentiments of frustration with the actions of the U.S. Congress regarding Minnesota’s statehood application:
But, while it is a subject of congratulation that Minnesota is now a State in the Union, she has just ground of complaint that her admission has been so long delayed. … For this state of things Congress is responsible. Having followed the course pointed out to us with scrupulous exactness, we had organized our State Government … and we presented ourselves to the National Legislature with full confidence that the pledges made us would be faithfully redeemed. How was our application received? Our Senators and Representatives were repulsed--our expostulations were unheeded—and the humiliating spectacle has been presented to the world… simply because it subserved the purposes of Congressional politicians to allow her to remain suspended, for an indefinite period, like the fabled coffin of the false prophet, between the heavens and the earth.
Whew! It’s good to be reminded that statehood didn’t just happen. It was the culmination of years of hopes, dreams, hard work, anger, frustration, and persistence. Today, May 11, 2017, we celebrate that historical event—and the unbroken bond that links today’s Minnesotans and today’s state government with those first citizens of Minnesota as they celebrated statehood on that Spring day in 1858.