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Veto Message

May 15, 1866

To the Senate of the United States:

I return to the Senate. in which House it originated, the bill, which has passed both Houses of Congress, entitled "An act for the admission of the State of Colorado into the Union," with my objections to its becoming a law at this time.

First. From the best information which I have been able to obtain I do not consider the establishment of a State government at present necessary for the welfare of the people of Colorado. Under the existing Territorial government all the rights, privileges, and interests of the citizens are protected and secured. The qualified voters choose their own legislators and their own local officers, and are represented in Congress by a Delegate of their own selection. They make and execute their own municipal laws, subject only to revision by Congress--an authority not likely to be exercised unless in extreme or extraordinary cases. The population is small, some estimating it so low as 25,000, while advocates of the bill reckon the number at from 35,000 to 40,000 souls. The people are principally recent settlers, many of whom are understood to be ready for removal to other mining districts beyond the limits of the Territory if circumstances shall render them more inviting. Such a population can not but find relief from excessive taxation if the Territorial system, which devolves the expenses of the executive, legislative, and judicial departments upon the United States, is for the present continued. They can not but find the security of person and property increased by their reliance upon the national executive power for the maintenance of law and order against the disturbances necessarily incident to all newly organized communities.

Second. It is not satisfactorily established that a majority of the citizens of Colorado desire or are prepared for an exchange of a Territorial for a State government. In September, 1864, under the authority of Congress, an election was lawfully appointed and held for the purpose of ascertaining the views of the people upon this particular question. Six thousand one hundred and ninety-two votes were cast, and of this number a majority of 3,152 was given against the proposed change. In September, 1865, without any legal authority, the question was again presented to the people of the Territory, with the view of obtaining a reconsideration of the result of the election held in compliance with the act of Congress approved March 21, 1864. At this second election 5,905 votes were polled, and a majority of 155 was given in favor of a State organization. It does not seem to me entirely safe to receive this, the last-mentioned, result, so irregularly obtained, as sufficient to outweigh the one which had been legally obtained in the first election. Regularity and conformity to law are essential to the preservation of order and stable government, and should, as far as practicable, always be observed in the formation of new States.

Third. The admission of Colorado at this time as a State into the Federal Union appears to me to be incompatible with the public interests of the country. While it is desirable that Territories, when sufficiently matured, should be organized as States. yet the spirit of the Constitution seems to require that there should be an approximation toward equality among the several States composing the Union. No State can have less or more than two Senators in Congress. The largest State has a population of 4,000,000; several of the States have a population exceeding 2,000,000, and many others have a population exceeding 1,000,000. A population of 127,000 is the ratio of apportionment of Representatives among the several States.

If this bill should become a law, the people of Colorado, 30,000 in number, would have in the House of Representatives one member, while New York, with a population of 4,000,000, has but thirty-one; Colorado would have in the electoral college three votes, while New York has only thirty-three; Colorado would have in the Senate two votes, while New York has no more.

Inequalities of this character have already occurred, but it is believed that none have happened where the inequality was so great. When such inequality has been allowed, Congress is supposed to have permitted it on the ground of some high public necessity and under circumstances which promised that it would rapidly disappear through the growth and development of the newly admitted State. Thus, in regard to the several States in what was formerly called the "Northwest Territory," lying east of the Mississippi, their rapid advancement in population rendered it certain that States admitted with only one or two Representatives in Congress would in a very short period be entitled to a great increase of representation. So, when California was admitted, on the ground of commercial and political exigencies, it was well foreseen that that State was destined rapidly to become a great, prosperous, and important mining and commercial community. In the case of Colorado, I am not aware that any national exigency, either of a political or commercial nature, requires a departure from the law of equality which has been so generally adhered to in our history.

If information submitted in connection with this bill is reliable, Colorado, instead of increasing, has declined in population. At an election for members of a Territorial legislature held in 1861, 10,580 votes were cast; at the election before mentioned, in 1864, the number of votes cast was 6,192; while at the irregular election held in 1865, which is assumed as a basis for legislative action at this time, the aggregate of votes was 5,905. Sincerely anxious for the welfare and prosperity of every Territory and State, as well as for the prosperity and welfare of the whole Union, I regret this apparent decline of population in Colorado; but it is manifest that it is due to emigration which is going on from that Territory into other regions within the United States, which either are in fact or are believed by the inhabitants of Colorado to be richer in mineral wealth and agricultural resources. If, however, Colorado has not really declined in population, another census or another election under the authority of Congress would place the question beyond doubt, and cause but little delay in the ultimate admission of the Territory as a State if desired by the people.

The tenor of these objections furnishes the reply which maybe expected to an argument in favor of the measure derived from the enabling act which was passed by Congress on the 21st day of March, 1864. Although Congress then supposed that the condition of the Territory was such as to warrant its admission as a State, the result of two years' experience shows that every reason which existed for the institution of a Territorial instead of a State government in Colorado at its first organization still continues in force.

The condition of the Union at the present moment is calculated to inspire caution in regard to the admission of new States. Eleven of the old States have been for some time, and still remain, unrepresented in Congress. It is a common interest of all the States, as well those represented as those unrepresented, that the integrity and harmony of the Union should be restored as completely as possible, so that all those who are expected to bear the burdens of the Federal Government shall be consulted concerning the admission of new States; and that in the meantime no new State shall be prematurely and unnecessarily admitted to a participation in the political power which the Federal Government wields, not for the benefit of any individual State or section, but for the common safety, welfare, and happiness of the whole country.


Andrew Johnson, Veto Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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