Foundation of Government in Arizona


participants in the 1910 Arizona Constitutional Convention

Arizona Constitutional Convention, 1910
Arizona History and Archives’ Historical Photograph Collection
Photo ID 98-7132

July 13, 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance which set out the template that the inhabitants of a region needed to follow to request that Congress authorize the formation of a territorial government and then a state.

The State of Arizona is made up of land which is home to descendents of ancient civilizations and which, in historic times, was acquired by the United States in two sections from Mexico:

  1. February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed that ended the war between the United States and the Mexican Republic in which 525,000 square miles were ceded to the United States, including parts of present-day Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.
  2. December 30, 1853 – June 8, 1854, the Gadsden Purchase of approximately 30,000 square miles from Mexico completed the acquisition of the land which makes up present-day Arizona and New Mexico.

September 9, 1850, President Millard Fillmore signed the Organic Act, which created the Territory of New Mexico which included most of present-day New Mexico and parts of present-day Arizona, Colorado and Nevada. A couple of years after the Gadsden Purchase, the citizens of the land which makes up present-day Arizona began trying to form a separate Arizona Territory. In 1862, the Congress of the Confederate States of America created a separate Territory of Arizona. February 24, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Arizona Organic Act that created a separate United States Territory of Arizona. The Territorial officials that President Lincoln appointed took the oath of office at Navajo Springs, Arizona on December 29, 1863.

As noted in the Capitol Museum’s Teacher Resource Guide, the road to statehood for Arizona took much longer:

After several attempts to have a statehood bill approved over a thirty year period, the people of the Arizona Territory were authorized to draft a constitution in 1910. The voters of Arizona Territory ratified the Arizona Constitution Draft and sent it to Washington for approval by Congress and the President. President William Howard Taft initially refused to sign the bill accepting the Arizona Constitution until the citizens of the territory removed a clause permitting the recall of judges.

Elections were held to delete the offending clause in the constitution and to elect the first state officials. When the change was completed Taft signed the bill and Arizona became the forty-eighth State on February 14, 1912. The announcement of the Arizona Statehood Bill signing was telegraphed to the people of Phoenix. Arizona’s first Governor, George W. P. Hunt, was inaugurated, and he called the new legislature into its first session. One of the first acts of the 1st Arizona State Legislature was to place an amendment before the voters to return the state constitution to its original form permitting the recall of judges.

See also:  Documents Leading to Statehood and Arizona’s Chronology