The Forty-Ninth State Sets an Example
by John S. Hellenthal • of the Alaska Bar ( Anchorage)
Reprinted from the December 1958 Edition of the American Bar Association Journal
Although the new star will not be added to the flag until next July 4, Alaska will become the forty-ninth of the “United States” this month—perhaps before this issue of the JOURNAL reaches its readers. Alaska will be the largest state in the Union, but her citizens should take greater pride in the fact that they have perhaps the finest state constitution of the forty-nine. Mr. Hellenthal’s analysis of this new constitution is both timely and interesting.
Alaska’s new state constitution according to House Report No. 621 of June 25, 1957, which accompanied the Act of Admission on July 7, 1958, has been declared by political scientists and public administrators “to be one of the finest ever prepared”. This modern constitution was found by Congress “to be republican in form and in conformity with the Constitution of the United States and the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and is hereby accepted, ratified, and confirmed”.
Perhaps the outstanding characteristic of Alaska’s up-to-date constitution is its provision for an extremely strong executive branch of government.
During the Civil War, West Virginia is admitted into the Union as the 35th U.S. state, or the 24th state if the secession of the 11 Southern states were taken into account. The same day, Arthur Boreman was inaugurated as West Virginia’s first state governor.
Settlement of the western lands of Virginia came gradually in the 18th century as settlers slowly made their way across the natural Allegheny Plateau barrier. The region became increasingly important to the Virginia state government at Richmond in the 19th century, but the prevalence of small farms and absence of slavery began to estrange it from the east. Because slaves were counted in allotting representation, wealthy eastern planters dominated the Virginia legislature, and demands by western Virginians for lower taxes and infrastructure development were not met.
When Virginia voted to secede after the outbreak of the Civil War, the majority of West Virginians opposed the secession. Delegates met at Wheeling, and on June 11, 1861, nullified the Virginian ordinance of secession and proclaimed “The Restored Government of Virginia,” headed by Francis Pierpont. Confederate forces occupied a portion of West Virginia during the war, but West Virginian statehood was nonetheless approved in a referendum and a state constitution drawn up. In April 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed the admission of West Virginia into the Union effective June 20, 1863.