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September 8, 2010

Two Andrews Present at the Birth

Filed under: 150 Best Minnesota Books — Lori Williamson @ 10:06 am

Minnesota and DacotahDebates and Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention

C. C. Andrews. Minnesota and Dacotah: in Letters Descriptive of a Tour Through the North-West, in…1856… Washington: R. Farnham, 1857.

Debates and Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention for the Territory of Minnesota, to Form a State Constitution Preparatory to its Admission…T. F. Andrews, official Reporter to the Convention. St. Paul: G. W. Moore, 1858.

Let me suggest two very different – but fun and interesting – additions to our 150 best Minnesota books list. The only connection between the works is the author’s last name and the time period, which is around the time Minnesota was entering the Union as a state.

Since we have already listed travel narratives from the earliest explorers it is appropriate to list a travel account from the settlement period. Minnesota and Dacotah is an easy call. The author, Christopher Columbus Andrews, was an extraordinary Minnesotan. He may be best known as the state’s first Fire Warden but he was also a lawyer, Civil War soldier, Minister to Sweden and Norway, and the author of about 50 works covering a wide enough range of topics to gain the sobriquet “renaissance man.” He presents a clear and detailed picture of getting to this part of the word in the mid-nineteenth century. He is also clearly and without exaggeration promoting settlement, favorably comparing territorial Minnesota to Greece and Italy. One interesting section that I wish he would have said much more about was a visit to Hole-in-the-day’s home: “… a walk on Boston Common on a summer morning could not seem more quiet and safe than a ramble on horseback among the homes of these Indians.”

C. C. Andrews

Think Minnesota politics is wacky now? It is, one could argue, constitutionally mandated. The United States was coming apart when Minnesota petitioned for statehood and much, including control of Congress, depended on the outcome of our state’s constitutional convention. Without going into excruciating detail, suffice it to say that Democrats and Republicans could not get along well enough to be in the same room and two separate constitutional conventions were held simultaneously. In the end two manuscript copies of the constitution exist and two differing accounts of the convention were printed along with the agreed upon constitution.

Constitution of the State of Minnesota, Republican VersionConstitution of the State of Minnesota, Democratic Version

T. F. Andrews was a reporter at the convention and recorded the debates as the Republicans heard them. It is mostly dry reading with “I move to strike…” kinda language but it is important and no complete Minnesota bookshelf should be without it. Occasionally the transcription is more interesting and evocative of the mood, as  this excerpt of delegate Thomas Galbraith Diogenesionly demonstrates:

“We do not intend to be brow beaten by St. Paul. We are the last men who    should cry out: “afraid of St. Paul!” We need no protection from those who       rushed in here today, [Democrats] cried out “I move to adjourn,” and then ran out again. – Did they scare us? Let them come on, we are ready to die in our tracks rather than yield. (Applause) We, afraid of St. Paul! Who is St. Paul? (Laughter) Let them come. We have no guns, no pistols, no slung [sic] shots, but we are ready to meet them, and will not be driven from this hall.”

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