USA, home of the 49 states?

14 Jul

For some time now it has been accepted that the USA has 50 states (though some are technically commonwealths), but it seems North Dakota may have only been a territory all this time.

North Dakota, a somewhat square shaped state, was part of the Dakota Territory, which was broken up in 1889 and allowed North Dakota and South Dakota to be declared the 39th and 40th states of the union.

Shuffle along to little over a century later and John Rolczynski, a citizen of North Dakota, happened to be perusing the constitution of his state (as you do) and notices the following section:

Article XI, Section 4 of the North Dakota state Constitution:

“Members of the legislative assembly and judicial department, except such inferior officers as may be by law exempted shall, before they enter on the duties of their respective offices, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation: ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of North Dakota, and that I will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of ____ according to the best of my ability, so help me God’ (if an oath), (under pains and penalties of perjury) if an affirmation, and no other oath, declaration, or test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust.”

Like everyone else, John was aware of clause three of the US constitution that reads:

Article VI, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution:

“The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution, but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or Trust under the United States.”

He spotted that the state constitution had missed out the word “executive” and therefore breached the Enabling Act of 1889, which could mean that North Dakota may not have been a legitimate state all this time.

Apart from all the legal ramifactions, there was also the very important matter that if North Dakota was not a legitimate state, would this mean that the Coen Bros film “Fargo” should be withdrawn???

It may have taken John several years to convince the politicians that the constitution needed amending, but early in 2011, after nearly 16 years of campaigning, a bill to amend section 4 of the state constitution was introduced, and was voted through in July 2011.  All it now needs is for the public to approve it in the 2012 election.

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Posted by on Thursday 14th July 2011 in History


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