Anti-statehood Arguments against Arizona

Every current state had an anti-statehood faction when it was a territory. Generally speaking, the arguments against becoming a state are forgotten once the new state is admitted. This is certainly true of Arizona.

Cultural issues

Many territories encountered resistance from existing states when they sought to be admitted. Puerto Rico is currently facing such resistance from members of Congress who worry about the language question, and well as from organizations like ProEnglish which argue against admitting Puerto Rico because Spanish is the primary language spoken on the Island.

Arizona’s cultural issues included language. The enabling act for Arizona required that English be taught in the schools and that state legislators must be able to speak and read English well enough to do their jobs without an interpreter. However, this was not the most contentious cultural issue. Rather, there was concern that Arizona, which had at the time a large LDS population, would allow polygamy. Arizona had to forbid polygamy in its constitution before Congress would admit the new state.

Political issues

President Benjamin Harrison rejected statehood for Arizona in 1891, in part because Arizona allowed women to vote. President Taft later vetoed statehood for Arizona, insisting that the state constitution be amended to forbid recall of judges.

Another political issue that slowed Arizona’s admission as a state was Arizona’s refusal to join New Mexico. Congress wanted to put Arizona and New Mexico together in a  state to be called Montezuma. New Mexico was willing, but Arizona refused.

Arizona’s constitutional convention also argued over hot button issues of the day including the silver standard for money, prohibition, and racial segregation. After 60 days of vigorous debate, the constitution was finalized and overwhelmingly ratified by the people of Arizona. Immediately after President Taft’s veto of Arizona’s admission, Congress passed another bill admitting Arizona on condition that they would remove the recall clause in their constitution.

Financial concerns

Although territories which have become states have without exception become more prosperous as states than they were as territories, it has often happened that anti-statehood factions focus on the financial consequences of statehood.

In Arizona, as in many previous cases, there were people who felt that Arizona couldn’t afford to organize and support a state government. Stephanie Moussalli’s analysis of Arizona’s official accounts at the turn of the 20th century found that Arizona took in more funds as a state than it lost by giving up federal subsidies it received as a territory. She also found that statehood brought better financial record keeping, greater accountability, and less corruption within local government.

The outcome

Arizona’s twenty-year fight for statehood included so many controversies and so many different issues that it remains one of the liveliest battles for statehood in American history. Today, those arguments have largely been forgotten.

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