March 22, 1864 (2)
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Image of the March 22, 1864 telegram
Next telegram March 24, 1864
Washington, March 22, 1864
Colorado Enabling Act was signed
yesterday by the President.
This analysis makes use of a heuristic for historical thinking know as SCIM-C developed by David Hicks, Peter Doolittle and Tom Ewing. For more about this historical thinking heuristic please see http://www.historicalinquiry.com
Summary of the telegram
This telegram was sent by Abraham Lincoln's personal secretary John Nicolay to inform the acting governor of the Colorado territory that the Colorado Enabling Act had been signed into law by Lincoln.
The Context for this telegram
The territory of Colorado was organized after the 1858 Pike's Peak gold strike. The act creating the Territory of Colorado was signed into law February of 1861 in the wanning days of the administration of James Buchanan, just four days before Abraham Lincoln was sworn into office. Three years later in 1864, the Colorado Enabling Act was passed. According to the terms of the law, citizens in the territory would have an opportunity to vote on a new constitution and to vote on statehood. As they had done previously in 1861, when voters in Colorado choose territorial status over statehood. The issue of statehood for Colorado was steeped in politics. Northern Republicans saw Colorado and neighboring Nebraska, which was also pursuing statehood, as sources for additional Republican senate seats and additional electoral votes in the presidential election of 1864. But, if they selected statehood the residents of Colorado would be responsible for new expenses that the federal government was covering given their status as a territory. Colorado did not become a state until 1876. This was after President Andrew Johnson vetoed a second enabling act in 1866.
Colorado's governor, John Evans, was a medical doctor who was born in Indiana. He moved to Chicago as a young man and became wealthy through investments in railroads. Evans was an early supporter of Lincoln in Illinois. When Lincoln became president, he offered Evans the governorship of the Territory of Washington. Evans turned it down, but accepted Lincoln's offer to govern Colorado in 1862. Evans was also instrumental in the development of the Union Pacific Railroad.
Inferences about the telegram
The fact that Lincoln's secretary took time to directly inform Governor Evans of passage of the Colorado Enabling Act suggests that Lincoln was directly involved in the politics of bringing Colorado into the Union. Lincoln demonstrated his personal involvement in the politics of Colorado statehood with the appointment of longtime supporter John Evans. Interestingly, Evans was an investor in the Colorado and Pacific Wagon Telegraph and Railroad Company that become part of the Union Pacific Railroad, which Lincoln approved in 1864. The Union Pacific was instrumental in connecting the east and west coasts of the United Sates with railroad and telegraph service. Denver had just been connected to the emerging telegraph system in October of 1863. The transmission of a telegram to Denver by Lincoln in March of 1864, just five months after its establishment in that city, reinforced the technological foresightedness of the president.