Steven Spielberg’s new film, Lincoln, focuses not on the assassination of the President or the end of the Civil War, but on Congress’ passage of the Thirteenth Amendment. The film depicts President Lincoln as a skilled, but not overly scrupulous, politician dedicated as much to ending slavery as to ending the war. According to the film, Lincoln’s success is not the result of his oratory or skills of persuasion, but of his willingness to countenance and even encourage bribery. I was disappointed that the film did not mention the critical role of Nevada in these events.
In early 1864, President Lincoln was looking for additional electoral votes for his reelection as well as votes in Congress to approve the Thirteenth Amendment. On March 24, 1864, he signed the Nevada statehood bill and a constitutional convention was convened on July 4. Act of March 21, 1864, ch. 36, 13 Stat. 30 (1864). Less than one month later, Nevada’s constitution was completed and approved by the people of the territory. Nevada was so sparsely populated that the number of people voting for acceptance (less than 12,000) was fewer than the number of words in the constitution (nearly 18,000). The President needed the new state to be admitted posthaste and so the entire constitution was delivered by telegram to Washington D.C. On October 31, 1864, President Lincoln proclaimed the admission of Nevada as this country’s thirty-sixth state. On November 8, 1864, the people of Nevada voted in the presidential election. President Lincoln, as expected, won Nevada with 59.8% of the vote (he lost to George B. McClellan in Delaware). On January 31, 1865, Nevada’s new Congressman, H.G. Worthington, voted with 118 other members of the House of Representatives to approve the Thirteenth Amendment. Below is a description of the event:
The announcement was received by the House and the spectators with an outburst of enthusiasm. The members on the Republican side of the House instantly sprung to their feet, and, regardless of parliamentary rules, applauded with cheers and clapping of hands. The example was followed by the male spectators in the galleries, which were crowded to excess, who waived their hats and cheered loud [sic] and long, while the ladies, hundreds of whom were present, rose in their seats and waved their handkerchiefs, participating in and adding to the general excitement and intense interest of the scene. This lasted for several minutes.
The Congressional Globe, 531 (1865).
Nevada’s constitution has been amended over the years, but remains in effect. Article 8 includes a number of provisions relating to corporations. These provisions are discussed in Bishop & Zucker on Nevada Corporations and Limited Liability Companies.