Seward Withdraws; Two New Territories; Last Ditch Effort

Saturday, March 2, 1861

Lincoln’s cabinet selection wasn’t going so well. There had been rumors going around Washington that Lincoln was going to dump Seward in favor of Simon Cameron of Pennsylvania. The president-elect had received petitions asking him to do just that, however, no such thought was in Lincoln’s brain.

Perhaps to spare himself the embarrassment, Seward wrote to Lincoln that “circumstances which have occurred since I expressed to you in December last my willingness to accept the office of Secretary of State, seem to me to render it my duty to ask leave to withdraw that consent.”

Lincoln wished for Seward to be in his cabinet, but he also wanted both Cameron and Chase there as well. Seward seemed unhappy with Lincoln’s decision and Lincoln would now have to work this out.1

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Give a Warm Welcome to the new territories of Nevada and Dakota!

Two separate United States territories came into being on this date, the Territory of Nevada and the Territory of Dakota. The reasons for their founding were separate.

The land and people that made up Nevada Territory were formerly under the control of Utah Territory, which was itself under control of Salt Lake City (read: Mormons). In July of 1859, the folks of future Nevada Territory got together and had themselves a convention. There, they decided to basically secede from Utah Territory. They accused the Mormons of a “long train of abuses and usurpations” and a “desire on their part to reduce us under an absolute spiritual despotism.”

Their main argument for establishing a territory of their own was that Utah was hostile to the Constitution and the United States government. The people of “western Utah” [future Nevada] wanted to be under the protection of the United States. A provisional government was formed and a representative sent to Washington.

This representative failed at first, but soon enough, with help from the silver mines, Nevada’s territorial establishment gained the approval of the House and Senate and, on this date, President Buchanan made it official.

The Nevada-Utah border, for now, would be on the 116th meridian. That would change in the not-too-distant future thanks to the discovery of gold on the Utah side of the border.2

As for the Dakota Territory, the history isn’t quite as scandalous. It was first proposed by Alexander Stephens (now vice-president of the Confederacy) in 1859, but it failed to gain much support. This all came about through a treaty with the Sioux that made them leave their land, and the formation of the State of Minnesota, which rendered some left-overs. The people left on the land wished for a government of their own (since the land was technically “unorganized territory”).

The Dakota Territory was huge, including all of modern-day North and South Dakota, as well as most of Montana and Wyoming. Bits of it would be broken off over the next couple of decades.3

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While Buchanan was signing the bills to create new territories, the Senate was busy creating pandemonium. All day they speechified and argued over technicalities. Finally, Corwin’s amendment to the Constitution was brought forward to be argued about, considered, reconsidered and, at last, the Senate adjourned around midnight to meet again, on the Sabbath, at 7pm. The amendment barring the Federal government from outlawing slavery in hopes that the Southern states would come back home would have to wait another day.4



  1. Lincoln President-Elect by Harold Holzer. []
  2. A History of the State of Nevada by Thomas Wren, The Lewis publishing company, 1904. []
  3. Early History of North Dakota by Clement Augustus Lounsberry, Liberty Press, 1919. []
  4. Days of Defiance by Maury Klein. []
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Seward Withdraws; Two New Territories; Last Ditch Effort by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International

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