Agency History #170


Utah's Constitutional Convention was authorized by the 53rd Congress of the United States, which on July 16, 1894, passed an act "to enable the people of Utah to form a constitution and State government, and to be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original States" (United States Statutes at Large . 1894-. Vol. 28, Chapter 138).


In extending to Utah an invitation to join the Union, Congress set forth in the enabling act the conditions under which the territory might be admitted to the Union. Convention delegates had the task of incorporating into their proposed constitution the provisions contained in the 20 sections that comprised the enabling act. To be acceptable the new constitution had to be republican in form and include a proviso that "polygamous or plural marriages are forever prohibited." During the 55 working days (66 calendar days) the convention was in session, delegates also developed policies toward woman suffrage and prohibition and organized a state government providing home rule for Utah's 240,000 inhabitants.

So that it could be readily available for inspection prior to ratification by the people, copies of the new constitution were printed and distributed to delegates, territorial officers, county courts, municipalities, and each Utah newspaper before the convention adjourned. The committee on compilation and arrangements, which was directed to "compile and publish, as early as appropriations for that purpose can be obtained from Congress, the journal, Constitution, and debates in full, of the convention," published the proceedings of the convention in a two-volume work printed in 1898.


Delegates to the Constitutional Convention elected by acclamation a president who directed convention business. Minutes were recorded by a secretary. Various standing and special committees were each headed by a chairman.


The statehood bill authorizing the Territory of Utah's seventh and last constitutional convention (the only one conducted under authority of the U.S. Congress) was introduced by Utah Territorial Delegate Joseph L. Rawlins on September 6, 1893. It passed the House of Representatives on December 13, 1893. The Senate passed an amended version on July 10, 1894, with the House approving the amended version the following day. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill on July 16, 1894.

The enabling act authorized qualified Utah voters to pick 107 delegates to form a convention and directed the Governor of Utah to issue a proclamation on August 1, 1894, calling for delegates to be chosen at the general election in November. The 59 Republicans and 48 Democrats selected were to meet beginning on the first Monday in March 1895. Prior to the official opening, the Republican majority met in caucus where a unified plan of strategy was determined. In addition to agreeing upon the party position on all major issues, the chairmanship of all committees and the officials of the convention were predetermined. The committee on site and furniture made arrangements for the convention.

The convention convened at noon on March 4 in the Civil Court Room on the fourth floor of the City and County Building in Salt Lake City. Delegates elected officers and were subsequently organized into 26 standing committees. The convention was in session from March 4 to May 8, during which time delegates drafted a state constitution consisting of 24 articles providing for self-government. Final revisions were completed on May 6 and, following the reading of the constitution, its adoption was called for. It was accepted by a vote of 72-0, with 34 delegates absent and one excused from voting. On the final day of the convention, the engrossed constitution was read, corrected, and the roll called on its adoption, with the 99 delegates in attendance signing the document as their names were called. Provision was made for the eight delegates absent the final day to sign the document separately before October 15. The engrossed copy was delivered to the Secretary of the Territory in open convention. The document was later presented to the people for ratification in the November 5 general election. Voters overwhelmingly approved the constitution by a vote of 31,305 to 7,687 and elected the first officials for the new state under that charter. Utah's 45-year-long territorial period ended January 4, 1896, when President Cleveland issued a proclamation declaring Utah the 45th state.




John Henry Smith, Salt Lake City, President (March 6-May 8, 1895)

James N. Kimball, Weber County, President Pro Tem (March 4-6, 1895)

Parley P. Christensen, Secretary (March 6-May 8, 1895)

C.S. Rapp, Assistant Secretary

Joseph Alastor Smith, Enrolling and Engrossing Clerk

COMPILED BY: W. Glen Fairclough, Jr., March 1991


Baker, Doran, Framing and Engrossing the Utah Constitution (Logan, Utah: Utah State University, 1978), monograph.

Boren, Robert Reed, "An Analysis of the Speaking in the Utah Constitutional Convention of 1895" (Purdue University: Ph.D. dissertation, 1965).

Constitutional Convention Records, 1895, series (no. 3212) description.

Harrow, Joan Ray, "Joseph L. Rawlins, Father of Utah Statehood," in Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 44, no. 1 (Winter 1976), pp. 59-75.

Ivins, Stanley S., "A Constitution for Utah," in Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 25, no. 2 (April 1957), pp. 95-116.

Official Report of the Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention, 1895 (Salt Lake City: Star Printing Company, 1898).

Richard D. Poll et al., eds., Utah's History (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1978), Chapter 21, "The Forty-fifth State," pp. 393-95.

Salt Lake Tribune, March-May 1895 (biographical information about convention delegates was printed in the issues dated March 11, 18, & 25).

State and Local Government in Utah (Salt Lake City: Utah Foundation, 1954) pp. 19; (1962), pp. 27, 29; (1973), pp. 28, 30; (1979), pp. 29-30.

Stout, Wayne Dunham History of Utah (Salt Lake City: 1967), pp. 465-68; 476-80; "1895--The Founding Fathers," pp. 490-515.

Warrum, Noble, Jr., ed., Utah Since Statehood: Historical and Biographical, 4 vols. (Chicago and Salt Lake City: The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1919), 1:83-100.

White, Jean Bickmore, "The Making of the Convention President: The Political Evolution of John Henry Smith," in Utah Historical Quarterly, Vol. 39, no. 4 (Fall 1971), pp. 350-69.

Whitney, Orson F., The Making of a State: A School History of Utah (Salt Lake City: The Deseret News, 1908), 249-254.

Page Last Updated July 2, 2003.