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The Fight for Statehood, Chapter Five

The Silencing of the Opposition at Home

By Marion Dargan

      Citizens of New Mexico were probably more outspoken in opposing the admission of the territory to the union in the middle of the 1890s than they were ever to be again. Less than two years after the defeat of the proposed constitution of 1890 by an overwhelming majority of the voters, leaders were already seeking to work up a boom which would crystallize sentiment in favor of statehood. Thus in February, 1892, the Las Vegas Optic announced that representatives of the territorial press would meet during an irrigation convention at Las Vegas “to discuss the question of statehood and to agree, if possible, on the attitude of the press of New Mexico, towards that question."1 The Optic added:  "There can be little doubt that whatever view may be adopted and pressed by the papers of the territory, that is the view which will prevail." Three months later the same newspaper asked : "Would it not be well to have statehood meetings in every county, and every town of any considerable size in each county?"2 Repeating this suggestion three days later, the Optic added: "If we are to have any concert of action in this Territory, in favor of statehood, it is time the preliminary steps were taken. Nothing could exercise greater influence than statehood meetings all over the Territory, among the native people as well as in the Anglo-American centers. Let congress see that we want statehood, regardless of race or political differences. But time presses, and nothing is being done."3

      How many meetings actually resulted from these suggestions, it is impossible to say. Certainly the action of the democrats in "stealing' the legislature in January, 1895, ruined all hopes of any concerted action on the part of citizens of the territory, irrespective of party affiliations. When congress met in December, however, the hope sprang to life that T. B. Catron, the new delegate, with his "brains and energy," would succeed where Antonio Joseph had failed. On January 14 of the following year, the republican territorial central committee adopted the following resolution:

"Resolved, that we recognize that the early attainment of statehood is the matter of paramount importance to the people of New Mexico at present and insist that no partisan or personal advantage shall stand in the way of that object, of which the republican party has always been the champion, and we call on all patriotic citizens to unite in the strongest possible effort to secure this boon to our people at the earliest possible moment."4

      The people, however, refused to be aroused by mere resolutions adopted by party leaders. Six years later in January, 1902, the Denver Republican, concluded that "the chief stumbling block in the way of the territories has been the indifference of their own residents to the question of statehood."5 The claim that this attitude had disappeared by that time, however, was at least partly true. The territorial press and the politicians had worked up a popular movement to "boom" statehood. Many who had formerly been indifferent now supported the cause. Others, however, opposed the crusade some openly, and some in secret.

      Apparently, the passing of less than a decade had brought about quite a difference in the attitude of statehood workers toward their opponents. On Dec. 15, 1893, the Santa Fe New Mexican had said:

"This is a fine country, and if anyone wants to kick generally, he or she has the privilege; but the men who are now secretly kicking on the admission of New Mexico are making a grand and grievous mistake and one that will react on themselves and the territory; . . ."6

      This comment was prophetic of the tendencies of the time. Champions of statehood still professed to respect the rights of the "antis," but threats were already forcing the latter to fight secretly rather than in the open.

      In the spring of 1901 statehood workers united to arouse popular enthusiasm to a high pitch and to put pressure on the opposition. The outstanding leader in this crusade was Bernard S. Rodey of Albuquerque, who had been elected delegate to congress the preceding year.7 On assuming leadership of the statehood movement in March, 1901, Rodey gave out an interview in Washington in which he pointedly said, "Every man who doesn't want statehood is our enemy."8   Economic forces at work in the middle Rio Grande valley made a push for statehood most opportune at this time, and provided a new worker for the cause. This was Dr. Nathan S. Boyd, an Englishman, who was the head of a company that was attempting to construct a dam across the Rio Grande at Elephant Butte, about 150 miles north of El Paso.9 Legislation pending in congress and a proposed treaty with Mexico aroused great concern lest the right to use the waters of her principal river be taken from citizens of the territory and be conferred on the republic of Mexico and on land speculators of the El Paso area.10 Accordingly, Dr. Boyd wrote the Albuquerque Citizen, urging that New Mexico needed immediate statehood in order to fight the Culberson-Stephens bill and to save her waters for the use of her own farmers and ranchers.11 He stated that he had persistently sought to induce the leaders of the two political parties of the territory to organize "a plan of campaign," and had tried to win over his friends, although some of them had not been convinced. He urged the editor to take up strenuously the cause of statehood, and to make it "the key note of his editorial policy. Two days after the publication of Dr. Boyd's letter, Ralph E. Twitchell contributed a letter to the Citizen, suggesting that friends of the movement undertake "to smoke out of their holes" those who were opposed to statehood.12 The way to do this, he pointed out, would be to go to the leading business men and biggest taxpayers of the territory and ask them to endorse statehood in black and white so that it could be shown to the committee on territories and others in congress. If they refused, they would probably find out if the business prosperity which they enjoyed from relations with a people "they vilified on the quiet" would continue. The writer denounced the motives of "the antis" as selfish and narrow, and asserted that they would not dare to give the real reasons.

       Apparently these suggestions led to an intensification of the movement. Certainly the territorial press was soon making a zealous campaign for statehood and against all who opposed it. The latter were described by the Citizen as "people who are making a fortune in the territory, and who are afraid to trust the people,"13 while the New Mexican asked objectors the pertinent question, "If you are not for statehood, what are you for?"14 The "antis" were compared to "birds of passage"' who had no interest in the country and to "the Tories of 1776 who preferred British rule."15 They were said to spend their time in idle tirades against political conditions in the territory and in abusing the native people.16 They were not good American citizens because they favored an imperial form of government instead of government by the people.17 They should live in autocratic China or Russia, and should not be allowed to celebrate the fourth of July, since it meant nothing to them.18 "Mossback" seems to have been the chief epithet hurled at the opposition. The Journal-Democrat declared that the best thing that could happen to the territory would be for the miserable pessimists who had been making a fortune in New Mexico, and who were lukewarm for statehood "to die and get out of the way of the wheels of progress."19

      The spring and summer of 1901 found the statehood boom in full swing. In April the Citizen predicted:

"Before the coming summer is over, the antis will be such a small minority that they will be afraid to express themselves. Our advice to the young men of this territory is, make no mistake, get on the right side: remember the world never goes back: statehood is New Mexico's destiny, and you might as well be in the band wagon when the bon fires of progress are lighted a year from next fall."20

      In May the New Mexican said:

"The enthusiasm for statehood for New Mexico is growing so among the people that it is beginning to be like it is during time of war, everybody who is not enthusiastically for it is put down as against it and treated accordingly."21

      During the latter part of the summer and in the fall the statehood press claimed remarkable success for their campaign of propaganda. In July the New Mexican announced:

"Since the agitation for statehood began in the New Mexican and other papers, the few people who were inclined to be lukewarm on the question have come around, and now that they have examined the question, and know that there is absolutely no argument against it and every argument for it, the territory appears to be practically a unit on the subject. This is as it should be. There is no room for two opinions on the question as to whether or not the people in the territory shall organize a state government."22

      In August the Journal-Democrat declared:

"The few territorial papers that for a time decried statehood are keeping mum on the subject these days. Let them take off their muzzle and join in a solidly united effort to secure the desideratum."23

      Two months later the New Mexican announced significantly:

"There is no longer a single newspaper that seriously opposes statehood. One after the other the Democratic and Populistic newspapers have furled their anti-statehood banners and have joined the forces that demand statehood. The people of New Mexico are emphatically a unit in demanding from Congress an enabling act. Can Congress do otherwise than accede to this demand?"24

      The press, of course, did not claim that 100 per cent of the population supported the movement. The Citizen claimed merely "a large majority," while the New Mexican declared that carefully compiled reports from all over the territory indicated that fully nine-tenths of the people favored statehood.25 The Santa Fe paper admitted that a small minority would continue to "cry out" against statehood "as loudly and as strongly as it possibly can," but declared that their efforts were like those of "Mrs. Partington in trying to keep back the waters of the sea with a broom."26

       The desire to unite all the citizens of the territory occasionally led to attacks on individuals. Surprisingly enough, two who were thus singled out were not only among the most prominent native leaders of the time, but were both publicly identified with the movement to secure the admission of the territory to the union. Those were Col. J. Francisco Chaves and Solomon Luna, both of Valencia County. The former had favored statehood while a delegate to congress, and had been quite active in 1889 and 1890, when he had been the president of the constitutional convention.27 A man of 68 years of age in 1901, he held the position of territorial superintendent of public instruction. The latter belonged to a family that controlled the politics of Valencia County for half a century.28 A good and just man who had at heart the interests of his people, he was said to be the wealthiest sheep owner in New Mexico. While he might have had any office in the territory, he was modest enough to content himself with a place on the republican national committee, which he held from 1896 until his death in 1912.

      In September, 1901, the San Marcial Bee, an influential Republican paper, charged in an editorial that these two republican leaders "and other native friends of theirs" were "secretly knifing" the statehood cause.29 The Bee declared that Luna feared that statehood would bring in new laws, which would force him to enumerate his vast herds of sheep on the tax rolls, and that both he and Chaves feared the coming in of new settlers which might reduce their own importance in New Mexico. The editorial closed with the comment that, while it was difficult to believe such rumors, "they have recently reached us from a quarter that leaves but scant hope" that the suspicions they aroused were "groundless."

      Other republican papers indignantly denied these charges,30 and both Chaves and Luna issued statements to the press, reminding the people of their public activities in behalf of the cause.31 The Bee was said to have retracted its charges,32 but in the spring of 1902, together with "El Republicano and other staunch republican newspapers of the territory," it asserted that there was "a sudden apathy" of the people toward statehood, and that this was "due to the influence of large sheep and cattle interests, the same interests that favor a lease law in order to perpetuate their holds upon the public domain to the exclusion of everyone else."33 The New Mexican admitted that there might be truth in these charges, and called upon the opposition to come out in the open, since "Congress had the right to know whether New Mexico wants statehood or not and the men who shout for statehood at political conventions and then turn their backs upon the cause or even work against it secretly are political tricksters" who deserve contempt.


        Considering the pressure put on the opposition, however, it was only natural for the "antis" to resort to secret tactics at times. Whatever the attitude of the leaders named, old timers suggest with a good deal of plausibility that some of both the cattle and sheep men and the native leaders may have entertained misgivings regarding the future. Advocates of statehood always claimed that it would bring in a rush of immigrants. The former may have feared that this increase in population would put an end to their use of the public domain, as well as raise their taxes. The latter may have feared that the native people would then lose control of New Mexico, as they had already done in Texas and California. Certainly native leaders felt some anxiety when statehood did finally come, since Luna and Larrazolo both took pains to see that clauses were inserted in the state constitution to protect their people.

      The crowning effort in the statehood boom was a state convention called by Governor Otero at the request of Delegate Rodey and leaders of both parties.34 It met in Albuquerque on October 15, 1901, in connection with the territorial fair. One purpose was to demonstrate to congress that the people of New Mexico were united for statehood.35 Colonel Chaves, whose loyalty had recently been under fire, was introduced as "the father of the statehood movement." One of the speakers, Governor Murphy of Arizona, paid particular attention to objections heard in the territories against their admission to the union.36 Resolutions were adopted presenting the claims of New Mexico and demanding action from congress. There can be little doubt that the convention served to crystallize sentiment in the territory, and to silence the opposition.

      Following the convention, statehood boomers denied that the opposition at home amounted to anything. Thus two weeks later the New Mexican announced that it declined "to treat the attacks on the statehood movement in this territory seriously."37

Frank Clancy, district attorney for the second judicial district, visited Washington in December, 1902, and expressed much the same idea. He told a reporter for the Washington Star:  "There are some foolish persons opposed to statehood, who greatly magnify their own numbers and importance when they talk at all, but they are few. The vote at the last election showed this. There always had been such people in every territory seeking admission to the union."38

      On the other hand, some who favored the admission of New Mexico were quite ready to admit that they were greatly impressed by the strength of the opposition. Thus Isidore Armijo, Jr., of La Mesa, said in a letter to the El Paso Herald: "It is most surprising to notice amongst those in the opposition the leading merchants, the leading bankers, the leading cattlemen, the leading men, the leading Americans."39

      Much of this opposition was doubtless expressed in conversation and went unrecorded. Occasionally an "anti" might give an interview to some newspaper published out-side of the territory. Or, if he happened to be an editor who was out of line with the statehood movement he would naturally use his own paper to present his arguments to his readers. But scarcely to posterity. For the most part, the newspapers of the time that have been preserved were the more progressive ones that favored statehood. Hence our information regarding the opposition is largely drawn from unfriendly sources.  

     Unfortunately, pro-statehood editors showed little fairness toward those who differed from them. Human nature being what it is, they thought it more effective, or perhaps found it easier to belittle the motives of the opposition than to attempt an honest appraisal of their line of thought. This being the case, we can scarcely do more than identify a few men who wrote against statehood, or whose opposition is referred to in the press. To avoid repetition, the arguments advanced by different "antis" will then be summarized together.

      One of the most destructive "knockers," according to the San Marcial Bee, was A. A. Freeman of Carlsbad.40 He was a Tennessean whom President Harrison had appointed associate justice of the territorial Supreme Court. As he had practiced law in Socorro after his term of office expired, the Bee declared "we of Socorro County know the gentleman very well." While confessing great respect for southern gentlemen of the old school, the editor described the judge as "A Moss-Covered Citizen," and denounced him as a "carpetbagger" and a "self-seeker." In his reply Freeman defended himself by declaring that Coronado, Alvarado, Kearny, Chief Justice O'Brien and a host of others who had played a part in the history of the territory had all been "carpetbaggers."41 His objections to statehood were put in the form of rather striking questions. The Bee pronounced them "silly twaddle," but it quoted some of them at least. If Freeman advanced any more serious arguments, they are not given in the papers available. While in the East in 1900, Judge Freeman told a reporter for the Washington Post:

"As to Statehood, there is a division of sentiment on that question, but I believe a majority of the people favor it."42

      Apparently one of the most prolific sources of objections to statehood was S. M. Wharton, editor of the White Oaks Eagle. Unfortunately no issue of this Lincoln County weekly is available, or even a single editorial quoted in an exchange. That Wharton was an outstanding opponent of statehood, however, may be surmised from the amount of newspaper space which Bernard S. Rodey used in replying to him. And, fortunately for us, the delegate did not confine himself to flinging epithets he gave a resume of the arguments he sought to refute.43

      The Red River Prospector showed less courtesy to J. H. Crist of Monero, Rio Arriba County, who, so the Taos County weekly stated, "has got himself interviewed in the Antonito Ledger and says he is opposed to statehood."44 He was reported to have declared that, if an enabling act were passed by congress, he would "go into every precinct in Taos and Rio Arriba counties and oppose the proposition of statehood." Crist had a previous record as an "anti," since he had been one of the speakers who had campaigned against the constitution of 1890.45 Evidently he was eager to debate the issue eleven years later, but the Prospector refused to credit him with sincerity. Old enmities which he had aroused as a democratic politician, as the editor of the defunct Santa Fe Sun,46 and as the district attorney who had instituted disbarment proceedings against T. B. Catron and Charlie Spiess in 1895 help to account for this attitude. At any rate, the Prospector was full of surmises as to his motives. The item, which appeared with the title "One of the Kind who is Fighting Statehood," was concluded as follows:


"Good, we will know from now on where to find Mr. Crist. Perhaps the gentleman is still a little sore over his defeat for the council last fall and therefore, the majority of the people are not competent for statehood. Perhaps, the gentleman knows of certain parties who oppose statehood because they are afraid they will not then be able to dodge paying their honest taxes. Then again, perhaps, the gentleman fears that if New Mexico should become a state that its population would increase to such an extent that certain politicians would not have as big a pull as they now have. In fact, it is such persons who fear they cannot control wages or have a piece of the political pie, that are fighting statehood."

      When one of the most prominent business men in New Mexico gave an interview opposing statehood to the El Paso Herald,47 he was shown much greater respect. This was no less a person than Jefferson Raynolds, one of the most prominent bankers in New Mexico and a friend of William McKinley since boyhood. Indeed there is little doubt that he had been responsible for the appointment of Miguel A. Otero as governor of the territory only four years before this. Such an opponent of statehood powerful in both financial and political circles was not to be sneered at. Consequently pro-statehood papers such as the New Mexican and the Citizen treated him with discreet silence.

      Colfax County in the northern part of the territory seems to have been a center of opposition to the statehood movement. A large proportion of its inhabitants were Anglo-Americans. From time to time there was talk of separating from the Spanish people in New Mexico, and forming a new state with its capital at Raton, or at Trinidad, Colorado.

Possibly Captain T. W. Collier, a candidate for the governorship of New Mexico in 1897, was the most influential of these men. As editor of the Raton Range, he expressed his opposition with great regularity. Another resident who opposed statehood was M. W. Mills of Springer, who was said to be "the owner of extensive land and stock interests in Southern Colfax County." While in Kansas City, he gave an interview on the question to the Kansas City Journal. While the New Mexican admitted that he "kept within bounds" in his opposition, it declared that his arguments were "flimsy."48 Hugo Seaberg, a lawyer, and Andrew Morton, a banker, were prominent among the signers of "A Petition Endorsed by Colfax County, New Mexico, Taxpayers to Be Presented to Congress," which is said to have appeared in the Optic. While this is a rather forceful document, statehood papers apparently ignored it, and we have no evidence that it ever reached Washington. Fortunately for us, a copy is preserved in the files of the El Paso Herald.49

      This same paper also mentioned "Don Martin Amador, one of the wealthiest citizens of Carlsbad, New Mexico," as one of the property owners of the territory who opposed statehood because of the higher taxes which it would bring.50 The Herald added: "It seems that the same sentiment pervades in other sections of the territory as well," and quoted a telegram the editor had received from Roswell. The arguments of these opponents of statehood may be summarized as follows:51

"Fear of democracy, or "Mexican domination."52

New Mexico is "ring ridden and boss ruled," and conditions would be worse if the bosses could control the election of the governor, judges and  other officials. The change to statehood should not be made until "the corrupt ring" which governs the territory is broken.53

Statehood should be postponed until the franchise has been limited by educational qualifications.54

Under the territorial form of government, property is secure because everything the officials do is subject to revision by the Washington authorities. There would be far less security under a state government, since the majority of the citizens are not tax-payers and are not thoroughly imbued with the principles of free government.55

Millions of dollars have come into the territory under Governor Otero's administration, so what is to be gained by our admission to the union?56

Statehood failed to stimulate immigration to some of the newer states and it will be the same way with New Mexico.57

The maintenance of a state government will increase taxation to a burdensome degree, and will have a depressing effect on business.58

Are the people going to sweat and toil any harder and enjoy their heavy taxation, merely because it will enable two excellent gentlemen like Gov. Otero and Delegate Rodey to occupy apartments at Washington as United States senators?59

Will statehood cause the falling of any more rain, or the growing of any more grass? Will it rebuild the tumbled walls of hundreds of adobe huts that mark the course of our Nile? Will sheep grow heavier wool or cows more calves?60

If a majority of the people desire statehood, then there is no reason for so much whipping in."61

       The "antis" certainly had their fling in the territorial press during 1901. But their freedom of speech was soon  taken from them. During the greater part of the following year there was much ground for hope that congress might pass an enabling act at any early date, and it was regarded as treason to say anything that might be capitalized by the opposition. Evidently the statehood boom hushed up most citizens of the territory who remained unconverted. In an interview which appeared in the Citizen for February 17, 1902, J. H. Purdy, a Santa Fe lawyer, described the situation as follows:

"There is a wide divergence of opinion on the subject of statehood. The talk one hears in public places is largely for statehood, but in quiet places where men talk privately together and "heart to heart," as the phrase goes, grave doubts are expressed that the territory is ready to try self-government."


       The events of the following months made men still less inclined to oppose statehood openly. The passage of a statehood bill by the house in the spring led to the coming of a senate committee to the southwest in the fall. New Mexico, as well as Arizona and Oklahoma, must seize this unprecedented opportunity to make a favorable impression on the visiting Solons. These interesting developments lie beyond the scope of the present article, and will be discussed fully later. One piece of testimony taken by the committee, however, as well as a part of the report made to the senate, is pertinent to the present discussion.

      The eighty-five citizens who appeared before the committee were examined behind closed doors. Yet it is significant that only one expressed himself as being opposed to statehood. This individual, Martinez Amador, was a volunteer witness who was examined at Las Cruces. After identifying himself as a native of Mexico and a farmer, 64 years of age, he gave the following testimony:


"Question---Is there any statement which you want to make to this committee?
Answer--- Well, I want, if you will allow me, to make a statement about our population.

My people all belong to the Mexican race. They come from old Mexico, and I think our people is not able now to support statehood, because most of the people here is ignorant ; and I do not think we are ready to support statehood yet for about ten years, until our children grow up. We got good schools now, and we send our children to school, and they doing well; but the old residents are mostly Mexicans, you know. You take them in the election time, and you take them what you call the emblem; they go by that, and they do not know who they vote for. They do not know who is on the ticket the majority of that kind of people. As a consequence, I think there is one great fault of our people they have not got education, the old timers; the old timers, like me. I never been in the schools, except the primary schools, you know, but I been picking up here and there to know just the little I know now, and that is about all; but I never been in the schools. My children are all well educated. They have been to school in St. Louis and they have been in the schools here. My children, they are able to support statehood and compete with the majority as far as people, you know, but the others, I am very sorry to say it, they are not able to do that."62

      The committee evidently regarded this particular witness as a real find, and it was assumed that he represented accurately the inarticulate class to which he belonged. Special attention was called to his testimony in the following section of the report made to the senate:


      In conclusion, the truth must be stated that many New Mexicans do not want statehood. The testimony of Martinez Amador, a Mexican farmer, who (unsubpoenaed and unasked, because unknown to us) sought out the committee at Las Cruces, and who impressed every member with his sincerity, wisdom, and truthfulness, proves this. The testimony is pathetic as it is convincing, and we call to it particular attention. The committee is further convinced that this opposition to statehood for New Mexico is by no means confined to this simple Mexican farmer and the great class for whom he spoke. It is true that no other rancher, farmer, or merchant appeared before the committee to the same effect; but the committee has sound reasons for believing that large numbers of them are earnestly against the proposition of New Mexican statehood. It is not believed that any advocate of New Mexican statehood competent to speak will testify, under oath, that there is unanimity in favor of the proposition even among the most substantial business men, farmers and cattlemen of the Territory.

      It is the further belief of the committee that a large portion of the people are indifferent to and ignorant of the question. (Testimony of Martinez Amador, p. 105). If it be said that they voted in favor of it, the answer is that nothing is easier than to appeal to a people like the native New Mexican with a statement that there is something which he has not (and which will be of value to him) in order to make him desire it, without understanding in the least just what it is that he is deprived of. It is a cheap and familiar device, formerly used in our own States, but now happily abandoned before the enlightenment and independence of civic action which comes with increased education and highly developed civilization. If it be said that this argument is not sound, the answer is that the people have more than once rejected a constitution for statehood."63

      Little did this Spanish-American citizen realize when he gave his testimony, that ten years would really pass before New Mexico was admitted to the union. He never lived to see the day. In a little over three months he was dead. His widow wrote Senator Beveridge:

"I doubt not but what the disease that carried him off was brought on by the constant worry and mental strain caused by those who declared themselves his bitter enemies, for the truthful testimony rendered unsolicited by him to the commission of which you were a prominent member."64

      Meanwhile all hopes had been lost that the fifty-seventh congress would admit any of the southwestern territories.65 Five or six months later the Journal-Democrat printed an anonymous letter signed "FAIR PLAY." At any other time, it would probably have been suppressed, but at the moment the editor probably decided that it would do no harm. Consequently it appeared as follows:


A Citizen of New Mexico Who Has No Enthusiasm for the Cause of Statehood

      Editor Journal-Democrat In Sunday's issue of the Journal-Democrat there appeared the following editorial paragraph:

"There never was a fight made for the rights of the people, where the people themselves apart from the press, did so little to help their own cause along, as the people of New Mexico have done for themselves in the statehood fight."


      The reason for this apathy on the part of the people is so obvious that it is strange you did not complete the statement by adding: for the reason that statehood is not wanted by the people. That is the logical conclusion of the paragraph, and also the real sentiment of the voters in the territory, aside from a small number of politicians and their parasites who see in statehood greater opportunity for plunder than under a form of government where national supervision interposes some restraint, no matter how ephemeral or fictitious that restraint is.

      It is true that for three years past the noise made by statehood agitators has been louder than ever before, yet the fact remains that the demand for admission to the union has not come from the solid, conservative element of the people. The "fight made for the rights of a people" has been made by the press of the territory and not by the people, as it should have been, and will have to be, before statehood will be granted. The editors of New Mexico are, as a rule, bright men, and it is strange they have been so easily hoodwinked into misrepresenting the opinions and desires of the voters on this subject. If a canvass were made of the territory and the opinion of each man secured not an opinion for publication, but the honest wish given in confidence there would be little or no more cock-sure editorial writing concerning the demand made by the people for statehood.

      The reason for the failure of the people to grow enthusiastic over statehood is easily found. Bernalillo is not the only county in the territory where public affairs are conducted by a ring, the boss or bosses of which look upon the public office as a "private snap." There are so many others that New Mexico is ring ridden and boss ruled. Rumor even goes so far as to insinuate that should a fearless man go to Santa Fe and institute an investigation into territorial affairs the jar of dodging stunts would loosen the foundation of the capitol, and that building would no longer be a safe place of meeting for New Mexico's marvelous legislatures. The thinking portion of New Mexico's business men, ranchers, and miners, reason something after the following manner:

If, under a territorial form of government, such conditions obtain, what would they be if all supervision and restraint were removed, and the bosses could control the election of the governor, district judges, and all other officials? A question, by the way, which ought to make Delegate Rodey take a second thought for once on the statehood question, and cause territorial editors to cease bemoaning the fate of disfranchised thousands.


      In many places it has been assumed that those opposed to statehood are few in number because they have not been vociferous in their opposition. While this silence except in numerous instances where quiet work has been done in Washington had had the effect of giving apparent unanimity to the ' 'hollering" of the delegate and press of the territory, it has been caused and secured by the brutal methods adopted by the senatorial toga hunters and political bosses to prevent disaster overtaking their ambitions, and not from any desire on the part of the people for statehood. Men have no desire to be publicly denounced as traitors, snakes-in-the-grass or carpetbaggers, no matter what the source of denunciation may be, and the fear of such malicious vilification keeps hundreds quiet who would openly oppose statehood were there fair treatment accorded those honest in their doubt as to the advisability of the proposed change. However, the silence thus procured is as fatal in the end as open hostility.

      The fact that corrupt commonwealths are already states is no argument for the admission of another rotten member into the union, although the statehood boomers would have it appear so. Under honest conditions and honorable officials the people of New Mexico would welcome the admission of the territory as a state, but until such time as good government leagues can bring about much needed and desired changes, and examples be made of plunderers, boodlers, and bribe-givers and takers as will assure honest and equal enforcement of law, they are willing to live under a territorial form of government.

      If the editors of New Mexico really desire help from the people in securing statehood, there is one way to secure that assistance; let them join hands in a fight for honesty in public life ; for the election of none but men of fitness, ability and integrity to office, and when that has been accomplished there will be no difficulty encountered in securing individual statehood for New Mexico.


      While the statehood boom at the beginning of the century failed to bring about the passage of an enabling act by Congress, it did much to accomplish one thing. The opposition within the territory was largely suppressed, although the Deming Headlight, true to its old traditions, continued to publish editorials on "Why Statehood Is Not Wanted by the Intelligent People of New Mexico."67 Meanwhile a new phase of the movement developed during which it was proposed to admit Arizona and New Mexico as one state. During the decade that passed before congress finally conferred separate statehood on the territories, citizens of New Mexico frequently expressed themselves as opposed to "joint statehood." Almost invariably, however, they explained that they favored statehood, but were opposed to a union with Arizona. The present study then closes with the year 1903, as during the remaining nine years of the territorial period there is little available evidence of the kind of opposition we have been considering.


1 Las Vegas Optic, Feb. 26, 1892.

2 Ibid., May 13, 1892.

3 Ibid., May 17, 1892.

4 Ibid.. Jan. 15, 1896.

5 Denver Republican, quoted in Albuquerque Citizen, Jan. 27, 1902.

6 The following editorial, quoted by the New Mexican from the Eddy Citizen, suggests that that paper had already become very intolerant toward the opposition: "No one can afford to fight the statehood proposition. It means everything to New Mexico, and the man who would put so much as a straw in its way will go on record as a traitor to himself, to his country and all its interests. Do you want to be thus branded? Do you want to be known the world over as uncouth, uneducated, a link of antediluvian days, in fact a creature uncivilized, unfit to bear the glorious title of 'an American citizen'? If so, vote against statehood." New Mexican, Dec. 18, 1898.

7 Rodey's personality and work for statehood will be discussed fully in the next article in this series.

8 Farmington Hustler, March 28, 1901.

9 Coan, Charles F., A History of New Mexico (Chicago, 1925), vol. II, p. 466.

10 For Governor Otero's part in defeating this treaty, see his My Nine Years as Governor, 1897-1906 Albuquerque, 1940). The territorial newspapers also contain frequent references to this fight.

11 Citizen, April 23, 1901. The bill took its name from Senator Charles Allen Culberson and Congressman John Hall Stephens, who had introduced separate bills into the senate and the house. These were later combined into the Culberson-Stephens bill.

12 Citizen, April 25, 1901.

13 Ibid., May 9, 1901.

14 New Mexican, Oct. 15, 1901.

15 Citizen, Oct. 17, 1901.

16 Ibid., July 31, 1901; Nov. 1, 1901.

17 Journal-Democrat, July 25, 1901.

18 New Mexican, July 3, 1901.

19 Journal-Democrat, August 80, 1901

20 Citizen, April 12, 1901.

21 New Mexican, May 11, 1901.

22 New Mexican, July 2, 1901.

23 Journal-Democrat, August 9, 1901.

24 New Mexican, Oct. 21, 1901.

25 Citizen, Nov. 20, 1901, New Mexican, quoted by Journal-Democrat, Oct. 28, 1901.

26 New Mexican, Oct. 30, August 26, 1901.

27 Chaves is mentioned several times in the third article of this series. See the Review, XV, pp. 168, 181, 182.

28 Twitchell, op. cit., p. 551; vol. 5, pp. 3-4.

29 No copy of this issue of the Bee is available, but the editorial was reprinted in the Journal-Democrat and the New Mexican for Sept. 24, 1901. The editor of the Bee was a Canadian, Henry Hammond Howard, who exerted a strong influence in political circles. History of New Mexico (Pacific States Publishing Co., Los Angeles, 1907), vol. I, pp. 478-479.

30 The Citizen defended the two men as follows: "It has been the life work of Colonel Chaves to help make New Mexico a state. For a quarter of a century he has faithfully advocated statehood. Mr. Luna is a faithful worker for statehood, and will go to Washington next winter and urge the admission of the territory." Citizen, Sept. 23, 1901.

31 New Mexican. Sept. 24, 1901.

32 Ibid., Sept. 30, 1901. The Bee later reprinted the statements issued by Chaves and Luna. New Mexican, Oct. 4, 1901.

33 Ibid., March 11, 1902.

34 The original proclamation by Governor Otero calling the convention is in possession of the University of New Mexico. It is dated Sept. 13, 1901.

35 Quoted from the Chama Tribune by the Journal-Democrat, Aug. 30, 1901.

36 Journal-Democrat, Aug. 27, Oct. 5, 1901.

37 New Mexican, Nov. 1, 1901.

38 Washington Star. From an undated clipping in the Rodey Scrapbook, p. 26. The interview evidently took place between Dec. 3 and Dec. 10, 1902, as Clancy stated that the Beveridge report was being held for revision.

39 El Paso Herald, Feb. 1, 1900.

40 Editorial from the San Marcial Bee, as given in unidentified press clipping in the Rodey Scrapbook, p. 97.

41 Judge Freeman's reply appeared in the form of a letter to Delegate Rodey published in the New Mexican, Oct. 14, 1901. In commenting on this letter, the New Mexican said "People are struck with the fact that Judge Freeman answers nothing. It is evident that the judge is a great pessimist in politics and judges New Mexico politics by Tennessee or Kentucky politics, in which governors are assassinated, governors legally elected are deprived of their office, men shot down for opinions sake . . ." Ibid., Nov. 6, 1901.

42 Washington Post, Oct. 5, 1900.

43 See New Mexican, Journal-Democrat, and Las Vegas Record for Sept. 21, 1901.

44 New Mexican, Nov. 11, 1901, quoting the Red River Prospector. The Antonito Ledger was a weekly published in Conejos County, Colo. This county is just across the Colorado line from Taos and Rio Arriba counties. No file of the paper is listed in Gregory, Union List of Newspapers.

45 See the Review, vol. XV, p. 167.

46 Optic. Aug. 3. 1892.

47 El Paso Herald, Jan. 18, 1901.

48 New Mexican, Nov. 12, 1901.

49 El Paso Herald, Jan. 19, 1901. The two sponsors named are mentioned in the letter of Isidoro Armijo, Jr.

50 Ibid., Jan. 6, 1908. The Herald seems to have been quite interested in the opposition to the statehood movement within New Mexico. The El Paso News, on the other hand, is said to have published a leading article, administering "a well merited rebuke to the few papers in New Mexico that are working in opposition to statehood for the territory." Journal-Democrat, Aug. 30, 1901.

51 The references given are intended to be suggestive rather than exhaustive.

52 Attributed to Editor Wharton of the White Oaks Eagle. Journal-Democrat, August 30, 1901. Another citizen, R. S. Benson of Florence, N. M., also had a very poor opinion of the voters of the territory. While in the East, he explained to a reporter for the Washington Post that the republican party in New Mexico was "burdened with the greasers," while "the many fugitives from justice" that had congregated in the territory were almost always democrats. Washington Post, July 4, 1900.

53 See the anonymous letter signed "Fair Play," given at the close of this article. Also Journal-Democrat, Oct. 13, 1901; Optic, Oct. 8, 10, 1901; Santa Fe Capital, Jan. 10, 1903; Deming Headlight, July 18, 1903.

54 Optic, Oct. 15, 1901.

55 Jefferson Raynolds. El Paso Herald, Jan. 18, 1901. The following quotation from the Raton Range is given by the Optic, Jan. 10, 1894, and is a good illustration of this argument: "If the last New Mexico legislature is a fair example of what this Territory has and will select for its lawmakers, and we believe it was, we are of the opinion that property will be less secure under statehood than it is now. Under present conditions, congress has supervisory authority over the Territorial legislature which exercises considerable restraint over the average assembly. Remove that by making the territory a state, and can anyone conceive a bill of any nature that could not have been brought through the last legislature? This is one strong reason why we doubt the advisability of statehood for New Mexico at this time."

56 Attributed to another Carlsbad paper by the Carlsbad Argus, June 14, 1901.

57 Attributed to Wharton by the New Mexican, Sept. 17, 1901.

58 Citizen, Jan. 27, 1902.

59 Judge Freeman. New Mexican, Oct. 14, 1901.

60 Attributed to Judge Freeman by the Rio Grande Republican, Oct. 25, 1901. This is a quotation from the Bee, and is available only as a press clipping in the Rodey Scrapbook, p. 97.

61 Judge Freeman. New Mexican, Oct. 14, 1901.

62 57th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Documents, No. 36, vol. 5 (Government Printing Office, 1902), p. 105.

63 57th Congress, 2nd Session Senate Reports, No. 2206, vol. 1 (Government Printing: Office, 1902), part 1, pp. 29-30.

64 Mrs. Martinez Amador to Senator Beveridge, March 20, 1903. Amador died Feb. 27, 1903. The Washington Post, a strong champion of the admission of the southwestern territories, evidently referred to him in the following "anecdote":

"Senator Beveridge is charged with causing an aged farmer down near Las Cruces to receiving a terrible beating.

"When the statehood subcommittee went through 'that neck of the woods' they tarried to take testimony. Some witnesses had been subpoenaed. Others pressed forward in the grand cause. Close to the door was an aged farmer, who eyed the 'senator men' from Washington in wonderment.

" 'See that that old duffer don't get a chance to testify,' said one of the busy New Mexican workers to an official of the subcommittee. 'He's cranky,' which Pickwickian observation was accompanied with a wise wink and a slight tapping of the head.

"However, when the Indiana Senator asked if anyone else wished to be heard, the aged farmer, who told the Senators he was born in old Mexico, pressed forward. There was nothing to do but let him talk. He launched into a diatribe against Statehood.

"The incident has been brought fresh to mind since Congress took a recess by a report from Las Cruces that when the old farmer returned to his domicile his good wife met him at the threshold and administered a sound beating. The neighbors took it up, siding with the Amazon, and there have been veritable hot times for that aged Mexican around his own hacienda." Ibid., Jan. 5, 1903.


65 The Durango (Colo.) Evening Herald for Jan. 15, 1903, referred to secret opposition within New Mexico as follows: "It is reported that certain New Mexico officials, while outwardly working for statehood, are secretly opposing admission, as it would cost them their positions. Such policy does not reflect much credit on them."

66 Journal-Democrat. August 18, 1903.

67 Deming Headlight, June 27, 1903. The Headlight declared "Many of our people feel grateful to Teddy for beating statehood, but as he did this work under cover, there is no special reason for special demonstration of this feeling of gratitude." Ibid., April 11, 1903.

When the Citizen appealed to the people of Luna County to rebuke the Headlight for its opposition to Statehood, that paper assured editor Hughes "four fifths of the voters of Luna County are opposed to your statehood schemes." Ibid., Sept. 19, 1903.


Marion Dargan, New Mexico’s Fight for Statehood, 1895-1912: The Silencing of the Opposition at Home." New Mexico Historical Review ( 16 no. 4, October 1941):379-400. Copyright by the University of New Mexico Board of Regents. Posted electronically by permission. All rights reserved.
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