The current significance of our 23rd President. Hell, I’ll bet the majority of you don’t even know or care who the 23rd president was. Well, this one-term president, who was elected in 1888 was a Republican Senator from Indiana that served as a Colonel for the Union Army in the American Civil War. He was also the grandson of our 9th President. Is that enough clues or are you ready for me to tell you his name is Benjamin Harrison.
Now let me tell you why this is currently significant. It has to do with two of our least populated states – the Dakotas. The Enabling act of 1889, allowed North Dakota and South Dakota to form state governments and to gain admission as states of the union. (Montana and Washington were also admitted under this act.) Up until that time, Congress had been predominantly Democratic until Harrison took office, and the admission of the two Dakotas gifted the House with a Republican majority.
Even today, there is little or no other reason for this sparsely populated region to have 4 Senators and their respective electoral college votes. Combined, they would rank 40th in population of states, slightly ahead of Hawaii and behind Idaho. By comparison, the population of the two Carolina’s is tens times that of the Dakotas. More to the point, the combined Dakota’s with a population of 1.5 million inhabitants has as many Senators as does California and Texas, which has a combined population of nearly 65 million people (over 20% of the entire U.S. population). Fortunately, in recent times, the Dakota’s have split their loyalties by electing both Democratic and Republican Senators.
To be fair, I know President Benjamin Harrison at least tried to do a lot of good for this country, including works on civil rights, where in 1889, he appeared before Congress and made the following statement, “The colored people did not intrude themselves upon us; they were brought here in chains and held in communities where they are now chiefly bound by a cruel slave code…when and under what conditions is the black man to have a free ballot? When is he in fact to have those full civil rights which have so long been his in law? When is that quality of influence which our form of government was intended to secure to the electors to be restored?”. History shows however, many of his attempted measures were met with resistance and ultimately failed.
Also of interest, is when European settlers began earnestly exploring this area, due to gold being found in 1874 in the sacred “Black Hills” of the Sioux tribe, this greatly increased hostilities with the native Sioux people and in one of the great ironies of this country, “dakota” is the Sioux word for “friends” or “allies”. History of European settlers is wrought with this theme and I’d bet you thought the story line in the blockbuster movie Avatar was original? However, the Natives prevail only in Hollywood story lines. Never in reality.