Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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ENABLING ACT (1906)

A controversy concerning single Oklahoma statehood or admission as two states (one formed from Oklahoma Territory and one from Indian Territory) proceeded throughout the 1890s and into the first years of the twentieth century. After the introduction of a bill for admitting Indian Territory as the State of Sequoyah sank in Congress in December 1905-January 1906, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt recommended joint statehood. In the Fifty-ninth Congress seven bills were introduced to accomplish this. The issue was complicated by a proposal to admit the territories of Arizona and New Mexico as one state. This latter was a sticking point, and considerable controversy surrounded the writing of a suitable bill. A compromise achieved in early June 1906 provided for the admission of Arizona and New Mexico as one state, if their populations so agreed in separate elections, and admission of Oklahoma and Indian Territory as one, upon writing and ratifying a constitution. The Senate approved on June 13, the House on June 14, and the president on June 16.

The movement for statehood thus culminated in June 1906 with the passage of the Enabling Bill, setting in motion the process of establishing constitutional state government. The Enabling Act empowered the people of the Oklahoma and Indian territories to elect delegates to a constitutional convention and set up a state capital temporarily at Guthrie, in former Oklahoma Territory. The capital was to remain at Guthrie until 1913 and thereafter would be located permanently by electors chosen at a statewide election that would be called by the legislature.

The act included several stipulations that must appear in a constitution. Freedom of religion was to be preserved. Polygamy and plural marriage were prohibited. Prohibition of the manufacture, sale, barter, or gift of liquor was mandated for twenty-one years, after which time the constitution could be amended for or against. A dispensary system was to be established for the distribution of medicinal alcohol, and sale of denatured alcohol was allowed for industrial use. Among other provisions was one for the establishment of public schools, which were to be nonsectarian and were to be conducted in English. The right to vote was extended to all males of any race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Oklahoma was to have five representatives in addition to the customary two senators in Congress. Judicial districts and a Supreme Court were mandated. The Osage Indian Reservation, heretofore with no organized government, was to be a separate county. These items having been embodied in an appropriate instrument of government and approved by the people, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Oklahoma a state on November 16, 1907.

SEE ALSO: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS, INDIAN TERRITORY, OKLAHOMA TERRITORY, SEQUOYAH CONVENTION, SETTLEMENT PATTERNS, STATEHOOD MOVEMENT.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Roy Gittinger, The Formation of the State of Oklahoma, 1803-1906 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939). Luther B. Hill, A History of the State of Oklahoma, 2 vols. (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1908.) Robert L. Williams, The Constitution and Enabling Act of the State of Oklahoma, Annotated (Kansas City, Mo.: Pipes-Read Book Co., 1912).

Dianna Everett

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