On Thursday, June 16, 1910, the United States Congress finally agreed to allow New Mexico to become a State, ending a quest that had begun 62 years before.
The delay was partly New Mexico’s fault. In their first bid for statehood in 1848, New Mexico’s citizens had stipulated that they enter the Union as a free (non-slave) state. That requirement guaranteed that the slave-holding states would oppose New Mexico’s entry.
But a little opposition never has kept New Mexico from trying again. There were at least three other attempts to gain Congressional approval—in 1850, 1875, and 1902.
When Congress approved a process in 1906 for a combined state of New Mexico/Arizona, it looked like success was in sight. New Mexico voted for the proposal. However, Arizona voters rejected the plan.
Then in 1908, William Howard Taft became President. During the campaign, he’d pledged to make New Mexico a state. He kept his word. His Republican-controlled House and Senate approved legislation that initiated the formal process for Statehood and Taft signed it into law on Saturday, June 18, 1910.
A year and a half later, those formalities were completed and, on Saturday, January 6, 1912, President William H. Taft signed the formal proclamation that approved New Mexico’s entry into the Union. New Mexico was finally a state.
So the next time someone tells you that Presidents never keep their campaign promises, remember President Taft and the case of New Mexico statehood.
Sources: Thomas C. Donnelly, The Government of New Mexico. UNM Press: Albuquerque, 1953; David V. Holtby, Forty-Seventh Star, New Mexico’s struggle for statehood. University of Oklahoma press: Norman, 2012; Marc Simmons, New Mexico, an interpretive history, UNM Press, Albuquerque, 1988