Minnesota, United States of America (State) 1911 Profile, #09: Government


The state is governed under the constitution adopted on the 13th of October 1857 and frequently amended. By an amendment of 1898 an amendment may be suggested by a majority of both houses of the legislature and comes into effect if approved by a majority of all electors voting at the general election at which the amendment is voted upon; if two or more amendments are submitted at the same election voters shall vote for or against each amendment separately. For the revision of the constitution it is necessary that two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the legislature vote for the call of a constitutional convention, that a majority of all electors voting at the next general election approve the call for the convention, and that the convention consist of as many members as the house of representatives, who shall be chosen in the same manner, and shall meet within three months after the general 1 At International Falls on Rainy River and at Duluth on the St Louis immense water-power is utilized for manufacturing.

2 By the state census of 1905 the total population was 1,979,912 (1,060,412 males and 909,275 females-excluding Indians from the sex classification), of whom 537,041 were foreign-born, 10,929 were Indians, 5113 were negroes, 171 were Chinese, and 50 were Japanese.

election at which it is voted. The executive department consists of a governor, lieutenant-governor, secretary of state, treasurer and attorney-general, elected biennially in November of the even-numbered years, and an auditor elected at the same time every four years. The veto power of the governor (since 1876) extends to separate sections of appropriation bills. The judicial department comprises a supreme court consisting of a chief justice and (since 1881) four associate justices elected for terms of six years, and lower courts consisting of district courts with original jurisdiction in civil cases in law and equity, and in criminal cases upon indictments by grand juries; justices' courts, in which the amount in litigation cannot exceed $ioo, or the punishment cannot exceed three months' imprisonment or a fine of $loo; and of municipal and probate courts with the usual jurisdictions. The legislative department consists of a senate of sixty-three members elected for four years, and a house of representatives of one hundred and nineteen members, elected for two years, the remuneration being mileage and $50o a year. The reapportionment of congressional, senatorial and representative districts is made in the first legislative session after the state census, which has been taken in every tenth year since 1865. The legislature meets biennially in odd-numbered years, the session being limited to ninety days by a constitutional amendment of 1888. A majority of all the members elected to each house is required for the passage of a bill, and a two-thirds majority is necessary to pass a bill over the governor's veto. All bills for raising revenue must originate in the House of Representatives, but the senate may propose and concur with amendments as on other bills. Expenditures from the fund known as " The Internal Improvement Land Fund," derived from the sale of state lands, can be made only after the enactment for that purpose has been approved by the voters of the state; in 1881 the legislature, and in 1884 the popular vote, pledged the proceeds of this fund to the payment of Minnesota state railway adjustment bonds. Taxation must be uniform only within classes of property prescribed by the legislature. An Australian ballot law was enacted in 1891; the qualifications for electors (adopted in 1896) require that the voter be at least twenty-one years old, that he shall have been a full citizen of the United States for three months prior to the election, and shall have lived in the state six months and in the election district thirty days. Women (since 1898) may vote for school officers and members of library boards, and are eligible for election to any office pertaining to the management of schools or libraries. A constitutional amendment in regard to local government adopted in 1898 provides that any city or village, by a foursevenths vote of its electors, may adopt a charter drawn by a commission (appointed by the local district judges) and proposed by such commission within six months of its appointment.

An amendment to the constitution adopted in November 1888 declares that any combination or pool to affect the markets for food products is a " criminal conspiracy, and shall be punished in such manner as the legislature may provide." A homestead which is owned and occupied by a debtor as his dwelling place is exempt from seizure or sale for debts other than taxes, those secured by a mortgage on it, or those incurred for its improvement or repair, or for services performed by labourers or servants. But a homestead so exempted may not be larger than one-fourth of an acre if it is in an incorporated place having a population of 5000 or more, than half an acre if it is in an incorporated place having a population of less than 5000, or than eighty acres if it is outside an incorporated place. In case the owner is married the homestead cannot be sold or mortgaged, except for an unpaid portion of the purchase money, without the joinder of husband and wife, and if the owner dies leaving a spouse or minor children, the homestead with its exemptions descends to the surviving member or members of the family. If the owner is a husband and he deserts his family, the wife and minor children may retain the homestead. Under the laws of the state the legal existence and legal personality of a woman are not affected by marriage, and the property rights of a husband and wife are nearly equal. A husband may, however, convey his real estate, other than a homestead, by his separate deed, whereas a wife's deed for her real estate is void without the joinder of her husband. If either husband or wife dies intestate and there are no descendants the whole of the estate passes to the survivor; if there are descendants the surviving spouse has the use of the homestead for the remainder of his or her life, an absolute title to one-third of the other real estate of the deceased, and to personal property limited to $1000 besides wearing apparel. The grounds for an absolute divorce in Minnesota are adultery, impotence, cruel and inhuman treatment, sentence to state prison or state reformatory subsequent to the marriage, desertion or habitual drunkenness for one year next preceding the application for a divorce. Before applying for an absolute divorce the plaintiff must have resided in the state for the year next preceding, unless the cause of action is adultery committed while the plaintiff was a resident of the state. A wife may at any time sue for a limited divorce from her husband on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment, of such conduct as to render life with him unsafe and improper, or of abandonment and refusal or neglect to provide for her, if both parties are inhabitants of the state or their marriage took place in the state. A law of 1909 provides for a women's and children's department in the state bureau of labour.

The sale of intoxicating liquors is for the most part regulated by licences, but the granting of licences may be prohibited within any town or incorporated village by its legal voters, and the question must be submitted to popular vote upon the request of ten legal voters.

NOTE: This article is an historical reference based on the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, now in the Public Domain. The text is provided through scanning and OCR conversion. There may be transcription errors in the article. Encyclopedia style: 1) For reasons of cost and academic writing style, the paragraphs are long in length. 2) Contributors to articles are sometimes identified by their initials in parentheses at the end of the article. 3) Some articles include a section called "Authorities," a record of all the sources used when writing the article. 4) Information is based on knowledge available in 1911 and may be inaccurate, especially in the areas of science, law, and ethnography. 5) Images and diagrams from the original are not included with article. 6) Do not use this information for medical or legal guidance or any research requiring current information.

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      "Minnesota, United States of America," Encyclopedia Britannica, Volume 18, Medal to Mumps (11th ed.), (New York: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911); digital edition, ( : posted 15 Jan 2013)

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