Among their many other services, the Law Library of Iowa sends out useful information out to libraries around the state. I thought this one was interesting enough that I wanted to share it. Ms. Easter was kind enough to give me permission to repost it here in full.
Happy Fourth of July! Here in the Law Library, we field lots of questions about our state’s constitution, which has a rather colorful history. Iowa had three constitutional conventions–in 1844, 1846 and 1857. The template for the 1844 draft was the Organic Act for the Territory of Wisconsin. The 1844 convention proposed state boundaries that encompassed a good-sized chunk of Minnesota. When Congress reviewed Iowa’s proposed constitution, its members objected to those borders. Iowa voters then rejected their first constitution because of the boundary question, which delayed the state’s admission to the Union. The 1846 convention modified the proposed state borders and banned banks that printed and issued notes. The 1857 constitution was drafted because of the soon-perceived problems with the 1846 document. The 1857 convention included many interesting arguments about matters such as race. The new constitution was drafted over 39 days in February and March of 1857. It was narrowly approved at a referendum in August and went into effect by proclamation of the Governor on September 3, 1857. Since then, Iowa’s constitution has been amended 48 times, but the basic document still remains. It is now one of the older state constitutions still in force.
If your library has any edition of the Code of Iowa in print, Iowa’s original and codified constitutions are both in the front of Volume I. The codified version of the constitution is available electronically at [www.legis.iowa.gov]. Click on “Iowa Law & Rules” (in the top tool bar) and then “Constitution” in the left-hand navigation bar (the U.S. Constitution is also posted here). Article X is entitled “Amendments to the Constitution” and outlines the procedure by which our constitution can be changed. The history of Iowa’s constitution has been printed in every edition of the IOWA OFFICIAL REGISTER since the mid-1970s.
You and your patrons can read and keyword-search the debates that took place during the drafting of the third constitution in the scanned version of the two-volume set entitled THE DEBATES OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION OF THE STATE OF IOWA ASSEMBLED AT IOWA CITY, MONDAY, JANUARY 19, 1857 on the State Library’s website. Click on the “For Iowans” tab, then “Law Library” and then “Constitution of the State of Iowa.”
James Madison, the fourth President, said, “A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.” Books have shaped thoughts, changed minds, started revolutions and influenced attitudes across all generations. Libraries play a key role in providing information critical for informed decision making. A publicly-supported library provides free and equal access to information for all people of that community. We enjoy this basic right in our democratic society and it is a core value of the library profession. Andrew Carnegie said, “There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the free public library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receive the slightest consideration.” So carry on, you noble public servants, and light a sparkler in honor of our nation’s libraries!
Mandy Easter, Law Librarian
Iowa Library Services/State Library – Law Library