The Lost State of Jefferson

California is one of the largest and most populous states in the union, and it has often been suggested that it be split into multiple states. One proposed division would cut parts of Oregon and California to create a new state between the two.

The additional state was first proposed in 1852 with a bill at the California State Legislature meeting in Vallejo, but the bill died in committee.

In 1941, the idea was again proposed. It was felt that the state legislatures were not in sync with the needs of the rural areas on the borders, where lumber and fishing were the major industries. The needs of these groups were different from the large agricultural valleys or the growing urban areas, and the residents were frustrated by the poor quality of their roads –and the failure of either Oregon’s or California’s officials to pay attention to their concerns.

The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors came up with $100 to research the possibility, and a citizens commission was formed. The commission declared the existence of the State of Jefferson, and announced that they would “secede every Thursday until further notice.” They also elected a president and put on some publicity stunts, dressing up as cowboys with guns and stopping travelers to announce that they were in the state of Jefferson.

The attack on Pearl Harbor and the entry into World War II derailed the effort. The president of the mythical state sent out a statement which said in part

The State of Jefferson was originated for the sole purpose of calling the attention of the proper authorities…to the fact we have immense deposits of strategic and necessary defense minerals and that we need roads to develop those. We have accomplished that purpose and henceforth all of our efforts will be directed toward assisting our States and Federal Government in the defense of our Country.

It was not until 2013 that the idea came up again. Over the next two years several counties voted in favor of the idea.  In January, 2015, five counties filed paperwork with the state to separate from the larger jurisdictions. The individual who hand-carried the paperwork to the State House reported that the people he tried to hand the papers to were unwilling to take them and didn’t know what to do with them.

It isn’t enough to declare a state, though, even under the Tennessee Plan. In order for part of a state to become a new state, the old states — in this case, Oregon and California — must agree. Congress would also have to approve the plan.The U.S. Constitution (Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1) puts it like this:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

Five states have formed by leaving a larger state, so there is precedent. However, the proposed State of Jefferson, like the State of Forgottonia, was born as a publicity stunt, a way to get legislators to listen to a smaller or less prosperous region within their borders.

Jefferson doesn’t have a constitution. They haven’t held a referendum among their residents. They haven’t gotten approval from the legislatures in California and Oregon. They haven’t communicated with the U.S. Congress. They don’t even have any clear reason for demanding statehood.

Puerto Rico, by contrast, is ready for statehood. PR has had a constitution since 1952, military service since 1917,  multiple votes on statehood in 1993, 1998 and 2010,  and in the latest the majority voted for statehood. Let your legislators know that you support Puerto Rico’s right to enter the Union.

One Comment

bootcamp808

English needs to be the primary language of use in Puerto Rico. Been there and the island may look like the USA until you speak with the locals. You get a response back in English in the hotels in San Juan, but travel to the more rural parts of the island and you are suddenly transported to Spanish speaking Latin America.

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