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United States History/Nevada History for CH 203: Nevada Constitution

An examination of resources associated with the United States and Nevada Constitutions, The Declaration of Independence and associated documents, as well as Nevada history resources

Nevada Constitution

The Nevada Constitution

This is a vital are for any class that addresses the Nevada Constitution requirement, yet in past years coverage of this area was spotty at best. The resources below are intended to provide options to instructors and students for exploring the Nevada Constitution in a diverse variety of formats and approaches.

2A: The Constitution

There are three versions of the Nevada Constitution included here:

The first is the current, online version with all updates and amendments, as maintained by the Nevada Legislature. 

The second is a modified version of the original text with amendments included.

The third is the original 1864 text without amendments.

There are various reasons why you might want to use one rather than another. The current version is best for understanding the current state of the constitution after more than 100 amendments. The modified version with plain text and modifications is easier to read: it’s in a bigger font, and  there aren’t all those distracting hyperlinks to get past. You can also print and annotate it. Finally, the original 1864 version is useful from a historical perspective: if you want to see the original intent of the framers of the Nevada Constitution, complete with Roop County and no distracting later changes, this is the version to go for.

As an instructor, you can simply ask yourself which version of the Nevada Constitution suits your class’ needs and goals. And if you have a choice as a student, you might want to ask yourself which version suits your needs and interests best.

1. Current online Nevada Constitution:

2. The original version of the 1864 Constitution with amendments and changes, but in an easier-to-read print format in PDF, maintained by TMCC:

3. The original, unchanged Nevada Constitution from 1864, without amendments:

(This document is in process of being uploaded to TMCC Library Guide for the Nevada Constitution with original text preceded by introduction and discussion/writing questions. The actual electronic files are included as part of the Appendices to this report.)

4. Minutes of the Nevada Constitutional Convention. This is the raw source, handwritten and digitized, page by page. It is a fascinating account and a great opportunity to explore archival work as professional historians do it: reading handwritten documents and deciphering them to make sense of the past.


2B: Writings About the Nevada Constitution on its 145th Anniversary

An opinion piece in the Las Vegas Sun advocating for changes to the Nevada Constitution:

A press release from the US National Archives on the 145th Anniversary of the Nevada Constitution:

Nevada State Archives 145th Anniversary Background Piece with Questions and Answers, History, and Further Reading:

2C: Useful Videos About the Nevada Constitution

The US and Nevada Constitutions 2019 from Oxford University Press (1:00:55)

The 36th Star: Nevada's Journey from Territory to State: A Short Video from the Nevada Museum of Art Featuring Governor Brian Sandoval (13:05)

Primary Source

The Nevada State Constitution 

The Nevada Constitution is one of the key documents of CH 203, after the Constitution for the United States. Our textbook talks about how Nevada came to be a state: Republican Party officials and President Lincoln himself feared that Lincoln would lose the 1864 presidential election to Democrat George McClellan due to the unpopularity of the drawn-our Civil War. Looking for a few extra electoral votes, they agreed to break off the western half of the Utah Territory and make it a new state: Nevada. (Utah itself did not gain statehood until 1896.) Thus, Nevada was “Battle Born” as much in an electoral battle as in the battle between North and South.

The original 1864 text of the Nevada Constitution was the product of a constitutional convention with thirty-nine delegates from July 4-28 in Carson City. Thirty-four of those thirty-nine delegates came to Nevada from California, so they based the constitution heavily on California’s, but with some interesting differences. Likewise, while heavily based on the U.S. Constitution, Nevada’s constitution differs in significant ways. Watch for them.

Once the Convention had drafted a constitution, Nevada voters approved it in September, and by October, Nevada was ready for statehood. The problem was that Lincoln wanted to see the constitution before he would grant statehood, and there was no time to send it by train, so two telegraphers spent twelve hours on October 26, 1864, typing the entire constitution into the telegraph. Since telegraph companies charged by the word, the bill for the 16, 543 word document added up to $4303.27.This made it the longest telegraph message ever sent at the time, and that record lasted until 1881, when someone telegraphed the text of the Bible across the Atlantic Ocean, just to do it.

The state has amended the Nevada Constitution over 100 times, and it has not done so with numbered amendments at the end, but rather by inserting or deleting text in the document. This makes following along with changes difficult, but do your best if you review a version of the Nevada Constitution that includes the changes. The version I have included with these questions does not include the amendments: it is just the original 1864 text. That means we don’t get to see later changes (at least not here) but we also get a good look at the pure, original document as the state’s founders created it in 1864. As you read, think about the following:

1. How is the Nevada Constitution similar to the U.S. Constitution, both specifically and generally?

2. How is it different? Look for specific differences and consider why they are different in the Nevada Constitution.

3. What specific industries get a mention in the Nevada Constitution? Why? What does this tell us about the power those industries wielded, and about the priorities of the convention delegates?

4. What specific mention does the Nevada Constitution make on taxation? Why is this significant, and does it tend to limit or expand the state government’s power?

5. What specific individual rights does the Nevada Constitution guarantee? Which does it restrict? Overall, does the Nevada Constitution provide for more or less individual freedom than the U.S. Constitution? Why?

6. What provisions are there for the people to exercise direct democracy in Nevada? What does that tell us about the intent of the convention delegates on the relationship between the people and the government? Does this make the Nevada Constitution more or less democratic than the U.S. Constitution? Why?

7. What does the Nevada Constitution say about education? Why might this be significant, and what does it tell us about the attitude of Nevada’s elite toward the importance of education in 1864? How does it fit with the larger movement of Land Grant Colleges in the U.S. at the time?

8. Overall, what sort of society does the Nevada Constitution seem to envision? Why?

9. Which provision of the Nevada Constitution did you find most interesting or surprising? Why?

10. Which provision of the Nevada Constitution do you think is most important? Why?

The Original Oak Display Case for the Nevada Constitution in Carson City

The Original Telegraph Cover Sheet for the Nevada Constitution Message, 1864

Yes, this is a primary text! And if you want to know how many words were in the telegram (people argue about this) or the exact price paid (people argue about this too), you can just look at the handwritten note tat the bottom of the page: easy! This is why we use primary sources: to verify facts at the original source. You can use this same technique when looking up just about anything. Primary sources can be wrong too, but they are a good starting point for verification.