Nebraska 150: A Reminder That Constant Change Isn’t New

Chris Peterson

Chris Peterson

Post written by Chris Peterson | Managing Partner, Nebraska

2017 is a milestone in Nebraska history and offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the past, assess the present and contemplate the future while recognizing constant change isn’t new.

When Nebraska became a state 150 years ago, the change in America and in Nebraska, specifically, was remarkable. The 1860’s witnessed the Civil War – a profound event in the history of our nation, the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and the passage of both the Homestead Act and the Pacific Railway Act.

President Lincoln signed the Pacific Railway Act of 1862 which directed the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads to develop a transcontinental railroad. The Union Pacific started its share of the project in Omaha, stretching west across the Plains and the Rocky Mountains to meet up with the Central Pacific at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869. The Central Pacific had begun its march eastward from Sacramento and similarly had to cross mountain ranges. Read more about the fascinating history of Union Pacific here: http://www.up.com/timeline/index.cfm/

Also in 1862, President Lincoln signed the Homestead Act which granted 160 acres of land to any head of household willing to live on the land for at least five years. Altogether 270 million acres of land or ten percent of the area of the United States was claimed under the Homestead Act. Today, Homestead National Monument in Nebraska serves as a historic, cultural and educational resource about the settling of the American West and homesteading. Read more from the National Park Service here:  https://www.nps.gov/home/index.htm

Nebraska 150In 1864, in advance of his re-election, President Lincoln sought statehood for Colorado, Nebraska and Nevada apparently believing they would deliver their electoral votes to him in the presidential contest. That year Nebraska couldn’t settle on a state constitution and Colorado voters rejected a state constitution.

However, Nevada took the steps needed to be eligible for statehood and Congress approved statehood in time for the Silver State to participate in the 1864 election. It would be another three years (two years after Lincoln’s assassination) before Nebraska would become a state.

When statehood did happen for Nebraska, it was the result of a veto override; Nebraska is the only state admitted to the union as the result of a veto override. The statehood back-story involves civil rights and federalism and came on the heels of the Civil War. A good and brief history lesson on Nebraska’s admission to the union in 1867 can be found at the CSG Midwest website here: http://www.csgmidwest.org/policyresearch/1015-Nebraska-statehood.aspx

Thinking about how the Homestead Act, Pacific Railway Act and Nebraska statehood took place 150 or more years ago, it’s amazing the change or disruption in American society taking place in the 1860’s. Add to it the Civil War and Lincoln’s assassination, and clearly, America’s culture, economy, and way of life were being turned upside down.

Today, the pace of change and disruption to our society as a result of innovations in technology and healthcare, the threat of global terrorism, and cultural change has similarly pulled America into the future just as happened with the events and change 150 years ago.

Some reflection on the past can provide some reassurance about where we are today and where we are headed tomorrow.

After all, constant change isn’t new.

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