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Back Story: Second Constitutional Convention - Part One

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SECOND CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION
PART ONE
BY PATRICIA D. CAFFERATA, ESQ.
Nevada Territorial Secretary Orrin Clemens called the Nevada Supreme Court bench when Justice Cornelius the first Constitutional Convention to order in November Brosnan died during his term in 1867. Johnson served on 1863. The delegates met for 32 days, adopted a state the bench until 1870. constitution and proposed a slate of officials. When their Among the more prominent delegates to the second work was presented, the voters rejected the proposed convention was Irishman Cornelius Brosnan. An unusually constitution and candidates. The constitution was trained lawyer, he actually studied law in school (Plattsburg unpopular for several reasons, but the most important College in New York state). In those days, the customary complaint was that the document was perceived as unfair route to become an attorney was to study the law under to mining (the major industry in the territory at the time). another attorney. In 1862, Brosnan moved to Virginia City The proposal was to tax all mines, shafts, tunnels and and served with J. Neely Johnson in the first and second drifts, regardless of whether they were constitutional conventions. From productive or not. Storey County, Brosnan was elected After the first constitution to the Nevada Supreme Court in 1864, Delegates was rejected, a second Nevada for a term to end in 1870, but he died to Second Constitutional Convention was held in in 1867. Governor Henry Blasdel Constitutional Carson City on July 4, 1864. Thirtyappointed Johnson to complete Convention nine men had been elected from Brosnan’s term. Cornelius Brosnan Another important lawyer to across the state, but only 35 of them Charles DeLong actually attended the convention. All serve in the constitutional convention edmund Francis Dunne was Storey County delegate, Thomas the delegates were Republicans or Thomas Fitch Unionists, except for Francis Proctor Fitch. Before he moved to Nevada, Lloyd Frizell from Nye County. Eleven of the 35 he served in the California Assembly albert Hawley in 1863. Known as an eloquent delegates were lawyers representing J(ohn). Neely Johnson Storey, Humboldt, Ormsby (Carson speaker and orator, Fitch’s nickname Francis (Frank) Kennedy was “Silver-Tongued Orator of the City), Lyon, Washoe, Nye and Lander George nourse counties. Storey County (Virginia Pacific.” After the Nevada convention, Francis Proctor City) sent four delegates and each of he became the district attorney of James Warwick Washoe County. In 1868, he was the other counties sent one lawyer to Those delegates whose names appear in bold type the convention. elected on the Republican ticket to are referenced in the article. Some of the lawyers went on to Congress by 881 votes, but he lost his have distinguished careers, others reelection effort by 330 votes in 1870. served in local office and a few faded The Second Constitutional Convention lasted 21 days, and the constitution was adopted out of sight. At the second convention, the delegates elected lawyer J. Neely Johnson from Ormsby County as by a vote of 19 to 2. Under the new constitution the mines were to be taxed on the proceeds of the productive mines, not president of the convention. In 1856, the voters elected him governor of California, a member of the American on their land. On October 12, the people voted and passed Party (“Know Nothings”), but his party failed to rethe constitution by 10,371 votes to 1,284. Nevada became a state on October 31, 1864. nominate him for the position. He moved to Nevada, and the people in Ormsby County elected him as a delegate to the first and second Nevada Constitutional conventions in 1863 and 1864. After statehood, he was appointed to AuThOR’S BIOGRAPhy on page 9.
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Nevada Lawyer February 2013

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