Arizona Statehood and the Progressive Movement

Arizona Statehood


  1. i) The Pre-territorial Period. 1

(1) The Spanish Period. 1

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(2) The Mexican Period. 1

  1. ii) The Territorial Period. 2

iii) The impact of the Progressive Movement on the Arizona constitution. 3

Declaration of Rights. 3

Ballot Initiatives. 3

Recall of Judges. 5

Part II: Arizona Constitution. 5

  1. i) Branches of government, powers and functions. 5
  2. ii) Procedures for amending the Arizona Constitution. 6

iii) Reflective analysis on the amendment process for the Arizona Constitution. 6

i) The Pre-territorial Period

(1) The Spanish Period

After the successful Spanish occupation of Arizona and the other parts of America, there was a considerable duration of time that an expansive region became under the control of the Spanish. Arizona was among the regions that the Spanish foreign territory targets toward the late 1700s. The other regions that this occupation majorly targeted and successfully seized from the Native American communities include Texas, New Mexico, and California. Spanish missions that secretly gather information about the Americas for the government were the first massive arrivals of the Spaniards in Arizona (Bommersbach, 2010). The Jesuits and Franciscans set the pace for Spanish occupation of the territory which took momentum following local revolts leading to reinforcements. Pima Indian Revolts in 1751 provoked such reinforcements as the construction of Tubac Presidio and subsequent replacement of Jesuits by Franciscans by the government. The Spanish links continued as the area became an overseas territory that the monarch controlled by mid 18th century. Meanwhile, territorial expansion by the Spanish was going on to cover the Mexican region which had a viceroy recognizing it in the Spanish political organization (Arizona Chronology, n.d). There were several wars between the Native Americans and the Spanish colonists attempting to take over their territory which resulted in massacres of the natives. This period ended in 1821 following the War of Independence that the natives and the colonists engaged in, necessitating signing of Treaty of Cordoba.

(2) The Mexican Period

Major developments were happening in the American Spanish territory by the second decade of the 19th century leading to expulsion of the colonial power in Mexico and other major territories in the Northern American region. In an attempt to regain its lost glory in the hands of the Spanish colonialist, Mexico immediately claimed land northwards covering up to Arizona. The Americans reorganized for about two decades and started to regain their land that was in the hands of the Mexicans. Among the confrontations that the Americans engaged the Mexicans for their territory include the Texas War of 1835 that took a year in favor of the Americans, where Mexico weakness exposed it to further territorial losses. The Mexican War of 1846-48 for instance led to surrender of New Mexico, California and some part of Arizona up to Gila River (Leshy, 1988).

(3) U.S. Controlled Period

After recapturing of a bit of Arizona from the hands of the Mexicans in 1948, the desire of full control of the Arizona territory was to be sought by all means due to the discovery of gold in California. Arizona territory that the Americans were advocating for was in contention and unknown stretch of the claim only added to the controversy and standoff. This led to a series of surveys to establish the actual territorial claim that the Americans could take over as own territory. This led to several attempts and negotiations that resulted in the signing of Gadsden Purchase. Under the agreement, Arizona territory was extended from Gila River southwards to the current boundary. The U.S controlled period ended in 1853 with the Gadsden Purchase which placed the whole of the Arizona territory in the US hands (Leshy, 1988).

 ii) The Territorial Period

Petitions were placed from 1856 to the US Congress to recognize Arizona as a separate territory from New Mexico which was realized in 1862 after the Civil War. However, California and New Mexico could not easily give out the territory, even after becoming a Confederate territory in 1862. President Abraham Lincoln stamped the establishment of Arizona Territory by appointing Territorial officials in 1863. Territorial Capitol establishment takes a definite process moving from a number of cities including Camp Whipple, Prescott, Tucson, and Phoenix while territorial population grew. Local Apache revolts were however continuously experienced throughout the statehood journey, with a few massacres happening to illustrate the tensions with the native Indians until 1886 when Geronimo surrendered. Arizona officially became a state on 14 February 1912 after President Taft admitted it through recall of judges (Leshy, 1988).

iii) The impact of the Progressive Movement on Arizona constitution

Among the delegates that steered the design of the Arizona constitution were advocates of progressivism that could increase reforms in the American context of constitutional dispensation. The following influences are among those that this group contributed to the design of the Arizona constitution.

Declaration of Rights

There was a huge departure from ordinary constitutional practice of legislative powers on the declaration of rights. According to Leshy (1988), religion, punishment and protections for those accused and right to bear arms are particularly reflective of the Progressive Movement influence in the Arizona constitution. For instance, constitutionalization of judicial standards which spurred debate among the delegates illustrates how progressive and reform oriented the Declaration of Rights is in Arizona constitution.

Ballot Initiatives

Inclusion of the powers of the citizenry to make legal contributions in the national front is a rare privilege enjoyed by only 24 states across the US (Kiley, 2010). Through calculated efforts by the progressivism advocates in the constitution making process, the citizens in Arizona can petition the entire country to consider certain legal provisions to be a part of the state’s jurisprudence.



Recall of Judges

Arizona’s constitution is one of the most reflective of the people’s supremacy over their state since initial attempts to exclude the public capacity to recall judges was thwarted. Underperforming judges would be recalled through constitutional powers after the constitutional convention allowed inclusion of the recall of judges’ provision which was signed by the president on 14th February 1912 (Scott, 2011). However, the application of the provision is rarely put into practice due to various difficulties (McClory and McClory 2011).

Part II: Arizona Constitution

Summarizing the powers and functions of the three branches of Arizona’s government:

i) Branches of government, powers and functions

The three branches of the Arizona government as included in the constitution include the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.

Executive Powers and Functions

  • Mimic those of the presidency of the US
  • power to veto appropriation bills
  • appointing executive officials
  • overall governance of the State Affairs

Legislature Powers and Functions

  • checking powers of the executive
  • making laws
  • debating state issues
  • approving the state’s budget

Judiciary Powers and Functions

  • interpreting the law
  • administering the justice system
  • making laws (precedence)

ii) Procedures for amending the Arizona Constitution

  • The public or the legislature have amendment powers
  • Amendment proposal is presented to the legislature for approval
  • If approved, it is passed to the electorate for approval through a referendum
  • The public can also propose amendment through a collection of signatures
  • Upon passing the threshold of required signatures, the proposed amendment is subjected to a referendum

iii) Reflective analysis of the amendment process for the Arizona Constitution

The amendment process in Arizona is perhaps one of the fairest processes among the American states. Inclusion of various sections of the population in the constitutional processes is beneficial particularly for the improvement of democracy and establishment of reform roots in governance. In fairness terms, a clear public and government agencies’ involvement point at a balanced and fair constitutional framework in Arizona.

The power accorded to the people cannot be said to be too much in terms of the need for a constitutional balance of power and checks. For a completely balanced constitutional checks system, the public must also possess significant potential to involve errant practices for appropriate correction. However, in terms of democratic representation, allowing the public such powers could be interpreted as duplication of powers already donated to the representative institutions such as the legislature.

On one hand, the progressive framers would be satisfied with the implementation of the constitution in Arizona. This is because the general outlook of the constitution can be used to rate it as a progressive and largely populist. The involvement of the public in various democratic practices is a huge score by the constitution. A clearly defined constitutional provision in the Declaration of Rights is, for instance, an important strength that the framers can be proud of for implementation results. Amendments made to the constitution are also reminiscent of the flexibility of the constitution to keep up with the pace of developments in the democratic space as progressivism needs. On the other hand, a few hitches such as little implementation of recall provision could be a letdown to the framers (McClory and McClory 2011).


  1. “Arizona Chronology,” Retrieved from
  2. Bommersbach, J. (2010) “Arizona’s Statehood Story,” Retrieved from
  3. Kiley, K. (2010) “Arizona Ballot Initiatives More Successful with Professional Help,” Retrieved from
  4. Leshy, J. D. (1988) “The Making of the Arizona Constitution” Retrieved from
  5. McClory, Thomas and McClory, Toni (2011) “Arizona’s Direct Democracy,” Retrieved from…/Factsheet_AZ_DirectDemocracy_2011.pdf
  6. Scott, J. (2011) “Governor Richard E. Sloan 1909-1912,” Retrieved from

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