The United States Constitution outlines the legal process by which new states are created. Article IV Section 3 says: "New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union." You can find an official copy of the United States Constitution in Title 1 of the United States Code, which can be found in the Gallagher Law Library Reference Area at KF62. Or you can read the text on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) webpage.
Washington's origins can be traced to the Monticello Convention Petition of 1852. Settlers in the then massive Oregon Territory sent a letter to the federal government asking for the creation of a separate territory. You can find a copy of this petition in the Suzzallo-Allen Libraries Special Collections-Manuscripts collection. The Washington Secretary of State also has a webpage providing more information about this petition.
The United States Congress passed the Organic Act of 1853 to create the Washington Territory. Ironically, Representative Richard H. Stanton argued that the proposed name, "Territory of Columbia," might be confused for the District of Columbia, and suggested a name honoring George Washington instead. You can read the Organic Act of 1853 in the United States Statutes at Large in the Gallagher Law Library Reference Area at KF50. The citation is 10 Stat 172.
In 1878, the Washington Territorial Legislative Assembly convened a constitutional convention in Walla Walla. The constitutional convention drafted the Washington State Constitution of 1878. This constitution was never officially adopted. You can find this draft constitution in the Gallagher Law Library (KFW401 1878 A25) or online.
To pave the way for the Washington Territory becoming Washington State (along with North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana), the United States Congress passed the Enabling Act of 1889. This act specified that Washington would gain statehood upon the successful ratification of a new state constitution. You can find this law in the United States Statutes at Large in the Gallagher Law Library Reference Area at KF50. The citation is 25 Stat 676.
A new constitutional convention was convened in Olympia. This culminated in the adoption on October 1 of the Washington State Constitution of 1889. This constitution persists to this day, with subsequent amendments. You can find the original 1889 text in Gallagher Law Library at KFW401 1889 A289 W6. You can find the current amended text in the Revised Code of Washington, available in the Gallagher Law Library Reference Area at KFW30. The Washington State Legislature also has a webpage for the current amended text. The Gallagher Law Library also has a copy of the Journal of the Washington State Constitutional Convention of 1889 at KFW401 1889 A223 1962.
Washington became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889, when President Harrison issued a proclamation admitting it to the Union.
Washington State has a rich legal history. Come learn more about it at the Gallagher Law Library!