The Enabling Act, effective February 26, 1857, authorized the "inhabitants" of Minnesota Territory to hold a constitutional convention, draft a constitution, and form a government preparatory for admission to the union as a state.
The measure ran into a buzz-saw of opposition from Southerners, Know-Nothings and a few Northerners in Congress. The debates reflected the increasing sectional tensions over slavery. Because Article VI of the 1787 Northwest Ordinance barred slavery ("There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory"), there was never a question that Minnesota would enter the union other than as a free state. But the opposition found refuge in a law passed by the Minnesota Legislative Assembly permitting aliens to vote. A spirited debate in the Senate over the propriety and constitutionality of "alien suffrage" occupied much of February 1857. In the end, the Enabling Act passed the House of Representatives 97 to 75, and the Senate, 31 to 22.
The complete text of the Enabling Act is posted here followed by Thomas F. Moran's lively account of its passage. It was published first in 1898 by the Minnesota Historical Society. Moran (1866-1928) later became a well-known professor of history at Purdue University.