Creating Alaska

Walter "Bo" Smith

Name: Walter "Bo" Smith

City: Ketchikan

District: 1

Occupation: Fisherman

Born: April 10, 1907 - Bethel, New Mexico

Death: September 12, 1987 - Auburn, Washington

Alaska Resident: 1932 - ?

Convention Posts:

  • Chair, Committee on Resources
  • Member, Committee on Direct Legislation, Amendment and Revision

Education: High School

Public Offices and Organizations:

  • State Senate - 1959-65


 

     

Quote from the Constitutional Convention:

"The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution reads, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." This means that Congress has only those powers expressly delegated to it by the Constitution. This Constitution is the supreme law of the land. This Constitution would certainly govern or supersede any provisions written into the act admitting Alaska into the union or any matter written into the constitution of the State of Alaska. Therefore, what we are consenting to in this section under discussion is the reservation of rights and powers which Congress has under the Federal Constitution. It is not a blanket grant; it is only those rights which Congress has.

As to our consent to the terms and condition of the grants of lands or other property, this consent is necessary for these grants are in the nature of a contract and can only be charged at any future time by and with the consent of the state and the United States. Under Article IV, Section 3 of the United States Constitution, Congress is empowered to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the Territory or other property belonging to the United States. Under this authority Congress can make any disposal it might see fit to make of any lands owned by the federal government in Alaska.

In this connection, I hope that no one here is under the delusion that Alaska will assume ownership of 103,000,000 acres of land on its admission into the union. Alaska will not assume ownership of even one acre of land other than that owned now by the Territory and the land on which the Federal Building and jail in Juneau are now situated. What Alaska will receive is the right to select, within 25 years, 103,500,000 acres of land and if the land provisions in the latest enabling bills are carried forward, the land so selected will become the property of the state only after the state has made its selection and the land has been surveyed and patent issued. After patent is issued to the state the lands are then, of course, beyond the reach of Congress, they are the property of the state. Until patent is issued, however, all the lands within the state boundaries, I should say with the exception of submerged and tidal lands, will still be the property of the United States and will still be subject to any reservations that the federal government might want to impose. Actually, I don't feel that we are in any manner or in any form signing a blank check by saying we consent to the reservations of powers because I think that Congress already has those powers and that those powers are limited by the provisions of the United States Constitution."

-Delegate W.O. "Bo" Smith, Day 64 of the Constitutional Convention, discussing the process by which the new State of Alaska would assume title to a portion of the federal land in the territory.

Smith's Letter to the Editor of the Ketchikan Daily News in support of his candidacy for the Alaska Constitutional Convention

Ketchikan Daily News, 9/9/1959
Letters to The Editor

TO THE EDITOR:
As I will not have the time or opportunity to make any attempt to campaign in the accepted sense before the election of delegates to the constitutional convention, I can only take this method of letting the people of Ketchikan know my views concerning this convention.
First, some candidates are using their candidacy to air their views concerning all the ills which beset Alaska, and are bringing in many controversial issues which are not connected in any way with the drafting of a constitution.
Such practice, if carried over into the convention itself could only result in nullifying to a great extent the advantages of holding a convention' at this time. The one purpose of this convention is to draft a workable constitution for the state of Alaska.
Our desire to produce a super constitution can lead to several complications. The greatest danger is that this desire can lead the convention to include subjects which could best be covered by legislation.
Then too we must remember at all times that the constitution drafted by the convention must be approved by the people of Alaska. Since congress will see eye to eye on what is best for Alaska, some sort of compromise between the two will have to be worked out.
Some people may ask "why try to please congress?" The answer here is obvious. Any loophole in the constitution which might give the enemies of statehood in congress or at home in Alaska grounds for criticism could result in further delay in the attainment of statehood.

MUST BE CAREFUL
For these reasons I am convinced that we must stick rather closely to fundamentals. There may be occasions we can profit by the experience of others, and there are problems unique to Alaska where the experience of others cannot be used as a guide.
Just as one example where We can profit from the experience of others, many of you will recall that the people of the state of Washington passed an initiative measure a few years ago setting up a pension plan without apparent thought as to where the money was coming from to pay for this plan. This very nearly resulted in bankruptcy for the state of Washington.
I am assuming that the constitution will contain a provision for initiative and referendum. If so, a condition like that which occurred in the state ft Washington could be prevented by inserting a provision that any initiative measure calling for the expenditure of funds must be accompanied by a plan for raising the necessary funds and that the measure and the plan for raising the necessary funds be voted on at the same time.
The increasing pressure upon our fisheries through the increase in gear plus the ever increasing efficiency and mobility of gear is posing a severe strain on the ancient right to fish, which some courts have described as almost of an equal grade with the right of navigation.
To protect this right without unduly hampering the regulatory agency in its effort to preserve our salmon runs is going to call for clear thinking plus a knowledge of the history of our fisheries.
Over the basic contents of the constitution there can be a clear cut division of authority 'between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, for it is such basic principles that have made it possible for our form of government to endure.

Sincerely,
W. O (BO) SMITH
Candidate for election as a delegate from the Ketchikan district.

(Letter courtesy Ketchikan Museums)