Thursday, May 7, 2009

Laws of the Jefferson Territory

The State Library has a sizeable collection of 19th-century law books from other states. Among them are some unusual titles, one being a compilation of laws governing the Jefferson Territory:

Provisional laws and joint resolutions passed at the first and called sessions of the General Assembly of Jefferson Territory, held at Denver City, J.T., November and December, 1859, and January, 1860 (Omaha, N.T.: Robertson & Clark, 1860).

The book contains the criminal code, civil code, general acts, and special acts. The two codes were approved on January 25, 1860 by the acting governor Lucian W. Bliss.

The General Acts (approved in January 1860) consisted of chapters, articles, and acts arranged by subject, resembling a constitution. Some of the topics were officers, courts, boundaries and roads, elections, revenue and taxation, licenses, etc.

The Special Acts (approved in December 1859) concerned chartering and consolidating Denver, Boulder, and some smaller towns, and incorporating several companies: Denver Mutual Insurance, Golden Gate Town, Cibolo Hydraulic, Fountain City Bridge, Clear Creek Lumbering, Arrappahoe Ditch, South Platte River Improvement and Lumbering, and Consolidated Ditch Companies.

In the back of the volume is a subject index, from ACTIONS to WARRANTS. Some noteworthy topics included counterfeiting, cheating, estates of deceased persons, forging, malicious mischief, marks of animals, writ of mandamus, offences against morality and chastity, and offences against the right of suffrage.

The Jefferson Territory included Colorado and parts of current-day Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, and New Mexico and was not recognized by the United States government. Thus it had a short life until June 6, 1861, when it became the Territory of Colorado. For a fuller description of the Territory of Jefferson and its short history, see the Wikipedia entry at

Eva Murphy
Reference Librarian