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Legislature of Arkansas Territory Needs A Home

From its first meeting in Little Rock in the summer of 1821 until its last in 1836, the Legislature of Arkansas Territory occupied no home of its own. Instead, it carried out its business in a series of rented spaces.

Efforts to secure a permanent home for Arkansas’s government began during the administration of territorial governor John Pope. After his appointment in 1829, Pope began a campaign to find funding for such a building, lobbying the US Congress for assistance.

In March 1831, Congress appropriated ten sections of public land, to be sold in order to fund a territorial courthouse or capitol. Congress left the details of selecting and selling these lands to the territorial legislature.

Quickly, former territorial secretary Robert Crittenden persuaded friends in the assembly to enact a measure giving Crittenden the ten sections of land in exchange for his Little Rock house, at time Little Rock’s largest and most elegant dwelling.

Governor Pope vetoed the measure, however, recognizing that while the mansion would serve present purposes, a territorial courthouse should be built for the future: it should, in his words, “command the admiration and respect of the passing stranger” and have “a moral and political influence on the whole community.”

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