Congress passed legislation enabling Coloradans to hold a convention to draft a state constitution and submit it for approval.
In compliance with the enabling act, President Ulysses S. Grant by proclamation admitted Colorado to the Union as the 38th state. Statehood occurred on the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence thereby providing the nickname “The Centennial State.”
Jerome Bunty Chaffee of Denver and Henry Moore Teller of Central City presented their credentials and took the oath of office as Colorado’s first senators. The senators then drew lots to determine their class assignments. Teller drew Class 1, with a term to expire on March 3, 1877. Chaffee drew Class 2, with a term to expire March 3, 1879. As both men resided in the northern part of the state, their election by the state legislature frustrated a plan to allocate one seat to the state’s southern region. Chaffee and Teller were cousins, but also bitter political rivals.
Colorado senators Henry M. Teller, and Edward Oliver Wolcott of Denver, working with other western senators, secured passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. This statute, designed to increase the market value of silver, established a plan for the U.S. Treasury to purchase 4.5 million ounces of silver bullion each month at market rates and to issue legal tender Treasury notes, at the option of that department, redeemable in gold or silver.
In Senate floor debate, Senator Henry M. Teller expressed his opinion about that body’s role in protecting minorities against precipitous actions of a majority. “It is useless for anyone to say that the majority are capable of conducting things properly and will always conduct things properly. There is nothing in the world more wicked and cruel than the majority; and governments are instituted and preserved to protect minorities against majorities. Majorities protect themselves.”
Senators Teller and Wolcott led a 46-day filibuster against a bill to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Despite their efforts, Congress repealed the statute. This destroyed the market for silver and led to the closing of mines, banks, and businesses.
Women were allowed to vote in the national election for the first time in Colorado after it became the second state to pass woman suffrage.
The Senate passed a joint resolution of Congress that repudiated Spain’s sovereignty over Cuba and called for U.S. intervention. The resolution included the Teller Amendment, sponsored by Henry Teller, that recognized Cuba as an independent republic and ensured the U.S. would not establish control of the island. On April 24, Spain declared war on the U.S.
Following the death of Charles J. Hughes Jr. of Denver, the state legislature adjourned without electing a replacement. The seat remained vacant for two years until the legislature reconvened in January 1913 and elected Charles Spaulding Thomas of Denver for the two years remaining in Hughes' term.
Lawrence Cowle Phipps of Denver became chairman of the Senate Committee on Education and Labor (today's Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions), serving until 1926.
Edwin Carl Johnson of Craig became chairman of the Senate Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce (today's Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation). He held that post for four years.