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Known as the "Badger State", admitted to the Union on 29 May, 1848, the seventeenth state admitted, after the original thirteen. It is bounded on the east by Lake Michigan, on the north by the upper Peninsula of the State of Michigan and by Lake Superior, on the west by Minnesota and St. Croix Rivers, and on the south by Illinois. It lies between 42°30' and 47°3' N. lat., and between 86°49' and 92°54' W. long. Its greatest length from north to south is about 300 miles, and its greatest breadth from east to west about 250 miles.
Its surface is rolling in character, and it forms, with the upper Peninsula of Michigan, a sort of plateau between the lakes and rivers which bound it on the east, north, and west. The levels range from about 600 feet to nearly 2000 feet above the sea, and the natural grade divides the state into two great drainage basins. The state, including the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, Washington Island and a number of small island at the entrance to Green Bay, has a total area of 56,066 square miles, of which 810 are water surface. Its long boundary upon Lake Michigan and the indentation formed by Green Bay give it many advantages in respect to the marine traffic, which is growing to such enormous proportions upon the Great Lakes; and it possesses much water power, capable of extended development. Lakes of great natural beauty are numerous throughout the state. The population in 1890 was 1,686,880, exclusive of 6450 persons specially enumerated; in 1900 it had grown to 2,069,042; and in 1910 it was 2,333,860 or 42.2 persons to the square mile. Thus, the increase of population from 1890 to 1900 was between 22 and 23 per cent., while the increase from 1900 to 1910 was between 12 and 13 percent.
Wisconsin ranks high in agriculture, hay and grain being the most important crops, and oats and Indian corn the largest cereal crops, together with a large production of barley, rye, buckwheat, potatoes, and sugar beets. In the southern part of the state large cranberry marshes are to be found. There are extensive apple orchards, and other orchards are being successfully developed. The dairy industry is very important, the production of milk, cheese, and butter being large and of great value. In 1910 there were in the state: 2,587,000 neat cattle (including 1,506,000 milk cows), 669,000 horses, 1,034,000 sheep, and 1,651,000 swine. Up to 1908 the state was the chief source of the white pine supply, and has always produced red pine, hemlock, and white spruce in large quantities. The forests are still considerable, in spite of heavy losses through forest fires. The state forest reserve, which is managed by the State Board of Forestry, exceed 250,000 acres. As a great manufacturing state, the value of the output increased from $9,293,068 in 1850 to $360,818,942 in 1900 and to $590,306,000 in 1909. The most important articles are lumber, paper and wood pulp, cheese, butter, and condensed milk, steel products, leather, beer, flour, meat, agricultural implements, carriages and wagons, and clothing. Great quantities of iron ore, zinc, and lead are mined; granite, limestone, and sandstone are quarried, and cream-coloured brick is manufactured extensively from deposits of clay along the shores of Lake Michigan.
The railroad system is well developed and subject to regulation, as to prices and accommodations, by a state commission. In 1909 the railroads of the state covered 7512 miles. The marine traffic is very large, and the natural harbours along Lake Michigan are gradually being developed. Grain, flour, lumber, and iron ore are extensively exported by water, and immense cargoes of coal are returned from the east. Milwaukee is the only port of entry in the state. Its imports in 1909 were $4,493,635 and its exports $244,890.
The first French form of the name Wisconsin was Misconsing, which gradually developed into Oisconsin. When English became the language of the territory, the spelling was changed and finally the present form was adopted officially. Wisconsin formed part of the vast New World, to which Spain made a general claim under the name of Florida, but no Spaniards appears to have come within hundreds of miles of the present state boundaries. In 1608 Quebec was founded as the capital of New France, and the French missionaries and fur-traders pushed westward into the wilderness, New France claiming by virtue of discovery the whole great inland water system. It was not until 1634, however, that Nicolet, an interpreter, who had lived with the Huron Indians, was sent by Champlain, Governor of New France, into what we call the Northwest. He landed, in what is now Wisconsin, somewhere upon the shores of Green Bay, and was welcomed as a god by the Indians. Twenty years later two French fur-traders, Radisson and Groseilliers, wintered near Green Bay, and in the spring of 1655 ascended the Fox River, crossed to the Wisconsin River, and some time the following year explored the shores of Lake Superior and returned to Quebec. Three years later, with other fur-traders and accompanied by friendly Indians, they were again on Lake Superior, where they heard rumours of copper mines and somewhere on the southern shore they built a rough fort. On this expedition they wandered as far west as Minnesota, and ultimately returned in safety to Canada. The Jesuit missionaries had gained a foothold among the Huron Indians in Ontario, and when, after a disastrous war with the Iroquois, the Hurons fled to northern Wisconsin, they were followed in 1660 by Father Ménard. The following spring the missionary, with one white companion, visited the Huron villages on the Chippewa and Black Rivers, crossed to the Wisconsin River, and descended it for some distance, where at a portage Father Menard disappeared and was never again heard of. In 1665 his place was taken by Father Allouez, who instructed the roving Indians of various tribes, which had been scattered by the Iroquois, and in 1669 he was relieved by Father Marquette, whose zeal and the labours and romance attaching to whose ventures have connected his name indissolubly with the history of this part of the country. In 1666 Perrot, a fur-trader, had visited the tribes near Green Bay and persuaded the Potawatomi to send a delegation to Montreal to see the Governor of New France. Father Allouez in 1669 was again in the vicinity of Green Bay, where he wintered. In the early spring he visited various Indian villages, returning in the late spring to Sault Ste Marie, but coming back in the same autumn with Father Dablon, when several missions were founded. In 1671 the representative of New France at Sault Ste Marie took formal possession of the Northwest in the name of the King of France. The following year Father Allouez and Father André worked at the extension of the missions.
In 1673 Father Marquette began his wanderings. He and Jolliet entered Green Bay, passed up the Fox River, portaged to the Wisconsin River, followed the latter to its mouth, went down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Arkansas, and here planted a cross and started to retrace their way. They went up the Mississippi River and the Illinois River to the site of the present city of Chicago, where they portaged to Lake Michigan, and arrived safely in September at the mission which Father Allouez had built at De Pere, and in their journey encountered many Indians of the more southerly tribes. The following year Marquette with two assistants set out to establish a mission among the Illinois tribes. From Green Bay they portaged to Lake Michigan and travelled in canoes to the mouth of the Chicago River, where they wintered, and resuming their journey in the spring they went as far as the site of the present city of Peoria. Then Father Marquette, stricken with a mortal illness, turned northwards again, but died on the journey (19 May, 1675). Meantime Father Allouez and Fathers André and Silvy continued their missionary work around Green Bay, and in 1677 Father Albanel arrived at De Pere as superior of the missions in that part of the world. The same year Father Allouez went south to the Illinois. In the two following years Duluth explored the western end of Lake Superior and discovered a new route to the Mississippi; in 1679 LaSalle, who had received from the King of France a monopoly of the western fur trade, arrived at Green bay in the first sailing vessel ever seen on the Great Lakes. This vessel went back loaded with furs, while La Salle and a strong party came south on the west shore of Lake Michigan in canoes, despite the wild weather, and made a landing in Milwaukee Bay, finally proceeding to the Illinois country. Hence Father Hennepin, a Recollect friar, with two companions explored the Upper Mississippi and were taken prisoners by the Sioux, ultimately to be rescued, however, by Duluth , who with them crossed by the route of the Wisconsin and Fox Rivers to De Pere, and in 1683 defended that mission against an attack by the Iroquois. The meeting out of justice to the Indians, who had murdered Frenchmen, made Lake Superior safe for French traders.
In 1685 Perrot became commandant of the west; he established trading posts on the Mississippi, and, in 1690, discovered the lead mines in south-western Wisconsin, which were destined to have such an important effect upon the development of the district. The route from Green Bay by the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers had become the most travelled, but the wars between the Indians had rendered this route unsafe, and in 1693 Frontenac ordered Le Sueur to keep open the route from Lake Superior to the Mississippi. In 1696, however, licences for fur trading were revoked, western outposts were recalled, and the forts abandoned. In 1698 Father Buisson de St. Cosme came south along the western shore of Lake Michigan to the Chicago portage, visiting on the way an Indian village near the present site of Sheboygan, and stopping also at Milwaukee and at the site of the present city of Racine. Two years later Le Sueur, with a party of miners from France, went up the Mississippi to examine various lead deposits, among others those of Wisconsin. In 1701 peace was made between the Iroquois and the northwestern tribes, a large number of Indians from Wisconsin attending the council at Montreal, and in 1702 the trader, St-Denis, paid the Fox Indians liberally to allow his trading canoes to reach the Mississippi once more over the Fox-Wisconsin route, which had been for some years untravelled by white men. But a few years later, the Indian wars recurring, the trade routes became again unsafe. In 1716 La Porte, having been ordered to conduct a campaign against the hostile Indians, arrived at Green Bay with 800 men, and shortly afterwards peace was concluded and hostages given. In 1718 it was reported that there was a settlement of French traders at Green Bay, where a fort had been built. In 1727 a fort was built on Lake Pepin in order to split the alliance of Indian tribes in this neighbourhood and furnish a basis for a further advance westward, but in the following year this was abandoned, and it was not until 1731 that the Fox tribe, after years of warfare, was broken and to a great extent dispersed. In 1738 Louis Denis, Sieur de la Ronde, secured a permit to work the Lake Superior copper mines, and shortly thereafter lead mining was inaugurated in south-western Wisconsin. Fur trading continued on a large scale (on co-partnership being said to have cleared 100,000 livres per year from the Wisconsin fur trade alone), and gradually the various Indian tribes were reconciled to each other under French influence. Wisconsin Indians took part in Braddock's defeat, in the siege of Fort William Henry, and in the defence of Quebec, and in 1760 dispatched a party to the defence of Montreal, but retired before its fall.
Upon the fall of New France Wisconsin became British territory and was under military authority. In 1761 a British detachment took over the old French fort at Green Bay and garrisoned it, and British traders began to come in from Albany. In 1763 the formal cession took place; this was quickly followed by the conspiracy of Pontiac. The Wisconsin Indians, however, were divided in sentiment, but upon the whole were friendly to the British, although the fall of Mackinac rendered necessary the evacuation of Green Bay. In 1774 Wisconsin was annexed to the Province of Quebec. During the war for Independence Wisconsin Indians assisted the British, and a punitive expedition sent out by the Americans reached the south-western part of Wisconsin. In 1783 the Treaty of Paris was concluded, ceding to the United States all British territory east of the Mississippi.
It was not, however, until 1796 that the British finally evacuated their military posts on the Upper Lakes, and during this period Wisconsin was practically controlled by British fur-trading companies. Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Virginia claimed territorial rights over Wisconsin, but subsequently ceded their claims to the Federal Government for the formation of the great Northwest Territory, a national domain out of which new states were to be carved. In 1800 the Northwest Territory was cut in two and Wisconsin became a part of the western division, known as Indiana Territory. In 1809 the State of Indiana was carved out of the territory of that name, and the remaining part, including Wisconsin, became Illinois Territory. In 1818 the State of Illinois was carved out of that territory and the balance, including Wisconsin, became Michigan Territory. In 1836 Wisconsin Territory was created, including the present states of Minnesota and Iowa and a great part of North Dakota and South Dakota. In 1838 the Territory of Iowa was formed out of a part of Wisconsin Territory. In 1848 Wisconsin was admitted as a state, reduced to the present boundaries, the rest of that domain becoming the Territory of Minnesota. Meanwhile, Dubuque had visited Prairie du Chien and obtained permission of the Fox Indians to work the lead mines. Settlers had come in; Indian outbreaks had been suppressed; the war of 1812 had come and gone, and Fort Shelby, the first American post in Wisconsin, at Prairie du Chien, had been captured and later abandoned by the British; the Indians had renewed their allegiance to the United States, the fur-trade had been restricted to American citizens, Astor's American Fur Company had operated in Wisconsin, and Government fur-trading factories had been established a Green Bay and Prairie du Chien. The first school in Wisconsin was opened at Green Bay in 1817. In 1818 Solomon Juneau arrived at Milwaukee, bought out the trading post of his father-in-law, and began the work which has caused him to be considered the founder of the metropolis of the state. The land claims of the French settlers were adjusted, and in 1821 the first steamer on the Upper Lakes appeared in Lake Michigan. In 1822 the Government fur-trading factory system was abolished, and in the same year the rush of speculators to the lead mines in south-western Wisconsin began. In 1832 occurred the Black Hawk War, which, strange to say, appeared to advertise Wisconsin in the east, and increased immigration to its borders. In 1833 Milwaukee was platted, and the first newspaper in Wisconsin was established at Green Bay. In 1846, the people having voted in favour of a state Government and the enabling act having been passed, the first Constitutional Convention opened at Madison, but in April of the following year the suggested Constitution was rejected by popular vote. In December, 1847, the second Constitutional convention gathered, and on 13 March, 1848, the second Constitution was adopted by the people and Wisconsin admitted into the Union under Act of Congress, 29 May. The population was then about 220,000. In 1848, owing to the revolutionary troubles in Europe, there flowed into Milwaukee and the eastern counties of the state a very large German immigration. These immigrants and their descendants have done much to colour the character and habits of the community. There has been a considerable Irish immigration, followed by a great Polish immigration; of later years Italians and Slavs have come in large numbers.
In 1854 at Ripon the Republican party was organized, and in the same year a fugitive slave, named Glover, was arrested at Racine and was rescued from the Milwaukee jail by a mob. Sherman M. Booth, a fiery Abolitionist, was arrested for complicity in the rescue and the Supreme Court of the state discharge him, deciding that the Fugitive Slave law of 1850 was void. This decision was afterwards reversed by the Supreme Court of the United State, and Booth was re-arrested, but was pardoned by President Buchanan. In 1856 occurred the famous quo warranto proceeding, by which Barstow, the Democratic nominee, was ousted from the office of governor by Bashford, the Republican candidate. Wisconsin played a prominent part in the Civil War, furnishing over 90,000 troops, of whom nearly 11,000 lost their lives. The famous "Iron Brigade" was composed chiefly of Wisconsin troops, commanded by a Wisconsin officer. In 1869 began the agitation for the regulation of railway rates, and in 1874 the so-called Potter Law was passed which limited freight and passenger charges and which was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court of the state. Feeling ran very high and two years later that law was repealed. In 1885 iron ore of an excellent grade was discovered in the Gogebic Range and a great boom began. In 1889 the Legislature passed an Act, known as the Bennett Law, which required compulsory education in the English language. This Act contained some very objectionable features, which caused much indignation among the foreign-speaking citizens, and generally among Catholics and Lutherans, who considered it an attack on the parochial schools. The Lutheran authorities denounced it, and it was vigorously opposed by Archbishop Heiss of Milwaukee, Bishop Flasch of Racine, and Bishop Katzer of Green Bay. During the agitation which followed, the first two bishops died and the burden of the closing stages of the fight fell upon Bishop Katzer's shoulders. The Democrats took up the issue, demanding the repeal of the law, and the state campaign of 1890 was marked by exceeding bitterness. The Democrats carried the state by 30,000 plurality, and the law was immediately repealed.
In 1890 was decided the famous Edgerton Bible case, in which the Supreme Court of the state held that Bible reading in the public school schools is sectarian instruction and, therefore, violative of the Constitution. In 1892 the Supreme Court nullified the gerrymander passed by the Democratic Legislature, and in 1893 required former state treasurers or their bondsmen to refund the interest which such treasurers had received on state moneys, deposited by them in banks. In the Spanish-American War Wisconsin sent over 5000 men to the front. The leading feature of the history of the last ten years in Wisconsin has been the so-called progressive movement in which this state has taken the lead. Much experimental legislation has been passed and several state commissions, with very extensive powers, have been created. Officials have been forbidden to receive railway passes, the system of taxing railways has been changed from a license to an ad valorem system, the primary election law, inheritance tax law, Workmen's Compensation law, and Income Tax law have been passed, the law of Apprenticeship has been thoroughly revised and modernized, a Civil Service Act has been passed, a railway commission created with power to regulate rates, a State Board of Forestry organized, cities have been authorized to establish a commission form of government, child labour and the labour of women have been regulated, and factory inspection provided for. At present (1912) the state is much divided between those who wish to carry this class of legislation still farther and those who think that it has already been carried too far for the prosperity of the community.
The state educational system consists of a state university, normal schools, high schools, and common schools. The university, situated at Madison, the capital of the state, was provided for by Act of territorial legislature in 1836, but nothing further was done until after Wisconsin was admitted to statehood in 1848, when, in accordance with the new Constitution, the Legislature provided for the establishment of a university to be governed by a board of regents. Meantime, Congress had authorized the secretary of the treasury to set aside two townships within the territory of Wisconsin for the use and support of a university and the title to these lands vested in the state upon its admission to the Union. The state Constitution provided for the sale of these lands from time to time for the establishment of a university fund. In 1854 Congress made a further grant of lands to be sold for the benefit of the university. The income of the fund proving, however, insufficient, the capital was drawn upon, and ultimately the state began to make direct appropriations. The university is now supported partly by the income of such Federal grants, partly by taxation, partly by fees of students, and to a small extent by private gifts. It includes a college of letters and science, a college of engineering, a law school, a college of agriculture, a medical school, a college of music, an observatory, and a university extension division. The grant total of students, given in the bulletin for May, 1911, is 5538, in the charge of several hundred professors and assistants. The state appropriations for the biennium ending 30 June, 1910, were $2,371,593, while other sources of income, including over $700,000 from students' fees, etc., brought the grant total of university receipts for that biennium up to $3,293,445.73. The total expenditure by the state for educational purposes for 1910 was $13,126,359.06, of which upwards of $10,6000,000 was expended for common schools, high schools, and graded schools. School attendance for children between seven and fourteen years of age who live within two miles of school by the nearest travelled public highway is compulsory. There are twenty-two day schools for the deaf, and in 1909, out of 285 high schools, twenty-eight were township high schools. The state normal schools are supported to some extent by the interest of an endowment created by the sale of swamp and overflowed lands, and as to the balance by an annual state tax. A state library commission maintains circulating free public libraries comprising more than 40,000 volumes. The total enrollment in public schools for 1909-10 exceeded 460,000, accommodated in 7769 school houses and taught by 14,729 teachers. Educational institutions of collegiate rank are: Beloit College (1846); Carroll College (1846), Waukesha; Lawrence College (1847, Appleton; Concordia College (1881); Marquette University (1864) and Milwaukie-Downer College (1895) for women; Milton College (1867), Milton; North- western University (1865), Watertown; Ripon College (1851), Ripon; Wayland University (1855), Beaver Dam; and the following Catholic schools: St. Clara Academy (1847), Sinsiniwa; St. Francis Seminary, St. Francis; and St. Lawrence College, Mt. Calvary. There are also many private academic and trade or technical schools and six industrial schools for Indians. Religious statistics show that in 1906 the Catholic Church had 505,264 members, the various Lutheran bodies 284,286, the Methodist bodies 57,473, the Congregationalists 26,163, and the Baptists 21,716.
The Catholic Church maintains a large number of parochial schools and some high schools and academies. Marquette University in Milwaukee (the metropolis of the state), under the control of the Jesuits, has affiliated to itself various educational institutions in that city and has in all its departments about 2000 students. It is estimated that there are over 65,000 children in the Catholic parochial schools of the state. There is a numerous attendance at Lutheran parochial schools. At St. Francis, near Milwaukee, is situated the provincial seminary for the education of priests, with upwards of 150 students in philosophy and theology. Catholic charities are numerous and generously supported. The liberal laws of the state permit the organization by private individuals of industrial schools and home-finding associations. Thus the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in Milwaukee control two corporations, one of which is organized under the industrial school statutes and receives on commitment by the courts numerous incorrigible girls. The home-finding societies receive dependent children on commitment by the courts, and thereupon become the guardians of such children and may consent to their adoption. The Catholic infant asylums house about 500 infants and the orphan asylums nearly 1000 children. The new Saint Mary's Hospital in Milwaukee, conducted by the Sisters of Charity, is one of the largest and finest hospitals in the Northwest, and its work is, to a great extent, purely charitable work.
Wisconsin is a code state. The laws have been several times revised, the latest complete revision being in 1898; since which time there has been much legislation of a so-called progressive nature. Certain public service corporations and the life-insurance companies pay taxes or license fees directly to the state in lieu of other taxes. All public service corporations are under the control of a state commission, and since the amendments of 1911 their bonds must be approved by that commission. A Workmen's Compensation Law, compulsory as to the dealing of state and municipalities with their employees, voluntary as to the dealings of private employers with their employees, was passed in 1911, and has been held constitutional, except as to some minor details left for future determination. There are stringent laws concerning factory inspection, apprenticeship, and the labour of women and children, administered by a state commission. A graduated Income Tax Law, exempting moneys and credits from direct taxation, passed in 1911, has been held constitutional per se, though many provisions contained in it have been left for future determination. State, county, and municipal officers are nominated at primary elections, and the Corrupt Practices Act of 1911 rigidly limits the expenditures by candidates and on their behalf, forbids the employment of workers at the election booths on election day, and requires that all political advertisements inserted in newspapers shall embody a statement as to authorship and price paid. Below the Supreme Court, whose members are elected for terms of ten years, are the circuit courts, whose judges are elected for terms of six years, the circuit courts being vested with the full jurisdiction of the common law. The county courts of the state handle probate matters and deal with the commitment of the insane and certain special subjects and in some counties have a limited civil jurisdiction; and from the county courts appeals lie to the circuit courts, where matters are tried de novo. Special courts having jurisdiction in criminal matters are created from time to time by act of Legislature, and justice courts exist under the Constitution, having civil jurisdiction up to $200 and certain criminal jurisdiction. An attempt was recently made to drive the justice courts out of Milwaukee County without constitutional amendment, by the creation of a so-called Civil Court of limited jurisdiction, from which appeals lie (as they do from justice courts) to the circuit court.
Freedom of worship is guaranteed by Article I, Sections 18 and 19, of the Constitution of the state, as follows: "The right of every man to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of his own conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any man be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry, against consent; nor shall any control of, or interference with, the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship, nor shall any money be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of religious societies, or religious or theological seminaries."
"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification for any office of public trust under the state, and no person shall be rendered incompetent to give evidence in any court of law or equity in consequence of his opinions on the subject of religion." Sunday is a legal holiday and upon that day saloons are to be closed (a law not enforced). Barber shops, warehouses, and workhouses are also to be closed on Sunday, except for works of charity or necessity. The law permits affirmation subject to the pains and penalties of perjury in lieu of an oath. The seal of confession is protected by statute, Sec. 4074, Statutes of 1898: "A clergyman or other minister of any religion shall not be allowed to disclose a confession made to him in his professional character, in the course of discipline enjoined by the rules or practice of the religious body to which he belongs, without consent thereto by the party confessing."
A very recent decision (June, 1912) by the Supreme Court of the state, however, holds that one of the session laws destroys the rule of confidence between physician and patient, in regard to two matters concerning which the physician may be compelled to testify; and since the statutes protecting the seal of confession and the confidential character of communications between husband and wife, and lawyer and client are of the same nature, it may be doubted whether the seal of confession is now preserved as to those two matters by the statute thus changed and construed. The decision was rendered by a divided court, the dissenting opinion vigorously asserting that the law thus laid down would break the seal of the confessional and cause the imprisonment of priests for refusal to answer such questions.
There are special provisions concerning the incorporation of Catholic churches. The bishop of each diocese is declared the only trustee of each church in his diocese, and he may cause any congregation to be incorporated by adding four more members as trustees. The bishop himself, the vicar-general of the diocese, the pastor of the congregation, and two laymen, to be elected by the congregation, are to constitute the five trustees of the corporation. Such corporations are given extensive powers as to acquiring and disposing of real estate and in general as to the management of their affairs. The bishop, vicar-general, and pastor remain trustees ex officio and their successors take their places. The laymen are elected for terms of two years. The bishop is president, the pastor vice-president, and the laymen are to serve as treasurer and secretary. In case of the dissolution of the corporation, its property is to vest in the bishop of the diocese. Personal property owned by any religious or benevolent association, used exclusively for the purposes of such association, and its real property, if not leased or not otherwise used for pecuniary profit, necessary for the location and convenience of its buildings and embracing the same but not exceeding ten acres, and the lands reserved for the grounds of a chartered college or university not exceeding forty acres and parsonages whether of local churches or districts and whether occupied permanently or tented for the benefit of the pastors, are exempt from taxation. The statute exempts "Ministers of the Gospel or of any religious society" from jury service.
Marriage is declared to be a civil contract. Marriage licenses are required under penalty of the imposition of a fine on any person performing a marriage without the licence, but the lack of a licence apparently does not invalidate the marriage itself. Married women are given extensive property rights, and a married woman may convey, bequeath, and devise her separate estate without consent of her husband. He is, however, entitled to her services, and, with certain exceptions, her earnings belong to him. In case of the husband's death intestate, the wife has the right to his homestead not exceeding $5000 in value, net, during widowhood; her dower, consisting of one-third of the net rents and profits of the real estate, for life; and a child's share of his personalty, in addition to certain special provisions and the right to an allowance during the settlement of the estate. In case no issue is born of a marriage, husband and wife inherit from each other in case of intestacy; where issue is born alive he has an estate by courtesy in case of her intestacy; but the wife, by will, may cut her husband off entirely, whereas the provisions for the wife are reserved to her in case she elects not to take under her husband's will, or is not provided for therein; with the one exception that, in case of a husband's death testate and his widow's election to take under the law, her share of his personality shall not exceed one-third. A woman attains her majority at the age of twenty-one, but the guardianship of her person is transferred to her husband if she marries while a minor; and if she marries when over eighteen and under twenty-one, the court having jurisdiction may in its discretion terminate the guardianship of her property and turn the same over to her. Marriage may be contracted by males of eighteen and females of fifteen, but no marriage licence will be issued to a male under twenty-one, or a female under eighteen without the consent of parent or guardian, unless such party has been previously married. The judges may grant dispensations from the licence law. Marriage may be annulled for various causes existing at the time of marriage, namely:
Divorce is absolute or limited. Absolute divorce may be granted for any of the following causes:
Limited divorce may be granted for the fourth, fifth, and sixth causes above specified; for extreme cruelty of either party; or on the wife's complaint when the husband, being of sufficient ability, shall refuse or neglect to provide for her, or when his conduct towards her renders it improper and unsafe for her to live with him. In all divorce suits the county is to be represented by counsel. Under the amendments of 1911, when the matter is determined judgment is entered, fully determining the rights of the parties, but the same is not effective, except for the purposes of an appeal, until one year from the date of its entry. At the expiration of one year the judgment becomes absolute unless meantime reversed, modified, or vacated, or unless an appeal be pending or the court otherwise orders. Sentence to imprisonment for life (there is not capital punishment in Wisconsin) dissolves marriage ipso facto, and no subsequent pardon restores the felon to his marital rights.
Local option prevails in Wisconsin. There is a Sunday closing law which is not enforced. No saloon may be located within 300 feet of a church or school house, or within one mile of a hospital for the insane; a recent law restricts the number of saloons in each community and makes it unlawful to open saloons in certain new localities without the consent of a specified percentage of the neighbors.
The state prison is located at Waupun, and there are several reform schools conducted or subsidized by the state. In Milwaukee a juvenile court has been established, before which are brought delinquent children, as well as dependent children, and in many instances delinquent children have been placed upon probation with good results. In the criminal courts the probation system has recently been introduced, particularly for the benefit of first offenders, and while it is too early to tell what the results will be, the prospects are very hopeful.
A will (except a noncupative will) must be in writing, signed by the testator, and published and declared in the presence of at least two attesting witnesses who must sign in the presence of the testator and in the presence of each other; but beneficial devises, legacies, and gifts given to an attesting witness or to the husband or wife of an attesting witness are void unless there are two other competent witnesses to the will, provided that if such witness or the husband or wife of such witness would have been entitled to a share of the estate were the will not established; then such share, or so much thereof as will not exceed the legacy or bequest made in the will, shall be saved to him. No particular form of attestation is required. The power of alienating real estate may not be suspended for more than two lives in being and twenty-one years thereafter, except when granted to (a) a literary or charitable corporation organized under the laws of Wisconsin for its sole use and benefit; (b) a cemetery corporation, association, or society, or when granted (c) as a contingent remainder in fee on certain conditions; but there is no statute against perpetuities in personal property. There are no other restrictions upon the manner in which a woman may dispose of her estate by will, and the only other restrictions upon a man's right of disposition are the privileges reserved to his wife as specified above. Devises and bequests to charitable corporations organized under the laws of Wisconsin are except from inheritance tax, but such a disposition to foreign charities receives only the exemption and is subject to the same tax as though left to an individual, a stranger to the blood of the testator.
Cemeteries may be owned by cemetery associations, churches, or individuals. If owned by such associations any lot therein is, after one interment, inalienable, without the consent of a majority of the trustees, and on the death of the owner descends to his heirs. In some cases an absolute deed to a lot in a Catholic cemetery is refused, and simply a certificate is issued giving certain rights to the holder of it.
THWAITES, Wisconsin (Boston, 1890); Wisconsin Blue Book (1911); HOWE, An Experiment in Democracy (New York, 1912); Statutes of 1898, Session Laws of 1899, 1901-11; Catholic Directory (1910); the University Bulletin (May, 1911); Manufacturers Bulletin (1911).
APA citation. (1912). Wisconsin. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15661b.htm
MLA citation. "Wisconsin." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15661b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to Thomas Tessner.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
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