Even though he would never live to see the admission of Minnesota as our nation’s 32nd state, our nation’s 6th president, John Quincy Adams, in various ways played a central role in the making of Minnesota through a series of principled actions by this great patriot. The first occurred when he was sent by the Federalist dominated Massachusetts legislature to serve as one of the youngest members of the U.S. Senate in 1803. As the son of the New England federalist leader John Adams who had just lost the presidency to Thomas Jefferson and his southern Republicans, the Federalists assumed he would be a staunch defender of their partisan cause.
When the issue of ratification of the Louisiana Purchase came to the Senate, the Federalist Party was vehemently opposed. They viewed it as an effort by Southern states to expand their slave plantation economy to the West, thereby causing New England to lose importance. John Quincy Adams surprised Federalists by not only supporting the Louisiana Purchase but also finding a way to help Jefferson get around some thorny constitutional questions regarding the purchase. He principally believed the union could only be preserved if it crossed the continent. He would end up serving only one term.
While John Quincy Adams was an ambassador and Secretary of State under various presidents, he played key roles in establishing the exact location of the northern boundary west of the Great Lakes. Under several different potential results, the territory that would become Minnesota could well have its northern third lost along with its rich furs, timber and the yet to be discovered mineral wealth. Adam’s persistence in his view that the northern boundary would be the traditional trade route through our present Boundary Waters Wilderness to the Lake of the Woods and then along the 49th parallel. This became one of his most enduring legacies. Not only did it help form our great state, but also ensured later on that the Puget Sound would be part of the United States.
Some 200 years after those important steps by John Quincy Adams to create our northern border, a legislator who lives only a short distance from the border played a critical role in taking the next step to an important recycling initiative that Conservation Minnesota has been advocating for years. Conservation Minnesota has been working to establish a bottle-recycling program that would substantially improve on our paltry 35% recycling rate of beverage containers. We were finally able to get some important study language in the Omnibus Environment and Natural Resources Bill that would require the PCA to develop suggested parameters on how a bottle deposit recycling program could successfully work in Minnesota.
John Quincy Adams once stated, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” The facts are that our neighboring states of Iowa and Michigan have container deposits and they recycle more than 85% of their beverage containers. Developing such a program would substantially increase the recycling industry that presently employs over 37,000 workers and boasts more than 200 companies utilizing recycled materials. The MPCA reports that in 2010, Minnesotans threw away $285 million worth of recyclables, which in addition to costing us an economic opportunity also cost us nearly $200 million to dispose of these otherwise reusable items.
It was this week that House Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee Chairman David Dill (DFL-Crane Lake), who lives within spitting distance of Canada, played a critical role in advancing this important recycling initiative. When Republicans attempted to remove the simple study from the bill on Wednesday, it was Rep. Dill who made an eloquent defense centering his argument on the simple proposition that we should not be afraid of just acquiring the facts. It is based on those facts that we think Minnesota will be ready to take that step towards more jobs, less trash and a cleaner environment with a bottle recycling program similar to Iowa and Michigan. Dill’s defense carried the day and the study was not deleted from the bill. We are grateful to the Chairman for his principled leadership on this issue. John Quincy Adams would be pleased he works so hard to keep Dill in the United States of America.