Here are four states that have one unique feature in common – – – they are all exactly three degrees (latitude) of height. North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas were all created after the Louisiana Purchase was finalized, but why don’t their northern and southern borders all line up with the states on either side of them?
It may have made sense to just extend west the southern borders of Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri – yet Congress very deliberately chose to not do that.
The decision reflects Thomas Jefferson’s ideal of creating states of equal size in order to ensure equal representation. As noted in another post, the borders of the early colonies created by the British had already been set by the time Jefferson pursued his equal states ideal, but he was determined to create equal states wherever possible as the country expanded.
It simplified matters to assign three degrees of height for their north/south dimension. To the west, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado are all exactly four degrees of height. Quite a few of the states west of the Mississippi River are exactly seven degrees of width. Each state has its own story, but together they represent the ideal of equality as envisioned by our founding fathers.