Lecompton Constitution

Lecompton Constitution

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The Lecompton Constitution was the second of four proposed constitution
Constitution
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is...

s for the state of Kansas
Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

 (it was preceded by the Topeka Constitution
Topeka Constitution
The Topeka Constitutional Convention was held in October 1855 in the town of Topeka, Kansas Territory. The convention was held in the town's Constitution Hall...

 and was followed by the Leavenworth
Leavenworth Constitution
The Leavenworth Constitution was one of four Kansas state constitutions proposed during the era of Bleeding Kansas. The Leavenworth Constitution was drafted by a convention of Free-Staters, and was the most progressive of the four proposed constitutions...

 and Wyandotte
Wyandotte Constitution
The present Constitution of the State of Kansas was originally known as the Wyandotte Constitution to distinguish it from three proposed constitutions that preceded it...

). The document was written in response to the anti-slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

 position of the 1855 Topeka Constitution of James H. Lane and other free-state advocates. The territorial legislature, consisting mostly of slave-owners, met at the designated capital of Lecompton
Lecompton, Kansas
Lecompton is a city in Douglas County, Kansas, United States. It is part of the Lawrence, Kansas Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 608 at the 2000 census. Lecompton played a major historical role in pre-Civil War America as the Territorial capital of Kansas from 1855 to 1861...

 in September 1857 to produce a rival document. Free-state supporters, who comprised a large majority of actual settlers, boycotted the vote. President James Buchanan's appointee as territorial governor of Kansas, Robert J. Walker
Robert J. Walker
Robert John Walker was an American economist and statesman.- Early life and education :Born in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, the son of a judge. He lived in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania from 1806 to 1814, where his father was presiding judge of the judicial district. Walker was educated at the...

, although a strong defender of slavery, opposed the blatant injustice of the Constitution and resigned rather than implement it. This new constitution enshrined slavery in the proposed state and protected the rights of slaveholders. In addition, the constitution provided for a referendum that allowed voters the choice of allowing more slaves to enter the territory.

Both the Topeka and Lecompton constitutions were placed before the people of the Kansas Territory
Kansas Territory
The Territory of Kansas was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 30, 1854, until January 29, 1861, when the eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Kansas....

 for a vote, and both votes were boycotted by supporters of the opposing faction. In the case of Lecompton, however, the vote was boiled down to a single issue, expressed on the ballot as "Constitution with Slavery" v. "Constitution with no Slavery." But the "Constitution with no Slavery" clause would have not made Kansas a free state; it merely would have banned future importation of slaves into Kansas (something deemed by many as unenforceable). Boycotted by free-soilers, the referendum suffered from serious voting irregularities, with over half the 6,000 votes deemed fraudulent. Nevertheless, both it and the Topeka Constitution were sent to Washington for approval by Congress.

A vocal supporter of slaveholder rights, President Buchanan
James Buchanan
James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States . He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor and the last to be born in the 18th century....

 endorsed the Lecompton Constitution before Congress. While the president received the support of the Southern Democrats, many Northern Democrats, led by Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen Arnold Douglas was an American politician from the western state of Illinois, and was the Northern Democratic Party nominee for President in 1860. He lost to the Republican Party's candidate, Abraham Lincoln, whom he had defeated two years earlier in a Senate contest following a famed...

, sided with the Republicans in opposition to the constitution. Douglas was helped considerably by the work of Thomas Ewing Jr., a noted Kansas Free State politician and lawyer, who led a legislative investigation in Kansas to uncover the fraudulent voting ballots. A new referendum over the fate of the Lecompton Constitution was proposed, even though this would delay Kansas's admission to the Union. Furthermore, a new constitution, the anti-slavery Leavenworth Constitution, was already being drafted. On 4 January 1858, Kansas voters, having the opportunity to reject the constitution altogether in the referendum, overwhelmingly rejected the Lecompton proposal by a vote of 10,226 to 138. And in Washington, the Lecompton constitution was defeated by the federal House of Representatives in 1858. Though soundly defeated, debate over the proposed constitution had ripped apart the Democratic party. Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state in 1861.

See also

  • Historical background of Lecompton, Kansas
  • Robert J. Walker
    Robert J. Walker
    Robert John Walker was an American economist and statesman.- Early life and education :Born in Northumberland, Pennsylvania, the son of a judge. He lived in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania from 1806 to 1814, where his father was presiding judge of the judicial district. Walker was educated at the...


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