Constitutional Conventions.Kansas was organized as a territory of the United States by the Kansas-Nebraska bill (q. v.), which was approved by President Pierce on May 30, 1854. Scarcely had the echoes of the Congressional debates on that measure died away, when an agitation was started for the admission of Kansas as a state. The issue was whether Kansas should become a free or a slave state, and in the first efforts for statehood the free-state men were the aggressors. On Oct. 9, 1855, delegates were selected to a convention to form a constitution, the pro-slavery men taking no part in the election. The convention assembled at Topeka on Oct. 23, and organized by the election of James H. Lane as president and Samuel C. Smith as secretary. Several of the delegates elected failed to attend the sessions of the convention. The following list of the men who framed the constitution has been compiled from the manuscript records of the convention, now in the possession of the Kansas Historical Society.
James M. Arthur, Thomas Bell, Frederick Brown, Orville C. Brown, H. Burson, M. F. Conway, R. H. Crosby, A. Curtiss, G. A. Cutler, Mark W. Delahay, David Dodge, J. S. Emery, D. M. Field, Matt France, J. K. Goodin, William Graham, W. R. Griffith, W. H. Hicks, G. S. Hillyer, Cyrus K. Holliday, Morris Hunt, Amory Hunting, Robert Klotz, Richard Knight, John Landis, James H. Lane, S. N. Latta, Sanford McDaniel, Caleb May, Samuel Mewhinney, J. H. Nesbitt, M. J. Parrott, James Phenis, Josiah H. Pillsbury, Robert Riddle, W. Y. Roberts, Charles Robinson, James L. Sayle, P. C. Schuyler, G. W. Smith, H. Smith, C. W. Stewart, J. C. Thompson, J. M. Turner, J. M. Tuton, N. Vandever, J. A. Wakefield.
The convention completed its labors on Nov. 11, 1855. Provision was made for the submission of the constitution to the people on Dec. 14, and in the event the constitution was ratified by popular vote at that time, the chairman of the free-state executive committee of the territory was directed to issue a proclamation ordering an election for state officers and members of the legislature on the third Monday of Jan., 1856, and the legislature then chosen should meet on March 4, following.
The Lecompton constitutional convention, which was the second attempt to form an organic law for the state, had a slight advantage over the Topeka convention, in that it was authorized by an act of the territorial legislature on Feb. 19, 1857. It does not appear, however, to have had any advantage in popular favor, as the number of votes at the election for delegates to the Topeka convention was 2,710, while the number cast at the election for the Lecompton delegates was only 2,071, the free-state men taking no part in the election. By the provisions of the act of Feb. 19 a census was ordered to be taken on April 1, the returns to be corrected by the probate judges of the several districts and submitted by May 1 to the governor, who was then to apportion the 60 delegates among the various precincts. Delegates were to be elected on the third Monday in June, and the convention was to meet on the first Monday in September.
When the convention assembled on Sept. 7 a temporary organization was effected by the election of B. Little as president and Thomas C. Hughes as secretary. In the permanent organization on the 8th, John Calhoun was chosen president and Thomas C. Hughes secretary. Hughes was subsequently succeeded by Charles J. McIlvaine. On the 11th an adjournment was taken to Oct. 19, when the convention reassembled and continued in session until Nov. 7, when it finally adjourned. The constitution at that time adopted was signed by the president and secretary of the convention and 44 delegates, viz.: James Adkins, Alexander Bayne, S. P. Blair, L. S. Boling, J. T. Bradford, M. E. Bryant, H. Butcher, Thomas D. Childs, Jesse Connell, Wilburn Christison, J. H. Danforth, Cyrus Dolman, L. J. Eastin, Rush Elmore, H. W. Forman, I. S. Hascal, W. A. Heiskell, John D. Henderson, J. T. Hereford, W. H. Jenkins, A. W. Jones, Batt. Jones. Thomas J. Key, S. J. Kookager, B. Little, G. W. McKown, John W. Martin, William Mathews, C. K. Mobley, Hugh M. Moore, Henry D. Oden, John S. Pandoiph. Greene B. Redman, Samuel G. Reed, J. J. Reynolds, Henry Smith, W. T. Spicely, Owen C. Stewart, W. H. Swift, Jarrett Todd, D. Vanderslice, William Walker, W. S. Wells, H. T. Wilson.
Section 7 of the schedule adopted by the convention caused considerable dissatisfaction among the people and contributed in no small degree to the defeat of the scheme to have Kansas admitted under the Lecompton constitution. Following is the full text of this section:
"This constitution shall be submitted to the Congress of the United States at its next ensuing session, and as soon as official information has been received that it is approved by the same, by the admission of Kansas as one of the sovereign states of the United States, the president of this convention shall issue his proclamation to convene the state legislature at the seat of government, within thirty-one days after publication. Should any vacancy occur, by death, resignation, or otherwise, in the legislature, or other office, he shall order an election to fill such vacancy: Provided, however, In case of removal, absence, or disability of the president of this convention to discharge the duties herein imposed on him, the president pro tempore of this convention shall perform said duties; and in case of absence, refusal, or disability of the president pro temport, a committee consisting of seven, or a majority of them, shall discharge the duties required of the president of this convention. Before this constitution shall be sent to Congress, asking for admission into the Union as a state, it shall be submitted to all the white male inhabitants of this territory, for approval or disapproval, as follows: The president of this convention shall, by proclamation, declare that on the 21st day of December, 1857, at the different election precincts now established by law, or which may be established as herein provided, in the Territory of Kansas, an election shall be held, over which shall preside three judges, or a majority of them, to be appointed as follows: The president of this convention shall appoint three commissioners in each county in the territory, whose duty it shall be to appoint three judges of election in the several precincts of their respective counties, and to establish precincts for voting, and to cause the polls to be opened, at such places as they may deem proper, in their respective counties, at which election the constitution framed by this convention shall be submitted to all the white male inhabitants of the Territory of Kansas in the said territory upon that day, and over the age of 21 years, for ratification or rejection, in the following manner and form: The voting shall be by ballot. The judges of said election shall cause to be kept two poll-books by two clerks by them appointed. The ballots cast at said election shall be indorsed, 'Constitution with Slavery,' and 'Constitution with no Slavery.' One of said pollbooks shall be returned within eight days to the president of this convention, and the other shall be retained by the judges of election and be kept open for inspection. The president, with two or more members of this convention, shall examine said poll-books, and if it shall appear upon said examination that a majority of the legal votes cast at said election be in favor of the 'Constitution with Slavery,' he shall immediately have the same transmitted to the Congress of the United States, as hereinbefore provided; but if, upon such examination of said poll-books, it shall appear that a majority of the legal votes cast at said election be in favor of the 'Constitution with no Slavery,' then the article providing for slavery shall be stricken from this constitution by the president of this convention, and slavery shall no longer exist in the State of Kansas, except that the right of property in slaves now in this territory shall in no manner be interfered with, and shall have transmitted to Congress the constitution so ratified, as hereinbefore provided. In case of failure of the president of this convention to perform the duties imposed upon him in the foregoing section, by reason of death, resignation or otherwise, the same duties shall devolve upon the president pro tem."
As all the delegates to the convention were pro-slavery men, they took ample precaution in the above section that their party should not lose control until after the state had been admitted under the constitution of their creation. The president of the convention was given almost imperial powers in the selection and appointment of commissioners who would control the machinery of the election. His powers in examining the poll-books and declaring the vote were likewise almost imperial, and the clause providing for the submission of the constitution to the white male inhabitants of Kansas, "in the said territory upon that day," made it possible for the pro-slavery forces of Missouri to assist in bringing about the ratification of the constitution "with slavery." Besides all this, the constitution as a whole was not to be submitted to the peopleonly the slavery article being made subject to a popular vote. No matter how repugnant to the people's judgment some other feature of the constitution might be, they were given no opportunity to express their opposition. Is it any wonder that the free-state men refused to participate in the election? (See also the articles on Constitutions, Geary's, Walker's and Denver's Administrations.)
The third constitutional conventionthat known in history as the Leavenworth conventionwas authorized by the act of Feb. 10, 1858. On the 13th, before the governor had been given the three full days allowed by law for the consideration of the measure, the legislature adjourned. Gov. Denver therefore claimed that the act was not entitled to recognition as a law of the territory. However, under its provisions, an election for delegates was held on March 9, and on the 23d of the same month the convention assembled at Minneola. A temporary organization was soon effected, after which James H. Lane was elected permanent president and Samuel F. Tappan was chosen clerk. The following day the convention voted to adjourn to meet at Leavenworth on the 25th. After appointing the committees, Lane resigned the presidency of the convention and Martin F. Conway was elected as his successor.
The convention worked diligently and reached a final adjournment on April 3, when the constitution adopted was signed by the officers of the convention and the following delegates: F. G. Adams, H. J. Adams, J. D. Allen, A. B. Anderson, W. F. M. Arny, M. L. Ashmore, R. Austin, H. S. Baker, W. V. Barr, W. D. Beeler, F. N. Blake, W. E. Bowker, C. H. Branscomb, J. L. Brown, T. H. Butler, W. H. Coffin, G. A. Colton, Uriah Cook, A. Danford, James Davis, J. C. Douglass, J. M. Elliott, J. S. Emery, H. J. Espy, Robert Ewing, Thomas Ewing, Jr., Lucian Fish, R. M. Fish, James Fletcher, Charles A. Foster, G. M. Fuller, J. K. Goodin, I. T. Goodnow, W. R. Griffith, J. F. Hampson, Henry Harvey, J. P. Hatterscheidt, G. W. Higinbotham, G. D. Humphrey, H. P. Johnson, R. A. Kinzie, Alburtus Knapp, James H. Lane, Alfred Larzelere, Edward Lynde, William McCullough, A. W. McCauslin, Caleb May, Charles Mayo, R. B. Mitchell, James Monroe, W. R. Monteith, B. B. Newton, C. S. Perham, D. Pickering, J. H. Pillsbury, Preston B. Plumb, J. G. Rees, John Ritchie, W. Y. Roberts, Hugh Robertson, Orville Root, W. W. Ross, E. S. Scudder, J. M. Shepherd, A. H. Shurtleff, Amasa Soule, William Spriggs, Samuel Stewart, J. R. Swallow, James Telfer, T. D. Thacher, J. C. Todd, R. U. Torry, Thomas Trower, G. W. K. Twombly. J. M. Walden, W. L. Webster, A. W. Williams, A. L. Winans, James M. Winchell, Samuel N. Wood, C. A. Woodworth.
If the Lecompton convention had been under the control of the pro-slavery element, the Leavenworth convention was no less under the control of the free-state men. Of the delegates, M. F. Conway, J. S. Emery, J. K. Goodin, W. R. Griffith, James H. Lane, Caleb May, W. Y. Roberts and J. H. Pillsbury had served as members of the Topeka convention, of which Charles A. Foster was assistant secretary. Several of the members of the Leavenworth convention afterward became prominent in the affairs of Kansas and the nation. Thomas Ewing, Jr., was the first chief justice of the Kansas supreme court; William Y. Roberts, Edward Lynde and H. P. Johnson commanded Kansas regiments in the Civil war; James H. Lane was one of the first United States senators from Kansas; Preston B. Plumb served in the United States senate at a later date; William R. Griffith was the first superintendent of public instruction; Robert B. Mitchell rose to the rank of brigadier-general in the Civil war and was subsequently governor of New Mexico; Addison Danford was attorney-general of the state; Franklin G. Adams was for years the secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, and a number of others served in the legislature.
The fourth and final constitutional convention was authorized by act of the territorial legislature, approved by Gov. Medary on Feb. 9, 1859. (See Medary's Administration.) By the provisions of the act the question of holding a convention was to be submitted to the people on the fourth Tuesday in March. At the election on that date the proposition to hold a convention was carried by a vote of 5,306 to 1,425, and on June 7 was held an election for the 52 delegates. Then, for the first time in Kansas, the Democratic and Republican parties, as such, faced each other in a contest at the polls. The Democrats carried the counties of Jackson, Jefferson and Leavenworth, elected 4 delegates in Doniphan and 1 in Johnson17 delegates in allwhile the Republicans carried all the other counties and elected 35 delegates. Following is a list of the members of the convention by districts:
1st (Leavenworth county)Frederic Brown, Robert C. Foster, Samuel Hipple, W. C. McDowell, Adam D. McCune, Pascal C. Parks, William Perry, John P. Slough, Samuel A. Stinson, John Wright.
2nd (Atchison county)Robert Graham, John J. Ingalls, Caleb May.
3d (Doniphan county)John W. Forman, E. M. Hubbard, Robert J. Porter, John Stiarwalt, Benjamin Wrigley.
4th (Brown county)Samuel A. Kingman.
5th (Nemaha county)Thomas S. Wright.
6th (Marshall and Washington counties)J. A. Middleton.
7th (Jefferson county)C. B. McClelland.
8th (Jackson county)Ephraim Moore.
9th (Riley county)S. D. Houston.
10th (Pottawatomie county)Luther R. Palmer.
11th (Johnson county)J. T. Barton, John T. Burns.
12th (Douglas county)James Blood, N. C. Blood, William Hutchinson, Edwin Stokes, Solon O. Thacher, P. H. Townsend, L. R. Williams.
13th (Shawnee county)J. P. Greer, H. D. Preston, John Ritchie.
14th (Wabaunsee, Davis, Dickinson and Clay counties)Edmund G. Ross.
15th (Lykins county)W. P. Dutton, Benjamin F. Simpson.
16th (Franklin county)James Hanway.
17th (Osage, Breckenridge, Morris and Chase counties)William McCullough, James M. Winchell.
18th (Linn county)James M. Arthur, Josiah Lamb.
19th (Anderson county)James G. Blunt.
20th (Coffey and Woodson counties)Allen Crocker, Samuel E. Hoffman.
21st (Madison, Hunter, Butler, Greenwood, Godfrey and Wilson counties)George H. Lillie.
22nd (Bourbon, McGee and Dorn counties)J. C. Burnett, William R. Griffith.
23d (Allen county)James A. Signor.
A glance at the above list will show that the leaders of both the free-state and pro-slavery parties of former days were absent. Lane, Robinson, Wood, Speer, Branscomb, and others who gave such loyal support to the Topeka constitution, were missing; and on the other hand not a single prominent pro-slavery man was among the 17 Democratic delegates. Of the 52 delegates composing the convention, three-fourths of them were under the age of 40 years. It was a young men's convention. Practically all occupations were represented. There were 18 lawyers, 16 farmers, 8 merchants, 3 manufacturers, 3 physicians, 1 surveyor, 1 printer, 1 mechanic, and 1 land agent.
Pursuant to the legislative enactment, the convention assembled at Wyandotte on July 5, and effected a temporary organization by the election of Samuel A. Kingman as president and John A. Martin as secretary. In the permanent organization James M. Winchell was chosen president and Mr. Martin was continued in the office of secretary. On the 29th the constitution was finished and signed by all the Republican members except Thomas S. Wright of Nemaha county. None of the Democrats attached their names to the document. On Oct. 4 the constitution was ratified by the people by a vote of 10,421 to 5,530, and a full quota of state officers was elected on Dec. 6, preparatory to admission into the Union, though more than a year elapsed before these officers were called upon to assume the duties of the positions to which they were elected. (See Robinson's Administration.)Pages 409-415 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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