Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911. 2 v. front., illus., plates, ports., fold. map. 28 cm. [Vol. 2 contains biographical data. Paged continuously.]


CHAPTER XIV.

THE WYANDOTTE CONSTITUTION.


THE ROLL OF THE CONVENTION - A CONVENTION OF YOUNG MEN - REPUBLICAN "WHIPS," INGALLS AND SIMPSON - THE ORGANIZATION - OHIO CONSTITUTION FOLLOWED - RESOLUTIONS TO CONGRESS - CLOSED THE DOOR TO SLAVERY - REFUSED TO INCLUDE PART OF NEBRASKA - WOMAN'S INFLUENCE IN THE CONVENTION - DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS REFUSED TO SIGN - CONSTITUTION APPROVED BY THE PEOPLE - CONGRESS SLOW TO ACT - WHEN THE NEWS REACHED KANSAS - THIRTY-FIVE YEARS OF STATEHOOD.

In the five years of territorial Kansas three constitutions had been framed. The Topeka constitution prohibited slavery. The Lecompton constitution sanctioned slavery. The Leavenworth went even farther than the Topeka constitution by leaving out the word "white." Three constitutions! And no statehood for Kansas in sight.

And then it came to pass that the constitution which was forever to banish slavery from Kansas soil, the constitution that was to endure, and the one under which Kansas was to rise to the stars, through difficulties, was to be framed.

The convention met in Wyandotte July 5, 1859. It was in session twenty-one days. At the close, it gave to Kansas a constitution which reflected the pluck and progressiveness of her citizens. It was approved by the votes of the people October 4, 1859, and on January 29, 1861, Kansas became a state.

And thus the Wyandot Indians, who had started the movement for territorial government for Kansas, had a share in the glory of establishing statehood for Kansas.

The convention was held in Lipman Myer's hall. The building stood back of the old Wyandotte levee at First street and Nebraska avenue. Its walls were constructed of brick, its area was two hundred and thirty-nine feet by one hundred feet, and it rose to a height of four stories. It was, at the time of the convention, the largest building in the territory of Kansas, and Wyandotte, then emerging from an Indian village to an incorporated town, aspired to be the greatest city on the Missouri river above St. Louis. The lower floors were used as a warehouse and old citizens who were in Wyandotte fifty years or more ago tell of great cargoes of merchandise brought up the Missouri river on steamboats for distribution in the Kansas territory. The upper floors of the building in which was the "hall" had been used for public gatherings and for meetings of secret societies. It was the regular meeting place of the "Whangdoodles," a celebrated fraternal association of the early days. The lodge was organized by Jean Chaffee, a Wyandot Indian, who got the idea in California. It is said that the "Whangdoodles" had a large tin bathtub, in which new members were initiated. The bathtub was drawn over the floor with a long rope until the tin in the bottom became heated from the friction on the floor; and that is when the victim began to suffer.

Wyandotte Constitutional Convention building
THE BUILDING IN WHICH THE WYANDOTTE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION WAS HELD, AS IT LOOKED AFTER THE CIVIL WAR.

At the beginning of the Civil war, when men were rallying to the call for troops, a company of freshly organized volunteers was drilling in the hall, and a part of the building tumbled down. A few years later, when the Kansas division of the Union Pacific Railway was builded west from Wyandotte, the part of the building then standing became the headquarters and terminal station of the railroad. It was decorated with large signs that read "Union Pacific Railway Company, E. D.," the two last letters signifying "Eastern Division."

In later years what was left of the building was burned. A grain elevator, one of the largest in Kansas, operated in connection with the Chicago-Great Western Railway, now occupies the site. The old levee, once washed away, has been restored, but the river traffic, which was the pride of the people of old Wyandotte in the fifties and sixties, is gone.

THE ROLL OF THE CONVENTION.

The convention was composed of thirty-five Republicans and seventeen Democrats. The delegates and the counties represented were as follows:

Republicans: J. M. Winchell, Osage, president; J. M. Arthur, Linn; James Blood and N. C. Blood, Douglas; J. G. Blunt, Anderson; J. C. Burnett, Bourbon; J. T. Burris, Johnson; Allen Crocker, Coffee; W. P. Dutton, Lykins; Robert Graham, Atchison; J. P. Greer, Shawnee; W. R. Griffith, Bourbon; James Hanway, Franklin; S. E. Roffman, Woodson; S. D. Houston, Riley; William Hutchinson, Douglas; J. J. Ingalls, Atchison; S. A. Kingman, Brown; Josiah Lamb, Linn; G. H. Lillie, Madison; Caileb May, Atchison; William McCullough, Morris; J. A. Middleton, Marshall; L. R. Palmer, Pottawatomie; R. J. Porter, Doniphan; H. D. Preston and John Richie, Shawnee; E. G. Ross, Wabaunsee; J. A. Signor, Allen; B. F. Simpson, Lykins; Edwin Stokes, S. O. Thacher, P. H. Townsend and R. L. Williams, Douglas, and T. S. Wright, Nemaha.

Democrats: J. T. Barton, Johnson; Fred Brown, Leavenworth; J. W. Forman, Doniphan; R. C. Foster and Sam Hipple, Leavenworth; E. M. Hubbard, Doniphan; C. B. McClellan, Jefferson; W. C. McDowell, and A. D. McCune, Leavenworth; E. Moore, Jackson; J. S. Parks, and William Perry and J. P. Slough, Leavenworth; J. Stairwalt, Doniphan; S. A. Stinson, Leavenworth; B. Wrigley, Doniphan, and John Wright, Leavenworth.

A CONVENTION OF YOUNG MEN.

It was a notable convention that framed the constitution under which Kansas was admitted. Most of the members were not known in Kansas politics. Such leaders as Charles Robinson and Jim Lane did not figure at Wyandotte. But the young men there present were the future leaders of Kansas. Out of the convention came two United States senators, John J. Ingalls and Edmund G. Ross, and a chief justice of the supreme court of Kansas, Samuel A. Kingman. B. F. Simpson was the first attorney general under statehood and later was speaker of the Kansas house, a member of the senate, a supreme court commissioner and United States marshal. Solon O. Thacher, of Lawrence, became a district judge. William C. McDowell was also a district judge, while John T. Burris became United States district attorney, lieutenant colonel and has had a long career as a district and probate judge in Johnson county. Samuel A. Stinson was attorney general of Kansas. John A. Martin, the youthful secretary of the convention, was twice chosen governor. W. R. Griffith was once superintendent of public instruction. John P. Slough was a brigadier general and James Blunt was a major general in the United States army in the Civil war and later a district judge of Wyandotte county. W. R. Davis, the chaplain, became a colonel in the war and other members served in the Kansas house and senate.

Lawyers usually are much in the majority in a constitutional convention; but it was not so in the convention that framed the Wyandotte constitution for Kansas. Only eighteen of the fifty-two delegates were lawyers. Sixteen were farmers, and they had something to say, too.

The oldest man in the convention was Robert Graham, of Atchison county, who was fifty-five. The youngest was B. F. Simpson, who was twenty-three. Only fifteen of the fifty-two were over forty years of age; more than one-third were under thirty, and nearly two-thirds under thirty-five. One-half of the members had been in the territory less than two years. Forty-one were from northern states, seven from the south and four were foreign born.

Wyandotte county had not been formed when the act was passed by the territorial legislature, February 11, 1859, providing for the constitutional convention. One week later the legislature created Wyandotte county out of parts of Leavenworth and Johnson counties. In Wyandotte county the citizens went ahead and elected two delegates to the convention, Dr. J. E. Bennett and Dr. J. B. Welborn, but that was as far as it went. When the convention met it refused to recognize the two physicians as delegates, on the ground that Wyandotte county was represented by two delegates from Leavenworth county. But there was another reason. It was a Republican convention and the two Wyandotte doctors were Democrats. A duel almost resulted from the refusal of the convention to recognize the Wyandotte county delegates. Samuel S. Kingman was one of the men who openly opposed the seating of the delegates. In his speech he said something that offended Doctor Bennett, and the doctor promptly challenged him to a duel. But Kingman refused to accept the challenge.

REPUBLICAN "WHIPS," INGALLS AND SIMPSON.

Politically the convention contained thirty-five Republicans and seventeen Democrats. John J. Ingalls and Benjamin F. Simpson were the Republican whips, and the minority leaders were Samuel Stinson and John P. Slough, both lawyers. Judge John T. Burris, listed as a Republican in the convention, became a Democrat in the revolt of 1872. Stinson was one of the brightest men in the convention. He was a little, wiry, black-headed man who had come west from Maine, and, with his oratory, keen wit and a knowledge of parliamentary law, he made himself felt in the deliberations. As for Ingalls, it seemed that he sat up at night to look up new adjectives to use in his sarcastic speeches. He was about twenty-six. He studied Webster's dictionary more than any other man in this part of the country. It is recalled that Ingalls, as he appeared at that time, was about six feet tall.

The Wyandotte convention was the first constitutional convention in Kansas in which all factions participated, and it was organized on party lines. An informal Republican caucus was held to decide as to who should be secretary. There were a number of applicants, but when somebody suggested John A. Martin, of Atchison, there was general acquiescence. Martin was little more than a boy, but he had bought out the Pro-Slavery paper at Atchison and had turned it into a Free State journal, so he was favorably known. He was discreet and sensible and very attentive to his work - as, indeed, he was to everything undertook.

The most striking thing about Ingalls at that time, was his hat. It was a broad-brimmed straw with every other straw removed and the crown punched up to a point. There was a tow string attached to it. Altogether it was about the most curious hat the natives ever saw. Ingalls did not take much part in the general debate. But he was a Williams man and was looked on as the scholar of the convention. So he was made chairman of the committee on phraseology.

Ross, who also in later years became a United States senator, was editor of a weekly paper in Topeka at that time. He had no ability as a speaker, but he had extraordinary good judgment; was earnest in his convictions and broad-minded.

The most influential Republicans were Kingman and Thacher. Of the Democrats, Stinson and McDowell were especially able men. Stinson was the most influential man of the convention on every matter in which party lines were not drawn.

The most effective speech in the convention, Ben F. Simpson once remarked, was Thacher's protest against the exclusion of negroes from Kansas. All the Democrats and several of the Republicans favored the exclusion, but the motion to that effect was defeated. In general, the discussions were amicable.

THE ORGANIZATION.

The convention organized by electing the following officers: president, J. M. Winchell; president pro tem, S. O. Thacher; secretary, John N. Martin; assistant secretary, J. L. Blanchard; sergeant-at-arms, G. F. Warren; chaplain, W. R. Davis.

It was remarked that President Winchell showed excellent judgment in the men whom he appointed chairmen of the committees. He chose an obscure country doctor, J. A. Blunt, chairman of the military committee, and Blunt became the only major general from Kansas in the Civil war. The chairman of the judiciary, S. A. Kingman, while not widely known then as a lawyer, later served fifteen years on the Kansas supreme bench. The chairman of the education committee, W. R. Griffith, became the first superintendent of public instruction. The brilliant Ingalls was put in charge of phraseology and arrangement. S. O. Thacher was chairman of the legislative work. B. F. Simpson, of Paola, as chairman of finance and taxation, introduced the provisions limiting the state's public debt, which proved a most wholesome provision later. J. T. Burris was chairman of the committee on schedule, and S. D. Houston of amendments and miscellaneous.

The convention adopted the plan and oath of Ohio, and Mr. William L. McMath, a notary public of Wyandotte, was selected to administer it. The members rising in their places, received the following: "You and each of you will support the constitution of the United States, and faithfuly[sic] discharge your duties as members of this convention." The officers then stood up and a similar oath was administered. This early adoption of the example of Ohio foreshadowed a later adoption of the constitution of that state as a model by which the constitution of Kansas should be drawn.

The members of the convention were organized into fifteen committees, each of which was to prepare a draft of provisions appropriate for a particular article of the constitution. In order that the drafts prepared by the committees might be harmonious, it was necessary to decide upon a common basis for action. This was difficult to do, on account of the varying nativity and experience of the delegates. The largest representation from any one state was the thirteen from Ohio. Seven were natives of Indiana and five each of Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Four were from New York, three each were from New Jersey and Vermont, and two each from Massachusetts and Maine. Four members were foreigners, representing England, Ireland, Scotland, and Germany. Five delegates had helped to form the Leavenworth constitution, and three had been members of the Topeka convention. Each group knowing the provisions of its own constitution best, was in favor of adopting it as a model. During the debate, John O. Slough advocated the Leavenworth constitution, and William R. Griffith, being a native of Indiana, thought the constitution of that state would be the proper model.

THE OHIO CONSTITUTION FOLLOWED.

Solon O. Thacher suggested the plan which was adopted. It provided that the roll of the convention be called, and that each member name the constitution which he preferred as a basis for the convention to act upon, and that if on this vote no one constitution received a majority the roll be called again, and that the members confine their responses to one of the three constitutions having the highest number of votes. Upon the first ballot Ohio received thirteen votes, Indiana twelve and Kentucky six. Five votes were cast for the Leavenworth and three for the Topeka constitution, Pennsylvania and Iowa each received two votes, and Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Oregon one each. The number of votes for Ohio corresponds to the number of delegates native to that state. The number of votes for the Topeka and Leavenworth constitutions corresponds, respectively, to the number of members who helped to form these constitutions. The seven members from Indiana and five from Kentucky were doubtless state loyal, and must have received votes from states having smaller delegations. The other votes bear no apparent relation to the members present from the respective states. On the second ballot, Ohio received twenty-five votes. Indiana twenty-three, and Kentucky one. The Ohio constitution, having received the majority of the votes cast, was made the basis for action, and copies of that constitution were printed and distributed to the members of the various committees.

Many other constitutions were in the hands of the delegates, and sections peculiarly adopted to conditions in Kansas were appropriated from them. Among the constitutions mostly drawn from were the Michigan constitution of 1850, the Iowa constitution of 1857, Wisconsin of 1848, Illinois of 1848, Indiana of 1851, Minnesota of 1857, New York of 1846, Pennsylvania of 1838, Kentucky of 1850, and the earlier Kansas constitutions, framed at Topeka, Lecompton and Leavenworth.

Mr. Hutchinson said, in explanation of the report of his committee that the preamble was copied almost word for word from the preamble of the Massachusetts constitution, which had been composed by John Adams. This would have been of historic interest, at least, but the members of the Kansas convention discarded it in favor of a short enacting clause prepared by Samuel A. Stinson. In introducing this clause, he stated that it was the usual form of the constitutions which he had examined. He appears to have taken Minnesota for a model, and added a few words from Wisconsin and Iowa.

The preamble is followed by the bill of rights. With the exception of an additional provision to section 6, a few transpositions and changes in phraseology, the last nineteen provisions of the bill of rights are, section for section, modeled upon the Ohio precedent.

RESOLUTIONS TO CONGRESS.

Members of the convention had several different measures which they had been unable to incorporate in the ordinance, but yet wished to present to congress in connection with the constitution. A series of seven resolutions were adopted. Five of them asked for grants of land, the proceeds of which were to be used for internal improvement, construction of railroads, development of the Kansas river, support of public schools and payment of claims awarded by the claims commission. The seventh resolution asked congress to assume the debt of the territory. The first and third resolutions had been a part of the report of the committee on ordinance, and the fifth had precedent in the seventh resolution of the Wisconsin constitution. The precedent followed in adopting the series of resolutions in the Wisconsin constitution.

Upon the last day of the convention, Judge Burris had the honor of adding the finishing touch to the constitution by proposing the attesting clause, "Done in convention at Wyandotte, this 29th day of July, A. D. 1859. " Even the clause followed in form the model of the Ohio and Iowa constitutions.

It is evident that the Ohio constitution of 1851, adopted as a common basis for action, was closely adhered to in all cases where its provisions were adapted to conditions in Kansas. The Ohio constitution of 1851, being entirely without ordinance and memorial, and deficient in its provisions for an educational system, for the establishment and control of banks and currency and for the organization and discipline of the militia, the constitutions of Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa were largely drawn upon to make up the deficiency. In other instances where the constitution of Ohio did not apply to conditions in Kansas, or could be improved upon, provisions were adopted from the constitutions of Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, California, Maine, Minnesota, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and from earlier constitutions and the territorial government of Kansas. A careful comparison shows that nearly every section of the Wyandotte constitution was either copied from or based upon some section to be discovered in some preceding constitution. The provisions not drawn from or based upon the constitution of some other state are: First, the provision for equal education for the sexes, and for the election by the bar of a judge pro tem, of the district court, which were supposed to be based upon sections in the Kentucky constitution, but were really legislative enactments; secondly, the provision that all bills should originate in the house of representatives, which is an extension of the theory in practice concerning revenue bills; and thirdly, the provision in the educational system for a county superintendent of public instruction, and an outline of the method of distributing the public school fund to the districts, and of a revaluation and sale of school lands, all of which were legislative enactments of neighboring states. Five or six provisions in advance of any other state constitution had been thoroughly tested as laws of other states before their adoption by Kansas. The provision that all bills should originate in the house of representatives, the only real experiment in the constitution, was repealed November 8, 1864.

CLOSED THE DOOR TO SLAVERY.

The Wyandotte constitution made Kansas a free state. But the curious thing about the convention is that slavery was not an issue there. By 185S the influx of Free State men had made it certain that Kansas would never be a slave state. The overwhelming defeat of the Lecompton constitution had closed the door to slavery. So this provision was adopted without trouble: "There shall be no slavery in this state and no involuntary servitude except for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted." The only fight on this question came over a motion to suspend this section for one year after the admission of Kansas to the Union, but this was voted down, 28 to 11. Four years previously the people had voted in connection with the Free State Topeka constitution to exclude negroes from Kansas. So there was much sentiment in favor of this. But the proposal was defeated. Negroes however, were not granted the suffrage.

The chief struggle in the convention was over the amount of the homestead exemption. It was finally decided to exempt from seizure for a debt a homestead of one hundred and sixty acres of farming land, or of one acre within the limits of an incorporated town, occupied as a residence by the family of the owner, with all the improvements. It was thought that this liberal provision would attract immigration.

If the national congress had accepted the recommendations of the Wyandotte constitutional convention there might be no need for such an effort as is now making to have the Missouri river improved for navigation. River traffic in those days was the life of western commerce, and while the railroads were expected to enter the field the delegates in the convention could look forward to the time when the abandonment of river traffic would prove to be a great mistake. The Missouri river question arose in the convention in the shape of a resolution asking congress to set aside 45,000 acres of public domain to create a fund for improving the Missouri river "for navigation." Congress, however, did not act on the suggestion.

REFUSED TO INCLUDE A PART OF NEBRASKA.

The convention made the mistake, as its members later generally agreed, of refusing to include that part of Nebraska lying south of the Platte. The counties in that district had elected delegates to the convention and they were admitted as honorary members, with the privilege of taking part in the discussions regarding annexation. The question was debated for several days. In a commemorative address Governor Martin ascribed the defeat of the big state project to two causes. The report was circulated that the southern Nebraska counties would be Democratic, and Topeka and Lawrence, both of which desired to become the state capital, feared that so much territory to the north would throw the center of gravity of the state north of the Kansas river and so would lessen their chances. So their delegates used their influence against including the Platte country.

Another provision that failed of adoption was one offered by Preston, of Shawnee, giving the legislature power to forbid the sale of liquor. This was discussed at length, but was rejected on the ground that it might jeopardize the ratifying of the constitution.

The capital of Kansas territory had been Lecompton. At the Wyandotte convention Topeka was chosen by a vote of twenty-nine to fourteen for Lawrence, and six for Atchison.

A novel provision of the constitution was adopted at the solicitation of Winchell, chairman of the convention. This provided that all laws must originate in the house of representatives. Solon O. Thacher opposed this vigorously and it lasted only three years after the admission of the state into the Union.

A WOMAN'S INFLUENCE IN THE CONVENTION.

Mrs. C. L. H. Nichols.
MRS. C. L. H. NICHOLS.

Old citizens of Wyandotte and Quindaro recall the fact that at each session of the convention in the twenty-one days it was at work on the constitution a woman watched the proceedings. She was Mrs. Clarinda I. Howard Nichols, of Quindaro, and to her counsel, in a measure, is due some of those fine provisions in the constitution that protect the rights of the wife, the mother and the woman citizen. Mrs. D. E. Cornell is authority for the statement that Mrs. Nichols always took her knitting with her to the convention.

Mrs. Nichols had been an editor of a paper at Battleboro, Vermont, and had come to Kansas with the New England Free State boomers. She strove to have the convention extend the elective franchise to woman, especially in municipal and educational affairs. While many members were willing to adopt her views, a majority could not be secured. She died in California in 1885, two years before the Kansas legislature passed the bill that conferred on the women of Kansas the right of municipal suffrage. A large portrait, in oil, of Mrs. Nichols hangs in the public library in Kansas City, Kansas, placed there by the women of the Columbian Club as a memorial.

DEMOCRATIC MEMBERS REFUSE TO SIGN.

The work of the convention was completed on its twenty-first day, and at 5 o'clock in the afternoon the motion was made that "we do now adopt and proceed to sign the constitution." The Democratic members, however, refused. They had several grievances, but the most important was the apportionment of members for the legislature. This, they contended, was grossly unfair.

"I suppose the apportionment was unfair," Judge Simpson said in explaining it not long ago. "But political conditions demanded the apportionment. The legislature to be chosen under this constitution was to select two United States senators, and we regarded it as essential at that time that both of these should be Republicans. We couldn't take the chances of electing Democrats at such a time."

One Republican, Wright, of Nemaha, was absent. Thirty-four others signed it.

THE CONSTITUTION APPROVED BY THE PEOPLE.

The constitution was ratified by a vote of the people at an election held October 4, 1859. The majority for the constitution, out of 16,000 votes cast, was more than two to one. Both parties made nominations and this is the ticket that was selected on December 6, 1859, to comprise the officers of the first government of the "free and accepted" state of Kansas.

Governor, Charles Robinson; lieutenant governor, Joseph P. Root; secretary of state, John W. Robinson; treasurer, William Nolen; auditor, George S. Hillyre; superintendent of instruction, William R. Griffith; chief justice, Thomas Ewing, Jr.; associate justice (four years), Samuel A. Kingman; associate justice (two years), Lawrence D. Bailey; attorney general, Benjamin F. Simpson; member of congress, Martin F. Conway.

But statehood for Kansas was not yet in sight. There was more than a year to come. Governor Medary, in his message to the territorial legislature the following January, observed that "the utmost peace and quietness has pervaded the territory," but before the year was out the governor was marching to the southward to suppress the rising tide of war.

In the meantime the country was shaken by the great political campaign of 1860. Kansas was all eagerness; Lincoln visited the territory in 1859; Seward in 1860. The Democratic party broke in two over a Kansas matter. Civil war was threatened as something possible and near. Men heard the sound of the looms of the Fates weaving the shrouds of the dead. The long struggle in Kansas seemed but the prelude, the overture.

CONGRESS SLOW TO ACT.

Meanwhile the slow congress bandied the question from one house to the other. Early in the spring of 1860 Galusha A. Grow, of Pennsylvania, presented a bill for the admission of Kansas under the Wyandotte constitution. On the 29th of March Mr. Grow favorably reported the bill from the committee on territories. On the 11th of April the house passed the bill 134 to 73. On the 7th of May the senate voted not to take up the Kansas bill and on the 4th of June repeated this action. It was a deadlock and so remained till the fated year 1860 had run on to the more fateful year of 1861. Then the lock was broken; the thinned ranks of the senate on the 21st of January voted for the admission of Kansas; and on the 28th the house once more rallied for admission, 117 to 42, and on the next day, being the 29th day of January, 1861, the aged president, James Buchanan, affixed his signature. The wondrous wire which had, year by year, been drawing near the Missouri, was ready now to speed the words of fire to the border.

WHEN THE NEWS REACHED KANSAS.

On January 29, 1861, the day President Buchanan signed the bill admitting Kansas to statehood under the Wyandotte constitution, D. R. Anthony and D. W. Wilder were publishing a paper at Leavenworth called the Conservative. The news from Washington reached Leavenworth by telegram and an extra edition of that publication with glaring headlines was issued late in the afternoon. With a bundle of "extras" Colonel Anthony rode to Lawrence, where the last territorial legislature was in session. He arrived about 9 o'clock at night and rushed into the Eldridge House shouting the news. It set that Free State town wild with joy.

"It was a great stroke of newspaper enterprise," an old Kansan said recently. "But think of two radicals like D. R. Anthony and D. W. Wilder publishing a paper called the Conservative?"

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS OF STATEHOOD.

An able address on the Wyandotte convention and one which reflected the spirit of that famous gathering, was delivered by Benjamin F. Simpson, at the quarter-centennial celebration of the admission of Kansas into the Union, held at Topeka, January 29, 1886. In the course of that address Mr. Simpson said:

"When we come to review the history and proceedings of the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention, after it has been the subject of legal interpretation and supplementary legislation for twenty-five years, two important considerations first claim notice and comment, and these are the circumstances of its origin and the class of men that composed it. How can I describe the five years of organized usurpation in the interests of slavery that hung over the territory like a funeral pall? Organized bands from neighboring slave states raided through the territory; they shot down unarmed men in cold blood; they burned and sacked towns; they burned cabins of the first settlers; they committed the most outrageous and unblushing frauds on the ballot box; they intimidated voters and drove them from the polls; they hunted Free State leaders like bloodhounds; they imprisoned men for opinion's sake; they filled both branches of the territorial legislature with ruffians, who were residents of Missouri; and in all this were protected and encouraged by a national administration as devoted to the propagation of slavery as were the instruments they employed to drive the Free State settlers from the territory. During these cruel years several attempts were made by the Free State men to relieve their condition, and relief could only come by admission as a state, or change of national administration. The Topeka and Leavenworth constitutional conventions were attempts in that direction, but the time for deliverance was not ripe; yet all through these cruel years, angels of hope sat upon the hearthstones of the Kansas cabins, singing:

'For Freedom's battle once begun,
Bequeathed by bleeding sire to son,
Though baffled oft, is ever won.'

"Time aided the persistance and patience of the Free State settlers; immigration was coming in from the north; the legislature and local offices were now controlled by the bona fide residents, and the friends of Kansas were about to control the lower house of congress, and were gaining in the senate. Encouraged by these good indications, the legislature of 1859, on the 11th day of February, passed an act authorizing a vote of the people to be taken on the question of the formation of a constitution and state government. The vote was taken on the 28th day of March, and resulted four to one in its favor. An election for delegates was then ordered on the fourth day of June. At that election there were more than 14,000 votes cast. The convention met on the 5th day of July. It was right that it should meet at Wyandotte, within sight and hearing of slave soil. The personal composition of this body of men was peculiar, and it may be that it was this peculiarity that made their work a success. For causes that are unnecessary and unprofitable here to discuss, not a single one of those numerous and worthy men, who were, by common consent, regarded as leaders in the Free State movement, had a seat in the convention. It was composed of that great middle class, who are the strength and wisdom of a political organization. It was a class of men who acted from conviction with a sense of their responsibilities, and not from any hope of their personal advancement. These members had more or less local prominence, or they could not have been selected as delegates, but none of them, with the possible exception of Winchell, was possessed of that influence, standing and general acquaintance through the territory that would entitle them to be considered in any sense as leaders. They were strangers to each other, and when they assembled in Wyandotte, on the 5th day of July, I personally knew but four of them, and many members were more unfortunate in that respect than I was. They had no personal ambition to gratify, no animosities to resent, no friends to favor. Their sole aim and object seemed to be (and in this connection I speak of them as individuals and as an organized body), to frame a fundamental law that embodied every safeguard to the citizen, that was abreast with the progressive sentiment of the nation, in favor of human freedom and human rights, and was adapted to the wants and conditions of the people of Kansas. They worked conscientiously and with great industry, and completed their labors in twenty-one working days. Of course there were schemes, and old claims, and spent provisions that were sought to be engrafted on that instrument, but there is not a paragraph or section of that constitution within which lurked any suspicion of a scheme or job. That convention was singularly free from political manipulation and figuring as to state officers and other positions that were so soon to follow if the work was ratified by the people. There were about 16,000 votes polled at the election, and more than two-thirds of them were for the constitution. On the 6th day of December the election for state officers, a member of congress, and members of the legislature was held. On the 14th day of February, 1860, it was presented to the senate of the United States. On the 29th day of February, Senator W. H. Seward made a strong speech in favor of the admission of the state. On the 29th day of March, Mr. Grow, of Pennsylvania, from the committee of territories in the house of representatives, made a report recommending admission on the 11th day of April. The house voted to admit Kansas - 134 for and 73 against. On the 7th day of May, Senator Wade, of Ohio, moved to take up the house bill admitting Kansas, but was beaten by vote of 26 for and 32 against. On the 4th day of June, Charles Sumner made a speech in favor of admission, but Hunter of Virginia, moved a postponement of the Kansas bill, and it carried by a vote of 33 for and 27 against. On the 21st day of January, 1861, the bill for the admission of Kansas passed the senate by a vote of 36 for and 16 against. On the 29th day President Buchanan signed the bill, Kansas became a state, the struggle was over, the battle was won; and the good people of Kansas are to-day enjoying the fruits of the victory.

"I claim for the members of that body, who framed a fundamental law which has governed a state twenty-five years - years of marvelous growth and unexampled development - that time has demonstrated that they had a very fair conception of the wants, conditions and necessities of the people for whom they acted, and, notwithstanding the wonderful increase in population and production, that instrument has accelerated rather than retarded the growth that has never been equaled on the American continent.

"I doubt whether the men of to-day, any more than those of twenty-five years ago, have given a thought or entertained a conception of what a grand, glorious and prosperous commonwealth is building up among them, how this influx of people, how this everyday intercourse between people of different sections of our own widespread domain, how this exchange of ideas and methods, how all these things, animated and dominated by the Anglo-Saxon blood, are producing on the prairies of Kansas a race of people and a condition of government and society that will make the state the 'chosen land' of the best type of American civilization; and will ever keep green and fresh the memory of the noble pioneers whose blood will bring 'God-like' fruition to the hopes, aspiration and ultimate destiny of the glorious young commonwealth."


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