THE EAST BOUNDARY OF KANSAS - THE NORTH BOUNDARY - SOUTHERN BOUNDARY - WHEN COLORADO WAS A PART OF KANSAS - WYANDOTTE CONVENTION CUT OFF COLORADO - DEBATE ON THE WESTERN BOUNDARY - TO CUT OFF "SHORT GRASS" COUNTRY - OBJECTED TO THE MINING REGIONS - A PATHWAY TO THE MOUNTAINS - PART OF NEBRASKA WANTED TO BE IN KANSAS - NEBRASKA'S MANY CAPITALS - WOULD MAKE THE PLATTE THE BOUNDARY - NEBRASKA'S DELEGATES TO WYANDOTTE - DEFEAT OF THE PLAN - KANSAS PAPERS INDIFFERENT - A MISSOURI OPINION OF KANSAS - STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS' SPEECH - BEN SIMPSON'S DEFENSE OF THE BOUNDARIES - THE CONVENTION DID RIGHT - KANSAS CITY LOST ITS OPPORTUNITY - KANSAS THE "MIDDLE SPOT" OF NORTH AMERICA.
On the 12th day of July, 1859, the following Nebraska men were admitted to seats on the floor of the Wyandotte constitutional convention then in session, as honorary members, with the privilege of participating in the discussion of the northern boundary of the state of Kansas, but not to vote: Stephen F. Muckolls, Mills S. Reeves, Robert W. Furnas, Obadiah B. Hewett, Wm. W. Keeling, Samuel A. Chambers, Wm. H. Taylor, Stephen B. Miles, (George H. Nixon), John H. Croxton, John H. Cheever, John B. Bennet, Jacob Dawson and William P. Loan. In the archives of the State Historical Society we find the original application of the Nebraska people signed by Mills S. Reeves, John B. Bennet, William H. Taylor, Samuel A. Chambers and Stephen B. Miles. On the 15th the Nebraska delegates were heard, and on the 16th, during the consideration of the west boundary line of the state of Kansas, William C. McDowell, of Leavenworth, a Democratic member, moved the following amendment:
"Provided, however, that if the people of southern Nebraska, embraced between Platte river and the northern boundary of Kansas as established by congress, agree to the same, a vote is to be taken by them, both upon the question of boundary and upon this constitution, at the time this constitution is submitted to the people of Kansas, and provided congress agree to the same the boundaries of the state of Kansas shall be as follows: 'Beginning at a point on the western boundary of the state of Missouri where the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude crosses the same; thence west with said parallel to the twenty-fourth meridian of longitude west from Washington; thence north with said meridian to the middle of the south fork of the Platte river; thence following the main channel of said river to the middle of the Missouri river; thence with the middle of the Missouri river to the mouth of the Kansas river; thence south on the western boundary line of the state of Missouri to the place of beginning.'"
After a short parliamentary wrangle about separating the north and west lines, Mr. McDowell withdrew the amendment, and the convention voted that the northern boundary remain unchanged.
The Nebraska City News, the organ of the South Platte sentiment, was furious over the result. We quote: "The curious may wish to know why this rich boon was refused by the Black Republican constitutional convention of Kansas. It was for this reason: Its acquisition, it was believed by those worthies, would operate against their party. They said South Platte, Nebraska, was Democratic, and that, being added to northern Kansas, which is largely Democratic, would make Kansas a Democratic state; would deprive the Black Republican party of two United States senators, a congressman and other offices. They were dragooned into this position, too, by the Republican party outside of Kansas. Kansas, they are determined at all hazards, shall be an abolition state."
It was a great deal, amid the sentiment and passion of that hour, to ask the Free Soilers in the Wyandotte convention, following the struggles of the border as far south as Fort Scott from 1855 to 1860, to go back on the people south of the Kaw for an unknown quantity in southern Nebraska. The delegates from Nebraska offered great things in a material way, but politics cropped out everywhere, principally from outside of Kansas. There was no politics then but the slavery issue. Solon O. Thacher said: "Chief among their arguments was one meeting an objection which they supposed would be raised in consequence of the political character of the country proposed to be annexed; and we have been invoked by all the powers of logic and rhetoric to ignore the political aspect of this case - to lay aside whatever feelings might arise politically, and look at the question dispassionately. Now, sir, I say they urge an impossibility. Had these gentlemen from southern Nebraska seen the sky lurid with the flames of their burning homes, the soil of these beautiful prairies crimson with the blood of their brothers and fathers, or their wives and children flying over the land for a place of refuge from crime and outrage, they would not think of making such an appeal to us. Gentlemen must remember that this is the first time in the history of Kansas that southern Kansas has been represented in any deliberate body. Think you, sir, that the people who have just escaped from a prison-house that has kept them so long can desire to reenter the clammy dungeon?"
"I have carefully looked through the files of several of the Kansas newspapers of that period, and I find a singular indifference to the question of annexation," says Secretary Martin, of the Kansas Historical Society. The Topeka Tribune and the Leavenworth Herald very freely supported it. The Lawrence Republican, T. Dwight Thacher's paper, was strongly opposed to it. There was little else considered then aside from slavery. The Lecompton Democrat favored the dismemberment of both Kansas and Nebraska and the formation of a new state lying between Kansas and the Platte rivers. The Republican of July 21, 1859, said this scheme was hatched in Washington and nursed in the Blue Lodges of Missouri. Annexation would make southern Kansas a mere appendage to the northern part of the state and completely at its mercy. The editor of the Republican made a visit to southeastern Kansas, and in his issue of July 14th reported unanimous opposition to the movement; that the people there neither cared to be annexed nor knew the politics of the Nebraska men. A portion of the Nebraska movement was to make another state south of Kansas river to be called Neosho. In a speech before the convention, on July 22nd, Solon O. Thacher said that three-fifths of the population of Kansas was south of the Kansas river. The Platte gave no river frontage, and would need an appropriation every year to make it navigable by catfish and pollywogs, and a movement would give Kansas three additional Missouri river counties north of the Kansas river, which would not be desirable. A singular feature is that the Free Soil legislature of 1859 petitioned for annexation, while Free Soilers in the constitution bitterly opposed it. The Lawrence Republican is the only paper that handled the subject with vigor, as is evident from the following quotation, taken from its issue of June 16, 1859: "The proposed measure, if accomplished, would destroy the community of interests which now exists between the various portions of Kansas. Our people are bound together as the people of no other new state ever were. Together they have gone through one of the darkest and bloodiest struggles for freedom that any people ever encountered; together they have achieved the most significant and far-reaching victory since the Revolution; together they have suffered - together triumphed! At this late day, after the battle has been fought and won, and we are about to enter upon the enjoyment of the fruits of our perilous labors, we do not care to have introduced into our household a set of strangers who have had no community of interests with us in the past, who have hardly granted us the poor boon of their sympathy, and who even now speak of the thrice-honored and loved name of Kansas as a 'name which is but the synonym of crime and blood!' (extract from a Nebraska City paper.)
On the 23rd of July, McDowell renewed the subject in the Wyandotte convention by the following resolution: "Resolved, that congress be memorialized to include within the limits of the state of Kansas that part of southern Nebraska lying between the northern boundary of the territory of Kansas and the Platte river." This was defeated, on the same day, by a vote of nineteen for and twenty-nine against. The Democrats refused to sign the constitution, and of those who did sign, four - S. D. Houston, J. A. Middleton, L. R. Palmer and R. J. Porter - voted to annex the South Platte country.
Senator Green, of Missouri, in opposing the admission of Kansas under the Wyandotte constitution, said that not over three-eighths of Kansas could be cultivated; that "without this addition (South Nebraska) Kansas must be weak, puerile, sickly, in debt, and at no time capable of sustaining herself." In the United States senate on January 18, 1861, he moved to strike out the proposed boundaries of Kansas and insert the following: "Beginning in the main channel of the North fork of the Platte river, at a point where the twenty-fifth meridian of longitude west from Washington crosses the same; thence down and along said channel to its junction with the main stream of the Platte, thence down and along the main channel of the Platte to the Missouri river; thence south along said river and the western boundary of the state of Missouri to the northern boundary of the Cherokee neutral land; thence west along said northern boundary, the northern boundary of the Osage lands and the prolongation of the same, to the twenty-fifth meridian of longitude west from Washington; thence north on said meridian to the place of beginning.
This was defeated by a vote of twenty-three yeas to thirty-one nays, a greater number of the yeas being those who opposed the admission of Kansas under any circumstances. In support of this proposition Senator Green said: "It will be observed by an examination of the constitution adopted at Wyandotte, now pending before the senate, that about one-third of the territory of Kansas is cut off from the west. That includes the Pike's Peak region, where the first gold discovery was made, including the Gregory mines, and so on, cutting off that space of territory, which none of the other constitutions ever did. Owing to the character of the country, that is too small a compass to constitute a good state. The gross area is about eighty thousand square miles; but the portion susceptible of settlement and of habitation will not exceed forty thousand; and the best authority I have reduces it to thirty thousand out of eighty thousand square miles. After we pass west of the Missouri river, except upon a few streams, there is no territory fit for settlement or habitation. It is unproductive. It is like a barren waste. It will not even support cattle, or sheep, or anything pertaining to the grazing business. There are no mineral resources in the state to supply any want of agricultural resources. Hence, I propose to enlarge the boundary, not upon the west, but to take the present western boundary and prolong it northerly up to the Platte river, and then follow the line of the river to its junction with the Missouri line, and follow the Missouri line down, It will add to the territory about thirty thousand square miles, about two-thirds of which will be susceptible of settlement. It will then make a good, strong, substantial state. I have the privilege to state, in this connection, that nine-tenths of the people south of the Platte, in what is now called Nebraska, desire this annexation to Kansas."
In the further discussion of the bill for admission, Stephen A. Douglas, January 19th, summed up the trouble as follows: "There is no necessity for delaying this bill, as it would be delayed by the adoption of the amendment. The senator from Missouri well knows that this Kansas question has been here for years, and no consideration on earth could suffice to stop it in this body three years ago, when it came under the Lecompton constitution. It was not stopped then to be amended for the want of judiciary or any other clauses; but it was forced through. We are told, first, that Kansas must be kept out because her northern boundary is not right, when it is the same now as it was then; next, that she must be kept out because the southern boundary is not right, though it is the same now as it was then; again, she must be kept out because of the Indian treaties, though the same objection existed then as now; again she must be kept out because she has not population enough, though she has three times as many people as were there then; and, finally, this bill must be delayed now because it does not contain a judiciary clause. I do not understand why these constant objections are being interposed to the admission of Kansas now, when none of them were presented in regard to the Lecompton constitution, three years ago, nor in regard to the admission of Oregon, which has since taken place. It seems to me that the fate of Kansas is a hard one; and it is necessary for these senators to explain why they make the distinction in their action between Kansas and Oregon, instead of my explaining why I do not make the distinction between them. "
On July 22, 1882, a reunion of the members of the constitutional convention was held at Wyandotte. Benjamin F. Simpson and John A. Martin made speeches. Martin was secretary of the convention, and afterwards served as colonel of the Eighth Kansas and two terms as governor. He said in his address that two influences induced the decision against the South Platte, "one political and the other local and material. Many Republicans feared that the South Platte country was, or would be likely to become, Democratic. Lawrence and Topeka both aspired to be the state capital, and their influence was against annexation, because they feared it would throw the center of population far north of the Kaw." We quote: "Each party, I think, was guilty of one blunder it afterwards seriously regretted - the Republicans in refusing to include the South Platte country within the boundaries of Kansas; the Democrats in refusing to sign the constitution they had labored diligently to perfect. I speak of what I consider the great mistake of the Republicans with all the more frankness, because I was at the time in hearty sympathy with their action; but I feel confident that no Republican member is living to-day who does not deplore that decision. And I am equally confident that within a brief time after the convention adjourned there were few Democratic members who did not seriously regret their refusal to sign the constitution."
"I think the judgment of the people today would be that the convention did very well; that for homogeneousness of people and interests, the boundary lines of Kansas encompass, encircle, surround and hold more contentment and happiness than any other equal extent of territory. Imagine a northern boundary line as crooked as the Platte river, and a southern boundary as crooked as the Kansas and Smoky Hill. Imagine what an unwieldly and incongruous lot of people and territory there would be from the Platte to the south line of Kansas, and from the Missouri river to the summit of the Rocky mountains. Fifty years of development and history show that the convention made the state just right. Furthermore, we have never heard of any unsatisfactory results from the shape of Nebraska, nor of any failure on the part of Nebraska people to manage the Platte river. I think that the Wyandotte convention, after fifty years, is entitled to the plaudit. 'Well done, good and faithful servants.' When we recall that Kansas is one of but twelve states in the Union that has lived under one constitution fifty years, the Wyandotte convention surely has this approbation."
In 1855 the territorial legislature of Kansas was in session at Shawnee Mission, only six miles from the now center of Kansas City, Missouri, and the Missouri legislature was in session at Jefferson City. In a sketch of Kansas City, Missouri, published by Judge H. C. McDougall in 1898, he says: "As one of the many evidences of the fatherly interest which the citizens of Missouri then had in the young territory of Kansas, it may be noted in passing that Hon. Mobillion W. McGee, a citizen of this state, who then resided where Dr. J. Feld now lives, out at Westport, was a distinguished and no doubt useful member of that territorial legislature at Shawnee Mission. It would have been greatly to the interest of the Pro-Slavery party in Kansas to get Kansas City into that territory. The Missouri statesmen were then anxious to further the ends of their Pro-Slavery brethren in Kansas, and Colonel Robert T. Van Horn, and a then distinguished citizen of the territory of Kansas (whose name I cannot mention because for thirty years he and his family have been warm personal friends of mine), agreed that it would be a good thing all around to detach Kansas City from Missouri and attach it to Kansas territory. Hence, after visiting and conferring with the legislatures of Missouri and Kansas territory, and being thoroughly satisfied that the Kansas territorial legislature would ask and the Missouri legislature grant a cession upon the part of the latter to the former of all that territory lying west and north of the Big Blue river from the point at which it crosses the Kansas line out near Old Santa Fe to its month Colonel Van Horn was left to look after the legislatures and my other venerable friend was posted off to Washington to get the consent of congress to the cession. Congress was also at that time intensely pro-slavery, and through Senator David R. Atchison, General B. F. Stringfellow and others, the congressional consent to the desired change could easily have been obtained. While agreeing upon everything else as to the rise and fall of this scheme, yet Colonel Van Horn says, that, upon arriving at Washington, our Kansas friend met and fell in love with a lady with whom he took a trip to Europe, and was not heard from in these parts for over two years." And that is how Kansas missed having one of the greatest cities to be on the continent. But there was then no ten-thousand dollar front-foot land in those hills of timber.
In 1879 there was again great interest in a movement on the part of Kansas City, Missouri, for annexation. The Kansas legislature passed a concurrent resolution declaring that the citizens of Kansas were not opposed to such a movement, and authorized the appointment of a committee of eight, three from the senate and five from the house, to investigate the subject. Senate concurrent resolution No. 6, introduced by T. B. Murdock, passed the senate January 21st, and was concurred in by the house the next day, and the original manuscript is now in the files of the secretary of state.
The Kansas City Times suggested the annexation movement in its issue of December 14, 1878, and January 1, 1879, gave a full front page to the subject, with a map of the territory proposed to be annexed and interviews with prominent citizens; on January 5th the Times printed Kansas and Missouri newspaper comments, and the issues of March 6th, 7th and 8th devoted considerable space to the visit of the Kansas City delegation to Topeka, and the reception and proceedings of the legislature.
A memorial was presented to the legislature, signed by George M. Shelley, mayor of Kansas City, and three councilmen, and a committee of five citizens, in which it was said:
"We assure your honorable body that our people are earnest and sincere in their desire for annexation, and should the question be submitted to the electors of the territory proposed to be annexed, it would be ratified by a virtually unanimous vote. Already a memorial to the Missouri legislature praying for such a submission of the question has been circulated and largely signed by our people, and will be duly presented by our representatives for the action of that honorable body."
On the 7th of March a delegation of 125 representatives of the business and commercial interests of Kansas City visited Topeka. A great reception was held and speeches were made by Governor St. John, Speaker Sidney Clark, Lieutenant Governor L. U. Humphry and Colonel D. S. Twitchell. The Kansas City guests further resolved: "That we are more than ever convinced of the great and mutual advantages that would accrue to Kansas City and Kansas from a more intimate union with the young Empire state." The Kansas City Times of March 7th published a map showing the change in the line desired by the people of that city. The proposed line followed the course of the Big Blue from a point on the state line near the southeast corner of Johnson county, running slightly east of north to the Missouri river, at this last point being about six miles east, comprising about sixty square miles of territory. It is highly probable the movement never reached Jefferson City. The Kansas legislature asked congress to order a resurvey of this east line, and John R. Goodin introduced a bill, but nothing ever came of it.
Verily "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will," as Mr. Shakespeare said. Charles Sumner thus described our situation: "The middle spot of North America, calculated to nurture a powerful and generous people, worthy to be a central pivot of American institutions." William H. Seward said: "Kansas is the Cinderella of the American family." Surely we were cuffed about like a household drudge, and now we are feeding and leading the world. Again, Seward said in Lawrence, September 26, 1860: "Men will come up to Kansas as they go up to Jerusalem. This shall be a sacred city." Henry Ward Beecher, whose Bibles and rifles are a part of our history, said: "There is no monument under heaven on which I would rather have my name inscribed than on this goodly state of Kansas." Abraham Lincoln, at Springfield, Illinois, June 27, 1857, said. "Look, Douglas, and see yonder people fleeing - see the full columns of brave men stopped - see the press and the type flying into the river - and tell me what does this! It is your squatter sovereignty! Let slavery spread over the territories and God will sweep us with a bush of fire from this solid globe." At our quarter centennial celebration, held in 1879, John Forney said: "If I had been commanded to choose one spot on the globe upon which to illustrate human development under the influence of absolute liberty, I could have chosen no part of God's footstool so interesting as Kansas. Yesterday an infant, today a giant, to-morrow - who can tell?"
These excerpts will show the inspiration under which Kansas was born. The character of the proposed state, her institutions, a high idea of public policy and morality, gave tone to all the discussion, marred only by a suspicion on the part of some, whether she could, in a material sense, maintain it all.
And so the only trouble we have ever had about the boundary lines of Kansas has been from the people on the outside endeavoring to get in.
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