- DOCUMENT #1 – THE LECOMPTON CONSTITUTION
Creating the Lecompton Constitution began with choosing the delegates who would
write it. In the summer of 1857 territorial voters traveled to area polling places to elect
delegates. Legally, only residents of Kansas Territory could vote in a territorial election. In
reality, some people voted more than once, and many proslavery Missourians crossed the
Missouri-Kansas border to vote. Missourians wanted to make sure their Kansas neighbor got
a proslavery constitution. Free-staters chose not to vote at this election because they felt their
votes would be a show of support for illegal voting practices in previous elections. The result
was that the majority of delegates elected to write the Lecompton Constitution were
proslavery. However, the majority of territorial voters in the summer of 1857 supported the
Elected delegates gathered at a constitutional convention in the town of Lecompton in
the fall of 1857. Here they wrote the Lecompton Constitution. The majority of delegates
supported slavery, which resulted in a constitution that allowed slavery in the new state of
Next, the completed Lecompton Constitution went before territorial voters for approval. The proslavery constitutional convention claimed the right to call for a vote on part of the constitution and to turn over the power of the territorial governor and legislature to the president of the constitutional convention. The territorial governor and the new free-state legislature disagreed with the convention. Their inability to reach an agreement resulted in
two elections. The first election resulted in approval of the proslavery Constitution, but the second election resulted in the free-state voters overturning the Constitution which led to even more anger and violence in Kansas.
THE LECOMPTON CONSTITUTION
ARTICLE VII.-- SLAVERY.
SECTION 1. The right of property is before and higher than any constitutional sanction, and the right of the owner of a slave to such slave and its increase is the same and as inviolable as the r ight of the owner of any property whatever.
SECTION 2. The Legislature shall have no power to pass laws for the emancipation of slaves without the consent of the owners, or without paying the owners previous to their emancipation a full equivalent in money for the slaves so emancipated. They shall have no power to prevent immigrants to the State from bringing with them such persons as are deemed slaves by the laws of any one of the United States or Territories, so long as any person of the same age or description shall be continued in slavery by the laws of this State: Provided, That such person or slave be the bona fide property of such immigrants: And provided, also, That laws may be passed to prohibit the introduction into this State of slaves who have committed high crimes in other States or Territories. They shall have power to pass laws to permit the owners of slaves to emancipate them, saving the rights of creditors, and preventing them from becoming a public charge. They shall have power to pass laws to permit the owners of slaves to treat them with humanity, to provide for them necessary food and clothing, to abstain from all injuries to them extending to life or limb; and, in case of their neglect or refusal to comply with the direction of such laws, to have such slave sold for the benefit of the owner or owners.
SECTION 3. In the prosecution of slaves for crimes of higher grade than petit larceny, the Legislature shall have no power to deprive them of an impartial trial by petit jury.
SECTION 4. Any person who shall maliciously dismember, or deprive a slave of life, shall suffer such punishment as would be inflicted in case the like offense had been committed on a free white person, and on the like proof, except in case of insurrection of such slave.
BILL OF RIGHTS -- #23 Free negroes shall not be permitted to live in this state under any circumstances.
SCHEDULE – SEC. 7 This constitution shall be submitted to the Congress of the United States at its next ensuing session…
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 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 endorsed, “Constitution with slavery,” and “Constitution with no slavery.”
From the Annals of Kansas found at:
1. Does the Lecompton Constitution reflect a belief that the people of Kansas believed in slavery or popular sovereignty as a solution to the conflict in their territory?
2. What options did the final draft give the voters of Kansas regarding the issue of slavery?
3. What were some of the ways in which the proslavery Missourians influenced the slavery issue in this Constitution to insure that their slaves would be protected in Kansas?
- DOCUMENT #2 - PRESIDENT JAMES BUCHANAN’S MESSAGE TO CONGRESS, FEBRUARY 2, 1858 REGARDING THE LECOMPTON CONSTITUTION INTRODUCTION:
Failing to appreciate the growing power of free soil ideology in the north, President Buchanan continued his long-standing policy of appeasing the slave states by appointing many southerners to his cabinet. He also showed his southern leaning in the matter of "Bleeding Kansas." The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 repealed the Missouri Compromise line of 1820 and destroyed the finality of the Compromise of 1850 by allowing voters in the western territories to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery. The result was that large numbers of pro-slavery and antislavery settlers rushed into the Kansas territory. When voters met at Lecompton to write a state constitution, free-soil Kansans boycotted the registration and delegate election process, resulting in the election of a pro-slavery convention. When only a pro-slavery constitution was presented to voters, the antislavery faction again refused to participate in the election and the pro-slavery constitution was sent to Buchanan for congressional approval. Meanwhile, the territorial legislature in Kansas called for a referendum on the entire constitution and, with antislavery partisans participating this time, the result was a large majority against the Lecompton Constitution. Amidst the ensuing national firestorm, Buchanan characteristically decided his course by applying a narrow legalistic logic to the case. Since the first election had been legal, neither the president nor a territorial legislature had authority to intervene and so he submitted the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution to Congress.
PRESIDENT BUCHANAN’S MESSAGE TO CONGRESS FEBRUARY 2, 1858
The following message was received from the President of the United States by Mr. Henry, his secretary:
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
I have received from J. Calhoun, esq., president of the late constitutional convention of Kansas, a copy, duly certified by himself, of the constitution framed by that body, with the expression of a hope that I would submit the same to the consideration of Congress, "with the view of the admission of Kansas into the Union as an independent State." In compliance with this request, I herewith transmit to Congress, for their action, the constitution of Kansas, with the ordinance respecting the public lands, as well as the letter of Mr. Calhoun, dated at Lecompton on the 14th ultimo, by which they were accompanied.
The enemies of the territorial government determined still to resist the authority of Congress. They refused to vote for delegates to the convention, not because, from circumstances which I need not detail, there was an omission to register the comparatively few voters who were inhabitants of certain counties of Kansas in the early spring of 1857, but because they had predetermined, at all hazards, to adhere to their revolutionary organization, and defeat the establishment of any other constitution than that which they had framed at Topeka. The election was, therefore, suffered to pass by default; but of this result the qualified electors who refused to vote can never justly complain.
From this review, it is manifest that the Lecompton convention, according to every principle of constitutional law, was legally constituted and was invested with power to frame a constitution.
The sacred principle of popular sovereignty has been invoked in favor of the enemies of law and order in Kansas. But in what manner is popular sovereignty to be exercised in this country, if not through the instrumentality of established law? In certain small republics of ancient times the people did assemble in primary meetings, passed laws, and directed public affairs. In our country this is manifestly impossible. Popular sovereignty can be exercised here only through the ballot- box; and if the people will refuse to exercise it in this manner, as they have done in Kansas at the election of delegates, it is not for them to complain that their rights have been violated.
The question of slavery was submitted to an election of the people of Kansas on the 21st December last, in obedience to the mandate of the Constitution. Here, again, a fair opportunity was presented to the adherents of the Topeka constitution, if they were the majority, to decide this exciting question "in their own way," and thus restore peace to the distracted Territory; but they again refused to exercise their right of popular sovereignty, and again suffered the election to pass by default.
The people of Kansas have, then, "in their own way," and in strict accordance with the organic act, framed a constitution and State government; have submitted the all-important question of slavery to the people, and have elected a governor, a member to represent them in Congress, members of the State legislature, and other State officers. They now ask admission into the Union under this constitution, which is republican in its form. It is for Congress to decide whether they will admit or reject the State which has thus been created. For my own part, I am decidedly in favor of its admission, and thus terminating the Kansas question. This will carry out the great principle of non-intervention recognized and sanctioned by the organic act, which declares in express language in favor of "non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States or Territories," leaving "the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States." In this manner, by localizing the question of slavery, and confining it to the people whom it immediately concerned, every patriot anxiously expected that this question would be banished from the halls of Congress, where it has always exerted a baneful influence throughout the whole country.
It is proper that I should briefly refer to the election held under an act of the territorial legislature, on the first Monday of January last, on the Lecompton constitution. This election was held after the Territory had been prepared for admission into the Union as a sovereign State, and when or change its character. The election, which was peaceably conducted under my instructions, involved a strange inconsistency. A large majority of the persons who voted against the Lecompton constitution were at the very same time and place recognizing its valid existence in the most solemn and authentic manner, by voting under its provisions. I have yet received no official information of the result of this election.
Washington, February 2, 1858.
From the Library of Congress Journal of the Senate 35th Session found at:
1. Does President Buchanan’s attempt to get Congress to recognize the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution have anything to do with its protection of slavery?
2. After reading this document does it appear to you that President Buchanan believes people in the territory of Kansas, or any other territory for that matter, have the right to establish slavery of they want it? Why or why not?
3. Did President Buchanan’s message threaten the success of Popular Sovereignty in Kansas?