Topeka Constitution

views updated


TOPEKA CONSTITUTION. The movement for statehood launched by free-state Kansans in opposition to the proslavery territorial government was inaugurated in the late summer of 1855, when a "people's" assembly at Topeka called an election for members of a constitutional convention. Thirteen of the delegates were natives of southern states, ten of New York and Pennsylvania, eight of the Old Northwest, four of New England, and two of foreign countries. They chose James H. Lane, a popular sovereignty Democrat as president.

The constitution contained standard provisions for the forms and functions of government. The bill of rights prohibited slavery and declared invalid indentures of blacks executed in other states. The service of free blacks in the militia was prohibited, but the fundamental question of admitting them to Kansas was referred to the voters along with the constitution and a general banking law. After the Constitution was ratified, Lane went to Washington, D.C., to petition Congress for Kansas statehood. On 4 March 1856, the legislature assembled at Topeka and elected U.S. senators. The House of Representatives passed a bill 3 July 1856, to admit Kansas under the Topeka Constitution, although five days later the Senate substituted its own measure authorizing a constitutional convention. The Senate's actions terminated the ambitions laid out in the Topeka Constitution.


Fehrenbacher, Don E. Sectional Crisis and Southern Constitutionalism. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1995.

Rawley, James A. Race and Politics: "Bleeding Kansas" and the Coming of the Civil War. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1969.

Wendell H.Stephenson/h. s.

See alsoBorder Ruffians ; Kansas ; Kansas-Nebraska Act ; Sectionalism .