Lecompton Constitution

Author:William M. Wiecek

Page 1574

In June 1857 less than thirty percent of registered voters in Kansas Territory elected a CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION dominated by proslavery delegates. Meeting in Lecompton, the convention drew up a constitution preparatory for statehood that guaranteed the rights of owners of slaves in the territory, excluded free blacks, and submitted to a REFERENDUM the question whether the constitution should be accepted with or without a clause prohibiting the importation of slaves into Kansas (rather than a referendum on the constitution as a whole). Viewing this as a travesty of his principle of territorial SOVEREIGNTY, Illinois Senator STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS broke with the administration of JAMES BUCHANAN, which was pressuring Congress to accept the Lecompton constitution, and led the struggle against it. In three referenda on the constitution, Kansas voted first to accept the constitution with slavery (6,226 to 569, with free-state voters abstaining), then to reject the constitution entirely (10,226 to 166 with proslavery voters...

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