Kansas heritage proud, free
The Kansas story is a pleasant diversion from the terrible Hurricane Harvey news of the week and the continuing debate over whether the statues of the Confederate Army should be destroyed.
Our state historians provide accounts of how clouds were looming ominously over the not-so-United States in January of 1861. After 85 years, the Union seemed on the verge of dissolution over the question of slavery.
In Kansas, at the time, the immediate future seemed gloomy. Not only had the Kansas territory been the scene of a six-year, bloody border struggle over the slavery question, but hunger, poverty and disaster still confronted the pioneers here, too.
“The territory was in the midst of a severe drought which brought carload after carload of supplies from sympathetic and more fortunate friends and relatives in the East. The drought caused tight money and low employment. Despair was the lot of many a hardy soul,’’ according to an account in the Kansas History magazine.
Then, in the darkness of a cold January morning, came news that gladdened the heart of nearly every Kansan; the future seemed less dreary, spirits soared, and hopes were revived. Kansas had been admitted as the 34th state of the Union!
Joyful as the news was, it was not unexpected. For four years, Kansans had been attempting to write a constitution under which the territory might be admitted as a state.
Documents written at Topeka, Lecompton and Leavenworth had failed for various reasons -- but the basic reason, of course, was slavery versus freedom.
A fourth constitution had been written at Wyandotte in 1859 and an admission bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress the next year.
Though the bill had passed the House of Representatives, the senate’s southern bloc was able to keep it buried.
In December, the Kansas bill was brought up in the second session and in January, 1861, after some senators of seceding states had begun to withdraw, and go back home, it finally was passed by both houses.
President James Buchanan signed the bill into law on Jan. 29 and we celebrate that date each year now as Kansas Day.
You can’t tell the story of Kansas without talking about our pioneer families’ firm belief that all men are created equal. The fact that Kansas’ statehood was based on the principle of freedom for all should be a source of pride for us all.