Statehood for Bleeding Kansas

January 29, 1861 – President James Buchanan signed the Kansas Statehood Act into law, admitting Kansas into the Union as the 34th state.

Kansas State Flag Adopted in 1861 | Image Credit: K-State.edu

Kansas State Flag Adopted in 1861 | Image Credit: K-State.edu

In 1854, the people of Kansas had been authorized to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery. This sparked a rush of pro-slavery and anti-slavery partisans into the region to influence elections.

At one time, Kansas had competing pro-slavery and anti-slavery governments in Lecompton and Topeka. Elections were corrupted by fraud, intimidation, and violence. Radical abolitionist John Brown had become notorious for murdering pro-slavery men at Pottawatomie Creek, and the warring factions terrorized various towns. This earned the territory the nickname “Bleeding Kansas.”

Buchanan had offered Kansans 23 million acres of Federal land to accept the pro-slavery Lecompton government, but voters rejected this offer by a nearly seven-to-one margin. In the vote for statehood this month, Kansans voted overwhelmingly in favor of making Kansas a state under the Wyandotte Constitution, which excluded slavery while theoretically allowing blacks to reside in the new state.

Senators from southern states that had not yet seceded sought to delay the bill’s passage to avoid adding further insult to the South. Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois disagreed, declaring, “I do think we ought to admit Kansas promptly, without further delay, or further obstacles. We have had enough controversies about Kansas.”

Republicans had hurried the vote hoping that Kansas would send fellow Republican congressmen to Washington before the congressional session ended on March 4. By this time, the Republican vote had become dominant in Congress due to the withdrawal of representation from South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi.

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Sources

  • Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 30
  • White, Howard Ray, Bloodstains, An Epic History of the Politics that Produced and Sustained the American Civil War and the Political Reconstruction that Followed (Southernbooks, Kindle Edition, 2012), Q161
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One thought on “Statehood for Bleeding Kansas

  1. […] Buchanan signed the Kansas Statehood Act into […]

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