LECOMPTON, Kan: The Territorial Capital Museum in Lecompton will stage a reenactment of abolitionist Jim Lane's fiery speech from a wagon outside Constitution Hall on Oct. 28, the 160th anniversary of the pivotal Bleeding Kansas event that heralded the destruction of slavery.
Tim Rues, site administrator of Constitution Hall and a member of the Lecompton Reenactors, will portray Lane, as he has for two decades, delivering an 8-minute condensed version of the widely-published diatribe. The public is invited to join historians and scholars, including a group from Wichita State University, at the 1 p.m. event.
Lane was followed by an abolitionist group that marched on Lecompton from Lawrence aiming to sack the city. Dragoons and artillery from Fort Leavenworth prevented violence, although Lane threatened to assassinate the pro-slavery delegates in Constitution Hall, built a year earlier.
"There would have been quite a crowd out in front of this building," Rues says. "They were celebrating a free-state victory in the legislature, but they were denouncing the Lecompton Constitution that would make Kansas a slave state."
Pro-slavery leaders had started writing the constitution in Lecompton, the seat of territorial government on Sept. 7, 1857. The rival free-state Topeka Constitution had been delivered to Washington in 1855, but President James Buchanan wanted Congress to ratify the slave-state constitution.
Kansas voters on each side had boycotted their opponents' referendums, generating lopsided but artificial results. Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, author of the popular-sovereignty 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, declared the Lecompton Constitution a fraud. His rift with Buchanan destroyed Democratic Party unity and paved the way for Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 with less than 40 percent of the vote against three Democratic candidates.
The free-state Wyandotte Constitution, adopted by Kansans in 1859, was finally ratified by Congress after Southern opponents in the Senate left to join the Confederacy. Buchanan signed the legislation bringing Kansas into the Union on Jan. 29, 1861.
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