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Kansas » KS Constitution » Introduction

A constitution defines the core beliefs and laws of a society by determining the role of government and the rights of the people. The Kansas Constitution is a document that few Kansans are familiar with, although it influences our daily lives. A separate state constitution was and still is necessary in addition to our nation's constitution so that our government may operate as a republic, as opposed to a democracy.

A republic is "a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them." However, a true democracy is based entirely on the will of the majority and can be compared to the metaphor of two wolves and a sheep trying to decide what to eat for dinner. A state constitution gives the government enough power to declare the actions of a majority illegal if those actions violate the rights of the minority.

The bitter struggle and often violent turmoil that plagued the Kansas Territory's landscape on the issues that would determine the people's future comprised the marrow of this legendary document's laws. The unruly territory was about to become an official state. But on which side of the critical issues would it fall?

Topeka Convention image
Drawing published in Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper of the 1855 Constitutional Convention in Topeka
Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress