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Constitutions » KS Constitution » Writing Process

The Kansas Constitution was originally known as the Wyandotte Constitution and was the fourth constitution proposed by the Territorial Legislature. First, the Topeka Constitution was created by free-staters as an attempt to separate from the pro-slavery Legislature, but Congress would not accept it because the federal government did not recognize the convention. Second, the Lecompton Constitution, a pro-slavery document, failed ratification because members of the U.S. Congress were divided on the issue of slavery and unsure that it represented the will of the people. Third, the Leavenworth Constitution was a radical anti-slavery document that also granted voting rights to African Americans and, although ratified by Kansas voters, failed approval at the national level by a pro-slavery controlled Congress.

In 1859, when Kansas was still a territory, a delegation of 35 Republicans and 17 Democrats were elected and assembled at the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention in Wyandotte County to decide how the controversial issues of the time were to be addressed. One such issue was slavery. The Wyandotte Constitution prohibited slavery in the Kansas Territory but women, African Americans and Native Americans were excluded from the privilege of voting. The constitution specified that "every white male person, of twenty-one years and upward" was eligible to vote.

Women's suffrage was a hot topic. Although there was some support within the delegation for women to possess equal voting rights, the idea was trumped by the majority who found the notion to be too "radical." However, a woman named Clarina Nichols persuasively campaigned for women's rights and influenced the delegation to approve a woman's right to own property, to be involved in school district elections and to have equal rights to her children.

Clarina Nichols image
Clarina Nichols, who campaigned for women's rights
Photo courtesy of the Kansas Historical Society

"We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges, in order to insure the full enjoyment of our rights as American citizens, do ordain and establish this constitution of the state of Kansas …"

Constitution of the State of Kansas, Preamble

Another issue was the future state's boundaries. Some of the previous constitutions mandated that the land stretching to the Rocky Mountains and encompassing a portion of southern Nebraska should be included in the new state. However, the Wyandotte Constitution provided a smaller, more manageable state, which gave Kansas its rectangular shape.