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Lecompton Constitution (Smith, 1906)

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Theodore Clarke Smith, “Parties and Slavery, 1850-1859,” The American Nation: A History, ed. Albert Bushnell Hart, vol. 18 (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1906), 218-219.
Buchanan was by this time fully committed to the extreme southern position and had cast aside every vestige of the impartiality he had avowed in the preceding year.  February 2, 1858, he sent the Lecompton constitution to Congress and recommended the admission of Kansas under it as a slave state.  He stigmatized the refusal of the Free State party to vote on December 21 as part of their "treasonable system," especially unpardonable, since at this time, "the all-important question" was submitted.  If they really wished to make Kansas a free state, he concluded, the only way they could do so was by submitting to the Lecompton constitution.  "It has been solemnly adjudged," he urged, "by the highest judicial tribunal...that slavery exists in Kansas by virtue of the Constitution of the United States.  Kansas is therefore at this moment as much a slave state as George or South Caroline."  By this action the irretrievable step was taken and the fate of the administration and the Democratic party was staked on the effort to force Kansas in as a slave state.  From the point of view of political expediency and of party management, no president ever made a worse mistake.

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