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The Governor's Mansion, Lecompton, Kansas, June 1857
Pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in Kansas battled over political control of the territory from its organization in 1854 until the end of the decade.  No crisis during this period had weightier political consequences than the fight which erupted in 1857 and continued through 1858 over the drafting of a pro-slavery constitution in Lecompton.  Adding to the controversary, when the pro-slavery legislature initially submitted the constitution to a referendum, they offered a "no slavery" option that actually included slavery and thus earned a boycott from free soil forces.  The resulting "Lecompton swindle" as Republicans called it had the effect of dividing the Democratic Party because President James Buchanan insisted on accepting the dubious results of the election, while fellow Democrat Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois rejected the fraud.  Douglas was the leading advocate of "popular sovereignty" for the territories and could not bring himself to support a repudiation of this principle, but Buchanan demanded loyalty.  The feud between the two leading Democrats helped set the stage for the Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 and much of the subsequent break up of the national Democratic Party. The Congress ultimately rejected the Lecompton Constitution and Kansas entered the nation as a free state in 1861. (By Matthew Pinsker)


How to Cite This Page: "Lecompton," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,