Constitution Hall (Lecompton, Kansas)
Lecompton Constitution Hall
Constitution Hall in Lecompton, Kansas
|Location||Elmore St. between Woodson and 3rd Sts., Lecompton, Kansas|
|Architectural style||No Style Listed|
|NRHP Reference #||71000312|
|Added to NRHP||May 14, 1971|
|Designated NHL||May 30, 1974|
Lecompton Constitution Hall, also known as Constitution Hall, is a building in Lecompton, Kansas that played a role in the long-running Bleeding Kansas crisis. It is operated by the Kansas Historical Society as Constitution Hall State Historic Site.
During 1857 this building was one of the busiest and most important in Kansas Territory. Thousands of settlers and speculators filed claims in the United States land office on the first floor. They sometimes fought hand-to-hand for their share of the rich lands that were opening for settlement. The government was removing the Native Americans from Kansas to make their lands available to whites.
Upstairs the district court periodically met to try to enforce the territorial laws. Most free-state people refused to obey these laws because they had been passed by the proslavery territorial legislature. This resistance made law enforcement nearly impossible for territorial officials. Time after time the territorial governors called out federal troops from Fort Leavenworth or Fort Riley to maintain order.
In January 1857 the second territorial legislative assembly met on the upper floor. Although still firmly proslavery, this group removed some of the earlier laws that their antislavery neighbors opposed.
The Lecompton Constitutional Convention met that fall in this same second-floor assembly room. The purpose of the convention was to draft a constitution to gain statehood for Kansas. Newspaper correspondents from across the country gathered to report on the meetings. Many Americans feared a national civil war if the convention could not satisfy both proslavery and antislavery forces. Regrettably, compromise proved impossible because proslavery men dominated the convention. They created a document that protected slavery no matter how the people of Kansas Territory voted. This was intolerable for their antislavery opponents, who refused to participate in what they considered to be an illegal government. Eventually the Lecompton Constitution was defeated at the national level. It never went into effect.
Instead, free-state forces rallied their supporters. They gained control of the territorial legislature in the October 1857 election. Two months later this new legislature was called into special session to deal with critical territorial problems. They met in the same Lecompton assembly hall that their political enemies had controlled only a few weeks before. Here they began to reform the laws of Kansas Territory according to their own beliefs. That work continued during later legislative sessions. In 1858 the assembly was moved from the proslavery capital of Lecompton to the free-state town of Lawrence.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2007-01-23.
- "Lecompton Constitutional Hall". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Retrieved 2008-06-25.
- Paul Ghioto and Benjamin Levy (1973-11-15). PDF (32 KB). National Park Service. and PDF (32 KB)
- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) No. KS-64, "Constitution Hall, 315 Elmore Street, Lecompton, Douglas County, KS", 25 photos, 8 measured drawings, 2 photo caption pages