Jefferson (proposed Mountain state)
The State of Jefferson was the subject of a failed statehood attempt, which was proposed to bring the geographic area eventually encompassed by the extra-legal Jefferson Territory, into the United States. Voters defeated the formation of the proposed state on September 24, 1859; creating a need for a regional governing body over the area, which the Provisional Government of the Territory of Jefferson fulfilled for the next 16 months.
The proposed State of Jefferson affected the development of the State of Kansas in 1858-1859. Kansas, from 1855 through 1858, had already had three failed constitutions proposed (the Topeka, Lecompton and Leavenworth constitutions), all of which had used the same state borders as defined in the Kansas–Nebraska Act of May 30, 1854. The act had greatly extended the Kansas Territory westward along the 40th N-latitude to the Continental Divide; and then south to the New Mexico Territory; and then eastward from the New Mexico Territory along the 37th N-latitude to the western border of Missouri; and then back up to the 40th N-latitude.
Mountain state interest grows
With the discovery of gold in the Pike's Peak area, however, concern grew in the eastern agricultural and industrial populations of the Kansas Territory over how the gold rush and the influx of miners to the Rockies could shift the base of power from the northeastern side of Kansas to the mountainous region in the west of the state. The mining communities themselves began to think about forming their own state catering more to mining interests, and popular interest grew in joining the Union as a new state distinct from Kansas. The proposed State of Jefferson would have comprised territory mainly from the western Kansas Territory, but also lands from the Washington, Nebraska, Utah, and New Mexico territories as well.
Prior to this, Kansas had already grown divided and conflicted between the eastern commercial centers and the central agricultural populations. The questions of slavery and women's suffrage had also been divisive topics in the previous constitutional debates.
The Wyandotte Convention
As a result of these trends, at the Wyandotte Convention which drafted the fourth and present constitution for the State of Kansas, the borders of Kansas were debated on July 16 and again on July 28. Although a few different meridians of west longitude were all proposed, the final vote chose the 102nd west meridian (25th west of Washington, D.C.) as the western most border of the new State of Kansas. This happened to be the same meridian the miners in the gold fields had suggested as the eastern border of their proposed State of Jefferson (and was noted in the September 3rd, 1859 "Freedom's Champion" newspaper of Atchison, Kansas). This demarcation gave the western portion of the Kansas Territory to the mining communities of the Rockies, and prevented their growing influence from upsetting the balance of power in northeast Kansas (where the territory's political power had resided up to that point). The Wyandotte Convention ended on July 29, 1859 and submitted the constitution to a vote for ratification to be held in October.
The people of Kansas ratified the Wyandotte Constitution on October 4, 1859.
On September 24, 1859, a separate, formal proposal for the formation of the State of Jefferson had been defeated. On October 24, 1859, voters in the mountainous regions in the west instead approved the formation of the unofficial Jefferson Territory, which was superseded more than a year later, by the official Colorado Territory (formed February 28, 1861).
- Historic regions of the United States
- Jefferson (proposed Pacific state)
- Jefferson (proposed Southern state)
- Wyandotte County History; U.S. Genweb online; accessed December 2013
- The Kansas State Constitution: A Reference Guide; Heller, Francis H.; Greenwood Press; Westport, CT; 1992; ISBN 0-313-26510-0.
- Kansas Territory and Its Boundary Question: 'Big Kansas' or 'Little Kansas'; Gower, Calvin W.; "Kansas Historical Quarterly;" Spring; 1967 (Vol. 33, No. 1), Pp. 1–12; accessed December 2013.
- Wyandotte Constitution; 1859; accessed December 2013.