Tuesday, January 29, 1861
The Territory of Kansas had drawn up two separate constitutions (from 1855 – 1857), one anti-slavery, one pro-slavery. Neither were submitted to Washington. A third, drawn up by anti-slavery factions of the territorial government while mostly pro-slavery factions debated over the pro-slavery proposal, was passed in Kansas in 1859 and sent to Washington for approval. Due to it being very anti-slavery and pro-women’s rights, Washington did not approve it.
The Wyandotte Constitution, the fourth drawn up, was a compromise. It barred slavery and gave property rights to women, while denying both blacks and women (and Indians) the right to vote. It was passed by Kansas in October of 1859 and sent to Washington in April 1860 where the House of Representatives voted to admit Kansas as a free state. The Senate, however, balked.
But as Southern slave states left the Union, taking their Senators with them, the balance of power switched to the North. On the 21st of January, William Seward called up the bill for the Statehood of Kansas and, after still a bit of wrangling, finally secured the votes he needed to admit Kansas into the Union as a free state 36 – 16. The bill then went to the House where it was passed in a vote of 117 – 42.
On this date, President Buchanan signed the bill and officially admitted Kansas into the Union as a free state.1
One Ship Lost
The previous week, W. Hempfield Jones was sent by Secretary of the Treasury John Dix to look after a couple of revenue cutters near New Orleans and Mobile. Since revenue cutters existed to enforce tariff laws, they fell under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Department.
On this date, Jones met with the cutter Robert McClelland‘s captain, who refused to recognize his authority. Louisiana had seceded and with it the captain and his ship. Jones telegraphed Secretary Dix the bad news and asked him what to do.
Dix replied that the captain should be put under arrest and if he resisted “to consider him as a mutineer, and treat him accordingly. If any one attempts to haul down the American flag, shoot him on the spot.”
The telegraphs seem to have been intercepted in Montgomery and New Orleans and probably never made it to Jones. Not wishing to tangle with the entire state of Louisiana, he acquiesced and the Robert McClelland fell into Southern hands. 2
Jones would now attempt to see to the other revenue cutter, the Lewis Cass.