Kansas Becomes a State; A Ship is Lost

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.

  1. The Province and the States: Missouri, Kansas, Colorado edited by Weston Arthur Goodspeed, The Weston Historical Association, 1904. []
  2. New York Times, February 8, 1861. []
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5 thoughts on “Kansas Becomes a State; A Ship is Lost

  1. I really don’t want to be too critical, I love your blog and try to check it out every day. But, I did want to point out that the picture of the states you posted with this particular entry shows the State of Virginia as having already seceded. I believe Virginia did not do so officially until April of 1861.

    Keep up the excellent work! I have been following and sharing with my Facebook friends.

    1. Thanks, Dan.

      I’m not sure how I mixed that up when I made the map. A quick check showed me that the next map (coming up on Feb 1) is correct, so I’m not sure how in the world I mixed this all up, but I do thank you very much for the heads up. The map is fixed and is correct.



  2. You’ll notice that Kansas on the map is a bit bigger than it is today. In a month or so, the Territory of Colorado will be formed and the border will (basically) be like it is in modern times.

    My question is (to anyone), when the Territory of Kansas became the State of Kansas, did the whole Territory become the state (as pictured here)? If so, when the Territory of Colorado was formed, it chopped off a bit of the State of Kansas to do so. That seems odd to me. And if it wasn’t the State of Kansas and wasn’t (yet) the Territory of Colorado, who could claim the land? Utah Territory? Nebraska Territory?

    Or did they just figure that Colorado Territory would come soon enough and it just wouldn’t matter?

  3. Not sure, but … I would imagine that only part of the territory was actually admitted as a state leaving the remainder to merge with other land or continue as its own territory until it became part of another state (Colorado).

    Would need to look at what the legislation said at the time to see what boundaries were defined. It is possible that the boundaries could have changed after statehood, but I think they probably only admitted the eastern part originally.

  4. Wait women can own property in Kansas?! Crazy hippies.

    Oddly Kansas is one of the 13 states that license naturopaths. And it has continuously since the 19th century.

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