| Ordinance • Preamble • Bill of Rights|
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The Kansas Constitution was originally known as the Wyandotte Constitution to distinguish it from three proposed constitutions that preceded it. The Wyandotte Constitution was drawn up at Wyandotte (now part of Kansas City) in July 1859, and was the fourth constitution voted on by the people of Kansas Territory, as the battle between proslavery and antislavery forces during the Bleeding Kansas era spread to the debate over the terms of the new state's charter.
The Wyandotte Constitution was approved in a referendum by a vote of 10,421 to 5,530 on October 4, 1859. In April, 1860, the United States House of Representatives voted 134 to 73 to admit Kansas under the Wyandotte Constitution; however, there was resistance in the United States Senate. As slave states seceded from the Union, their senators left their seats and on January 21, 1861, the Senate passed the Kansas bill.
The admission of Kansas as a free state became effective January 29, 1861.
The constitution settled the terms of Kansas' admission to the United States, particularly establishing that it would be a free state rather than a slave state. The constitution represented a pragmatic compromise over hotly-contested issues: it rejected slavery and affirmed property rights for women and their right to participate in school elections, but also denied universal suffrage for women, blacks, and Indians. The previous proposed state constitutions were the Topeka Constitution of 1855, the Lecompton Constitution of 1857 and the Leavenworth Constitution of 1858.
Amended many times (including a universal suffrage amendment in 1912), the Wyandotte constitution is still the constitution of Kansas.
Slavery is directly prohibited;
SEC. 6. There shall be no slavery in this State, and no involuntary servitude, except for the punishment of crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.
- See also: Preambles to state constitutions
The preamble to the Kansas Constitution says:
|We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges, in order to insure the full enjoyment of our rights as American citizens, do ordain and establish this constitution of the state of Kansas, with the following boundaries, to wit: Beginning at a point on the western boundary of the state of Missouri, where the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude crosses the same; thence running west on said parallel to the twenty-fifth meridian of longitude west from Washington; thence north on said meridian to the fortieth parallel of north latitude; thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the state of Missouri; thence south with the western boundary of said state to the place of beginning.|
The Constitution consists of 15 articles. They are as follows:
- The Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution is notable for spelling out a right to bear arms in its Section 4.
Amending the constitution
- Main article: Amending state constitutions
Article 14 lays out two different routes that can be taken in order to change the constitution over time.
One path is the legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. Either house of the Kansas State Legislature can propose an amendment to the state's constitution. Two-thirds of the members of each chamber must approve the resolution. If they do, the proposed amendment goes on either the next statewide ballot during which members of the state legislature are elected, or on a special election ballot if the legislature agrees to have a special election for this purpose.
- If a simple majority of the electors of the state who vote on the proposition agree with it, it becomes part of the constitution.
- The legislature must say what the measure's ballot title will be in their resolution authorizing it.
- If there is more than one proposed amendment, voters must be able to vote on them separately.
- At most five amendments can be proposed for one election.
- An amendment is allowed to revise one entire article of the constitution, "except the article on general provisions."
Another path is through a constitutional convention. If two-thirds of the members of each house of the state legislature vote in favor, the question "Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the constitution of the state of Kansas?" or "Shall there be a convention limited to revision of article(s) ________ of the constitution of the state of Kansas?" shall be placed on a statewide ballot. If a simple majority of those voting on that question say "yes", there shall be a convention. Any amendments or revisions that come out of the convention must go before the state's voters.
- Text of the current Kansas Constitution
- Downloadable text of the Kansas Constitution
- Kansas State Historical Society
- Wilder, D.W., "The Annals of Kansas". 1886.
- William G. Cutler, "History of the State of Kansas" 1883