The Lecompton Historical Society has a great idea for commemorating the 150th anniversary of Kansas statehood next year.
Historical society members, with the support of some local elected officials, have formally invited the Kansas governor and legislators to make the short trek from Topeka to meet in one of the state’s most historical towns. The proposal envisions the Kansas House meeting in the Territorial Capital Museum, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Senate could convene in Constitution Hall, a national landmark and a Kansas State Historical site. New Gov. Sam Brownback could sit at the same desk used by territorial governors before Kansas became a state.
To get into the spirit of the occasion, maybe legislators could have some fun and dress in period costumes. Paul Bahnmaier, historical society president, said one legislator already had expressed a desire to arrive at the commemorative session on horseback. There would be important differences, of course. Most notable perhaps would be the presence of women in the modern legislative body.
Lecompton leaders are right that the special session would be a great way to recognize the city’s important role in the nation’s history. Because it was the birthplace of a constitution that would have allowed slavery in Kansas, Lecompton is naturally associated with the pro-slavery cause. However, as the invitation to lawmakers points out, Lecompton actually is the place “where slavery began to die.” The rejection of the Lecompton constitution by the U.S. House was a major issue in the 1860 presidential election, which was won by Abraham Lincoln. It helped force the nation to confront the issue of slavery.
The role Kansas played in the period leading up to the Civil War is starting to attract more national attention. A special meeting of the governor and Legislature in Lecompton would help promote the state’s important historical role in a way that would raise appreciation for the state and help promote tourism.
Lecompton officials say they are willing to be flexible in accommodating a date that is workable for state officials. They even say they’ll provide transportation and lunch served by the historical society and the women of the Lecompton United Methodist Church.
This sounds like an offer state officials shouldn’t refuse. Honoring the difficult challenges faced by the founders of Kansas might even give legislators a little perspective on the new challenges the state faces today.