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Kansas Memory has been created by the Kansas State Historical Society to share its historical collections via the Internet. Read more.



Kansas Memory Blog

Finding the Leavenworth Constitution

Posted by Michael Church (Director of State Archives) on Aug 19, 2010

In 1877, Charles S. Gleed was a young man in his early twenties living in Lawrence, Kansas. He was a student at the University of Kansas and an employee of various newspapers.  In January of that year he wrote the secretary of the recently founded Kansas Historical Society (est. 1875), Franklin G. Adams. Gleed stated that he worked for the Kansas Collegiate and was the Kansas correspondent for the Chicago Tribune. He asked Adams to keep him informed of the Society’s activities and new acquisitions so he could report on them in his news articles.


Then, the following May, Gleed wrote an astounding letter:


Franklin G. Adams Esq.

Dear Sir –


I forward to you by to-day’s mail what I suppose to be the original draft of the “Leavenworth Constitution.”  I procured it of Mr. J. G. Schmucker of this city who found it in a house once occupied as a residence by Martin F. Conway [president of the Leavenworth Constitutional Convention], corner of New York and Berkeley streets, East Lawrence. This document (as compared with Wilder’s Annals [Annals of Kansas, 1875]) is complete down to the Article on Banks and Currency.  The remainder – one article, the Schedule, and the signatures – is torn off.


Mr Schmucker rented the Conway house in 1867, and found at that time a large number of “Pub. Docs,” manuscripts, papers etc., etc., most of which he distributed to persons whom he judged to be most nearly the rightful possessors. He has since kept the Constitution until turning it over to me for the benefit of the State Society.


You will observe by reference to the “Annals”, even if you should have forgotten it yourself, that your own name comes next to Mr. Conway’s [as signatories of the constitution] and that further down the list appears such names as P. B. Plumb, C. H. Branscomb, T. D. Thatcher, S. N. Wood, J. K. Goodin, I. T. Goodnow, Thomas Ewing Jr., James H. Lane, and many others most of whom are unknown to me except by reputation. Possibly you will be able to recognize the chirography [penmanship/handwriting] of some of the articles. If so it will add interest to the scroll.


Hoping to have helped a little in the work of the Society, I remain Very Respctfully,

Charles S. Gleed.

Adams, obviously elated to have received the document, replied on June 16:


Chas. S. Gleed, Esq.,

My Dear Sir:


I have now in the possession of the State Historical Society the original enrolled copy of the Leavenworth Constitution found by you and so considerately and disinterestedly forwarded by you to the Society, some time since, through Hon. Sidney Clarke. Mr. Clarke on reaching Topeka was taken sick, and on recovery was suddenly called away to Washington, which accounts for your not having received acknowledgement sooner. I went last evening and found the document. It is undoubtedly the original enrolled constitution, and a very valuable relic. The grateful thanks of the Society are most certainly due to you for your kindness in placing it among the collections of early Kansas history now being gathered up.


Yours very truly,

F. G. Adams.



At the time of its creation, the separate pages of the Leavenworth Constitution were pasted together and rolled into one long scroll – and it still exists in this state today. And the last two articles, schedule, and signatures are still missing from the original  – just as Gleed described in his letter. The original Leavenworth Constitution is now available on Kansas Memory, including a complete transcription. To see all four constitutions drafted for Kansas, select the category Type of Material - Unpublished documents - Government records – Constitutions.


The Leavenworth Constitution was the most radical of the four constitutions drafted for Kansas. It prohibited slavery, allowed black men to vote, and provided for some protection of the rights of women. Kansas voters ratified the Leavenworth Constitution on May 18, 1858 but the U.S. Senate did not act to approve the document. For more information on the Kansas constitutions, see the online exhibit “Willing to Die for Freedom.”  


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