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Curriculum - 7th Grade Standards - Kansas History Standards - 1880s to 1920s (Benchmark 4) - Populism (Indicator 2) - Legislative war of 1893

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Battery A on the Kansas State Capitol grounds in Topeka, Kansas

Battery A on the Kansas State Capitol grounds in Topeka, Kansas
Creator: Farrow, W. F.
Date: February 1893
During the Populist War of 1893, Battery A, a militia unit from Wichita, Kansas, was stationed on the grounds outside of the Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka, Kansas. The dispute began when both the Republican and Populist parties claimed victory in the Kansas House elections in 1892. A number of contests were still being disputed when the legislative session began in January 1893. The conflict between the parties reached a crisis when the Populists locked themselves in the House Hall. The Republicans used a sledgehammer to break down the doors to the hall. The governor requested support from the state militia. After a three-day standoff, Governor Lewelling was able to negotiate an agreement with the Republican speaker of the house, which amounted to a Populist surrender. The state Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the Republicans.


Executive Order No. 2, Governor Lorenzo Lewelling

Executive Order No. 2, Governor Lorenzo Lewelling
Creator: Lewelling, Lorenzo Dow, 1846-1900
Date: February 15, 1893
Kansas governor Lorenzo Lewelling issued this executive order in response to the standoff that would become known as the Legislative War of 1893. During this conflict, the Republican (Douglass) House and the Populist (Dunsmore) House both claimed to have been the legally elected House of Representatives for the state. Consequently, both attempted to conduct business in Representative Hall, ignoring the presence of each other and spending day and night in the chambers to prevent the other side from gaining control. On February 13, 1893, however, the Populists barricaded the hall while the Republicans were away, preventing the Republican congressmen from re-entering the chambers. The Republican house responded by battering the hall doors with sledgehammers and posting armed guards to protect the hall. At that point Governor Lewelling issued this order, demanding that the Republicans disband and "vacate such Hall and the approaches thereunto under penalty of forcible expulsion." The Republicans refused, and after a tense standoff, on February 25 the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the validity of the Republican House, thus ending the "war."


Governor Lorenzo Lewelling executive order no. 3

Governor Lorenzo Lewelling executive order no. 3
Creator: Lewelling, Lorenzo Dow, 1846-1900
Date: February 16, 1893
Kansas governor Lorenzo Lewelling issued this order to Colonel Hughes, a militia commander, ordering him to clear the Topeka statehouse of all Republican congressmen and to forcibly remove anyone who did not comply. During the Legislative War of 1893, the Republican (Douglass) House and the Populist (Dunsmore) House had both claimed to be the legally elected House of Representatives for the state. On February 13, 1893, the Populists barricaded themselves in Representative Hall, preventing the Republican congressmen from re-entering the chambers. The Republican house responded by beating down the doors with sledgehammers, taking possession of the chambers, and posting armed guards to protect the hall. At that point, Governor Lewelling issued his order demanding that the Republicans disband, and the next day, February 16, he issued this order to Colonel Hughes. Hughes, a Republican, refused to obey and was relieved of his command. His militia (with a new commander) stationed themselves outside the capitol but were not re-ordered to clear the building. The situation was resolved on February 25 when the Kansas Supreme Court established the Republican House as the legal representative body for the state.


Jeremiah Berger Remington postcard

Jeremiah Berger Remington postcard
Creator: Remington, Jeremiah Berger
Date: January 11, 1893
On this postcard Republican representative Jeremiah Remington declared that his party was "holding the house, [and] have slept in chairs all night." On January 10th, both Republicans and Populists stayed the night at the capitol, refusing to leave after both parties elected full sets of officers. The dispute began when both the Republican and Populist parties claimed victory in the Kansas House elections in 1892. A number of contests were still being disputed when the legislative session began in January 1893. The conflict between the parties reached a crisis when the Populists locked themselves in the House Hall. The Republicans used a sledgehammer to break down the doors to the hall. The governor requested support from the state militia. After a three-day standoff, Governor Lewelling was able to negotiate an agreement with the Republican speaker of the house, which amounted to a Populist surrender. The state Supreme Court ultimately ruled in favor of the Republicans.


Lewelling's Position

Lewelling's Position
Creator: Topeka Populist
Date: January 20, 1893
During the "Populist War" of 1893, Governor Lorenzo Lewelling released this statement regarded the rightful members of the legislature who where, in his opinion, the Populists (known as the Dunsmore House). He writes that the Populists had a right to question the election because "constitutional and statutory provisions were not only disregarded but intentionally violated by those who had it in their power under form of law to rob the people of their rights." Here he is referring to the Republicans. Ultimately, as Lewelling writes, the decision would be up to the Kansas Supreme Court. This conflict had begun when two sets of legislators, one Populist and one Republican, both claimed to be the legitimately elected body. Fighting ensued in the halls of the statehouse and in Representative Hall, and Lewelling was forced to call out the National Guard to keep the peace. Ultimately, after twelve tense days, the Supreme Court determined that the Republican House (also called the Douglass House) was the rightful occupant of Representative Hall.


Lorenzo Dow Lewelling

Lorenzo Dow Lewelling
Date: Between 1893 and 1895
This photograph represents Lorenzo Dow Lewelling (1846-1900). Born and raised in the Quaker lifestyle in Iowa, Lewelling moved to Wichita, Kansas in 1887, after working a variety of jobs and serving in the Civil War with his second wife and child from his first marriage. As a founding member of the Farmers' Alliance, Lewelling ran as a Populist for the 1892 governor's race. Notable events during his administration was the "Populist War" in 1883, clash with activist Mary Elizabeth Lease over the fusion of the Populists and Democrats, and removing Lease from her position as President of the Kansas Board of Charities. Failing to be re-elected as governor, Lewelling was elected to the Kansas State Senate, a position he held until his death.


Memoranda on the Populist War

Memoranda on the Populist War
Creator: Lewelling, Lorenzo Dow, 1846-1900
Date: February 17, 1893
This memorandum details the agreement between Populist governor Lorenzo Lewelling and the Republican (Douglass) House that ended the standoff known as the Legislative (or Populist) War of 1893. During this conflict, the Republican Party and the Populist Party both claimed to have a legal majority in the state House of Representatives, coming to blows over possession of Representative Hall in the statehouse. Among other things, this agreement dictated that "no arrests -- be made by either House," and that the militia be disbanded before more soldiers arrived in Topeka. Attached to the agreement is a statement by George Douglass, leader of the Republicans, stating that this memorandum was not intended to determine which house was legitimately elected. Both documents were signed by Governor Lewelling, Douglas, D. W. Eastman, and J. K. Cubbison. Also attached is a letter from Lewelling to George Martin, head of the Kansas State Historical Society; Lewelling wanted to ensure that a copy of the document would be preserved for posterity.


Populist members of the Dunsmore House at the Kansas Statehouse

Populist members of the Dunsmore House at the Kansas Statehouse
Creator: Farrow, W. F.
Date: 1893
This group picture, taken during or after the Legislative War of 1893, depicts the members of the Dunsmore House (Populist), and a few women and children, standing on the statehouse steps in Topeka, Kansas. The validity of the election of 1893 had been called in question, and thus two houses, the Douglass House (Republican) and Dunsmore House (Populist), both occupied Representative Hall and claimed to be the legally elected legislative body. On February 13, 1893, the Populist Dunsmore House barricaded the hall and prevented the Republican congressmen from entering the chambers. The Republican Douglass house responded by attacking the doors of the hall with sledgehammers. The Douglass House then recruited six hundred guards (called sergeants-at-arms) to guard the hall, refusing an order from Governor Lorenzo Lewelling to vacate the premises. Finally, on the night of February 16, the ousted Populists agreed to wait for the verdict from the Supreme Court while the Republicans maintained control of the House, and on February 25, the Supreme Court affirmed the validity of the Republican House. This event, although it lasted only twelve days, came to be known as the Legislative War or the Populist War.


Reminiscence of the 1893 legislative war

Reminiscence of the 1893 legislative war
Creator: Bull, Floyd R.
Date: July 15, 1955
In this reminiscence, Floyd R. Bull, a member of the El Dorado company of the Kansas National Guard, recalls his involvment in the Legislative (or Populist) War of 1893. During this conflict, violence broke out between the competing legislative houses--the Republican (Douglass) House and the Populist (Dunsmore) House--prompting Populist Governor Lorenzo Lewelling to call the National Guard to the capitol. On February 25 the Kansas Supreme Court affirmed the validity of the Republican House, thus ending the "war." This reminiscence is a copy of an earlier statement by Bull, written in 1938.


To the people of Kansas

To the people of Kansas
Creator: Kansas. Legislature. House of Representatives
Date: February 1893
This brief statement by the Kansas Republican House of Representatives, led by George Douglass, was written during the Populist War of 1893 in order to affirm that the Republican Party stood for "the supremacy of law and order against anarchy." During this "war," the state had two houses -- the Populist (Dunsmore) House and the Republican (Douglass) House -- both of which claimed to have been the legally elected House of Representatives for the state. Initially the two houses had conducted their business side by side in Representative Hall, but on February 13, 1893, the Populist Dunsmore House barricaded the hall and prevented the Republican congressmen from entering the chambers. The Republican Douglass house responded by attacking the doors of the hall with sledgehammers. Both sides stood at a standstill until February 25, when a decision from the Kansas Supreme Court stated that the Republican House was the legally elected representative body.


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