CLOUDS were looming ominously over the not so United States in January, 1861. After 85 years the Union seemed on the verge of dissolution over the vexing question of slavery. Saber rattling Southern senators did nothing to alleviate the situation and men with nerves frayed raw continued to jump at one another in the halls of congress over this ideological problem which had existed longer than the nation itself.
In Kansas the immediate future seemed likely to be as gloomy as the past. Not only had the territory been the scene of a six-year struggle identical to the one which would soon inflame the whole country, but hunger, poverty, and disaster still confronted her pioneers. The territory was in the midst of a severe drought which brought carload after carload of supplies from sympathetic and more fortunate friends and relatives in the East. The drought caused tight money and low employment. Despair was the lot of many a hardy soul.
Then, in the darkness of a cold January morning, came news that gladdened the heart of nearly every Kansan; the future seemed less dreary, spirits soared, and hopes were revived. Kansas had been admitted as the 34th state of the Union.
Joyful as the news was, it was not unexpected. For four years Kansans had been attempting to write a constitution under which the territory might be admitted as a state. Instruments drawn at Topeka, Lecompton, and Leavenworth had failed for various reasons -- but the basic one, of course, was slavery versus freedom. A fourth constitution had been written at Wyandotte in 1859 and an admission bill introduced in congress the next year. Though the bill had passed the house of representatives, the senate's Southern bloc was able to keep it buried. In December the Kansas bill was brought up in the second session and in January, 1861, after the senators of seceding states had begun to withdraw, it finally was passed by both houses. President James Buchanan signed the bill into law on January 29.
Overanxious Topeka editors began to announce admission after the bill passed the senate on January 21. The Topeka Tribune, January 26, 1861, stated:
The Topeka State Record carried the news on the same date in a column headlined "Kansas Admitted."
A second and more general round of rejoicing was had within the territory after the Kansas bill passed the house on January 28. The first to announce the news this time was the Leavenworth Conservative, established only two days before. A telegram announcing house passage was sent by Kansas Congressional Delegate Marcus J. Parrott to Abel Carter Wilder, chairman of the Republican central committee for Kansas whose brother, Daniel Webster Wilder, was editor of the Conservative. So it was that within an hour, by four o'clock in the morning of January 29, 1861, this newcomer to the Kansas journalistic scene had scooped all its established contemporaries. Unfortunately no copies of that famous Conservative extra are known to exist. The next regular edition of the paper, however, perpetuated its feat:
A sister Leavenworth paper, the Herald, took a momentarily realistic view of admission in its issue of January 30, 1861:
The rejoicing over the momentous event was quite boisterous, but by no means general. The principal participants were State officers elect and individuals who are not burthened with taxes. Could the citizens of Kansas be divested of political bias on the subject, they would soon realize that our admission places us in a situation similar to the man who bought the elephant, and impoverished himself in satisfying the capacious maw of the monster beast. A State government adds about four hundred thousand dollars, the first year, to our expenses, and of course must be raised in the form of additional taxes. But, the thing is done, and "it is useless to worry over spilled milk."
The editor of the Leavenworth Daily Times, January 30, 1861, began majestically:
The long agony is over. The dream of years is realized. Justice, tardy but ever-certain, has been meted out to this people, and this soil which [they] have chosen as their heritage is embraced within the charmed circle of a State Sovereignty, distinct and yet reciprocal. The field of blue upon our national flag is to be embellished with another star, the luster of whose orb, we predict, will vie with the fairest of the constellation. The last act of the drama which opened in blood and was continued in violence, has been enacted, and the curtain has fallen upon a happy consummation, long desired and long postponed.
The reference to the territorial legislature, then in session at Lawrence, was a two-pronged jibe. Kansans not only wished to see the end of that territorial body so that it could be replaced by a state legislature but also because it was charged with being peculiarly engrossed with the passage of unimportant private bills to the detriment of more substantial public needs. A Lawrence correspondent of the Atchison Freedom's Champion, February 2, 1861, summed things up:
The Legislature has done but very little business thus far, chiefly because there is nothing to do. Everybody has been incorporated and divorced. Every stream has its chartered bridge, every creek its ferry, every town its College and University, granted by some previous assembly; the real interests of the country have been so confounded by absurd and impertinent legislation that all hope of extrication under the present system of things is vain.
On January 30 the Lawrence correspondent of the Topeka Tribune wrote that the "Territorial Legislature, in point of ability, are an able body. . . . [There is] a good deal of fun in these same Honorables. Dixie is heard at all hours." 
But the most revealing description of that last territorial legislature came from the pen of the Leavenworth Conservative's correspondent:
The citizens of Lawrence, Kansas' Free-State headquarters, were jubilant over the victory. The Lawrence Republican, January 31, 1861, almost shouted:
At Lecompton, the territorial capital and unofficial headquarters of the Proslavery faction, the news was received with resignation. On January 31, 1861, the Lecompton Kansas National Democrat commented:
In another center of Free-State activity, John A. Martin, editor of the Atchison Freedom's Champion, wrote the territory's obituary on February 2, 1861:
In Emporia, then a small frontier town which had played little part in the Free-State-Proslavery struggle, the news was received in this manner:
Amid the distractions of treason and rebellion, the doubts of the good, the omens of the fearful, and the mistaken concessions of the timid and wavering, this last act in our great political drama is full of consolation and hope, and has a peculiar and inspiring significance. By it the founders of the Republic have received a new vindication; their principles have been reasserted in a degenerate age, and the great constitutional fabric which they constructed has been consecrated anew to universal freedom and the progress of the race. Particularly at this period, when traitors' hands are raised against the sacred altars of the fathers; when dangerous doctrines are born in a day, and even the endeavors of the faithful are overborne in the demoralizing rush of unusual and unexpected dangers, is the spectacle presented by the people of Kansas worthy of the highest commendation. Exposed to all the seductions of tyranny -- to the blandishments of power -- to the threats and the arms of the despotism of Slavery, through a period the most depressing to the hopes of Freedom, the people of Kansas exhibit the heroic qualities of an adherence to the common rights of man, and the support of those rights by a resort to the peaceful defenses secured by the Constitution. If the imaginary wrongs of the South justify a resort to robbery and treason, and all the horrors of civil and fratricidal war, how much more the repeated and protracted outrages perpetrated upon the long-suffering people of this unhappy land. For this endurance of wrong, and this resistance of wrong, the world is our debtor, and history will vindicate our claims to a successful inculcation of the lesson that no force that Tyranny can employ can ever subjugate the faithful lovers of Liberty, protected by law.
Speculations for the future are premature, but not in vain. With an extent of territory larger than that of some of the most powerful governments of the ancient world; a soil whose fertility and kindness has no superior from sea to sea; a climate that gives vigor to the healthy, strength to the diseased, and affords scope for all the products of the temperate zone; a surface that gives ready access for railroads, and a frontier upon one of the great natural highways of the earth, it is not unreasonable to expect that Kansas will soon assume a prominence which every augury of the hearts of her sons fortells. She hands the torch of Freedom to the Pacific slope, and hails the day
Whereon her glories shall not burn!" 
In White Cloud, Sol. Miller, whose acid pen almost continually cauterized the Democratic party (and anything else that invoked his ire), saw admission as an opportunity to stomp the Democrats with the Republican heel of justice. In his Kansas Chief, January 31, 1861, he said:
OVERREACHING. -- It would be a good joke, if the Democrats in the United States Senate, in displaying their spite toward Kansas, had overreached themselves. They kept postponing the bill week after week, from the commencement of the session; and when they did pass it, they stuck on an amendment, the object of which was to impose Judge Pettit on her citizens for life. But a number of Southern States seceded, reducing the Democratic majority in the Senate; and about the time the House accepted the Senate amendment, Louisiana went out. Her Senators have probably withdrawn ere this, leaving the Senate Republican. Now, if Buchanan signs the Kansas bill, the next move will probably be to send in the appointment of Pettit. But the Republicans will have it in their power -- (and should exercise the power, just by way of retaliation for the meanness of Democracy toward Kansas) -- to reject the appointment. When Lincoln goes into the White House, he can appoint a Judge who is acceptable to the people of Kansas, and the Senate, in special session, can confirm the appointment. What a good joke it would be, besides being a justifiable procedure!
Editor Miller explained the Fitch amendment:
THE KANSAS AMENDMENT. -- Senator Fitch's amendment to the Kansas bill, about which we have heard so much, simply makes Kansas a Judicial District. It is supposed by many that this will insure its rejection by the House. If Republicans delay the admission of Kansas on that account, it will be in violation of the wishes of a large majority of her citizens. The amendment is by no means sufficient cause for Republicans to oppose our admission, although it would be far more agreeable without the amendment. The objection arises from the probability that John Pettit will be appointed Judge, which office he will hold for life, or during good behavior. As a politician, the people of Kansas despise Pettit; but as a jurist, members of the bar say he has but few superiors. Kansas has been kept waiting so long, that she will rejoice to get into the Union, even if the pleasure must be seasoned with Judge Pettit.
Downstream on the Missouri river from White Cloud but still in Doniphan county the editor of the Elwood Free Press shared the anti-Democrat sentiments of Sol. Miller. On February 2, 1861, he wrote:
In Jefferson county the news barely made the January 30, 1861, edition of the Oskaloosa Independent:
The Fort Scott Democrat, February 2, 1861, felt that the new all-Republican state government would at least erase the excuse for more violence in Kansas:
In the East the New York Tribune had this to say about Kansas:
The House yesterday passed the Senate bill for the admission of Kansas, which thus becomes the thirty fourth State of the Union, and the nineteenth Free State. This act not only opportunely adds to the Confederation a sound and loyal member, untainted by the pestiferous blight of Slavery, but does rightful though tardy justice to a State which has suffered for five years greater wrongs and outrages from Federal authority than all the slave States together have endured since the beginning of the Government, even if their own clamor about imaginary oppression be admitted as well founded. The present generation is too near to these events to see them in their true proportions, but in the future, in impartial history, the attempt to force slavery upon Kansas, and the violations of law, of order, and of personal and political rights, that were perpetrated in that attempt, will rank among the most outrageous and flagrant acts of tyranny in the annals of mankind. 
A third series of celebrations and editorials followed President Buchanan's signing of the bill. The Leavenworth Conservative, however, apparently had spent its force on the second celebration for now, January 31, it merely stated:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 30.
The Leavenworth Herald was somewhat more elated than it had been during the previous round. On February 1, 1861, it said:
In Lawrence the territorial legislature was in a quandary. Was it still a legally constituted body? Would the laws it was passing be binding upon the state of Kansas? And perhaps more important, would the legislators be paid? A correspondent of the Emporia News, February 2, 1861, wrote this dispatch:
A correspondent of the Leavenworth Conservative, February 2, wrote:
LAWRENCE, Jan. 31, 1861.
The Lawrence Republican, February 7, 1861, in reporting the proceedings of the legislature said: "A message was received from the Governor, with various bills which he returned without his signature, on the ground that he was unwilling to recognize them longer as a legal body." This occurred on February 1.
Kansas' last territorial legislature gasped its final breath on February 2, leaving behind a physical record of 35 pages of general laws and 68 pages of private laws. Included in the latter were 20 divorces granted. Sol. Miller wrote that the representatives of his district had reached home "looking remarkably respectable considering the crowd they associated with, and the business they were engaged in,"  while the Fort Scott Democrat declared that the "principal object of the session seems to have [been] that of securing their per diem and milage. . . ." 
Regarding admission, the Lecompton Kansas National Democrat, February 7, changed from its previous air of resignation to one of condescension:
KANSAS A STATE. -- No one can fail to notice that the admission of Kansas as a State is producing much interest among the people of the country. Our brethren of the Republican school -- including editors of Kansas journals -- are all at the height of glorification. "We did it!" "we conquered!" "glory to us! to us!" is sent through the host in an excellent manner. We like to see our friends happy, if the snow is deep. Our Free State Democratic friends, too, claim a share in the universal rejoicing, and are glad with a right good will. We say cheer up! right good cheer! Kansas is a state!! But we, of the leading Pro-slavery party journals -- as the enthusiastic little Atchison Champion calls us in a late issue, -- are left in the background entirely. Lecompton has failed! The Territorial Government has failed -- and we, too, join in the chorus! We are glad Kansas is a State, and we want to see this young progeny of the Union wash her face, comb her hair and put on clean clothes, so that we won't be ashamed of our little State when she goes to meeting with her large, intelligent and well-dressed sisters.
And what did John Martin of the "little" Atchison Freedom's Champion have to say?
In Oskaloosa the Independent, which had previously mentioned admission only in a fleeting manner, developed its thought to such length that it required two issues to say all it believed necessary. The first of the articles appeared on February 6, 1861:
Possessing the advantage of the history and experience of other States that have preceded Kansas, our legislators ought to devise a system of State government, and enact a code of laws, far in advance of any of her predecessors; thus giving her an impetus to future greatness and influence unparalleled in the history of the nation.
The second Independent article appeared on February 13, 1861:
Emporia fired a salute to Kansas and the Union when the news came around the third time. The News, February 2, 1861, stated:
We have received the welcome intelligence, that Kansas is admitted. The House concurred in the Senate amendment on the 28th. The President has signed the bill, and we are now citizens of the United States. The joyful news was received here on Thursday afternoon, and soon was communicated to all within hearing, by the booming of the "big gun." A national salute of thirty-four guns was fired -- one for each State, and a "tiger" for Kansas. We have not room for extended remarks at this time, and will leave our readers to glorify over the result "in their own way."
At Manhattan the Western Kansas Express, February 2, 1861, said:
The citizens of Manhattan celebrated the admission of Kansas in a quiet and orderly manner. The Express, February 2, 1861, described their meeting:
The Topeka State Record, one of the papers which inaugurated the first round of statehood celebrations by announcing admission after passage of the bill by the senate, seemed to be remembering that fact when on February 2, 1861, it reported:
The Topeka Tribune, February 2, 1861, followed the general line of Free-State thought but added paragraphs extolling the virtues and glorious history of the new, though supposedly temporary, capital of Kansas:
Marcus Parrott arrived in Lawrence on February 8 bearing official notification to Gov.-elect Charles Robinson that Kansas had been admitted. On February 9 Caleb S. Pratt, county clerk of Douglas county, administered the oath of office to the state's first governor. Robinson's first official act was to call the legislature to meet March 26 at Topeka.
Rumors soon filtered into Kansas' new capital that the new governor would visit there on February 12 to obtain a residence for himself and to arrange for the inauguration of a state government. In a flurry of activity the residents of Topeka prepared to meet their leader -- with disheartening results. The Topeka Tribune, February 16, 1861, told the humorous story:
On March 26 the first state legislature convened at Topeka. Thus, after a long and sometimes bloody struggle, the state of Kansas was born and launched on its voyage into history.
1. The Leavenworth Conservative, January 30, 1861.
2. Topeka Tribune, February 2, 1861.
3. Leavenworth Conservative, January 31, 1861.
4. Emporia News, February 2, 1861.
5. White Cloud Kansas Chief, February 14, 1861.
6. Ibid., February 7, 1861.
7. February 9, 1861.
8. February 2, 1861.