The Lecompton Constitution was the second of four proposed constitutions for the state of Kansas. The other three constitutions were the Topeka Constitution, the Leavenworth and Wyandotte. The Lecompton Constitution was written in response to the anti-slavery position of the 1855 Topeka Constitution of James H. Lane and other free-state advocates. The legislature for that territory was pro slavery. They met at Lecompton in September 1857 to produce a rival document. A large portion of the actual settlers were Free State supporters and they boycotted the vote. The territorial governor of Kansas, Robert J. Walker, who was appointed by President Buchanan, was a strong pro slavery advocate but he opposed the Constitution and resigned it instead of implementing it. The new constitution enshrined slavery in the proposed state and protected the rights of slaveholders. The constitution provided for a referendum that allowed voters the choice of allowing more slaves to enter the territory.
Both the Topeka and Lecompton constitutions were brought in front of the people of the Kansas Territory for an election and both were boycotted. In the case of Lecompton the vote rested on one single issue, expressed on the ballot as “Constitution with Slavery” v. “Constitution with no Slavery.” The “Constitution with no Slavery” clause would have not made Kansas a free state but it would have banned slaves from being imported into Kansas in the future. There were serious problems with the voting process and it was deemed as fraudulent. The Lecompton and the Topeka Constitution were sent to Washington for approval by Congress.
President Buchanan endorsed the Lecompton Constitution before Congress which wasn’t surprising since he was a supporter of slaveholder rights but this led to much opposition. A new referendum over the fate of the Lecompton Constitution was proposed. On 4 January 1858, Kansas voters, having the opportunity to reject the constitution altogether in the referendum, overwhelmingly rejected the Lecompton proposal by a vote of 10,226 to 138.