Archive for Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Happy 151st birthday, Kansas

January 17, 2012

This Jan. 29, our state will be 151 years old. Kansas was admitted to the Union two and a half months before the beginning of the Civil War — one of our nation’s most terrible times.

It’s important to recall our heritage, our roots and a bit of our state’s history, especially in celebration of another Kansas birthday.

The war between the northern and southern states officially began on April 12, 1861, after the shelling of Fort Sumter. The Kansas territory had been at war for years before it was officially admitted on Jan. 29, 1861, one year after Abraham Lincoln was elected president.

As a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the Missouri Compromise was overturned. That meant Kansas did not have to enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. The people of the Kansas territory were free to answer the slavery question on their own. This was called “self-determination,” and once a state, Kansas could decide its own destiny.

This was a period of bloody battles and fighting as both pro-slavery forces and abolitionists flocked into the Kansas territory. Both sides were determined to tip the balance of Congress in their favor. The term “Bleeding Kansas,” aptly described the tension and bloodshed of that period.

Sixty-six years later, during a much better period in our state’s history, state legislators adopted our flag. This flag depicts a history of peaceful coexistence between the natives of the land and the newly arrived settlers.

Like so many other states, the flag is the state seal set on a field of dark blue. In the foreground of the seal is a farmer plowing his field. A little further up is a wagon train with oxen-drawn schooners headed westward. Beyond these pioneers are Native Americans hunting bison.

The pioneers in the Kansas flag represent Manifest Destiny. This was the prevailing attitude of the United States government starting in the 1840s. The farmer and his field represent Kansas’ rich agricultural heritage. The seal also includes a steamboat churning its way down the Kansas River and was meant to represent commerce. Today, agriculture, manufacturing and service industries play an integral part of the Kansas economy.

Above the plains in the state seal are rolling hills and, above them, 34 stars representing Kansas’s entry into the United States’ expanding family of states. Above the stars is the state motto, Ad Astra per Aspera, Latin for “To the Stars Through Difficulties.” This is a tribute to the original settlers who dreamed so grandly when they left their homes and moved westward.

Just above the seal is the state crest, a sunflower above a bar of blue and gold. The sunflower is the state flower, and the blue and gold represent the Louisiana Purchase, which made the lands of Kansas a part of the United States. Beneath the state seal is the word Kansas in large, yellow block letters.

Kansas has several nicknames, including the Sunflower State, the Jayhawk State and the Wheat State. Our state is located in the Heartland; in fact, Lebanon is the town situated closest to the geographical center of the continental United States.

Kansas agriculture is proud to be part of this rich rural heritage of putting food on people’s plates and helping feed the world. This state’s farmers and ranchers wish our Wheat State a happy birthday Jan. 29.

— John Schlageck is a commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. He was raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas.


TongiGuy 6 years, 4 months ago

This was a great article but there is some small historical inaccuracy as to the pre civil war period. Prior to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, the Missouri Compromise of 1820 was the law of the land, it decreed that all territories north of the Mason Dixon line would be entered as free states and those territories South of the line would become slave states. (The Mason Dixon line was roughly the Kansas Oklahoma border line.) For the 34 years prior to the Kansas Nebraska Act, Kansas territory was destined to be entered as a free state.

The Democratic Party at that time was controlled by those who were sympathetic with the Southern Slave states. For decades they had enjoyed disproportional influence in National politics and knew that the entrance of additional free states would end their political dominance. They pushed for the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 as an attempt to win the Kansas and Nebraska territories to the pro slavery rosters and keep their political dominance. The result of course was bleeding Kansas and border wars. Lincoln was elected in 1860 but as is done today a period of time elapsed before he was sworn in on March 4th 1861, About 5 weeks after Kansas became a state and about six weeks before the shelling of Fort Sumter. The combination of the entrance of the free state of Kansas and the election of an abolitionist president meant the end of the Democratic Party and Southern States’ dominance. The Southern States were willing to go to war rather then give up their power.


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