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William C. McDowell

Politician. Born: 1828, Hillsborough, Ohio. Married: Betty, 1854. Died: July 16, 1867, St. Louis Missouri.

The son of a prominent lawyer and politician, William McDowell was born at Hillsborough, Ohio, in ca. 1828 and was himself admitted to the Ohio bar. About 1854 McDowell married Betty _______, and the young couple started a family in her native state of Kentucky before removing to Kansas. He was recognized as "one of the best" stump speakers in Kansas Territory soon after his 1858 arrival; according to B.F. Simpson, "McDowell had an indescribable way of 'putting things' to a crowd that was irresistible." The Leavenworth attorney served as a delegate to the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention in July 1859 and was described as "perhaps, the most rabid Democrat in the delegation, stout, bald and bearded, about middle age, and yet quite youthful in manner, full of humor and good nature, a gentleman and a good fellow." According to the Times, however, McDowell was "purely Democratic on this all-absorbing question [slavery]." Despite his opposition to the original instrument, McDowell was nominated for and won election as first district judge under the new constitution at the December 6 election. W.C. McDowell died in St. Louis on July 16, 1867.

McDowell put his considerable talents to work early and often; on July 7 he jumped into the apportionment debate and sided with fellow Democrats, who agreed, perhaps for reasons of political expediency, that "when the delegates of the people come in here [in convention], the power of the Legislature over them ceases, and this body become a sovereign body in itself." He claimed not to "advocate" for the right to seat these men out of any partisan motive, but because it was the right thing to do and fully within the authority of the Convention to do so. McDowell also entered the suffrage debate on July 18, explaining the he "came here instructed to oppose negro suffrage and negro equality-to advocate the enactment of a clause in the Constitution prohibiting negroes from emigrating to the State of Kansas, and, by whatever legislation, to discourage the negroes that are here from remaining."

Entry: McDowell, William C.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2011

Date Modified: April 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.