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Popular Sovereignty and the Lecompton Constitution


The purpose of this lesson is to study the Lecompton Constitution as it dealt with the issue of popular sovereignty.  Although the Lecompton Constitution seems to be about the issue of slavery in the state of Kansas, the issue would have to be decided by the people of the state. Therefore this lesson examines the series of steps needed to create a state constitution. 

Grade Level:

7th - 8th


This lesson deals with the issue of popular sovereignty and the Lecompton Constitution.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act created Kansas Territory.  It also stated that the state constitution would decide the issue of slavery in the state of Kansas.  Slavery would be allowed or prohibited depending upon the constitution territorial voters approved.  Both sides in the struggle, free-state and pro-slavery, were determined to have the state constitution reflect their point of view.Lecompton Constitution

The Lecompton Constitution is a confusing issue set in an even more confusing time period, that of Kansas Territory.  The Lecompton Constitution is easiest to understand when examined through the series of steps needed to create a state constitution.  That is how this lesson explores the constitution.  It is also important to remember that in regard to the Lecompton Constitution the issue is popular sovereignty even though the controversy is slavery.  The popular sovereignty process is what will bring about the solution to the controversy.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act gave this power to the people of Kansas Territory, and makes the Lecompton Constitution an important document in the history of both Kansas and the United States. The digital version of the Lecompton Constitution, including a text version can be found on Kansas Memory.

Standards addressed:

Kansas History, Government and Social Studies Standards:

Standard 2:  Individuals have rights and responsibilities.

  • Benchmark 2.2:  The student will analyze the context under which significant rights and responsibilities are defined and demonstrated, their various interpretations, and draw conclusions about those interpretations.

Standard 3: Societies are shaped by beliefs, ideas, and diversity.

  • Benchmark 3.2: The student will draw conclusions about significant beliefs, contributions, and ideas, analyzing the origins and context under which these competing ideals were reached and the multiple perspectives from which they come.

KCCRS Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies

R.H.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source district from prior knowledge or opinions.

RH.5: Describe how a text presents information (e.g., sequentially, comparatively, causally).



  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed popular sovereignty to determine the issue of slavery for the state of Kansas.


  • cause and effect
  • reading comprehension (organize and analyze information)
  • problem solving

Essential Questions:

  • How was the issue of slavery to be decided in Kansas?
  • What threatened the success of popular sovereignty in Kansas Territory?


  1. Review the Kansas-Nebraska Act, popular sovereignty, and the steps in developing a constitution in Kansas Territory.
  2. Use the readings and cause and effect worksheet to explore the creation of the Lecompton Constitution.
  3. Assign groups of students to use the 1858 Congressional Debate cards and worksheet to analyze the Lecompton Constitution in terms of popular sovereignty.  Have students share possible solutions they believe Congress should have considered.
  4. Tell the class what congress actually decided and the final outcome for the Lecompton Constitution using information in the teaching background portion of this lesson.

Download the Complete Lesson Plan

This lesson plan was originally prepared by the Education and Outreach Division, Kansas State Historical Society for Territorial Kansas Online.  The standards cited in the pdf form of the lesson plan were those from the 1999 Kansas State Standards.  On this preview of the lesson we have made every attempt to match them to the 2013 Kansas History, Government, and Social Studies standards and Kansas College and Career Ready Literacy Standards.

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