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Jan 21

[ARCHIVED] Kansas Governors' Messages to the Legislature

The original item was published from January 21, 2016 11:48 AM to January 21, 2016 12:34 PM

In March, 1861 Governor Charles Robinson delivered the first "State of the State" message by a governor to the Legislature of the newly created state of Kansas.  These were grave times with war looming on the horizon.  The attack on Fort Sumpter, which would officially start the Civil War, was just a little over two months away.  Governor Robinson's words were somber but fervent in supporting President Lincoln and eliminating slavery from the United States of America:

"A demand is made by certain States, that new concessions and new guaranties be made to Slavery, or the Union must be destroyed. The present Constitution, however faithfully adhered to, is declared to be incompatible with the existence of Slavery: its change is demanded, or the Government under it must be overthrown. If it is true that the continued existence of Slavery requires the destruction of the Union, it is time to ask if the existence of the Union does not require the destruction of Slavery. If such an issue be forced upon the Nation, it must be met, and met promptly. The people of Kansas, while they are willing to fulfill their Constitutional obligations toward their brethren in the sister States to the letter, even to the yielding of the "pound of flesh," cannot look upon the destruction of the fairest and most prosperous Government on earth with indifference. If the issue is presented to them---the overthrow of the Union, or the destruction of Slavery---they will not long hesitate as to their choice. But it is to be hoped that this issue will be withdrawn, and the Nation still go on in its career of prosperity and power---the just pride of every citizen, and envy of the world.

The position of the Federal Executive is a trying one. The Government, when assumed by him, was rent in twain; the cry against coercion was heard in every quarter: while his hands were tied, having neither men nor money, nor the authority to use either. While it is the duty of each loyal State to see that equal and exact justice is done to the citizens of every other State, it is equally its duty to sustain the Chief Executive of the Nation in defending the Government from foes, whether from within or without; and Kansas though last and least of the States in the Union, will ever be ready to answer the call of her Country."

Stirring words in a very difficult time!

The Governors' messages are a commentary of sorts on the history of our state.  We move through the Civil War into struggles between incoming settlers and Native Americans, financial booms, financial collapses, droughts, floods, Populism, political graft, more wars, civil rights, women's suffrage, etc.... Each governor had issues facing him or her which were presented to the Legislature and the people at large in these messages.

The State Library of Kansas began transcribing Governors' Legislative Messages over 15 years ago, placing the written versions of these speeches online for public.  These transcriptions are still available online on the State Library's website.  

You can see the scanned Governors' messages here:

Kansas Governors' Messages ("State of the State")_[TRANSCRIBED]

Recently State Library staff started scanning the original Governors' messages offering a virtual copy for researchers.  At present we have the digitized messages stretching back from Governor Brownback's 2016 Message to Governor Davis' 1923 Message.  As scanning continues we should have the original speeches available back to the 1860s within the next several weeks.  Included among the late 19th century Messages are a few in German and Swedish as well as English.

You can see the scanned Governors' messages here:

Kansas Governors' Messages  ("State of the State") [DIGITIZED]

Another great source for Kansas Governors online is at Kansas Memory.  Check out the menu on the left hand side of the screen for collections of particular governors (alphabetical list by last name)