Lecompton Hopes Movie Puts Them Back on the Historical Map

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LECOMPTON, Kan. — The new movie “Lincoln,” directed by Steven Spielberg, takes a lot of its material from “Team of Rivals,” a book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, who in turn based a lot of her research on what happened in a Kansas town not far from the metro.

In that book, Goodwin mentions the city of Lecompton five times, according to the Lecompton Historical Society.

“Lecompton is what we like to say is the birthplace of the Civil War, when slavery began to die,” said Paul Bahnmaier, the President of the Lecompton Historical Society.

The writing of the Lecompton Constitution in Constitution Hall caused the national Democratic Party to split.  Four people ran for president in 1860, Abraham Lincoln won with 39% of the vote.

“So without the splitting of the Democratic Party over the Lecompton Constitution, that was written right here in this room that we’re sitting in, Lincoln would not have been elected President most likely in 1860,” Bahnmaier explained.

The Lecompton Constitution was a pro-slavery document.  The U.S. Senate passed it, the house didn’t, and Kansas joined the Union as a free state, shifting the national balance of power  to free states.  That helped push  the southern states to secede, and eventually the Civil War.

“What happened here in Lecompton was very much a part of the civil war, and our nation’s history,” Bahnmaier said.

Few people, however, seem to know about Lecompton’s role.

“To the victor goes the spoils, and our history has not been recognized statewide and nationally to a certain extent,” said Bahnmaier.

Six thousand people come to visit the city each year, but Bahnmaier believes more should know about its significance, and they might with this new movie about Lincoln.

“All you have to do is look at how much billions of dollars are made in the southern states over the Civil War history, and when the fact is that the Civil War started right here in Kansas, in Lecompton, it could be a major boom to the state of Kansas,” Bahnmaier explained.

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