Organic Act
By William G. Cuther (1883)

The act organizing Nebraska and Kansas contained thirty-seven sections. The provisions relating to Kansas were embodied in the last eighteen sections, of which the following is a summary:


Section 19. - Defines the boundaries of the Territory, gives it the name of Kansas, and prescribes that "when admitted as a State or States, the said Territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission." It further provides for its future division into two or more Territories, and the attaching of any portion thereof to any other State or Territory; and for the holding inviolable the rights of all Indian tribes till such time as they shall be extinguished by treaty.

Section 20. - The executive power and authority vested in a Governor, appointed by the President, to hold his office for the term of four years, or till his successor is appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the President of the United States. Duties, not unlike those of other Territorial Governors. Must reside within the Territory.

Section 21. - Secretary of State appointed and subject to removal by the President of the United States; term of office, five years, unless sooner removed; his ordinary clerical duties prescribed; to be Acting Governor, with full gubernatorial powers and functions, in case of the absence of the Governor from the Territory, or a vacancy occurring.

Section 22. - Legislative power and authority of Territory vested in the Governor and a Legislative Assembly, consisting of two branches - a Council and a House of Representatives.

The Council to consist of thirteen members, having the qualifications of voters as elsewhere prescribed, and holding the office for two years. The House of Representatives, at its first session, to consist of twenty-six members, having the same qualifications as members of the Council; the term of service to continue one year. The number of Representatives may be increased by the Legislative Assembly from time to time, in proportion to the increase of qualified voters, to the maximum number of thirty-nine. An apportionment to be made, as nearly equal as practicable, among the several counties or districts, for the election of the Council and Representatives, so as to give to each section of the territory a representation in the ratio of its qualified voters, as nearly as possible.

Previous to the first election, the Governor to cause a census or enumeration to be taken of the inhabitants and qualified voters of the several counties and districts of the Territory, by such persons and in such mode as he may designate. The Governor to appoint time and place of holding the first election, and declare the number of members of the Council and House to which each of the counties and districts is entitled. The person having the highest number of legal votes, as members of either branch, to be declared by the Governor duly elected. In case of a tie vote, or vacancy from other cause, the Governor to order a new election in the county or district where the vacancy occurs.

The Governor to appoint the time and place of holding the first meeting of the Legislative Assembly; "but, thereafter, the time, place and manner of holding and conducting all elections by the people, and the apportioning of the representation in the several counties or districts to the Council and House of Representatives, according to the number of qualified voters, shall be prescribed by law, as well as the day of the commencement of the regular sessions of the Legislative Assembly." The sessions of any one year not to exceed the term of forty days, except the first, which was limited to sixty days.

Section 23 prescribes the qualifications of voters as follows:

Every free white male inhabitant above the age of twenty-one years, who shall be an actual resident of said Territory, and the qualifications hereinafter prescribed, shall be entitled to vote at the first election, and shall be eligible to any office within the said Territory; but the qualifications of voters and for holding office at all subsequent elections shall be such as shall be prescribed by the Legislative Assembly; Provided, that the right of suffrage and of holding office shall be exercised only by citizens of the United States and those who have declared, on oath, their intention to become such, and shall have taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of this act; And provided further, that no officer, soldier, seaman or marine, or others attached to troops in the service of the United States, shall be allowed to vote or hold office in said Territory by reason of being on service therein.

Section 24 limits the scope of Territorial legislation, and defines the veto power of the Governor.

Section 25 prescribes the manner of appointing and electing officers not otherwise provided for.

Section 26 precludes members from holding any office created, or the emoluments of which are increased during any session of the Legislature, of which they are a member, and declares all persons holding offices or commissions under the United States Government, except Postmasters, ineligible, as members of the Legislative Assembly.

Section 27 vests the judicial power in a Supreme Court, District Courts, Probate Courts and in Justices of the Peace. The Supreme Court to consist of a Chief Justice and two Associate Justices, who shall hold a term at the seat of government of the Territory annually. Their term of office to be four years. It also provides for the organization of the lower courts and defines their jurisdiction.

Section 28 declares the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 to be in full force in the Territory.

Section 29 provides for the appointment of an Attorney and Marshal for the Territory - to hold for the term of four years - unless sooner removed by the President of the United States.

Section 30 treats of the nominations by the President of Chief Justice, Associate Justices, Attorney and Marshal, and their confirmation by the Senate, prior to their appointment, and further prescribes the duties of said officers, and fixes their salaries.

Section 31 locates the seat of government of the Territory, temporarily at Fort Leavenworth, and authorizes the use for public purposes of the government buildings.

Section 32 provides for the election of a delegate to Congress, and abrogates the Missouri Compromise. It reads as follows:

And be it further enacted, That a Delegate to the House of Representatives of the United States, to serve for the term of two years, who shall be a citizen of the United States, may be elected by the voters qualified to elect members of the Legislative Assembly, who shall be entitled to the same rights and privileges as are exercised by the delegates from the several other Territories of the United States to the said House of Representatives; but the delegate first elected shall hold his seat only during the term of Congress to which he shall be elected. The first election shall be held at such times and places and be conducted in such manner as the Governor shall appoint and direct; and at all subsequent elections the times, places and manner of holding the election shall be prescribed by law. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be declared, by the Governor, to be duly elected, and a certificate thereof shall be given accordingly. That the Constitution and all laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable shall have the same force and effect within the said Territory of Kansas as elsewhere within the United State, except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March sixth, eighteen hundred and twenty, which being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with Slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of eighteen hundred and fifty, commonly called the compromise measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void, it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate Slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States; Provided, that nothing herein contained shall be construed to revive or put in force any law or regulation which may have existed prior to the act of the sixth of March, eighteen hundred and twenty, either protecting, establishing, prohibiting or abolishing slavery.

Section 33 prescribes the manner and amount of appropriations for the erection of public buildings and other Territorial purposes.

Section 34 reserves, for the benefit of schools in the Territory, and States and Territories hereafter to be erected, out of the same, sections numbered sixteen and thirty-six in each township, as they are surveyed.

Section 35 prescribes the mode of defining the judicial districts of the Territory, and appointing the times and places of holding the various courts.

Section 36 requires officers to give official bonds in such manner as the Secretary of the Treasury may prescribe.

Section 37 declares all treaties, laws and other engagements made by the United States Government, with the Indian tribes inhabiting the Territory, to remain inviolate, notwithstanding anything contained in the provisions of this act.

Under the provisions of the foregoing act, Kansas was to be settled; its Government established, and its institutions decided by the incoming settlers.

Hale, in his "History of Kansas and Nebraska," published in 1854, says: "Up to the summer of 1854, Kansas and Nebraska have had no civilized residents, except the soldiers sent to keep the Indian tribes in order; the missionaries sent to convert them; the traders who bought furs of them, and those of the natives who may be considered to have attained some measure of civilization from their connection with the whites." To which should be added, the persons sent out by the Government to teach agriculture, and the arts of handicraft to the Indians. There were on several reservations, Government farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters, etc., whose descendants, still living, justly claim to be sprung from the first families of Kansas.

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