117 years ago this month, the Kansas Legislative was embroiled in a “war” for control of the Kansas House of Representatives. Kansas had elected a Populist governor, Lorenzo Lewelling, who had been sworn into office in January, along with a Populist-dominated Senate. However, the Populist party claimed that the Republican majority in the House was fraudulent because of some disputable election returns. The governor recognized the Populist house on January 11, but neither side would give ground. Over the next month, the Republicans used the chamber in the morning and the Populists used it in the afternoon. As the session continued, tension escalated between the two groups.
On February 13, the Populists stayed overnight in the chamber and refused to let the Republicans enter the chamber when they arrived for their morning session on the 14th. The Republicans met at the Copeland Hotel, and then marched to the capitol building where they entered the chamber by force after breaking the house chamber door. They stayed overnight, but because the Populist janitor had turned off the heat, it was pretty cold and uncomfortable for them.
Governor Lewelling had called for the militia, which was stationed outside the capitol. Soon after, both house factions agreed to meet separately until the matter was decided by the court. On February 25, the court decided in favor of the Republicans, which was to be expected, since there was a 2-1 Republican majority on the court.
Kansas Memory offers a wonderful resource of primary materials of this period – here are a few of the items dealing with the “Legislative War of 1893”:
- Points for Populists as to organizing the House of Representatives
- Memoranda on the Populist War – agreement that ended the standoff
- Lewelling’s Position
- The Douglass House or Republican members of the Kansas House of Representatives, during the Populist War – pictures of the members
- To the people of Kansas – Statement to the people of Kansas by the Kansas Republican House of Representatives
- Floyd Bull reminiscence – Mr. Bull, a member of the Kansas National Guard, recalls his involvement