In American history, the Kansas-Nebraska act intensified an already toxic relationship between the Northern and southern states in the United States during the mid 1800’s.
The Kansas-Nebraska act was developed by Stephen Douglas, a U.S congressman from Illinois, and President Franklin Pierce for the purpose of promoting agriculture and a transcontinental railroad in the midwest when establishing the Nebraska and Kansas territories. During this time, when admitting new states into union at this time, the question of slavery is always asked. Douglas proposed that the states have popular sovereignty, disregarding the Missouri Compromise. Ultimately, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, through the nullification of the Missouri compromise, the eventual creation of the Republican party, and the radicals demonstrations of “Bleeding Kansas”, deepened the divide on political issues between free and slave states.
With millions of acres of fresh farmland, Kansas and Nebraska infrastructure was required to develop an interconnected United States. The Kansas-Nebraska act was developed for these purposes. Stephen Douglas, the developer of the bill, was an adamant supporter of the intercontinental railroad. Douglas in his first term as a U.S senator, proposed a bill to establish these territories in 1845 but ultimately the bill failed due to ongoing debates on whether the route run along the northern or southern half of the United States.
After several proposals, Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The act outlined the borders of the new states as well as the idea of popular sovereignty when deciding on the issue of slavery. The bill was originally tabled by a vote of 23 to 17 in the senate after pro-slavery legislators were concerned the bill did not resolve the issue of slavery. Douglas was eager to get this bill passed, ultimately in December of 1853, Douglas stated the bill would uphold the idea of popular sovereignty, allowing the citizens of the states be the deciders on slavery. Through this approach, Douglas would gain the necessary votes he needed from the southern officials. The bill was drafted into law May 30th, 1854.
The Act itself ultimately nullified the Missouri compromise as well as led to the creation of the Republican party and the the violent demonstrations in what would soon be called “Bleeding Kansas.After the Kansas-Nebraska Act was put into effect, the Missouri Compromise or otherwise known as the Compromise of 1820 was consequently nullified. The Compromise of 1820 ruled that no state above the 36, 30 parallel shall have slavery.
Both the Kansas and Nebraska territories overruled this by being above the agreed upon border while having popular sovereignty. With this new legislation, ultimate power in the federal government was now obtainable for either side. While influence in the federal government was available, northern citizens were outraged by Douglas and his bill. Without the nullification of the Missouri Compromise, Kansas and Nebraska would have been a solidified free state. Now, with the possibility of slavery being enacted above the border, northern citizens would become harsh critics of Douglas. Some Kansas critics, such as John W.
Ladd writes “As for the Douglas Popular Sovereignty, it is about played out and never was anything but a barefaced humbug leaving the people of a territory free to form their institutions in their own way forsooth with a gubernatorial veto staring their legislative acts in the free.” when writing to his friend Matthew R. Walker. Due to the widespread outrage amongst the northern, anti-slavery citizens, a deeper divide between the free states and the slave states occurred.
The tension created by the bill created an even harsher divide through the nation. To illustrate just how deep this divide ran J. Locke Hardeman, a Missouri citizen from Saline County, Missouri during this time writes “I know that Abolition & Unioncan not stand together.”. Hardeman realizes the natural effects on such a controversial issue. Because of the severity of the problem firm opposition emerged against slavery with the creation of the Republican Party.Born from the Whigs, Northern Democrats and the Free-Soilers, Republicans were adamant opposition to slavery. Republicans were also supporters of the Manifest Destiny in which they believed that America should expand its borders.
The party was also in support of the construction of railways. The party was born as a direct result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. These anti-slavery citizens that joined the party were outraged due to the fact that the Missouri Compromise was nullified and at the possibility of slavery spreading North.
Well known Republicans such as Abe Lincoln spoke on the issue of slavery and the act. Lincoln stated in one of his speeches in Peoria “No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.”.
The Republican Party was based upon stopping the expansion of slavery in the United States.Republicans would end up being an unyielding resistance to the slave labor system, frustrating the southern democrats and pro-slavery supporters. Due to the party upholding the more northern values, the country party system was now based upon sectional lines, something never seen in America before.The issues between the northern and southern states was exemplified through both the Democrats and the Republicans. Northern values were entrenched in the Republican party while southern values were embodied in the Democrats. When wanting the power of the federal government both parties went to extreme lengths to attempt and gain dominance over the other. This was mostly prevalent in the Kansas territory, the battling in this territory would become known as “Bleeding Kansas”.
While the Kansas-Nebraska Act promoted one of America’s most precious ideals in popular sovereignty, the issue in slavery brought about radical demonstrations and confrontations between pro and anti-slavery supporters in Kansas. The series of violent and political skirmishes came to be named by Horace Greeley as “Bleeding Kansas”. The Kansas slavery referendum brought about an abundance of pro-slavery Missouri citizens migrators to the newly established territories.
These Missouri migrants became to be known as “Border Ruffians” due to the intimidating rhetoric and violent confrontations with anti-slavery citizens. The emigrants came over in swarms to wreak havoc on anti-slavery settlements as well as vote in the referendum. But due to the large amounts of sectionalism within Kansas between anti-slavery and pro-slavery, multiple state constitutions were drafted. The Border Ruffians adopted the the Lecompton Constitution in response to the Topeka Constitution, crafted by anti-slavery Free-Soilers. The document states that no black men may live in Kansas. It also rules that the state of Kansas is to adopt slavery and allow only white men to vote. The Constitution gained support from current President James Buchanan, but was unable to become law after Kansas voted.
In 1856, the skirmishes and battles between anti-slavery supporters and the border ruffian counterparts appeared in Lawrence, Kansas. The town was founded by the New England Emigrant Aid Society, an anti-slavery settlement in the newly established territory and a group set on making Kansas a free state. However, border ruffians were equally insistent that no “negro thieves” or “abolitionist tyrants” would determine the state of the territory. In 1856, several Lawrence anti-slavery citizens were charged for treason.
Federal Israel Donaldson was tasked with arresting the citizens. Donaldson hailed a posse to help assist him with the job. One man in the posse was a sheriff from Missouri named Samuel Jones, Jones was shot during the arrests and ultimately decided on vengeance.
Later, on May 21, Jones commanded a group of men and rode into Lawrence armed with various weapons such as revolvers, rifles, and knives and even heavy artillery. Banners and flags flew in the air professing southern rights as well as white supremacy. Jones and his men burned down the newspaper offices in Lawrence known as Herald of Freedom and the Kansas Free State. Jones decided on these offices due to the newspapers support of the anti-slavery movement. Jones and his men continued the destruction and devastation by burning down other places of business.
The Free State Hotel as well as the home of Charles Robinson was destroyed. This destruction and harsh attack on the people of Lawrence would ultimately lead to the emergence of John Brown, a staunch abolitionist who believed in using violence to rid the world of slavery.John Brown and his sons were on route to provide Lawrence with support when they heard news of the Jones’s attack.
Brown, angered that the townsmen did not protect themselves from the pro-slavery Ruffians of Missouri, instead opted to attack nearby pro-slavery homes an act of vengeance at Pottawatomie Creek in Kansas. Brown and his four sons, along with two other men, arrived on May 24, 1856, Brown proclaimed to be the “Northern Army” that was to serve justice. Brown and his men barged into the home of pro-slavery James Doyle. The men ultimately marched the family out and decapitated the family. Brown did not decapitate Doyle, but instead shot him in the forehead. Before the end of the night, Brown and his men executed two more pro-slavery settlers.
Brown’s actions brought about new warfare tactics that would become known as guerilla warfare. The warfare between antislavery forces and proslavery “border ruffians” continued to escalate. These violent and deadly confrontations would later become known as “Bleeding Kansas”. The new era of abolitionists in Kansas were becoming more and more about violence. The popular opinion on how to fight slavery was based around violence, trending away from pacifism led by someone such as William Lloyd Garrison, who led and established many abolition coalitions such as the New England Anti-Slavery Society.
The new era of violence brought about an even more harsh divide. Approximately 55 people perished during the violence of Free-Soilers and Border Ruffians. The deaths are direct result of the tragic divide created by this bill. The bill radicalized both parties on the issue of slavery. Tensions between the two grew thicker and inevitably grew into violent resolves.
John Brown was ultimately finished at his final raid in Harpers Ferry, Virginia. The raid on Harpers Ferry was apart of John Brown’s plan to create a stronghold of freed and runaway slaves in which he desires to begin a armed slave revolt. Brown choose Harpers Ferry because of its large arsenal of weapons and its location in the southern border states.
John Brown and his twenty-one men seized control of the armoury on the night of October 16th . Federal troops were alerted immediately. Led by General Robert E. Lee the federal troops killed fifthteen men and were able to capture Brown and six others after the fighting.
Brown along with the other men were hanged later that year.The raid wsa not supported heavily in the North but the southern states were disgusted. Southern States feared slave insurrections to begin with.
This is evident in acts such as the Fugitive Slave Act in which runaway slaves were punished severely as well as restricted slaves to almost no rights. The southerners also feared that this would have lasting implications with northern abolitionists. The rebellious and outright foolish act sent a message to pro-slavery supporters that abolitionists would stop at nothing to dissolve slavery in the United States. While it also was not widely supported in the North, John Brown was still seen as a martyr for the abolitionist cause. John Brown’s actions over the course of “Bleeding Kansas” ultimately led to increased tension between northern and southern citizens. Browns controversial actions in Harpers Ferry, along with that of the Pottawatomie Massacre, led Southerners to see abolitionists as delusional and in pursuit of the eradication of slavery at all costs.
This perception on northern values led southerners to become more defensive in values such as slavery’s due to the threatening actions of Brown.In Conclusion, John Brown and many other radical abolitionists and pro-slavery radicals were products of the Kansas Nebraska Act. Through the nullification of the Missouri Compromise as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Republican party was formed, preaching the ideas of abolition. Abolitionists such as Brown were able to gain support due to the deeply embedded ideals of anti-slavery in the Republican Party. While this paper might address the effects of Missouri Compromise, it might fail to indulge into governments created in these new territories as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Further work explaining the effects of these governments may be necessary to gain a better understanding of government in this region. Overall, the Kansas-Nebraska act intensified the relationship between proslavery and antislavery supporters.