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The Kansas-Nebraska Act

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During the twenty years before the Civil War much happened in the United States. Each political, social, or economic happening had its own part in causing the Civil War. One of the bloodiest events was something termed “Bleeding Kansas,” which was caused by the inception of the Kansas-Nebraska Act into United States Law. The Act was introduced to Congress by Stephen A. Douglas in an attempt to establish the Kansas and Nebraska territories.

The Kansas-Nebraska Bill caused territorial problems that destroyed the National Party system. It was introduced by Stephen A. Douglas, one of the leading men behind the Compromise of 1850, and in opposition to sectional quarreling. The bill was to establish the Kansas and Nebraska territories. He wanted to send an transcontinental railroad into the area to help increase the economic activity in his home state of Illinois and encourage settlement of the Great Plains area. Since no Company would build a railroad until the area had been organized, Douglas introduced the bill.

The Kansas-Nebraska Bill showed a fallacy in the Compromise of 1850’s ideal of popular sovereignty. Popular sovereignty had given each territory the right to chose whether or not it would allow slavery. The problem was that Kansas and Nebraska lay within the land acquired under the Louisiana Purchase. Under the Missouri Compromise, slavery had been forbidden in all territories in the Louisiana purchase- from latitude 36°30′ north to the order with Canada. Southern politicians demanded that the 36°30′ law be removed. With a slight notion of the consequences of such an action, Douglas included it in is bill, which was passed in May of 1854.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act caused much more trouble than either Douglas or the southern politicians had anticipated. First was trouble with the Fugitive Slave Act. The Free- Soilers and other abolitionist groups immediately turned their wrath toward Douglas. They said that the Slave Power was gaining too much influence and the northern fear of slavery heightened. The Fugitive Slave Law, initiated by Douglas in the Compromise of 1850, came under sudden attack as well. Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, Ohio, and Wisconsin passed personal-liberty laws, meant to interpose with the Fugitive Slave Law. “These laws,” claimed southerners ” interfered with the Fugitive Slave Act by providing counsel for alleged fugitives and requiring trial by jury.” Political Parties also felt the devastating effects of the Kansas- Nebraska Act. It ended the national and two party system and created sectional party’s in the north and south.

The Whig party in the north was shattered as its northern and southern members could no longer come to agreement on anything. The Democratic Party, Douglas’s party, most, if not all, of its northern support, but survived, and Democrats in the North lost sixty-six of their ninety-one positions in Congress, and control of all but two free-state legislatures were lost the them. Joshua Giddings, Salmon Chase, and Charles Sumner, were a part of the Democratic Party, but after the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, they visciously attacked Douglas’s principles in a paper called “Appeal of the Independent Democrats.” These men and Abraham Lincoln believed that slavery had too much influence in politics.

Lincoln said that the Kansas- Nebraska Act “put slavery on the high road to extension and perpetuity and that constituted a moral wrong and injustice.” In response to Lincoln’s appeals, many members of the Whigs, Democrats, Free-Soilers and other Parties met and formed a new Republican Party. As a result, the Republicans won many votes in the north and the Democrats were struggling to remain afloat. Because the Kansas-Nebraska Act had destroyed the Whig Party, Republicans, Democrats and various other party’s joined the race to get former Whig supporters on their side. Eventually, the Republicans won the race, attracting support from a variety of areas.

The worst consequence of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was n the territory of Kansas. Claim jumper and citizens clashed frequently in Kansas. Abolitionist groups, aimed at getting a majority of the vote in Kansas sent armed Free- Soilers to settle the land. In response, southerners sent settlers as well. Soon blood was spilled, and the entire nation came to know of “Bleeding Kansas.” During elections, many slavery advocates from the slave state of Missouri migrated to Kansas to give a boost to pro-slavery votes. When Free-Soilers attempted to create a separate society, slavery advocates destroyed the town Lawrence, and in response to that, John Brown, a religious, antislavery fanatic, murdered five pro-slavery citizens. Soon guerrilla’s stalked Kansas fighting over land and slavery. The violence in Kansas was carried into Congress as pro-slavery Representative Preston Brooks beat anti-slavery Charles Sumner with a cane.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act ridded the country of the “sacred agreement,” the Missouri Compromise, and threw the nation into conflict. From the destruction of the Whig party to the inception of the New Republican Party the Act caused more problems than it attempted to solve. The Kansas-Nebraska Act became one of many problems that would lead up to the American Civil War.

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