Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854

When: The bill was passed and made into law on May 30, 1854, by which congress established the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, allowing popular sovereignty to take hold in these territories.

Where: Kansas and Nebraska territories

Who: The Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 was proposed by Stephen A. Douglas, Senator from Illinois, and future participant in the famed Lincon-Douglas Debates. His ideas of popular sovereignty were the main points made in the Kansas Nebraska Act and would later become one of the heated topics in his debates with Lincoln. As chairman of the Senate commitee on Territories, he saw it fit that he should be the one to champion any new bill concerning the territories. Historians now believe Douglas thought that by passing the bill, he would be seen as the next great compromiser. He also had great ambitions for the presidency, which he would later run for in 1860.

Lincoln's perspective on the Kansas-Nebraska Act

Why: The Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854 was passed because of the need to determine whether the Kansas and Nebraska territories should enter the union as free or slave states. By the time the act was passed, the Missouri compromise was 34 years old, and many southerners felt that compromise was outdated. The compromise of 1850 had been passed 4 years prior to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed popular sovereignty in the Utah and New Mexico territories. Stephen A. Douglas felt that this would also be the most effective method in the Nebraska and Kansas territories as well. However, unlike in the Utah and New Mexico territories, Kansas and Nebraska was ripe for plantations with its wide open spaces and and undeveloped fertile land. The Kansas-Nebraska Act would allow the citizens of the future states to vote on whether they would be slave or free states.
Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas
external image 300px-Forcing_Slavery_Freesoilers_Throats.jpg

external image Ad.jpg

external image oldguys.jpegexternal image compromiseandactsmap.gif
Pro-slavery propaganda of "Bleeding Kansas"

What: The Kansas Nebraska Act made the Missouri Compromise obselete, and allowed the expansion of slavery into the western United States above the 36' 30' line previously established by the Missouri compromise. It also allowed popular sovereignty to be the means by which the territories would vote between becomeing a free or slave state. Problems arose when many who lived in Missouri assumed that Kansas would be salve state, and Nebraska a free state. When voting was cast, the slave states that border the Kansas territory sent in thousands of people to vote for Kansas to be a slave state. Organizers in the north also sent thousands to make the state free. In the end Kansas entered the union as a free state, but fighting would break out in the state over slavery leading to the decade long dispute known as bleeding Kansas. The Nebraska territory would remain a territory until 1866, following the Civil War.
The Kansas Nebraska Act, would ultimatley become one of the deciding factors in the push toward the Civil War.

Below is a map indicating the Nebraska and Kansas territories, along with the balance of slave to free states upto 1854.
external image DIVI269.jpg

Controversy of the Kansas-Nebraska Act
On a 1-5 scale of controversy with 5 being very controvercial, and one being mildly controversial, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was a 5. The Act infuriated people around the country and sparked early fighting leading up to the Civil War. Kansas was known as "Bloody Kansas" because of all the violence that went on in the state for years.

Northern Perspective: The Kansas-Nebraska Act made northerners extremely angry. They wanted the Missouri Compromise to be followed, and it was violated by the Kansas-Nebraska Act. According to the Missouri Compromise, anything north of the 36'30' parallel was to be free territory, except for Missouri. This would have made the Kansas and Nebraska Territories free regions, where slavery was not prohibited. However, it was ruled that the people of the territories could vote on the issue of slavery, to decide if the territory would be free or slave. An election was held, and carried by pro-slavery citizens. Anti-slavery settlers in the territory charged the opposition with fraud and disregarded the election. They held another election, but the pro-slavery settlers refused to vote in it. As a result, two legislatures were set up in Kansas, one pro-slavery and one anti-slavery. Violence broke out between the two groups, with the anti-slavery forces led by John Brown. Once the death toll started to rise considerably, President Franklin Pierce, who supported the pro-slavery forces, sent in the national army to suppress the anti-slavery forces and get rid of their legislature. Another election was held, and once again it went in favor of slavery; and once again the result was ignored and called fraudulent by the anti-slavery proponents. As a result, Congress did not honor the Constitution written by the pro-slavery legislation. Eventually, anti-slavery settlers outnumbered those in favor of slavery, and Kansas was admitted into the Union as a free state, just before the Civil War started on January 29, 1861.

Southern Perspective: Although the Kansas-Nebraska Act did not guarantee that the territories would become slave territories, Southerners were extremely pleased by the passing of the Act. It clearly violated the Missouri Compromise that they had not been in favor of, so they were happy either way. Many of them expected Kansas to become a slave territory and Nebraska to become a free territory. Slave holders immediately rushed into Kansas to vote for it to become a slave state. Their numbers were also boosted because slave holders from Missouri were able to come across the border and vote. Southerners saw this as a chance to take an advantage in Congress, especially when President Pierce sent in troops to help them. Their cause was eventually lost when Kansas entered as a free territory just prior to the Civil War.

President Franklin Pierce
external image 6a00d8341c73bd53ef0112790cbc6a28a4-800wi

Works Cited

“Acts, Bills, and Laws, 1854.” Travel and History. 18 May 2009 <http://www.u-s-history.com/‌pages/‌h83.html>.
“The Kansas-Nebraska Act.”
The History Place. 1996. 18 May 2009 <http://www.historyplace.com/‌lincoln/‌kansas.htm>.
“Kansas-Nebraska Act.”
Thinkquest. 18 May 2009 <http://library.thinkquest.org/‌J0112391/‌kansas-nebraska_act.htm>.
“Kansas-Nebraska Act.” Wikipedia. 2009. 18 May 2009 <http://en.wikipedia.org/‌wiki/‌Kansas-Nebraska_Act>.