Here is the next article for you that don't know much about the civil war. I hope you are enjoying these articles and learning in the process.
Under the Missouri compromise, slavery was prohibited in land north of 36 degree, 30 and on May 30, 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act was finally passed. Four attempts to organize this territory had already been defeated in Congress, mainly because of southern opposition to the Missouri Compromise. The Kansas-Nebraska Act organized the northern Great Plains into the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and allowed popular sovereignty in the territory. The territorial organization of this area was no problem but this bill, which revoked the Missouri Compromise of 1820, prohibited slavery’s expansion into the territories north west of the border between the states of Arkansas and Missouri. The terms of the bill allowed the residents of Kansas and Nebraska territories to decide for themselves whether they would enter the Union as a free state or slave state. By revoking the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act reopened the dividing issue of slavery.
After the Compromise of 1850 was past, which settled the slavery issue in New Mexico and Utah, many Americans hoped the controversy over slavery was finished, but soon it rose again, manly because plans were being drawn up for the building of the transcontinental railroad to the pacific coast. This railroad was very important for the settlements of the western territories and the location of where it would be built. Northern Congressmen wanted a northern route, while the Southern Congressmen wanted a southern route. This divided debate threatened to stop its construction until Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois entered the heated dispute. Stephen, a devoted supporter of the western expansion and promoter for the Midwest’s development, understood that a railroad was absolutely necessary for that’s region’s political and economic future. Douglas realized that if it took a northern route, Chicago would probably serve as its eastern stopping point, which would benefit his home state of Illinois. But national interest was the concern. Douglas believed that a heavy populated and prosperous Midwest would be able to settle the divided conflicts between the North and South and provide harmony for the Nation.
Douglas also knew that a transcontinental railroad running from Chicago to San Francisco was only possible after the settlement of the Midwestern lands between the Rocky Mountains and the Missouri River. Douglas introduced a bill to organize the land into the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, which he believed would bring settlers into the northern Great Plains.
Douglas needed support for the bill. He found an influential senator from Missouri named David R. Atchison, who was seeking reelection in 1854. Atchison’s campaign put him up against Senator Thomas Hart Benton, an opponent of slavery’s western expansion. Atchison was a strong supporter of slavery’s expansion and he saw the Kansas-Nebraska bill as an opportunity to expand slavery’s domain. Atchison promised Douglas that he would support the bill and the settlement of the Kansas and Nebraska territories under one condition. He insisted that the Missouri Compromise be revoked so that his slaveholding population would be allowed to move into the new Kansas and Nebraska territories with their human property. To appease Atchison’s concerns, Douglas introduced a bill for the territorial organization of Kansas and Nebraska. This bill included a clause that effectively revoked the Missouri Compromise. The bill stated that the Compromise of 1850 had replaced the 1820 principle that slavery would not be extended north and west of the Arkansas-Missouri state border. The bill also stated that the question of slavery in the territories should be settled by the person living in them, which is known as Popular Sovereignty.
The wording of this bill favored Atchison in his campaign. Thomas Hart Benton was in a dilemma. If he voted for the bill, he would betray his antislavery sympathies; but if he voted against it, he would be defaulting on his promise to work for expansion into Kansas and Nebraska. Benton voted against the bill and lost the race with Atchison. After three bitter months of debate in Congress the final bill explicitly revoked the Missouri Compromise, which would have made the territory one, and slavery would have been banned. The possibility now of slavery in the new territories was made real. The obvious conclusion, at least to the Missourians, was that Kansas would be slave and Nebraska would be free.
The political development of the Kansas-Nebraska bill reached well within the politicians. The Southern members of Congress were nearly unanimous but the Northern Democrats were split in half. Half of the votes in the House went for the measure and the other half against it. Nearly all-northern Whigs opposed the bill. Under no circumstances did proslavery Congressmen want a free territory (Kansas) West of Missouri.
In addition to the political changes, the Kansas-Nebraska Act had direct consequences. In 1854 Kansas and Nebraska were promptly opened for settlement. Nebraska remained relatively quiet while Kansas, the destination of most of the new settlers, became a place for heated political debate. Settlers came to Kansas not only to develop the frontier but also to help determine whether Kansas would be a free or slave state.
Almost from the start, Kansas was lacking political stability. Proslavery Missourians traveled into Kansas to vote in favor of slavery, often arriving in armed bands. The Emigrant Aid Company of Massachusetts, which helped to establish settlements in Topeka and Lawrence plus other groups from the North and East, helped large numbers of antislavery settlers move into the territory. It was thought that these settlers would not permit slavery in Kansas. Territorial elections were held in 1854 and 1855, in which the proslavery forces won. Missouri raiders or “Border Ruffians,” as they were sometimes called, were Missourians who were sympathetic to slavery. They entered the territory in great numbers stuffing the ballot boxes, which made an honest count impossible. In some districts the number of ballots counted were twice the number of registered voters.
Few of the Border Ruffians actually owned slaves but they hated the Yankees and abolitionists and were unhappy with the prospect of free blacks living in neighboring areas.
The free-soil settlers were not necessarily abolitionists. Most were farmers who opposed slavery because the institution brought with it the plantation system. A copy of the cotton belt economy in Kansas would drive out the small homesteaders. The free-soil settlers loved their lands more than they cared about the plight of the slaves.
A proslavery territorial legislature was established in the town of Lecompton, Kansas and at the same time an antislavery legislature was established in Topeka. Civil War erupted in Kansas as proslavery and antislavery forces clashed for control of the territory. Radicals from both sides armed themselves, resulting in violence that spread throughout eastern Kansas and western Missouri.
Tempers rose from both groups, common people began to die uncommonly violent deaths. Near Lawrence, Kansas, on November 21, 1855, Franklin Coleman, a pro-slavery claim-jumper from Missouri, gunned down Charles Dow, a neighboring Free Stater from Ohio, shooting him in the back. Pro-Slavery Sheriff Samuel Jones of Westport used the murder as a reason to arrest Dow’s companion Jacob Branson and gather 1,500 pro-slavers from Missouri for an attack on Lawrence. The attack was more of a diplomatic maneuver than bloodshed but it inflamed the residents in the area. Under the command of Dr. Charles Robinson, armed Free Staters gathered. Pro-slaver George Clark murdered Thomas W. Barber, a Free Stater, near Lawrence and E.P. Brown of Leavenworth was killed during the election of January 1856 in a skirmish as a member of a Free State company attempting to drive ruffians from Leavenworth County. R.P. Brown was also brutally murdered by a hatchet to his head. There were more and more murders as the days went on. On May 19, Donaldson murdered a Free State boy named Jones and a friend of his near Lawrence. The boy had been returning home to care for his widowed mother. The senseless killing infuriated free Staters. Violence grew and three days later a band of 800 ruffians assaulted Lawrence. Among their leaders was fire-breathing Missouri Senator David Rice Atchison called ‘Staggering Davy’ by his fondness of hard drink. The mob destroyed two local Free State newspaper offices, looted the town of more than $150,000 in merchandise and burned the home of Governor Charles Robinson.
On May 19, 1858, a pro-slavery band led by Charles Hamilton executed unarmed Free State men near Marais des Cygnes on the Kansas-Missouri border. Hamilton, a native Georgian who had been forced from Kansas into Missouri, assembled about 30 followers and returned to the territory. Along the way, the band captured 11 Free Staters; some were Hamilton’s neighbors and expected no harm from him. The captives were led into a ravine and shot. Five of the 11 victims died and Hamilton and his men immediately returned to Missouri.
Such incidents were by no means isolated. Two hundred people died in the border dispute between November 1855 and December 1856. The new governor John W. Geary, managed to convince the Missourians to return home in late 1856. A very fragile peace followed, but violent outbreaks continued intermittently for several more years.
The National reaction to the events in Kansas demonstrated how deeply divided the country had become. The Border Ruffians were widely applauded in the South while the North mostly ignored them although a few praised them.
In 1857, a Kansas constitutional convention was convened, which drafted a pro-slavery document. Antislavery forces boycotted the ratification vote because it failed to offer them a means to vote against slavery. The questionable approval of the Lecompton Constitution did not deter President James Buchanan, who urged acceptance and statehood. Congress refused and ordered another election. This time the proslavery forces boycotted the process, allowing the antislavery forces to claim victory by defeating the document. Both sides had resorted to fraud and violence, but it was clear the prevailing sentiment in Kansas was antislavery. In mid-1859, a new constitution was drafted which reflected that view and was approved by the electorate by a 2-to-1 margin. Kansas entered the Union as a free state in January 1861.
Statehood didn’t settle the hard feelings in Kansas or the violence. Guerrilla bands from both sides continued to terrorize the Kansas-Missouri border throughout the war. Lawrence, was burned and more than 150 men and boys were killed by a pro-Southern irregular force under William Quantrill in 1863.