The Kansas-Nebraska Act was one of the most crucial events leading up to the Civil War. In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act created territories for both Kansas and Nebraska. This gave a chance for people to move slavery to the Midwest. This put the center of attention on Kansas, because this was going to alter the balance between the North and the South. The territory we know as Kansas was better known as “Bleeding Kansas” due to all the violent clashes between the pro- and anti-slavery parties.
The Act divided the nation and directed it towards the Civil War. The Act itself virtually nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850. The turmoil over the act split both the Democrats and the Know-Nothings, and gave rise to the Republican Party, effectively splitting the United States into two major parties – the Republicans in the North and the Democrats in the South.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was introduced into the House of Representatives by Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois. He was under the belief that this would bring peace to the battle between the North and the South; however, it only made things worse. Douglas called for settlers to vote on deciding whether or not slavery would be prohibited in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska (this became known as popular sovereignty). The newly formed Republican party decided quickly to take aim of abolishing the expansion of slavery.
The reason why the territory of Kansas was the center of attention was due to its location and the impeccable timing. The location was prime for slave-owners because it was a great place to grow crops; also, it sat next another slave state, Missouri. Some people believed that slavery should just expand on west into Kansas. As for the timing – this was a volatile time in our nation because it was greatly dividing into two separate “factions” – the Anti-Slavery states in the North and the Pro-Slavery states in the South. Congress agreed with Douglas and allowed the citizens of Kansas to decide whether or not their state would be a free or a slave state.
Popular Sovereignty did not work out as well as Douglas had hoped. Pro-Slavery settlers, mostly from Missouri, influenced territorial elections by jumping the border and voting, claiming that they were citizens of Kansas. They formed groups like the “Blue Lodges” and became known as “border ruffians,” a term coined by avid abolitionist Horace Greeley. On the other hand, abolitionists also moved from the East with the express purpose of making Kansas a free state.
A clash between these opposing sides was inevitable.
The “pro-slavery” players built and set up their first organized settlements in Leavenworth, Atchison, and Lecompton, the territorial capital of Kansas.. The latter of these three cities became the target of much agitation, and ended up becoming a hostile environment. Unlike the northerners moving to Kansas for colonization, the southerners moved...