Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act (May 30, 1854). This set in motion the tragedy that came to be called Bleeding or Bloody Kansas. Northern abolitionists and Southern slave holders vied for control of Kansas. T he demarcation line established by the Missouri Compromise had sucessfully restrained sectional rivalry for three decades. The Kansas-Nebraska Act adopted Stephen Douglas' doctrine of Popular Sovereignty. Essentially the settlers of the each territory would decide the question. The problem came when each side sought to move settlers into the Territory to gain control of territorial legislature. Northern abolitionists and Emigrant Aid Societies promoted and financed Free-Soil settlers. Slave owners mostly from neigboring Missouri moved into Kansas. Many were not settlers, but just men intent on determining Kansas' choice. They became known as Border Ruffians. As Missouri, a slave state, was the only state bordering on Kansas, the pro-slavery faction gained the upper hand. Even so, two competing territorial governments were formed. Kansas descended into violence and a small-scale civil war. There were shootings and lynchings and attacks on settlements. Federal and territorial authorities proved incapable of maintaining order. Lawrence, Kansas became a Free-Soilers stronhold. Settlers their harborded abolitionists and run-away slaves. Newspaper editors at Lawrence infuriated the proslavery territorial government. A "posse" of about 800 Border Ruffians from Missouri attacked Lawrence (May 1856). They especially targeted the newspaper offices, but also burned the hotel and the home of the Free-Soil governor. Rabid Abolistionist John Brown retaliated 4 day later at Pottawatomie Creek. Brown and four sons dragged five pro-slavery settlers from their homes and in front of their families hacked them to death. Eventually 200 men would die in Bleeding Kansas. The number seems small in terms of the Civil War, but at the time Americans were horrified.
Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act (May 30, 1854). This set in motion the tragedy that came to be called Bleeding or Bloody Kansas. Northern abolitionists and Southern slave holders vied for control of Kansas. The demarcation line established by the Missouri Compromise (1820)had sucessfully restrained sectional rivalry for three decades. The Missouri Compromise (1820) has been called as perhaps the "most fatefull single piece of legislation in American history." [Catton] We might suggest Lend Lease, but the "Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas" was undeniably a Congressional act of enormous consequences. The Missosuri Compromise worked for over three decades to defuse the slavery issue until Congress, spearheaded by Seator Stephen Douglas, undid it with the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854). Douglas wanted Congressional support to support the construction of a trans-continental railroad. Southern legislators were unwilling to support the railroad without opening the new western territories. Douuglas' answer was the Kansas-Nebraska Act which in effect repealed the Missouri Compromise. The issue of slavery would be taken out of Federal hands and put in the hands of the people in the territories. Douglas termed this "popular soverignty". Douglas believed that this would difuse the increasingly vitriolic debate over slavery in the Congress. Rarely has a politican been more wrong about the consequences of his actions. The result proved to be rising tensions, "Bleeding Kansas", the and a the breakdown of compromise, John Brown's raid on the Federal arsenal, and at last the final breakdown of comprosise and a terrible civil war.
The idea of popular sovereignty, or sovereignty of the peoples' rule, is the principle that the authority of a state and its government are created and sustained by the consent of its people. It was at the core of Enligtenment ideas about government. John Locke was the most influentil proponent. It was inshirined in both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. As the United States was careening toward Civil War, some politicans in the North were attempting to defuse the volitile slavery issue by finding ways of appeasung the South. One such idea was applying the principle of popular siverignity. Northern Democrats led by Senator Lewis Cass (Michigan) and Stephen A. Douglas (Illinois) promoted popular sovereignty as a compromise position between Abolitionists and the southern Slave Power.
They took the poition that the residents of territories should be able to decide wheter to enter the Union as a free or slave state. It basically invalidated the Missouri Compromise andin thory meant that the Federal government did not have to make the decision. By appealing to democracy Cass and Douglas hoped they could finesse the question of slavery. Douglas applied popular sovereignty to Kansas anbd suceeded moving the Kansas Nebraska Act through Congress (1854). The Act had two unexpected results which Case, Douglas, and others had not anticipated. Invalidating the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (which prohibited slavery north of the southern border of Missouri). This would have prohibited slavery in Kansas. It would have been a major victory for pro-slave forces. Anti-slavery forces across the North were enraged. It meant the death of the Whig Party which was temprising the issue and the birth of an 'anti-Nebraska' movement. Free Soilers and anti-slavery Whigs nd Democrats would come together to form the new Republican Party. The Republicabs were not abolitiionists, but they were united on the idea that slavery should not be llowed to expnd.
The other unexpected result was that pro- and anti-slavery elements moved into Kansas with the intention of cintroling the territoril legislature and voting slavery up or down. The result was unprecedented violence, a prelude to civil war -- Bleeding Kansas'. Abraham Lincoln took issue with popular sovereignty in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates (1858). Douglas was left with a position that alienated Southern pro-slavery Democrats who thought he was too weak in his support of slavery and northerns whon opposed slaveey. The Illinois legislsture elected him senator, but he destoyed his fuuture as a natioinln figure. Southern Democrats broke away frin the noirthern prty and ran their own candidate in 1860. In doing so gthey guaranteed Lincoln's election.
The Free Soilers were a short-lived political party in the United States. It affected the 1848 and 52 presidential elections and had support in some state elections. It was a single-issue party, its main purpose was to oppose the expansion of slavery into the Western territories. They argued that free men on free soil constituted a morally and economically superior system and that slavery was morally corupt. It made some progress in revoking existing laws that discriminated against freed African Americans in snorthern states like as Ohio. Many of the settlers that moved into Kansas were from from states influenced by the Free Soilers. Northern abolitionists and Emigrant Aid Societies promoted and helped financed Free-Soil settlers. Jayhawkers and red legs are the terms used to describe militant bands affiliated with the free-state cause during the Bleeding Kansas era. These partisan bands clashed with pro-slavery groups from Missouri who became known as Border Ruffians. After the Civil War the term Jayhawker became adopted as describing Kansans.
Slave owners mostly from neigboring Missouri moved into Kansas. Many were not settlers, but just men intent on determining Kansas' choice. They became known as Border Ruffians. As Missouri, a slave state, was the only state bordering on Kansas, the pro-slavery faction for a time gained the upper hand. Armed Ruffian bands interfered in territorial elections and attacked Free-State settlements. This brought the term 'Bleeding Kansas' into national usage. It was a term coined by Horace Greeley in the New York Tribune. The Ruffians contributed to the already growing sectional tensions and thus were a factor in bringing on the Civil War.[Wards] The Ruffians were fired up by the incendusry rhetoric of leaders such as U.S. Senator David Rice Atchison (Missouri) who called Northerners 'negro thieves' and 'abolitionist tyrants'. He promoted the idea that Missourians should defend their rights 'with the bayonet and with blood' and, if necessary, 'to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the district'. Atchison would serve as a Confederate brigadier general during the Civil War. Actually, only a small number of Border Ruffians actually owned slaves of their own. Most were poor farmers. They seemed more motivated by a dislike for Yankees and especislly abolitionists. There was also the fear of freeing blacks.
Even so, two competing territorial governments were formed. Kansas descended into violence and a small-scale civil war. There were shootings and lynchings and attacks on settlements. Federal and territorial authorities proved incapable of maintaining order.
Lawrence, Kansas became a Free-Soilers stronhold. Settlers their harborded abolitionists and run-away slaves. Newspaper editors at Lawrence infuriated the proslavery territorial government. A "posse" of about 800 Border Ruffians from Missouri attacked Lawrence (May 1856). They especially targeted the newspaper offices, but also burned the hotel and the home of the Free-Soil governor. Rabid Abolistionist John Brown retaliated 4 day later at Pottawatomie Creek. Brown and four sons dragged five pro-slavery settlers from their homes and in front of their families hacked them to death. This was when Brown began to acquire nationalm prominnce.
The Wyandotte Constitution was the fourth and final propsed constitution, was framed (1859). By this time it was clear that the pro-slavery forces had been defeated in their bid to control Kansas. The majority of the state wanted to enter the Union as a free state. That was not accepted in Washington, where President Buchannan was intent on keeping the Union together by appeasing the South. The free rate orientation, however, was clear in Kansas. And with this realization and John Brown's departure, violence had virtually burned itself out (1859).
Eventually 200 men would die in Bleeding Kansas. The number seems small in terms of the subsequent Civil War, but at the time Americans were horrified.
Other than Texas, Kansas had perhaps the most diffuicult path to statehood. Kansas had dueling territorial governments and produced different proposed state constitutions for admission to the Union. The first was the Topeka Constitution (1855). It was apprived by the Houuse of representives, but was rejected in the Senate as aesukt of opposition by slave state southern Senators (1856). The pro-slavery constitution was the Lecompton Constitution. While it was being debated, however, Kansans elected a new Free-State legislature and was seated in Kansas Territory. The new Kansas legislature convened a new constitutional convention which framed a third constitution--the Leavenworth Constitution. This was the most radically progressive of the four that were drafted. It outlawed slavery and even providing a framework for women's rights--a radical proposition at the time. The Constitution was adopted by the convention at Leavenworth (April 3, 1858) and by a popular referebdum (May 18, 1858). At the time the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution was still under consideration in Washington. President Buchanan seeking to defuse the slavery issue by appeasing the South, sent the Lecompton Constitution to Congress for approval. The Senate with all the slave state sentors still voting, approved the admission of Kansas as a slave state under the Lecompton Constitution. Senator Douglas voted against it. He believed that the Lecompton Constitution was not legitimate because it had not offered the alternative of prohibiting slaveryr. Approval was blocked in the House of Representatives. Northern congressmen were adamently opposed to admiting Kansas as a slave state. Senator James Hammond of South Carolina charged tht this was tantamount to expelling Kansas fronm the Union. He asked the Senate, "If Kansas is driven out of the Union for being a slave state, can any Southern state remain within it with honor?" With the failure of the proposed Lecompton and Leavenworth constitutions, a fourth draft constitution was drafted. The Wyandotte Convention adopted it (July 29, 1859). It was approved by a popular referendum (October 4, 1859.) It was a free state charter, outlawing slavery, but was far less progressive than the Leavenworth Constitution. The Wyadotte Constitution was presented to Congress, but a very different Congress. Abraham Lincoln was elected president (November 7, 1860). And soon outraged southern state legilatures began seceeding from the Union. South Caroline was the first (December 20, 1860). But even before this, Southern Congressmen and Senators had begun to resign. As a result, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state under the Wyandotte Constitution, the 34th state jut before the Civil Wr broke out (January 29, 1861).
There were no Civil War battles of any importance fought in Kansas. There were some 30 Confederate raids into Kansas. The most serious raid was an attack on Lawrence, Kansas a partisan force led by Major William Clarke Quantrill (August 21, 1863). Union Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr. had ordered the jailing of women who were providing aid to Confederate partisans. The delapidated jail's roof collapsed, killing five of the imprisoned women. Missouri was a slave border state that stayed in the Union. There was, however, support for the Condederacy and partisan groups formed after General John C. Frémont held Missouri for the Union. Missori was the most northern slave state. The further loss of Kentucky and Federal control of the Mississippi helped isolate Missouri from the Confederacy. The Federals drove regular Confederate units from the state. The partisans in Missouri were enfuriated when they learned what had happened. in Lawrence Quantrill and his men raided Lawrence. They burned most of the town to the ground and killed 164 men and boys. Quantrill also jutified his action for what he described as the 'citadel of abolition' would revenge the wrongs, real or imagined that the Southerners had suffered at the hands of Jayhawkers. The Confederate government, which had granted Quantrill a field commission under the Partisan Ranger Act, was outraged and withdrew support for such irregular forces. Quantrill's force included the youthful Jesse James and his older brother Frank. Quantrill is often seen as influencing Wild West banditry, outlaws and hired guns. Quantrill was mortally wounded by Union troops in central Kentucky, one of the last engagements of the Civil War (May 1865). Had he not been killed, he probably would have been tried and hung as a war criminal.
Catton, William and Bruce.
Ward, Tom and Carolyn Ward. (2002). "Border Ruffians" KS-Cyclopedia (1912).
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