On May 30, 1854 the territories of Kansas and Nebraska wanted to become states. The only question left to be decided was whether they would have slavery or not. Stephen Arnold Douglas, the Democratic Senator of Illinois, strongly believed that the people of the territories should decide for themselves whether they wanted slavery. He sponsored the Kansas Nebraska bill and said that the question of slavery in Kansas and Nebraska would be left to the vote of the settlers. He called this principle popular sovereignty. The debate over the question of slavery in the territories became more of a problem than expected. Proslavery and antislavery groups fought many wars, each side wanting to gain control of Kansas so they could vote for it to become a slave state or a free state. These wars are known as "Bloody Kansas." Neither side knew it, but with each day of fighting, they were getting a step closer to the Civil War.
What was the Kansas-Nebraska Act?
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was a bill that, like the Compromise of 1850, dealt with the problem of slavery in new territories. A bill is a document before it is passed by Congress to be made into a law. The bill later became a law on of the territories could decide by popular vote whether to allow slavery to continue in a place when it becomes a state. The act caused Northern abolitionists to fight against proslavery Southerners. Abolitionists are people that worked to get rid of slavery in the country. The act caused the Whig Party to split into northern and southern branches. The northern branch wanted to end slavery and the southern branch wanted slavery to continue. The Democratic Party was also divided into northern and southern branches, just like the Whig Party.
The north wanted the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to become free states because the north didn’t depend on slaves to do their work. The north manufactured more of their items and didn’t have as many farms because of the cold climate and rocky soil. The south wanted the territories to be slaveholding states because the south’s way of life depended on slaves. The south had a lot of farms and plantations in which many slaves were needed to do the work.
The north wanted more states of their kind because if there were to be more free states than slave states, the north would gain more power and be able to overrule the south when voting on important decisions in Congress. The south wanted more states to be like them because if there were to be more slave states than free states, the south would gain more power and would be able to overrule the north when voting on important decisions in Congress.
When people in Missouri voted in Kansas, the proslavery Party won control, and Kansas was voted to become a slave state. Later, Kansas asked Congress for statehood as a slave state. Congress refused since Kansas was north of Missouri. This was because the Missouri Compromise said that all states above the Missouri Compromise line (the 36° 30° line) would have to be free states and anything below would have to be slave states. While the proslavery Party was upset and angry over this decision, the antislavery Party quickly took control of Kansas.
A conflict soon developed in Kansas between proslavery settlers from Missouri and the antislavery newcomers. The fighting between the two groups continued for several years. Bloody Kansas, also known as Border War, was a conflict in Kansas territory between antislavery free staters and proslavery groups. The Antislavery Party was fighting for control of Kansas so they could vote for it to become a free state. The Antislavery Army led by John Brown, an abolitionist, wiped out the proslavery troops. John Brown led one famous battle on the settlers at Pottawatomie Creek. This attack was called the Pottawatomie Massacre and occurred in May 1856. Many other battles between the proslavery and antislavery settlers later became known as Bloody Kansas.In the end, the Antislavery Party ended up winning. When Kansas asked Congress for statehood as a free state, Congress agreed and Kansas and Nebraska both became free states.
Leading to the Civil War
The north and south argued and fought over the question of slavery each time a new state wanted to enter the Union. The south finally got so tired of all the fighting and arguing that they decided to break away from the U.S. and be their own country. Fighting over whether the south would be its own country finally started the Civil War.
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