- The Kansas-Nebraska Act
- The Election of 1856
- The Dred Scott Decision
- The Lecompton Constitution
- The John Brown Raid
- The Secession Crisis
Many people don’t know how important the events in Kansas were to the build-up of the Civil War. In this blog post, we’ll explore how the conflict in Kansas, known as “Bleeding Kansas”, led to the outbreak of the Civil War.
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The Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by Congress in 1854 and created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. The act was meant to appease the north and south regarding the issue of slavery. However, it did the opposite. The act led to “Bleeding Kansas” where proslavery and antislavery groups fought each other. This led to even more division between the north and south and eventually led to the Civil War.
The Missouri Compromise
The Missouri Compromise was an attempt to diffuse the build up of sectional tension between the Northern and Southern states over the issue of slavery.
In 1820, there were an equal number of slave and free states in the Union. However, with the admission of Maine as a free state in 1820 and the purchase of Louisiana territory in 1803, the slaveholding state of Missouri petitioned to join the Union as a slave state. This would upset the delicate balance between slaveholding and free states.
In an attempt to avoid conflict, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise in 1820. The bill admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state. It also prohibited slavery in any territory north of 36° 30’ N latitude, with the exception of Missouri.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by Congress on May 30, 1854. It created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and opened new lands for settlement. The act was intended to settle the issue of slavery in the territories, but it actually divided the nation even further on the issue.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was proposed by Democratic senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois. Douglas wanted to build a transcontinental railroad through the Midwest. To do this, he needed to gain control of the land in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.
The act specified that each territory would be allowed to vote on whether or not slavery would be permitted within its borders. This process is known as “popular sovereignty.”
The act also repealed the Missouri Compromise, which had banned slavery north of latitude 36°30′. This angered many Northerners who saw it as a violation of their rights.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act led to violence in the territories, particularly in Kansas which became known as “Bleeding Kansas.” The violence intensified sectional tensions and increased support for both abolitionists and pro-slavery forces. The act also deepened divisions within the Democratic Party, helping to paving the way for the Civil War.
The Election of 1856
The election of 1856 was one of the most important election cycles in American history. The election saw the rise of the Republican Party and the end of the Whig Party. The election was also a battle between two very different visions for America’s future.
The 1856 election was one of the most colorful in American history and saw the rise of the new Republican Party. The Democratic Party was divided between its northern and southern factions, while the new Republicans were united in their opposition to slavery. The three main candidates were:
-John C. Fremont of California, the first presidential nominee of the Republican Party. A former Democrat and abolitionist, Fremont was a popular explorer and hero of the Mexican-American War.
-James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, a Democrat who had served as Secretary of State under President Polk and as Minister to England under President Fillmore. Buchanan was a staunch defender of southern rights and a proponent of popular sovereignty.
-Millard Fillmore of New York, the incumbent president and candidate of the American (Know-Nothing) Party. Fillmore had replaced Zachary Taylor after his death in office and was now seeking a full term in his own right.
The 1856 election was significant for many reasons. It was the first time that a major party nominated a candidate who openly opposed slavery, it saw the ascent of a new political party (the Republicans), and it set the stage for even greater conflict over slavery in the years to come.
The 1856 election was one of the most exciting and important presidential elections in American history. For the first time, a major party nominated a candidate who openly opposed slavery. The election also saw the rise of a new party, the Republicans, who would go on to dominate American politics for the next half-century.
The 1856 election was largely a referendum on the issue of slavery. The nation was sharply divided on the question, and both parties nominated candidates who reflected this division. Democrat James Buchanan supported the idea of popular sovereignty, which would allow territories to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery. Republican John Fremont opposed slavery and called for it to be banned in all territories.
The election was also shaped by events in Kansas, which had been admitted to the Union as a slave state in 1854 despite strong opposition from antislavery activists. In response to this decision, antislavery activists moved into Kansas and set up their own government, known as “Bleeding Kansas.” This violence spilled over into the presidential election, with both parties using it to rally support from their respective bases.
In the end, Buchanan won the election with 174 electoral votes to Fremont’s 114. Although Buchanan technically won more than half of the popular vote, his victory was due largely to support from southern states where slavery was legal. In the north, where most voters were opposed to slavery, Fremont won a majority of the popular vote.
The 1856 election was a turning point in American history. It signaled the rise of a new political party dedicated to opposing slavery. It also increased tensions between north and south, ultimately leading to Civil War just five years later.
The Dred Scott Decision
In 1857, the Supreme Court made a decision in the Dred Scott case that made Bleeding Kansas a pivotal moment in the build-up to the Civil War. Dred Scott, a slave, had been taken by his owners from Missouri–a slave state–to live in the free state of Illinois and the free territory of Wisconsin.
The Majority Opinion
The U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford is one of the most controversial in the Court’s history. The decision overturned a Missouri compromise that had outlawed slavery in certain Western territories, and it affirmed that African Americans could not be U.S. citizens. The ruling was a major factor in provoking the Civil War.
The majority opinion, authored by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, relied heavily on the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law. Taney argued that the Founders never intended to include African Americans in the Constitution’s definition of citizenry, and thus they could not be afforded any of the rights and protections that citizenship entailed. African Americans, Taney wrote, “are not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and can therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens of United States.”
The dissenters on the Court—Justices John McLean, Benjamin Curtis, and Samuel Nelson—argued that common law principles dictated that all free persons born in the United States were automatically citizens, regardless of race or ancestry. They also took issue with Taney’s argument that African Americans could not be citizens because they were not included in the Constitution’s definition of citizenry; such an interpretation, they contended, would render moot any amendments to the Constitution aimed at expanding citizenship rights (such as the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified after the Civil War).
The Dissenting Opinions
In the Dred Scott decision, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the opinion of the court, joined by four other justices. Justices Samuel Nelson, John Catron, and James Wayne concurred in part and dissented in part. Justice Benjamin Robbins Curtis dissented from the majority opinion altogether.
Taney’s opinion emphasized that African Americans could never be American citizens and therefore had no standing to bring suit in federal court. He also found that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional because it interfered with the right of slave owners to take their property—slaves—into any territory of the United States. In doing so, Taney went beyond the question before the court and struck down a key piece of legislation that had been used to maintain a balance of power between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in Congress.
The three justices who concurred in part with Taney’s opinion agreed that African Americans could not be citizens and that slaves were property, but they did not think it necessary to strike down the Missouri Compromise. Curtis’s dissent focused on process, arguing that Scott had been denied due process because he was not allowed to present evidence at his trial. He also disputed Taney’s interpretation of the Constitution, arguing that nothing in the document supported the notion that slaves were property or that African Americans could never be citizens.
The Lecompton Constitution
The Lecompton Constitution was a document created during the territorial period of Kansas’ history. The document was created in an effort to get Kansas admitted to the Union as a slave state. The Lecompton Constitution was rejected by the people of Kansas, which led to violence and “Bleeding Kansas.” The events in Kansas eventually led to the Civil War.
The Lecompton Constitution
In 1857, the Kansas territory was in turmoil. The question of whether or not slavery would be allowed in the state had split the residents into two camps: pro-slavery and anti-slavery. The situation became so heated that it became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”
In an effort to quell the violence, President James Buchanan sent a delegation to Kansas to draft a constitution for the state. The pro-slavery camp dominated the constitutional convention, and the resulting document, known as the Lecompton Constitution, included a provision that would have made Kansas a slave state.
The Lecompton Constitution was submitted to Congress for approval, but it was met with stiff opposition from the anti-slavery camp. In an effort to get the Constitution approved, President Buchanan made a deal with southern senators: if they would support his plan for sending troops to Utah (in response to clashes between Mormon settlers and federal authorities), he would support the Lecompton Constitution.
The Senate approved Buchanan’s Utah plan, but the House of Representatives did not approve the Lecompton Constitution. Despite this, Buchanan continued to try to get Congress to approve the document. His efforts were unsuccessful, and in 1858, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state.
The Lecompton Constitution
The Lecompton Constitution was a proposed pro-slavery constitution for the state of Kansas. The constitution was drafted in response to the anti-slavery Topeka Constitution. The Lecompton Constitution was put to a vote, but it was rejected by both Kansas voters and the U.S. Congress.
The Lecompton Constitution was a key issue in the 1858 U.S. presidential election. Abraham Lincoln, who opposed the constitution, won the election. The Lecompton Constitution also played a role in the 1861 secession of 11 southern states from the Union.
The John Brown Raid
On October 16, 1859, the radical abolitionist John Brown led a small group of men in a raid on the Federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown’s goal was to seize the arms and supplies stored there, and then lead a slave rebellion in the South. The raid failed, and Brown was captured and hanged.
The raid on Harpers Ferry
In 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a group of 21 men in a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now in West Virginia). Brown’s plan was to capture the arms and use them to arm slaves so that they could overthrow their masters. The raid was a complete failure—Brown and his men were quickly captured, and ten of them were hanged.
Despite its failure, the raid had a profound impact on the nation. First, it exposed the deep divisions within the country over slavery. Second, it showed that some people were willing to resort to violence to achieve their goals. These two factors would help lead to the outbreak of the Civil War just two years later.
The trial of John Brown
The trial of John Brown was one of the most important moments leading up to the Civil War. Brown was an abolitionist who believed in using violence to end slavery. In 1859, he led a raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in an attempt to start a slave rebellion.
Brown was captured and put on trial for treason. During the trial, he gave a lengthy speech in which he defended his actions. This speech made him a hero to many northerners who agreed with his beliefs. It also outraged southerners, who saw it as a direct challenge to their way of life.
Brown was found guilty and sentenced to death. His execution helped fuel the growing sectional divide between the North and South and ultimately led to the outbreak of the Civil War.
The Secession Crisis
The election of 1860 was one of the most consequential in American history. Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, won the election and would go on to lead the Union during the Civil War. His election was the trigger for southern states to secede from the Union and form the Confederate States of America.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
The Lincoln-Douglas debates were a series of seven debates between Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Illinois, and Stephen Douglas, the incumbent Democratic Party senator. The debates occurred in the seven Illinois senatorial districts. The first debate was held in Ottawa, Illinois, on August 21, 1858. The final debate was held in Alton, Illinois, on October 15, 1858.
Lincoln and Douglas were both widely respected politicians with national reputations. Lincoln had been a member of the House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. He had also served as the Whig Party’s floor leader in the House. Douglas was first elected to the Senate in 1846 as a Democrat. He had also served as a judge on the Illinois Supreme Court.
The two men differed sharply on the issue of slavery and its expansion into new territories acquired by the United States. Lincoln opposed slavery while Douglas believed that each state should be free to choose whether or not it allowed slavery within its borders. Douglas accused Lincoln of being an abolitionist who would interfere with states’ rights. Lincoln countered that Douglas was more concerned with securing power for himself than with protecting Americans’ rights.
The debates attracted widespread public attention and helped to shape the presidential election campaign of 1860. In that election, Lincoln won the presidency while Douglas lost his bid for reelection to the Senate.
The Election of 1860
In 1860, the issue of slavery again came to the forefront. Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln ran on a platform of stopping the spread of slavery into new territories, which many Southerners saw as a direct threat to their way of life. The election was close, but Lincoln won in a landslide, with 180 electoral votes to 123 for his opponent, Northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas. John Breckinridge of Kentucky, the candidate of the Southern Democrats, received 72 electoral votes, and John Bell of Tennessee, the candidate of the new Constitutional Union Party, received 39.
The Secession of the Southern States
In 1860, the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States led to a crisis in relations between the North and the South. Lincoln’s election was due in part to his opposition to the expansion of slavery into new territories. The southern states, on the other hand, saw this expansion as essential to their economic prosperity. In response to Lincoln’s election, eleven southern states seceded from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America. The Civil War began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces attacked a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina.