- The Kansas-Nebraska Act
- The Election of 1856
- The Dred Scott Decision
- The Lecompton Constitution
- The End of Buchanan’s Term
In this blog post, we’ll explore how President Buchanan’s handling of the Kansas issue led to the Civil War.
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The Kansas-Nebraska Act
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, which allowed the residents of each territory to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery. This act had a profound effect on the nation, as it effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise and led to increased tensions between the North and the South.
The Act is passed
On May 30, 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed by Congress, opening up thousands of new square miles of territory in the American Midwest for settlement and essentially repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Act also created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, though it left the question of slavery in these regions to be decided by popular sovereignty. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was deeply controversial, and its passage led directly to the outbreak of Bleeding Kansas and ultimately the American Civil War.
The Act is met with opposition
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was more than just a law to extend the country’s borders; it was also an attempt by President Buchanan and pro-slavery lawmakers to find a peaceful solution to the heated issue of slavery. However, the act was met with strong opposition from both abolitionists and pro-slavery activists, as well as many ordinary citizens. The bill eventually passed, but it only served to further inflame the already volatile situation.
The Election of 1856
The 1856 presidential election was one of the most heated and important elections of its time. The country was on the brink of war and the future of America was at stake. At the center of it all was the issue of slavery and the expansion of the slave trade into new territories. President Buchanan was up for reelection and his handling of the Kansas issue was a major point of contention.
The election of 1856 was one of the most presidential elections in American history, pitting Democrat James Buchanan against Republican John C. Fremont and American Party candidate Millard Fillmore. The election was largely a referendum on President Buchanan’s handling of the Kansas question, as well as his handling of the Ostend Manifesto crisis.
Buchanan, who had served as President Pierce’s Secretary of State, was seen as a competent hand who would steer the country through difficult times. Fremont, on the other hand, was a popular figure who was seen as too inexperienced for the presidency. Fillmore, meanwhile, was seen as a dark horse candidate who could appeal to both Northern and Southern voters.
In the end, Buchanan won the election with nearly 56% of the vote. Fremont came in second with nearly 33% of the vote, while Fillmore finished a distant third with just over 10%.
The election results
The election of 1856 was one of the most heated and hotly contested in American history. The main issue was the extension of slavery into the Kansas territory. The pro-slavery forces, led by President Buchanan, were pitted against the anti-slavery forces, led by Senator Stephen Douglas. Douglas won the nomination of the Democratic Party, but lost the election to Republican candidate John C. Fremont.
The campaign was marked by personal attacks and mudslinging on both sides. Buchanan was accused of being a puppet of the South, while Douglas was accused of being a tool of Northern interests. In the end, Fremont won the election with a plurality of the vote, but he did not win a majority. This resulted in Buchanan winning the Electoral College vote and becoming President.
The Dred Scott Decision
The Dred Scott Decision was a major issue during President Buchanan’s time in office. The decision was made by the Supreme Court and it said that African Americans could not be citizens of the United States. This caused a lot of tension between the North and the South and eventually led to the Civil War.
The opinion of the court
In 1857, the United States Supreme Court delivered its opinion in the Dred Scott case. The Court’s decision was that Scott, a slave, was not a citizen of the United States and therefore could not bring suit in federal court. In addition, the Court held that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional. The decision was 7-2.
The reaction to the decision
The Dred Scott decision was issued on March 6, 1857, and it immediately provoked a heated reaction from the Northern press and politicians. The decision was widely seen as an attempt by the Supreme Court to defuse the growing sectional crisis over slavery by ruling that Congress could not prohibit slavery in the federal territories, and that slaves were not citizens and could not sue in federal court.
The reaction in the North was overwhelmingly negative. Newspapers denounced the decision, and Northern politicians vowed to overturn it. The Republican Party, which had been founded in 1854 specifically to oppose the expansion of slavery, now had a new rallying cry. The party’s presidential candidate in 1856, John C. Frémont, had been defeated, but the party was confident that it would win in 1860.
The Dred Scott decision also stoked the fires of abolitionism in the North. Anti-slavery activists took advantage of the public outrage over the decision to step up their efforts to promote their cause. In 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a raid on a federal armory in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, in an attempt to start a slaves’ rebellion. The raid was unsuccessful, and Brown was hanged for treason, but his actions served to further divide the country and increase tensions between North and South.
The Lecompton Constitution
In 1857, President Buchanan sent a special envoy to Kansas to gather information about the controversial issue of slavery in the territory. The envoy reported that the majority of settlers in Kansas were in favor of slavery, and that a new constitution had been drafted that would make Kansas a slave state. Buchanan then called for a vote on the constitution, which was approved by Congress.
The constitution is drafted
In late 1857, pro-slavery forces in the Kansas Territory drafted a state constitution—the Lecompton Constitution—which declared that Kansas would be a slave state. The document was submitted to Congress for approval, but many moderate and antislavery lawmakers were opposed to it. President James Buchanan, a Democrat, supported the Lecompton Constitution and worked to get it passed by Congress.
Some members of Buchanan’s own party were opposed to the Lecompton Constitution, however, and it was eventually defeated in the Senate. The issue of slavery in Kansas remained unresolved, and Buchanan’s handling of the situation damaged his reputation and contributed to the rise of the Republican Party.
The vote on the constitution
The vote on the constitution was set for December 21, 1857. By this time, pro-slavery forces had managed to bring in enough new settlers from Missouri to give them a majority of the votes. The night before the election, some anxious citizens gathered at the polling place to see that everything was ready. They found that the ballot boxes were already full! The election went ahead as planned, with over 9500 votes being cast. Of those, only 138 were against the constitution.
The End of Buchanan’s Term
Buchanan’s handling of the Kansas issue was the start of the end of his term as President. The situation in Kansas had been brewing for some time, and Buchanan had been warned by his advisors that if he did not take action, it could lead to bloodshed.
The election of 1860
The election of 1860 was a turning point in American history, marking the end of the era of good feelings and ushering in a four-year war that would test the young republic to its limits. The campaign pitted Republican nominee Abraham Lincoln against Democratic nominee Stephen Douglas. Lincoln, who had won the nomination on the strength of his opposition to the expansion of slavery into the territories, ran on a platform calling for a ban on slavery in those areas. Douglas, who favored leaving the issue to the voters in each territory, argued that Lincoln’s policy would lead to civil war.
Although Lincoln won just 40 percent of the popular vote, he swept the Electoral College with 180 votes to Douglas’s 12. The election also saw the rise of the secessionist southern states, which began to withdraw from the Union even before Lincoln took office in March 1861.
Buchanan’s final days in office
Buchanan’s final days in office were marked by increasing public calls for his impeachment, as his handling of the Kansas issue continued to be hotly debated. In late December 1860, with the secession of South Carolina imminent, Buchanan met with Senators William Seward and Hamilton Fish in an attempt to resolve the impasse over Fort Sumter. The meeting was unsuccessful, and on January 3, 1861, Buchanan gave a farewell address to the nation in which he defended his record.