Bleeding Kansas was a time of great turmoil and violence in the Kansas territory. The conflict was caused by the issue of slavery.
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The Missouri Compromise of 1820
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was an effort by the United States Congress to settle the issue of slavery in the western territories. The Compromise allowed Missouri to enter the Union as a slave state, while Maine was admitted as a free state. This temporarily resolved the issue of slavery in the west, but it did not end the conflict.
The Compromise Line
In 1820, Missouri applied for statehood, causing concern because it would upset the balance of free and slave states. The issue came to a head when Representative James Tallmadge Jr. of New York proposed an amendment that would have prohibited further introduction of slaves into Missouri and mandated that all children of slave parents born in the state would eventually be free.
The amendment passed in the House, but not in the Senate. To break the impasse, Senators Henry Clay and Daniel Webster devised a plan that became known as the Missouri Compromise. The compromise admitted Missouri as a slave state, Maine as a free state, and prohibited slavery in all future territories north of 36°30′ N latitude (the southern border of Missouri). This line became known as the Compromise Line.
The Missouri Compromise temporarily resolved the issue of slavery, but it also created a new sectional conflict over the expansion of slavery into western territories.
The Free-Soil Movement
A key fact supporting the belief that the Civil War was caused by slavery is the rise of the anti-slavery, or “free soil,” movement in the years before the war. In 1854, anti-slavery Northerners formed a new political party, the Republicans. The Republicans’ rise to power in 1860 on a platform of opposition to the spread of slavery was a key factor leading to secession and civil war.
The free soil movement began in response to enactment of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required even Northern states to assist slaveholders in recapturing fugitive slaves. Many Northerners were outraged by this law and joined the free soil movement.
The free soilers opposed both slavery and race-based restrictions on voting and immigration. They argued that all land should be available for homesteading, regardless of whether it was located in a slave state or a free state.
In 1854, anti-slavery activists in Kansas Territory formed a new political party, The Kansas Aid Committee, to assist settlers in establishing a free state government there. This committee was instrumental in helping to write Kansas’ first constitution, which banned slavery.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was designed to create two new territories, Kansas and Nebraska, in the unorganized territory west of Missouri and Iowa. The bill’s purpose was to ease tensions over the issue of slavery and allow for the construction of a transcontinental railroad. The Act created a great deal of conflict, however, as it allowed for “popular sovereignty” or the residents of each territory to decide whether or not slavery would be allowed.
The Repeal of the Missouri Compromise
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was signed into law by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. The act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had prohibited slavery in any new territories west of the Mississippi River that were acquired by the United States.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed for the organization of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, and it opened up these areas to white settlement. The act also allowed for popular sovereignty, which meant that the settlers in each territory would vote on whether or not to allow slavery.
The repeal of the Missouri Compromise led to a rise in tensions between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States, and it ultimately led to the outbreak of violence in Kansas, known as “Bleeding Kansas.” The violence in Kansas increased support for the anti-slavery Republican Party, which was founded in 1854 in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was an act of Congress that repealed the Missouri Compromise and allowed for popular sovereignty in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. The act created a lot of controversy, as many people believed it would lead to the spread of slavery. The bill was passed by Congress, but was vetoed by President Franklin Pierce. However, Congress was able to override the veto and the bill became law.
The Border Ruffians
The Border Ruffians were an informal group of proslavery vigilantes from Missouri who frequently crossed the state border into Kansas to vote illegally, disrupt elections, and terrorize antislavery settlers. They were also known to disrupt Free-State conventions and to intimidate judges and juries.
The Kansas-Missouri Border War
also known as the Border War, was a series of violent confrontations which took place in Kansas and Missouri between 1854 and 1861. The confrontations were characterized by attacks and counterattacks between pro-slavery “Border Ruffians” from Missouri and anti-slavery “Free-Staters” from Kansas. The conflict was fought largely with firearms, knives, clubs, and fists. Because of the violence, the period came to be known as “Bleeding Kansas.”
The Sacking of Lawrence
On May 21, 1856, a proslavery mob from Missouri, later called “ border ruffians,” sacked the town of Lawrence, Kansas. The sack was in retaliation for the destruction of the proslavery newspaper The Herald of Freedom by Abbott’s Free-State Hotel in Lawrence
Kansas became a state on January 29, 1861. At this time, the issue of slavery was becoming more and more dividing the country. The Jayhawkers were a group of abolitionists from Kansas that led to the conflict in Bleeding Kansas.
The Free-State Movement
The free-state movement was a political movement in the United States that advocated for the right of settlers in Kansas Territory to be admitted to the Union as a free state instead of a slave state. The movement was led by anti-slavery activists, many of whom had migrated to Kansas from the northern states. These activists were opposed by pro-slavery settlers, who were mostly from the southern states.
The conflict between these two groups came to be known as the “Bleeding Kansas” crisis, as violence and bloodshed erupted throughout the territory. In 1858, the conflict came to a head when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed each territory to decide for itself whether or not to allow slavery. This law effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise, which had prohibited slavery in any new territories north of 36°30’N latitude.
The free-state movement ultimately triumphed when Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state in 1861. However, the Bleeding Kansas crisis paved the way for further divisions that led to the American Civil War.
The Battle of Black Jack
On June 2, 1856, a company of Missouri slaveholders hired by pro-slavery forces in Kansas Territory crossed the border and attacked a small settlement of abolitionist settlers at Black Jack, Kansas. The settlers were led by abolitionist John Brown.
The attackers killed five men and wounded ten, including Brown himself. They also took six men captive and looted the settlement. This battle was one of the earliest and most significant engagements of the so-called “Bleeding Kansas” conflict, which culminated in the outbreak of the American Civil War just five years later.
The abolitionists were the people who were fighting to end slavery in the United States in the 1800s. They were against the Fugitive Slave Act, which made it illegal for slaves to escape to free states. They also helped slaves escape to Canada through the Underground Railroad. The abolitionists were some of the most important people in the Civil War.
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad was a network of people, African American as well as white, who helped fugitive slaves escape to freedom. It developed as a response to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which increased federal efforts to capture and return runaway slaves to their owners in the South.
Operating primarily in the border states and northeastern states, the Underground Railroad helped an estimated 100,000 slaves escape to freedom. Labeled as “abolitionists” by their opponents, those who assisted fugitive slaves were motivated by a variety of factors, including religious conviction, a belief in the principles of free love or free labor, and a desire to see African Americans gain their independence.
Harriett Tubman was one of the most famous conductors on the Underground Railroad. Born into slavery in Maryland around 1820, Tubman escaped in 1849 and soon returned to the South to help other slaves escape. Over the next decade she made more than 19 trips and helped hundreds of slaves reach freedom.
John Brown and the raid on Harper’s Ferry
John Brown was an abolitionist who believed in the use of violence to end slavery. In 1859, he led a raid on the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry in Virginia. This was an attempt to start an armed slave revolt.
Brown and his men were quickly captured by government troops. He was put on trial and found guilty of treason. He was hanged on December 2, 1859. Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry helped to set off the chain of events that led to the Civil War.