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1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act

Franklin Pierce

1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act: Franklin Pierce was the 14th American President who served in office from March 4, 1853 to March 4, 1857. One of the important events during his presidency was the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Definition and Summary of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act
Summary and definition:
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was a law written by Stephen A. Douglas and passed by Congress on May 30, 1854 that divided the territory west of the states of Missouri and Iowa and the territory of Minnesota into two new territories that were named Kansas and Nebraska.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was another compromise, based on the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, that contravened the 1820 Missouri compromise and allowed settlers to decide whether or not to have slavery.

1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Kansas-Nebraska Act related to the issue of existing Free States and the existing Slave States. 

  • The Missouri Compromise of 1820 had declared that Missouri be admitted as a slave state and and Maine be admitted as a slave state, maintaining a balance between 'free soil' and 'slave soil'. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 also prohibited the extension of slavery north of the 3630′ latitude, as indicated on the map

  • The Compromise of 1850 provided that California be admitted as a free state and The territories of Utah and New Mexico had been opened to the people to decide by Popular Sovereignty whether their states favored or opposed slavery as indicated on the map, contravening the Missouri Compromise

  • In 1854 the Kansas and Nebraska territories were the next areas subjected to a dispute over the issue of slavery

Kansas-Nebraska Act History for kids
precedent of Popular Sovereignty in the Compromise of 1850 had led to a demand for a similar provision for the Kansas Territory and Nebraska territory. The Compromise of 1850 provided that California be admitted as a free state and that the people of the new territories of Utah and New Mexico could decide whether their states favored or opposed slavery, pursuant to the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty. The terms of the Compromise of 1850 contravened the Missouri Compromise, the purpose of which was to maintain a balance between the number of free and slave states admitted to the union. And the terms of the Kansas-Nebraska Act followed suit.

Who wrote the Kansas-Nebraska Act? The Aims of Stephen A. Douglas
Henry Clay had written the Compromise of 1850, based upon the ideas of Senator Stephen A. Douglas of of Illinois who was a strong advocate of the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was written by Stephen A. Douglas to provide for the formation of two new territories. One of these he named Kansas and the other territory was named Nebraska. Stephen A. Douglas was also a firm believer in the Manifest Destiny of the United States and its expansion of lands across the whole of the North American continent. Stephen A. Douglas also believed that the lands of Kansas and Nebraska were vital to the construction of a Transcontinental Railroad to the Pacific coast allowing settlers to move westward and also to provide a fast trade route - refer to Railroads in the 1800s for facts about the history of the railroad and the invention of the steam locomotive. Stephen A. Douglas was also excited by the recent Invention of the first telegraph by Samuel Morse which would revolutionize communications across the United States.

Reason for the Kansas-Nebraska Act
What was the reason for Kansas-Nebraska Act? The existing area was organized as a territory and
settlers would not move move westward into Nebraska and Kansas because they could not legally hold a claim on the land. The Kansas-Nebraska Act would allow them to claim ownership.

Purpose of the Kansas-Nebraska Act: Another Compromise
What was the purpose of the Kansas-Nebraska Act?
The purpose of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was to provide another compromise to encourage the representatives of the southern states in Congress to look favorably on the act. The south were in no hurry to permit a Nebraska territory because the land lay north of the 3630' parallel, where slavery had been outlawed by the Missouri Compromise. To gain southern support for the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Stephen A. Douglas therefore proposed Kansas as a southern state, inclined to support slavery, to be included in the Kansas-Nebraska Act based on the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty.

Provisions of the Kansas-Nebraska Act
What did the Kansas-Nebraska Act do? The provisions of the Kansas-Nebraska Act were:

  • The new territories were established as Kansas in the south and Nebraska in the north opening new lands for settlement

  • Their boundaries and limits Kansas and Nebraska were defined

  • The settlers would decide (popular sovereignty) whether or not to have slavery

Effect of the Kansas-Nebraska Act
The effects of the Kansas-Nebraska Act:

  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act once again contravened the terms of Missouri Compromise, which designated 3630′ as a line of latitude to be the separation between free and slave states (Kansas should have been a free state as it was north of the line)

  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act opened up an immense region to slavery

  • The anti-slavery leaders in the North were furious and attacked the bill with great ferocity

  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act provided a focal point for Abolitionists who established a media campaign against the law and applied political pressure to abolish slavery

  • Northerners established a free-soil campaign

  • Southern settlers flooded the Kansas territory to acquire lands and voted for the expansion of slavery

  • Violence erupted in Kansas between Anti-slavery and Pro-slavery militant activists reaching a state of low intensity civil war and this destructive event became known as  'Bleeding Kansas'

Kansas-Nebraska Act Significance: Political Turmoil and Civil War
The significance of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was:

  • The presidency of Franklin Pierce was ruined following the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the issue of the Ostend Manifesto that led to his defeat in the next election

  • The Anti-slavery Whigs successfully prevented the re-nomination of Millard Fillmore and led to the destruction of the Whig Party

  • The Anti-slavery Whigs also joined the Free Soil Party which eventually emerged as the Republican Party

  • The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: Abraham Lincoln forced Stephen Douglas to defend the doctrine of of "popular sovereignty" used in the Kansas-Nebraska Act and also forced an open debate on the Dred Scott Case. Abraham Lincoln subsequently won the 1860 presidential election

  • This event was one of the Causes of the Civil War

  • The legacy of the Kansas-Nebraska Act marked the point of no return on the road to the American Civil war (1861-1865)

US American History
1850-1865: Secession Era

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