The Kansas-Nebraska Act and Bleeding Kansas

The Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854 undid previous legislation that limited the expansion of slavery, such as the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850. The tension between pro-slavery and free soil factions over slavery in new territories increased as Stephen Douglas' bill left the Kansas territory open to the rule of popular sovereignty. In the political arena, arguments between the Democratic Party, who supported popular sovereignty and states' rights, and their opposition, the Whigs, heated up and had lasting effects leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War. On the ground, the fighting of the "border ruffians" in "Bloody Kansas," such as John Brown's raid on Pottawattamie Creek, violently settled what each side's Washington counterparts were debating. The turmoil in Kansas continued when President James Buchanan appointed a new territorial governor and asked him to have the citizens adopt a constitution and apply for statehood. While many Free-Soilers lived in Kansas by this time, most boycotted the constitutional convention, held in the temporary capital in Lecompton. Voters had a choice between a constitution that allowed slavery and maintained the increase of the institution, or a constitution that banned the importation of new slaves but allowed for generational increases in the number of slaves. Eventually, the voters in Kansas rejected the Lecompton Constitution, and an irreparable split in the Democratic Party developed.

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