KANSAS-NEBRASKA ACT, 1854
ANOTHER ACT that helped to divide the country on the issue of slavery was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. The Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed people in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide for themselves whether or not to allow slavery within their boundaries. This was called "popular sovereignty." The Kansas-Nebraska Act basically ended the Missouri Compromise of 1820 which prohibited slavery in much of the former Louisiana Territory.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act proved to be a conflict-ridden issue among U.S. citizens. It angered many Northerners who considered the Missouri Compromise to be fair, but among southern citizens it was highly endorsed.
When the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, anti-slavery Northerners called "free soilers," and pro-slavery southern planters rushed to settle Kansas and help decide the outcome of its first election.
The clash of these two groups created an environment of hostility and violence. "Border ruffians," who were slave owners from Missouri, would cross the Kansas border to vote in territorial elections. In 1856, hundreds of border ruffians raided the free-soil town of Lawrence, Kansas and burned down a hotel, destroyed two printing presses, and killed two people.
(Image: "Kansas Polls," The Granger Collection, New York)