Bleeding Kansas Free Essay

Bleeding Kansas Essay

In 1853, the area between California and Oregon was organized into a single territory simply known as Kansas. Both Proslavery as well as antislavery groups were in a rush to settle this new territory. Both groups wanted to ensure they had a majority of the population in this new territory. The majority of the population could later be used to ensure a nonslave or slave state status. This mutual desire to populate Kansas led to several bloody incidents from 1853 to 1861.

In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act attempted a compromise on the extension of slavery. It repealed the Missouri Compromise and reopened the issue of extending slavery north of lat. 36°30, allowing settlers of Kansas and Nebraska to decide the slavery issue amongst themselves. During this same time frame a company named the Emigrant Aid Company was organized in Massachusetts with antislavery immigration to Kansas as its goal. Proslavers in Missouri and throughout the south became concerned that an antislavery group was being formed and they took counteractions of their own. Towns were established by each group-Lawrence and Topeka by the free-staters and Leavenworth and Atchison by the proslavery settlers.

Slavery soon became the main issue for this territory along with statehood status. Proslavers won the first elections in 1854 and 1855. Armed Missourians intimidated voters and election officials all the while stuffing the ballot boxes. Andrew H. Reed, a proslaver, became the territories first governor in 1854 and by 1855 all free-state members of the legislature had been removed from office. A capital was then established in Lecompton, and proslavery statutes were voted for and adopted. In retaliation, the antislavery faction set up a rival government in October 1855 in Topeka. Now the territories had separate governments, each outlawing the other.

In November 1855, violence erupted. A free-state man was murdered; this led to the "Wakurusa War". This was a series of battles, fights, and skirmishes along the Wakarusa River. The new governor, Wilson Shannon, later negotiated with the proslavery group and kept them from attacking Lawrence for the moment. Proslavery men continued attacks against Free State men; these attacks consisted of tarring and feathering, kidnapping, and killing. The violence soon began to increase and on May 21, 1856, proslavery groups and armed Missourians known as "Border Ruffians" raided Lawrence. A few days later a group led by the abolitionist crusader John Brown murdered five proslavery men in the Pottawatamie massacre. Warfare...

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Said to have been coined by Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, the label “Bleeding Kansas” was first fixed on that strife-ridden territory by antislavery publicists. The opening of the Kansas and Nebraska territories in 1854 under the principle of popular sovereignty provoked a protracted political crisis in both Kansas and the nation at large. Rival governments had been established in Kansas by late 1855, one backed by proslavery Missourians, the other by antislavery groups. Although the Pierce and Buchanan administrations recognized the former, Republicans as well as a number of northern Democrats deemed it a fraud imposed by Missouri “border ruffians.” Civil conflict in Kansas accompanied the political polarization. The volatility to be expected of a frontier area was compounded by the activities of parties interested in the slavery issue–both the Missourians and the northerners who reputedly shipped free-state settlers and armaments to the region.

Did You Know?

During the Civil War, Kansas suffered the highest rate of fatal casualties of any Union state, largely because of its great internal divisions over the issue of slavery.

Hostilities between armed bands seemed imminent in late 1855 as well over a thousand Missourians crossed the border and menaced Lawrence, a free-state stronghold. On May 21, 1856, ruffians actually looted that town. In response, John Brown orchestrated the murder several days later of five proslavery settlers along Pottawatomie Creek. Four months of partisan violence and depredation ensued. Small armies ranged over eastern Kansas, clashing at Black Jack, Franklin, Fort Saunders, Hickory Point, Slough Creek, and Osawatomie, where Brown and forty others were routed in late August.

John W. Geary, appointed territorial governor in September, managed to cool the “border war” with the aid of federal troops. But Kansas had hardly ceased bleeding–as became apparent in 1858 with the Marais des Cygnes massacre of five free-state men and pronounced disorder in several counties. Although Kansans in that year once and for all rejected the proslavery Lecompton constitution, such violence continued on a smaller scale into 1861.

The Reader’s Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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