Aims of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and How it Worsened Sectional Tensions
For this activity, students will detail the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, along with the events that followed from it. Students will use a Frayer Model graphic organizer to help centralize the aim of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the effects and events that resulted from it. Students should include events such as Bleeding Kansas, The Dred Scott decision, popular sovereignty in action, and the Lecompton Constitution. Students may also include John Brown and the Pottawattamie Massacre, and how it exemplified the violence and tensions between pro-slavers and free-soilers aiming for control of the area.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
Aims and Compromises
The Kansas-Nebraska Act, supported by Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, was proposed to bring the Nebraska territory under control. Northern interests sought the territory for a transcontinental railroad, while the South wanted to expand slave territory.
Supporters / Opposers
The Kansas-Nebraska Act immediately created political divides and rifts. With support of the bill coming from Douglas, a prominent member of the Whig Party, a divide quickly occurred between Northern and Southern Whigs. Northern Whig opposers soon joined the newly formed Republican Party while Southerners found loyalties with the Democrats.
'Bloody Kansas' refers to the violence resulting from immediate attempts to settle the Kansas-Nebraska territory by both Pro-slavers and Free-soilers. By settling the area, each group aimed to influence the law of the land as to whether each state would enter the Union as free or slave. This majority choice of the people is known as popular sovereignty.
The Pottawatomie Massacre is one example of the extreme violence that occurred during the attempted settlement of the Kansas-Nebraska territory. John Brown, a devout religious abolitionist, murdered five pro-slavers in revenge for the pro-slave attack on the Free-soiler town of Lawrence, KS.