Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
What was the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854?
Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854
|Kansas Nebraska Act Map
|(Kansas Nebraska Act Map)
What was the Kansas-Nebraska Act?*
On May 22, 1854, the House of Representatives passed the Kansas-Nebraska
Act by a vote of 113 to 100. The Senate passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act by a vote 35 to 13 on May 25, 1854. The Act went into
effect on May 30, 1854. The appendix of the Congressional Globe, 33rd Congress, 1st Session, contains
the final Senate debate on the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Kansas entered the Union as a free state on January 29, 1861. See also: Missouri Civil War History and Kansas Civil War History.
Act divided the nation and pointed it toward civil war. The act itself virtually nullified the Missouri Compromise of 1820
and the Compromise of 1850. The turmoil over the act split both the Democratic and Whig parties and gave rise to the Republican
Party, which split the United States into two major political camps, North (Republican) and South (Democratic).
Eventually, a new anti-slavery
state constitution was drawn up. On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state. Nebraska was admitted
to the Union as a (free) state after the Civil War in 1867.
Kansas-Nebraska Act and
the Birth of the Republican Party
Opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska
Act were also the founders of the Republican Party, which had opposed the expansion of slavery into the territories. The
Republican Party is the second oldest currently existing political party in the United States after its great rival, the Democratic
Why was the Republican
The main cause was opposition
to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Northern Republicans saw the expansion
of slavery as a great evil. The first public meeting where the name "Republican" was suggested for a new anti-slavery party
was held in 1854 in Wisconsin.
"With the successful introduction of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854, an
act that dissolved the terms of the Missouri Compromise and allowed slave or free status to be decided in the territories
by popular sovereignty, the Whigs disintegrated." By February 1854, anti-slavery Whigs had begun meeting in the upper Midwestern
states to discuss the formation of a new party. One such meeting, in Ripon, Wisconsin, on March 20, 1854, is generally remembered
as the founding meeting of the Republican Party. (See also Free-Soilers and the Free Soil Party.)
Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party
Abraham Lincoln, drawing on remnants
of the old Whig party, and on disenchanted Free Soil, Liberty, and Democratic Party members, was instrumental in forging the
shape of the new Republican Party. At the 1856 Republican National Convention, Lincoln placed second in the contest to become
the party's candidate for vice president.
The Republicans rapidly gained supporters in the North, and in 1856 their
first presidential candidate, John C. Fremont, won 11 of the 16 Northern states. By 1860, the majority of the Southern slave
states were publicly threatening secession if the Republicans won the presidency. In November 1860, Republican Abraham Lincoln
was elected president over a divided Democratic Party, and, six weeks later, South Carolina formally seceded from the Union.
Within six more weeks, five additional Southern states had followed South Carolina's lead--and in April 1861 the Civil War
The Civil War firmly identified the Republican Party as the party of the
victorious North, and after the war the Republican-dominated Congress forced a "Radical Reconstruction" policy on the South, which saw the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments
to the Constitution and the granting of equal rights to all Southern citizens. By 1876, the Republican
Party had lost control of the South, but it continued to dominate the presidency until the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt
*Officially titled "An Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas," the Kansas Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had outlawed slavery above the 36º 30' latitude in the Louisiana territories and reopened the national struggle over slavery in the western
related reading below.)
Reading: The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854 (Law in the American West). Description: The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854 turns upside down the traditional way of thinking about
one of the most important laws ever passed in American history. The act that created Nebraska
also, in effect, abolished the Missouri Compromise, which had prohibited slavery in the region since 1820. This bow to local
control outraged the nation and led to vicious confrontations, including Kansas’s subsequent mini-civil war. The
essays in this volume shift the focus from the violent and influential reaction of “Bleeding Kansas” to the role
played in this decisive moment. Essays from both established and new scholars examine the historical context and significance
of this statute. Continued below...
American political culture of the 1850s; American territorial history; the roles of Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, and
Frederick Douglass in the creation and implementation of the law; the reactions of African Americans to the act; and the comparative
impact on Nebraskans and Kansans. At the 150th anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, these scholars reexamine the political,
social, and personal contexts of this act and its effect on the course of American history. About the Author: John R. Wunder is a professor of history and journalism at the University
of Nebraska–Lincoln. He is the author of numerous books, including “Retained by the People”: A History of
American Indians and the Bill of Rights, and the coauthor of Americans View Their Dust Bowl Experience. Joann M. Ross has
a JD from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. She is currently a history instructor at the Louisiana
School for Math, Science, and the Arts and is a doctoral candidate in
the Department of History at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Contributors include: Nicole Etcheson, Tekla Ali Johnson,
Mark E. Neely Jr., Phillip S. Paludan, James A. Rawley, Brenden Rensink, Joann M. Ross, Walter C. Rucker, and John R. Wunder.
Recommended Reading: The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (Paperback), by David M. Potter. Review: Professor Potter treats an incredibly complicated and misinterpreted
time period with unparalleled objectivity and insight. Potter masterfully explains the climatic events that led to Southern
secession – a greatly divided nation – and the Civil War: the social, political and ideological conflicts;
culture; American expansionism, sectionalism and popular sovereignty; economic and tariff systems; and slavery. In other words, Potter places under the microscope the root causes and origins of the Civil War.
He conveys the subjects in easy to understand language to edify the reader's understanding (it's
not like reading some dry old history book). Delving beyond surface meanings
and interpretations, this book analyzes not only the history, but the historiography of the time period as well. Continued
rejects the historian's tendency to review the period with all the benefits of hindsight. He simply traces the events, allowing
the reader a step-by-step walk through time, the various views, and contemplates the interpretations of contemporaries and
other historians. Potter then moves forward with his analysis. The Impending Crisis is the absolute gold-standard of historical
writing… This simply is the book by which, not only other antebellum era books, but all history books should be judged.
Reading: CAUSES OF THE CIVIL WAR: The Political, Cultural, Economic and Territorial
Disputes Between the North and South. Description: While South Carolina's preemptive strike on Fort Sumter and Lincoln's
subsequent call to arms started the Civil War, South Carolina's secession and Lincoln's military actions were simply the last in a chain of events stretching as far back
as 1619. Increasing moral conflicts and political debates over slavery-exacerbated by the inequities inherent between an established
agricultural society and a growing industrial one-led to a fierce sectionalism which manifested itself through cultural, economic,
political and territorial disputes. This historical study reduces sectionalism to its most fundamental form, examining the
underlying source of this antagonistic climate. From protective tariffs to the expansionist agenda, it illustrates the ways
in which the foremost issues of the time influenced relations between the North and the South.
Recommended Reading: A House Divided: Sectionalism and Civil War, 1848-1865 (The American Moment). Reviews: "The best short treatment of the sectional conflict and Civil War
available... Sewell convincingly demonstrates that the conflict was a revolutionary experience that fundamentally transformed
the Republic and its people, and left a racial heritage that still confronts America
today. The result is a poignant discussion of the central tragedy of American history and its legacy for the nation." -- William
E. Gienapp, Georgia Historical Quarterly.
"A provocative starting point for discussion, further study, and independent assessment." -- William H. Pease, History. "Sewell's
style is fast moving and very readable... An excellent volume summarizing the stormy period prior to the war as well as a
look at the military and home fronts." -- Civil War Book Exchange and Collector's Newsletter. Continued below…
traditional, and brief narrative of the period from the end of the Mexican War to the conclusion of the Civil War... Shows
the value of traditional political history which is too often ignored in our rush to reconstruct the social texture of society."
-- Thomas D. Morris, Civil War History. "Tailored for adoption in college courses. Students will find that the author has
a keen eye for vivid quotations, giving his prose welcome immediacy." -- Daniel W. Crofts, Journal of Southern History.
Recommended Reading: What Hath
God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
(Oxford History of the United States)
(Hardcover: 928 pages). Review: The newest volume in
the renowned Oxford History of the United States-- A brilliant portrait of an era that saw dramatic transformations in American
life The Oxford History of the United States
is by far the most respected multi-volume history of our nation. The series includes two Pulitzer Prize winners, two New York
Times bestsellers, and winners of the Bancroft and Parkman Prizes. Now, in What Hath God Wrought, historian Daniel Walker
Howe illuminates the period from the battle of New Orleans to the end of the Mexican-American
War, an era when the United States expanded
to the Pacific and won control over the richest part of the North American continent. Continued below…
narrative portrays revolutionary improvements in transportation and communications that accelerated the extension of the American
empire. Railroads, canals, newspapers, and the telegraph dramatically lowered travel times and spurred the spread of information.
These innovations prompted the emergence of mass political parties and stimulated America's economic development from
an overwhelmingly rural country to a diversified economy in which commerce and industry took their place alongside agriculture.
In his story, the author weaves together political and military events with social, economic, and cultural history. He examines
the rise of Andrew Jackson and his Democratic party, but contends that John Quincy Adams and other Whigs--advocates of public
education and economic integration, defenders of the rights of Indians, women, and African-Americans--were the true prophets
of America's future. He reveals the power
of religion to shape many aspects of American life during this period, including slavery and antislavery, women's rights and
other reform movements, politics, education, and literature. Howe's story of American expansion -- Manifest Destiny -- culminates
in the bitterly controversial but brilliantly executed war waged against Mexico
to gain California and Texas for the United States. By 1848, America had been transformed. What Hath God Wrought provides a monumental narrative
of this formative period in United States
Sources: National Archives;
Library of Congress; Goodrich, Thomas. War to the Knife: Bleeding Kansas, 1854-1861. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books,
1998; Malin, James C. The Nebraska Question, 1852-1854. Lawrence, Kans., 1953; Wolff, Gerald W. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill:
Party, Section, and the Coming of the Civil War. New York: Revisionist Press, 1977; Chambers, William Nisbet. Old Bullion
Benton: Senator From the New West (1956); Etcheson, Nicole. Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (2006);
Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War. (1970) ISBN 0-19-509497-2;
Freehling, William W. The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay 1776-1854. (1990) ISBN 0-19-505814-3; Holt, Michael. The
Political Crisis of the 1850s (1978); Huston, James L. Stephen A. Douglas and the dilemmas of democratic equality (2007);
Johannsen. Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas (1973) ISBN 0-19-501620-3; Morrison, Michael. Slavery and the American West: The Eclipse
of Manifest Destiny and the Coming of the Civil War (1997); Nevins, Allan. Ordeal of the Union: A House Dividing 1852-1857.
(1947) SBN 684-10424-5; Nichols, Roy F. "The Kansas-Nebraska Act: A Century of Historiography." Mississippi Valley Historical
Review 43 (September 1956); Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (1976).