Bleeding Kansas




In 1854, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois drafted the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Act established the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. It also gave residents of these newly founded states the right to decide whether to allow slavery. In order to decide if slavery should be allowed a concept known as popular sovereignty was devised. Popular sovereignty is when residents vote to decide on an issue. Pro-slavery groups supported the bill because it gave them a chance to own slaves in the Kansas Territory. Anti-Slavery groups opposed it because it lifted the ban on slavery as established in the Missouri Compromise. The bill was passed, now allowing Kansas and Nebraska citizens to make the decision over the issue of slavery.


With this newly founded power many pro and anti slavery supporters moved to the Kansas territory, in order to vote for or against slavery. The election was to be held in March of 1855. Even though there were more people for slavery living in the territory, some supporters were radical that slavery be allowed in the new states. Therefore, about 5,000 people from Missouri traveled to Kansas to vote in the election illegally. Now pro-slavery supporters in the Kansas legislation outnumbered anti-slavery supporters.


The government had gone astray. There was no authority so the only way people could protect themselves was with guns. The issue was so had such a great effect, people decided to move to cities entirely based upon whether they were for or against slavery. One of these towns was Lawrence, Kansas, whose citizens were all against slavery. One night in May, a mob of pro-slavery supporters attacked the town of Lawrence, simply because its inhabitants were against slavery. It seemed everyone was fuming. Offices were destroyed, along with the governorís house all because of anger. The attack came to be known as Sack of Lawrence.


In retaliation, John Brown backed by his fellow anti-slavery supporters raided houses of anti-slavery supporters killing five people. Citizens knew this incident as the Pottawatomie Massacre.


Pro-slavery and anti-slavery supporters would continue these acts of violence against each other. Each trying to prove to the other side they were right. Acts such as the Sack of Lawrence and Potawtaomie Massacre would continue to occur throughout the state of Kansas for three more years.


The reason why this is important to the Civil War is because the whole purpose of "Bleeding Kansas" was a fight between anti and pro supporters of slavery. The pro-supporters represented the South while the anti supporters represented the North. These acts of violence went to show the nation that violence was the answer.