Bleeding Kansas History
Bleeding Kansas was a term coined to describe violent conflicts in the American territory of Kansas from 1854 to 1858. Violence erupted when the residents of Kansas had to decide for themselves whether to become a state that allows slavery or to become a free state. The unrest in Kansas amounted to a civil strife on a smaller scale, and a foreshadowing of the full-scale civil war that divided the country in less than a decade.
The outbreak of hostilities in Kansas was essentially a proxy war, with pro- and anti-slavery sympathizers sending manpower as well as weapons to the north and south. As events unfolded, it was decided to flood the area by outsiders, and two separate regional legislatures were established.
Violence in Kansas became a subject of fascination, with reports often appearing in the newspapers of the day. It was the influential New York City editor, Horace Greeley, who was credited with coining the term Bleeding Kansas. Some of the violence in Kansas was perpetrated by John Brown, a staunch abolitionist who traveled with his sons to Kansas to slaughter pro-slavery settlers.
background of violence
The atmosphere in the United States in the 1850s was tense, as the crisis over slavery became the most prominent issue of the time. The acquisition of new territories after the Mexican War led to the Compromise of 1850, which settled the question of which parts of the country would allow slavery.
In 1853, when Congress turned its attention to the Kansas-Nebraska region and how it would be organized into states to come into the Union. The war of slavery started again. Nebraska was far enough north that it would clearly be an independent state, as required under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The question was about Kansas: Will it come into the Union as a free state or allow slavery?
Stephen Douglas, an influential Democratic senator from Illinois, proposed a solution he called “popular sovereignty.” Under his proposal, residents of an area would vote to decide whether slavery would be legal. The law introduced by Douglas, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, would essentially overturn the Missouri Compromise and allow slavery in states where citizens voted for it.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act was immediately controversial. (For example, Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer who had given up politics in Illinois, was so offended that he resumed his political career.) With the verdict in Kansas, anti-slavery activists from the northern states Flooding started in the area. . Pro-slavery farmers also started coming from the south.
With the new arrival, voting started to make a difference. The election to choose a regional representative to send to the US Congress in November 1854 resulted in a number of invalid votes. An election was held the following spring to elect a territorial legislature that resulted in border ruffians crossing the border from Missouri to ensure a decisive (if disputed) victory for pro-slavery candidates.
By August 1855 anti-slavery settlers in Kansas rejected the new state constitution, which they called an independent state legislature, and created a free-state constitution known as the Topeka Constitution.
In April 1856, a pro-slavery government in Kansas was established in its capital, Lecompton. Accepting the disputed election, the federal government recognized the Lecompton legislature as the legitimate government of Kansas.
Bursts of violence
Tensions were high, and then on May 21, 1856, pro-slavery riders entered the “free soil” town of Lawrence, Kansas, and burned homes and businesses. To retaliate, John Brown and some of his followers dragged and murdered five pro-slavery men from their homes in Potawatomi Creek, Kansas.
The violence even reached the halls of Congress. After an abolitionist senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner delivered a scathing speech condemning slavery and those who supported it in Kansas, he was nearly beaten to death by a South Carolina congressman.
A truce was eventually worked out by a new regional governor, although violence continued to flare up until finally ending in 1859.
Significance of Bleeding Kansas
It was estimated that the clashes in Kansas ultimately resulted in the loss of nearly 200 lives. Although it was not a major war, it was important because it showed how the tensions of slavery could lead to violent conflict. And in a sense, the bleeding was a precursor to the Kansas Civil War, which violently divided the nation in 1861.