In 1854 the argument over
slavery became part of the American political scene. Franklin Pierce was
President. Congress wanted to open up the area west of Missouri and Iowa
so that a railroad could be built across America to California.
The land over which the railroad
would run had to be settled first. Arguments came up over whether this
area should be a slave or free area.
Stephen A. Douglas
Senator Douglas from
Illinois introduced a bill called the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This act
created 2 new territories, the Kansas Territory and the Nebraska
Territory out of the land that the railroad would travel through. It
also repealed the Compromise of 1850. This bill gave the people of
those two states the right to choose whether they wanted slavery or
not. The Northerners became angry about the law. They were afraid
there would be two more slave states in the Union. The Southerners
The Northern abolitionists
formed the Emigrant Aid Society. This society found people who believed
that Kansas should be a free state and gave those people money, wagons,
guns, and supplies to move to Kansas.
The Southerners formed a group
called the Blue Lodge. They paid many settlers to move from Missouri
This fight in Kansas became an
open war in 1855. It was called Bleeding Kansas because there were so
many bloody battles all over the state. Congress decided to wait for the
new President to decide about slavery in Kansas. The Presidential
election was due in 1856.
The Whig Party which was
the strongest party split in two. One part was the Whigs who were for
slavery. The other part became the Republican Party which was against
slavery. The other major party was the Democrats.
The election was won by James
Buchanan who was a Democrat. Buchanan said the question of slavery had
to be left to the Supreme Court.
Dred Scott was a slave. His
master took him from the slave state of Missouri to the free state
of Illinois. Scott lived as a slave for four years in a free state.
Then his master took him back to Missouri. Abolitionists thought it
was a good case to test slavery. Abolitionists paid for a lawyer so
Scott could sue his master for freedom. The case went to the Supreme
Court. On March 6, 1857 the court decided Scott had no right to
freedom because he was property and could be moved anywhere, not a
person. It also said that any state which did anything against
slavery was unconstitutional.
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