An Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was the third and last of the series of compromises enacted before the U.S. CIVIL WAR in an attempt to resolve the question of whether SLAVERY should be permitted in the western territories. Senator STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS of Illinois, drafted the legislation that revoked the MISSOURI COMPROMISE of 1820, which had banned slavery north of 36°30' latitude. Douglas applied the doctrine of popular sovereignty to the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, as he had successfully urged Congress to do in the COMPROMISE OF 1850. The 1850 law left to New Mexico and Utah the decision of whether to enter the Union as free or slave states.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act failed to end the national conflict over slavery. Antislavery forces viewed the statute as a capitulation to the South, and many abandoned the Whig and Democratic parties to form the REPUBLICAN PARTY. Kansas soon became a battleground over slavery. On May 25, 1856, the militant abolitionist JOHN BROWN led a raid against proslavery supporters at Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas, killing five persons. The violence between the abolitionists and those who were proslavery soon gave the territory the name "Bleeding Kansas."
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