When he proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, calling for popular sovereignty in the those states, Douglas believed that both Kansas and Nebraska would become free states. He believed that no slaveholder would move to either state without any laws or provisions concerning slavery in the state. Douglas theorized that if their property could not legally be protected, no slaveholder would emigrate into Kansas.
In his October 1854 speech in Peoria, President Lincoln dismissed that logic as a “lullaby agreement.” He stated that a few negroes were brought into Illinois after the Ordinance of 1787 was passed but there was not enough to carry a vote in favor of slavery. Nonetheless, in Missouri country, where there were no restrictions on slavery, enough slaves were brought there to make the state a slave state.
I found this following quote from the Albany, New York Evening Journal interesting because it expresses the outrage people were conveying: “The crime is committed. The work of Monroe, and Madison, and Jefferson, is undone. The wall they erected to guard the domain of Liberty, is flung down by the hands of an American Congress, and Slavery crawls, like a slimy reptile over the ruins, to defile a second eden.” I don’t think anyone truly believed that by applying the concept of popular sovereignty to Kansas, that it would become a slave state. According to that quote, the fact that the American Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act is a crime, allowing slavery to grow and not be contained.
The anger in the North is aimed at all parts of the government because the editorial states that “It was in accordance with its spirit that it should be conceived in treachery, sprung upon the House by a fraud, and forced through it by a Parliamentary lie…Had Law or Order or Honesty had aught to do with its passage, there would have been a strange incongruity between the means and the end.” According to that quote, everything about the Act was bad because it dealt a blow to American liberty.
On the other hand, the Jackson, Mississippi Mississippian provided a different outlook on the situation. According to the article, “In the South, scarce a ripple seems to agitate the surface of society. All is calmness and equanimity.” Unlike the North, people in the South accepted the Act and were advocates of extending slavery to other parts of the country. In the South, there were no furious and wild demonstrations like the North. The contrast between the North and the South concerning reactions to the Kansas-Nebraska Act is significant and interesting.
Consequently, the Hartford, Connecticut brings up an interesting point regarding the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The newspaper states, “We depreciate agitation. We shudder at the danger to which the country has already been exposed from its existence. But we see a perfect fire brand flung into the political arena for the aggrandizement of one man. The measures of the Compromise have been settled and the nation is going on peaceably and prosperously under their operation. Why renew then the agitation? Why trample under foot those measures that have been the means of quietly settling our disputes? Why cast aside the laws and compacts of the past for the gratification of the ambition of one man?”
Thus, the Missouri Compromise settled the dispute between free and slave states. Therefore, there is no need for another Act to be passed to renew the agitation between the North and the South. The newspaper holds that the ambition of Douglas to make a run for the Presidency is the reason why he proposed the Act. The article clearly states, “This is a bold bid of Douglas for the next Presidency.” However, as previously noted, there was no need for another Act to deal with the issue of slavery because laws and compromises had already been established that settled the boundaries for slavery.
Stephen Douglas never anticipated the criticism his bill, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, faced in the North or the widespread support from the South. Through his reasoning, he believed that both Kansas and Nebraska would be admitted into the Union as Free states since no slaveholder would bring his property into a new territory until there were sufficient legal protections, known as slave codes. He believed that slaveholders would not emigrate into Kansas and therefore, the necessary laws would not be passed. That would mean also that slavery would never gain a foothold there.
However, Abraham Lincoln dismissed this logic as a “lullaby argument” as he stated:
“In spite of the Ordinance of `87 [the Northwest Ordinance], a few negroes were brought into Illinois, and held in a state of quasi-slavery; not enough, however to carry a vote of the people in favor of the institution when they came to form a constitution. But in the adjoining Missouri country, where there was no ordinance of `87--was no restriction--they were carried ten times, nay a hundred times, as fast, and actually made a slave State. This is fact--naked fact”.
According to the New York Evening Journal:
“The crime is committed. The work of Monroe, and Madison, and Jefferson, is undone. The wall they erected to guard the domain of Liberty, is flung down by the hands of an American Congress, and Slavery crawls, like a slimy reptile over the ruins, to defile a second eden.
They tell us that the North will not submit. We hope it will not. But we have seen this same North crouch lower and lower each year under the whip of the slave driver, until it is hard to tell what it will not submit to now. Who, seven years ago, would not have derided a prophecy that Congress could enact the kidnapping of free citizens, without judge or jury? Who would have believed that it could enact that white men have a right to hold black in slavery wherever it is their sovereign will and pleasure? And yet, who now will deny that that prophecy is more than realized?”
Abraham Lincoln contended that the founding fathers sought to end slavery by prohibiting its expansion in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Yet, some people brought their slaves over into the adjoining Missouri country and voted this state into the Union as a slave state. The Evening Journal similarly explained that the work of the founding fathers had been undone as liberty was being threatened and the evil institution of slavery continued to expand across the United States. The question that needed to be confronted was who gave white men the right to deny others their “sovereign will” and other unalienable rights entitled to everyone under the Declaration of Independence. In addition, the North became subservient to Southern aggression under the strengthened Fugitive Slave Law Act. Lincoln would later explain that “A House divided against itself” would not stand. The country would have to either be all slave or all free to remain united.
The New York Tribune further supported this claim by stating the following:
“Though it has often been urged that Slavery was aggressive in its nature, the proof of the fact to the common understanding has not been entirely conclusive. To many Northern men it has always seemed to be warring on the defensive side. But present appearances indicate that this erroneous view of Slavery will soon be removed throughout the North. We see already the encroaching steps it is taking in Congress as well as on the Pacific. It dares attempt the appropriation to its uses of territory already consecrated to Freedom by a solemn compact between North and the South. It is manifesting a determined purpose to cross the boundary behind which its pestilent influences have hitherto been confined, and thus to disregard all considerations of justice, and trample upon its own sacred obligations. It is showing itself to be a power which refuses to adhere to its engagements, and breaks its faith at the first temptation. Not content within its own proper limits, defined after a bitter contest, in which more than its due was yielded to its imperious exactions, it now proposes to invade and overrun the soil of freedom, and to unroll the pall of its darkness over virgin territory whereon a slave has never stood. Freedom is to be elbowed out of its own home to make room for the leprous intruder. The free laborer is to be expelled that the slave may be brought in.
It is plain to see how such an aggressive spirit will be met. If slavery is determined upon the conquest of free territory it will inevitably be resisted and paid in kind. If the conviction obtains that Slavery intends to disown its obligations and prove faithless to its own contracts, then will it follow that those who have hitherto admitted its rights under the Constitution, will admit them no longer. Let but the sentiment gain foothold that Slavery intends to make war upon the territory of freedom, and seize and appropriate whatever it can wrest from the hands of free labor, and the banner of reclamation will be raised. If Slavery may encroach upon the domain of freemen, freemen may encroach upon the domain of Slavery. If Slavery thinks this is a safe game to play at, let it be pursued as it has been begun.”
Territorial Elections, Border Ruffians, and the Collapse of the Rule of Law Report
In November 1854, Kansas had its first territorial election to choose a delegate to Congress. Unfortunately, 60 percent of the votes were deemed illegal by the Howard Committee two years later because they were votes cast from residents of Missouri. These citizens had tried to influence the Kansas election in the hopes of spreading slavery. In fact, less than one half of the actual Kansas citizens voted. In the March1855 territorial legislature election, the Missourians again tried to influence the vote and they succeeded. They had principally contributed to the initial laws that would be passed regarding slavery. “They were the FEW Lincoln warned of who could bring slavery IN, thus thwarting the will of the MANY who wished to keep it OUT.” Over half of the votes in this election belonged to the Missourians and other illegal voters. Thus the true opinion of the Kansas citizens was never fully realized. Would history have turned out differently had they been able to hold an honest election? Perhaps.
Governor Andrew Reeder, appointed by President Pierce, initially accepted these results, which set into motion several laws regarding slavery. For example, even supporting the anti-slavery movement was now considered a felony in Kansas. Additionally, they removed all potential advocates of abolition from offices and wrote a harsher Slave Code than any of the other states.
With harsh laws, however, comes opposition. Dr. Charles Robinson spoke at a free soil gathering. He stated that, “I seem to hear the millions of freemen, and the millions of bondsmen in our own land, the patriots and philanthropists of all countries, the spirits of the revolutionary heroes, and the voice of God, all saying to the people of Kansas, ‘Do your duty.’” By this perhaps Robinson was attempting to incite the people of Kansas who were anti-slavery to do something about it for the sake of all free and bonded men alike. He also gives them encouragement by saying that people all around the country expect them to stand up against the fraudulent election and demand that the actual opinions of Kansas citizens be taken into account. Thus these people declared that the legislature was invalid and decided to hold their own election for a territorial government. In September 1855, a convention assembled that ultimately decided again that the previous laws were invalid and thus did not have to be followed. They even called a Constitutional Convention to write a constitution for Kansas as a free state. Thus the state was split and there were in effect two territorial governments. The pro-slavery side refused to acknowledge the free soil election and vice versa.
Since the pro-slavery government was the only one acknowledged by the Pierce administration, they were able to sort of enact lawful revenge on the other side. They would repeatedly obtain warrants to “sack” Lawrence (the anti-slavery capital), where they would arrest people, suppress newspapers, and destroy property. All of this was done with supposed federal sanctioning, which made it very difficult for the free soil citizens to protest it. It eventually led to much retaliation in the form of John Brown’s Pottawatomie Creek Massacre.
The “Sack of Lawrence” in which free soil supporters were forced to watch Mr. Jones, the Sheriff for the pro-slavery side, destroying their printing press.
Amanda has more on the "sack":
"In November of 1854, the first territorial election to select a delegate to Congress took place. Of 2871 votes cast, the Congressional Committee created in 1856 to investigate the Kansas "troubles" (the Howard Committee) determined that 1729 (60%) were illegal:
The pro-slavery forces triumphed as 6,307 men voted, a substantial number of them Missourians. Even if all 2,905 eligible voters had cast ballots, an unrealistic assumption, at least 3,402 others must have voted illegally. If the first election was "a crime of great magnitude," the second was more grievous still. This new territorial legislature would write the initial laws concerning slavery. They were the FEW Lincoln warned of who could bring slavery IN, thus thwarting the will of the MANY who wished to keep it OUT. Worse still, they had been elected by fraud.
Governor Andrew Reeder, appointed by President Pierce, accepted the election results, although he later changed his mind, repudiated them, and went over to the free state side. By then he had been removed from office by the administration. Before this happened, the legislature got down to business passing laws making the advocacy of anti-slavery sentiments a felony. They removed from office all appointees who would not declare in favor of slavery. They wrote a Slave Code more stringent than that in any of the slave states."
The first part of the article is interesting because it discusses how there was not one, but two elections in which both of them had false results. In both cases, both of the results were more than 50% fake. Many of the false results in the first election were cast in remote and sparse settlements. It, however, did not change the results of the election but it was a "crime of great magnitude". After both of these false results were in, an appointed official, Governon Andrew Reeder had accepted these results as true. The legislature then got to work and put laws into place and removed anyone from the office who would not declare in favor of slavery.
"Free Soilers refused to acknowledge the new legislature. They were led by Dr. Charles Robinson, the agent of the Emigrant Aid Society. On July 4, 1855, he spoke to a free soil gathering:
I can say to Death, be thou my master, and to the Grave, be thou my prison house; but acknowledge such creatures as my masters, never! Thank God, we are yet free, and hurl defiance at those who would make us slaves.
Look who will in apathy, and stifle they who can,
The sympathy, the hopes, the words, that make man truly man.
Let those whose hearts are dungeoned up with interest or with ease,
Consent to hear, with quiet pulse, of loathsome deeds like these.
We first drew in New England's air, and from her hardy breast
Sucked in the tyrant-hating milk that will not let us rest.
And if our words seem treason to the dullard or the tame,
Tis but our native dialect; our fathers spake the same. [from James Russell Lowell, "On the Surrender of a Fugitive Slave"]
Let every man stand in his place, and acquit himself like a man who knows his rights, and knowing, dares maintain. Let us repudiate all laws enacted by foreign legislative bodies, or dictated by Judge Lynch over the way. Tyrants are tyrants, and tyranny is tyranny, whether under the garb of law or in opposition to it. So thought and acted our ancestors, and so let us think and act. We are not alone in this contest. The whole nation is agitated upon the question of our rights. Every pulsation in Kansas pulsates to the remotest artery of the body politic, and I seem to hear the millions of freemen, and the millions of bondsmen in our own land, the patriots and philanthropists of all countries, the spirits of the revolutionary heroes, and the voice of God, all saying to the people of Kansas, "Do your duty." "
The free soilers refused to accept the laws that had been put into place. They were for slavery but they were not for the advancement of slavery to the west. They wanted to settle the western area of the nation without slaves. Shortly after this they would conduct their own elections and create their own territorial government with it's own capital- Lawrence. Shortly down the road, there would be two governments.
"There were, as of that March, two territorial governments. One, recognized by the Pierce Administration, had stolen the March 1855 election and then had made the mere advocacy of anti-slavery a felony. The other had summoned itself into existence. It had not stolen the elections it sponsored. But proslavery settlers had boycotted them. So neither side could truthfully claim to represent the will of the people. Popular sovereignty had turned into anarchy."
"Neither Free Soilers nor their opponents were able to establish effective control over the territory. There were minor skirmishes, a great deal of threatening, innumerable disputes and arguments, but no real government. Neither side recognized the laws passed by the other; neither accepted the jurisdiction of the other's courts. And, despite all of the posturing, neither had taken the offensive. [Gihon provided a very detailed account of the "Wakarusa war" of December 1855, a move upon the free soil capitol of Lawrence which ended in a truce. John Brown was a participant in the "war" and described it at length in a letter to his family, reprinted in Cutler's History.] This standoff was about to change. On May 5, 1856 a grand jury returned an indictment which, as Gihon noted, amounted to a declaration of war upon the free soilers:
The grand jury, sitting for the adjourned term of the First District Court in and for the county of Douglas, in the Territory of Kansas, beg leave to report to the honorable court that, from evidence laid before them, showing that the newspaper known as The Herald of Freedom, published at the town of Lawrence, has from time to time issued publications of the most inflammatory and seditious character, denying the legality of the territorial authorities, addressing and commanding forcible resistance to the same, demoralizing the popular mind, and rendering life and property unsafe, even to the extent of advising assassination as a last resort;
Also, that the paper known as The Kansas Free State has been similarly engaged, and has recently reported the resolutions of a public meeting in Johnson county, in this territory, in which resistance to the territorial laws even unto blood has been agreed upon; and that we respectfully recommend their abatement as a nuisance. Also, that we are satisfied that the building known as the `Free-State Hotel' in Lawrence has been constructed with the view to military occupation and defence, regularly parapeted and port-holed for the use of cannon and small arms, and could only have been designed as a stronghold of resistance to law, thereby endangering the public safety, and encouraging rebellion and sedition in this country; and respectfully recommend that steps be taken whereby this nuisance may be removed. OWEN C. STEWART, Foreman.
The "steps" taken to remove "this nuisance" have come to be known as the "sack of Lawrence." I.B. Donaldson, the U.S. Marshall for the Kansas territory summoned a posse, which amounted to some 800 men, most from Missouri, to serve the warrants. The residents of Lawrence, unwilling to put themselves in the position of resisting directly federal authority, offered to permit Donaldson to carry out his duties. On the morning of May 21 one of Donaldson's deputies, with a small party, entered the city, arrested several residents for treason, had lunch at the Free State Hotel, the purported fortress, and returned to the main body of the posse. The marshall's business was complete. At this point, Sheriff S.J. Jones, appointed by the pro-slavery side, stepped forward. He too had warrants to execute. Specifically, he intended to carry out the order to suppress the free soil newspapers and destroy the Free State Hotel. He also needed a posse. The Missourians, led by Senator Atchison, cheered. They would have an opportunity to enter Lawrence after all. "
Territorial Elections, Border Ruffians, and the Collapse of the Rule of Law
- November 1854-First territorial elections to select a delegate.
- Congressional Congress determined that only 60% was legal (1729/2871)
- Another election was held on March 30, 1855 but this time it was to select a territorial legislature.
- Only 2905 of the 8601 citizens of Kansas were eligible to vote.
- When the vote on slavery happened, Kansas went pro-slavery with over 6307 men voting for it. This means that over 3402 men voted illegally and this raised up a controversy.
- Governor Reeder, who accepted the results, later sided with the free-state side. He was later removed from office by President Pierce who ended up removing everyone who did agree with anti-slavery.
- Dr. Charles Robinson led the free soilers when they refused to acknowledge the new legislature and stated that they believed that it was invalid and created their own territorial government.
- This government had its own capital, Lawrence. They called upon the citizens of Kansas to come together on September 19, 1855 and talk about the public interest and the “intention of immediate application to be admitted as a state into the Union of the United States of America.”
- September 5, Convention at Big Springs declared legislature illegitimate
- March 1856-set up new government with Dr. Robinson as governor
- Both the government set up by Pierce Administration and the one that was formed itself was not accepted by the people of Kansas so neither can lay claim to it.
- “On the 6th of October a large body of armed men, in wagons and on horseback, with grotesque banners and other strange devices, came from Westport to Lawrence, to disperse the settlers at that place. They demanded that the abolitionists should take away their tents and be off at short notice, or otherwise they would be ''wiped out."
- Immigrants refused and the invaders didn’t return at the appointed time
- “As soon as the result of the March election was finally determined, the free-state leaders sent to their friends in the east for arms.”
- The settlers did not like the result of the election and determined to do something about it
- Minor skirmishes broke out yet there was still no new government. Neither sides recognized the other and their laws or taken the offensive
- “On May 5, 1856 a grand jury returned an indictment which, as Gihon noted, amounted to a declaration of war upon the free soilers:”
-‘The grand jury, sitting for the adjourned term of the First District Court in and for the county of Douglas, in the Territory of Kansas, beg leave to report to the honorable court that, from evidence laid before them, showing that the newspaper known as The Herald of Freedom, published at the town of Lawrence, has from time to time issued publications of the most inflammatory and seditious character, denying the legality of the territorial authorities, addressing and commanding forcible resistance to the same, demoralizing the popular mind, and rendering life and property unsafe, even to the extent of advising assassination as a last resort; Also, that the paper known as The Kansas Free State has been similarly engaged, and has recently reported the resolutions of a public meeting in Johnson county, in this territory, in which resistance to the territorial laws even unto blood has been agreed upon; and that we respectfully recommend their abatement as a nuisance. Also, that we are satisfied that the building known as the `Free-State Hotel' in Lawrence has been constructed with the view to military occupation and defence, regularly parapeted and port-holed for the use of cannon and small arms, and could only have been designed as a stronghold of resistance to law, thereby endangering the public safety, and encouraging rebellion and sedition in this country; and respectfully recommend that steps be taken whereby this nuisance may be removed. OWEN C. STEWART, Foreman.’
-The removal came to be known as the ‘sack of Lawrence’
-“On the morning of May 21 one of Donaldson's deputies, with a small party, entered the city, arrested several residents for treason, had lunch at the Free State Hotel, the purported fortress, and returned to the main body of the posse. The marshal’s business was complete.”
-Pottawatomie Creek Massacre was led by John Brown in retaliation.
-In May of 1858 the last of the great Kansas bloodlettings, the Marais Des Cynes Massacre, occurred.
-Survivor B.L. Reed stated that “At the time we were making directly towards Missouri. After traveling about two miles we were halted near Mr. William Hairgrove's house. Here, Mr. Hairgrove was taken from his field planting corn, and brought into line. Mr. Amos Hall was taken from his house and brought in, and also Asa Hairgrove who was at work about his father's house. Starting from this place, we took a northeasterly direction. Soon after starting, Mr. William Colpetzer was brought in and about the same time, Michael Robinson and Charles Snyder were captured. These three were taken from their homes. A wagon was discovered at a distance making towards us and a posse of Hamilton's gang proceeded to see who was coming. It proved to Mr. Austin Hall, and he was brought into the line with the other prisoners. About this time, Captain Hamilton said, "I want to go see my friend Snyder," meaning Eli Snyder. He started with a posse, the prisoners being halted on a high table of land. Soon after we heard the report of firearms. It proved to be Hamilton's attack on Snyder at his house”