Why Was the Kansas-Nebraska Act So Controversial?

The Kansas-Nebraska act created in the creation of the states of Kansas and Nebraska.
The Kansas-Nebraska act created in the creation of the states of Kansas and Nebraska.


The US Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. President Franklin Pierce, together with the senator of Illinois Stephen Douglas, drafted this act. The Act led to the creation of the states of Kansas and Nebraska. The main aim of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was to encourage farming on the millions of acres of new farms. In addition, it made the Midwestern Transcontinental Railroad viable. However, the popular sovereignty clause of the act resulted in pro and anti-slavery people flowing into Kansas in large numbers. They intended to participate in the elections and vote slavery either up or down. Eventually, these two groups had a conflict which led to “Bleeding Kansas.” At the command of President Pierce, Federal stoops stopped the violence and dispersed the anti-slavery supporters. Ultimately, the war ended when the formation of a new constitution and the incorporation of the Kansas State into the Union as a free state in October 1861.

Reactions to the Passing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act

The Kansas-Nebraska Act divided the legislators into two groups. There were those were were outraged by the Act while others welcomed it as a win. Supporters of the act, such as Douglas, who had been its greatest opponent, were satisfied with allowing citizens to handle decisions regarding slavery. According to him, the time was ripe for removal of decision-making from the “corridors of the Congress.” On the other hand, the passing of the bill was a great disappointment to the proponents of the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The act’s successful repeal of the Missouri Act divided the Whig Party into two: northern Whig (anti-bill) and Southern Whig (pro-bill). Soon afterward, the Southern Whig joined the Democrats Party in support of the bill. On the other hand, the Northern Whigs unified with other slavery opponents to form the Republican Party. The result was animosity between the North and South states.

The Controversy

In the early 1950s, settlers and entrepreneurs wanted to move to the area presently known as Nebraska but were hesitant because it had not become a territory. Subsequently, no one could legally own land. The Southern states’ representatives did not see any urgency in the matter as the location of the area was in an anti-slavery region by the action of the “Missouri Compromise of 1820". The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 invalidated the Missouri Compromise of 1820. It allowed slavery into the territory north of the 36° 30´ latitude which had previously served as a boundary between the slave and free states. Furthermore, the act gave the residents of each state the power to make a decision on whether they wanted slavery to go on or not. The passing of the bill on May 30, 1854 led to violent conflict between the anti-slavery and pro-slavery settlers called “bleeding Kansas.” This conflict was a prelude to the Civil War. As such, one reason why the Kansas-Nebraska Act was controversial is that it restored the popular sovereignty to the residents of the territories. The second reason is that the Missouri Compromise did away with the autonomy of the government in making decisions revolving around slavery.


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