Was Kansas Territory’s location in the country’s geographic center mostly to blame for its share of problems over slavery?
It is certainly possible to argue that this was the case. Of course, even areas that were not in the middle of the country had issues with slavery, but Kansas had it worse. Geography helped to cause this in at least two ways.
First, Kansas was contiguous with slave states. It was to the west of Missouri which was a slave state. It touched Texas, which was a slave state and just barely touched Arkansas, yet another slave state. At the time of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, at least, it did not actually touch any free states. At the same time, it was above the “36-30” line from the Missouri Compromise. This meant that both sides had reason to feel Kansas should “belong” to them.
Second, Kansas was on a logical route for a transcontinental railroad. Its geographical location was to blame for this. It was the desire to put the railroad through Kansas that led to the creation of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Of course, Kansas was also hurt by timing. If it had become a state decades earlier, it might have not become “Bleeding Kansas.” But the timing of its settlement, combined with its geographical location, made it the scene of a lot of conflict over slavery.