What was the Kansas-Nebraska Act?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Kansas-Nebraska Act was a law that was passed by Congress in 1854.  It created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska and it specified that the issue of slavery in those territories would be subject to popular sovereignty. That is, the people in the territories would be able to vote on whether to allow slavery.  The Kansas-Nebraska Act led to violence in Kansas and helped to bring about the Civil War.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was proposed by Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois.  Douglas wanted to get the area that is now Nebraska organized into a formal territory because it was necessary to do so in order to put a transcontinental railroad across that land.  Douglas wanted the transcontinental railroad to begin in Chicago and go across the Midwest rather than allowing it to take a more southern route that would not include his state. 

The problem with the Kansas-Nebraska Act was that it called for popular sovereignty on the issue of slavery. This was an issue because the Missouri Compromise had banned slavery in both Kansas and Nebraska. The Kansas-Nebraska Act upset Northerners by doing away with the Missouri Compromise and reopening the issue of slavery.  Northerners felt that the new law showed that the South had the power to rewrite laws to its own advantage.

After the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, conflict erupted in Kansas between pro- and anti-slavery settlers. This time of conflict has come to be known as “Bleeding Kansas.”  A major figure to come out of this was John Brown, who was involved in massacres of pro-slavery settlers.

Because the Kansas-Nebraska Act brought about “Bleeding Kansas,” it also helped bring about the Civil War. It helped to make the North and the South trust one another less and feel more hatred and anger towards one another. In this way, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was a very important step in the movement toward the Civil War.

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atyourservice's profile pic

atyourservice | Student, Grade 11 | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The kensas-nebraska act was a law made in order to deal with the slavery issue in the us. During this time, the north and the south had growing tensions about slavery.  The act opened up kensas and nebraska for settlement. It also allowed for the settlers to choose whether or not their territory would be a slave state through popular sovereignty. It eradicated the missouri compromise, and led to bleeding kensas in which men from pro and anti slavery sides were running into the territories in order to have the upper hand.

chrisyhsun's profile pic

chrisyhsun | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was a law that attempted to deal with the simmering issue of slavery in the United States. Firstly, it opened up the two territories (Kansas and Nebraska) to settlement. Secondly (and what it is perhaps more remembered for doing), it established a plan as to how to decide the issue of slavery in these territories. The Act dictated that whether these territories allowed slavery was to be determined by a vote (popular sovereignty) of while males. This essentially cancelled out the earlier Missouri Compromise, which established a horizontal dividing line in the land of the Louisiana Compromise to determine the issue of slavery - north is anti, south is pro.

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