The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, developed by Stephen A. Douglas, created the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska. This law included a provision, known as popular sovereignty, that allowed the people of these territories to decide if slavery would or wouldn’t exist in them. This scenario was different than the last major compromise involving slavery, the Missouri Compromise which banned slavery north of the 36°30’ line except for Missouri.
The popular sovereignty provision had major consequences. Since Nebraska wasn’t suited for slavery, a great deal of attention was focused on Kansas, where slavery could exist successfully. Supporters of both sides of the slavery issue advocated for their cause. In the end, there was a pro-slavery and an anti-slavery legislature elected in Kansas.
As a result of having two legislatures, a great deal of violence occurred in Kansas, which earned it the nickname “Bleeding Kansas.” Pro-slavery forces went to Lawrence and arrested members of the anti-slavery legislature. They also destroyed some property of abolitionists. A few days later, the anti-slavery forces, led by John Brown, got their revenge as they killed several pro-slavery supporters.
When the dust had settled, Kansas eventually entered the country as a free state in 1861. It is doubtful that Stephen A. Douglas, as he developed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, could have envisioned the deadly consequences that the popular sovereignty provision brought to Kansas.