What caused the Kansas-Nebraska Act to be proposed?    

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was proposed for a few reasons. The law created two new territories. These territories were Kansas and Nebraska. In order for people to be able to claim the land, the government had to establish territories. Unless an area was organized into a territory, people wouldn’t be able to claim the land. In order to build the transcontinental railroad, we needed people to move to these areas. Stephen Douglas, the bill’s author, wanted the transcontinental railroad to run through the North, as this would benefit his home state of Illinois. Thus, this Act was proposed.

Southern states were not happy with the idea of creating two territories that would possibly lead to more free states joining the Union. The issue over the spread of slavery was heating up, and the southerners were worried there would be too many free states. Thus, as a form of a compromise, the law allowed the people of these territories to decide if slavery would or wouldn’t exist. This concept, known as popular sovereignty, allows people to decide an issue. This provision basically ended the Missouri Compromise. However, instead of keeping things calm, there was fierce fighting in Kansas over the spread of slavery in that territory. There were various reasons for passing this law.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was caused by the need for a transcontinental railroad and the desire of Northerners to have that railroad run through the North.

After the US acquired the West Coast, it became clear that a railroad was needed to cross the country and provide decent transportation to and from that area.  Northerners and Southerners both wanted the railroad to go through their territory.  One of the problems for the North was that a Northern railroad would have to go through Kansas or Nebraska and neither of these areas had yet been organized as an official territory with a government and such.  In order to defeat that criticism of the Northern line, Stephen Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

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