When Stephen Douglas put together the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a terrible series of things happened that he didn't expect. Discuss and explain why he introduced the bill, what happened when it passed...

When Stephen Douglas put together the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a terrible series of things happened that he didn't expect. Discuss and explain why he introduced the bill, what happened when it passed and what the ramifications of it were for sectionalism.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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When Stephen Douglas put together the Kansas-Nebraska Act, he did so mainly because he thought it would be a good political move for him.  He thought that it would help his constituents in Illinois.  Additionally, he wanted to open up new land, making it easier for white settlers to move into and farm that land.  Finally, he thought that popular sovereignty was a great way to settle the issue of slavery in the territories.

Stephen Douglas was a senator from Illinois.  As such, he wanted Illinois to prosper economically.  For this reason, he wanted the first transcontinental railroad that would be built to run through Chicago.  He (and many others) wanted a transcontinental railroad because it would open up lands in the Great Plains and the West.  It would make it easier for white settlers to get to those lands and to ship crops that they raised there back to the East.  Douglas wanted the railroad and he wanted it to run through Chicago.

In order to get the railroad, the territories through which it would run would have to be organized.  This meant deciding on the issue of slavery in those territories.  Douglas felt that popular sovereignty was the right way to solve this issue.  Therefore, he stipulated that Kansas and Nebraska would be organized on the basis of popular sovereignty.

The problem with this was that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had said that there would be no slavery in Kansas.  Now, Douglas was proposing to repeal that agreement.  This made Northerners very angry as they felt that the South was throwing its weight around.  They felt that the slave owners had too much power.  Free Soilers felt that the slave owners would come and take all the best lands in Kansas and Nebraska, leaving only the poorer land for small white farmers.  For these reasons, the law antagonized the North.

The law also led to “Bleeding Kansas.”  Settlers from both free and slave states rushed to Kansas to try to outnumber the other side.  By outnumbering the other side, they could win the vote on slavery.  Once in Kansas, both sides committed violent acts against the other.  In other words, the Kansas-Nebraska Act led to a small-scale war in Kansas.

The violence in Kansas, along with the anger in the North over the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, led to increased sectional tensions.

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