Bleeding Kansas, Book Review Essays

Submitted By soviet6
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Civil War History

26 November, 2013

Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era (Nicole Etcheson)

Bleeding Kansas is the term referring to the conflict on the Kansas-Missouri border as to

whether the territory of Kansas was to be permitted as a proslavery state or an abolitionist state before

and during the Civil War. This conflict was waged on the border-towns of both states and atrocities

were committed by both parties. Missouri was to be a slave state based on the Missouri Compromise,

which was formed to help alleviate the pressures of the rising slave question in the United States. When

the Kansas-Nebraska Act was put into place, it gave the settlers of these two territories popular

sovereignty as to whether they would become abolitionist or proslavery states. Bloodshed ensued when

agreements could not be made on the position of the territory of Kansas in this debate.

The Missouri Compromise was put into action to equal the number of slave and free states in

the United States. From this compromise: Maine would become a free state, Missouri would become a

slave state, and the Great Plains' territories would become free states (with the exception of the

Arkansas Territory, which would become proslavery). It is said that the compromise withheld the

United States from plunging into Civil War in 1820, until it was repealed with the Kansas-Nebraska Act

of 1854.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 gave the people of these two territories the right to decide the

position of the states when they would be admitted into the United States. The passage of this act

formed the Republican party who opposed the idea that the wealthy land/slave owners of the south

could simply purchase land and vote accordingly to hold these “properties.” Abolitionists from the east

poured into the state to quickly claim land, while Missourians who wanted the state to be proslavery

did the same. Both factions claimed land before they even saw the soil, pointing out claims on a map. When

they arrived, however, some claims were already made by the other party. The purpose of these claims

were to gain a political advantage over the other to change the position of the state towards slavery via

votes. Many Missourians laid four logs as a foundation of a house and returned to Missouri until after

the Spring harvest, then would return to build. The population of the territory before the repeal of the

Missouri Compromise was less than 800 people. Nine months after the Kansas-Nebraska Act came

about, the population rose to over 8,000, many settling on the Kansas-Missouri border.

The first governor of the Kansas territory was a Democrat named Andrew H. Reeder, appointed

by President Andrew Pierce. He claimed that, in order to vote on the matter, you must live, and

continue to live in Kansas even after the vote was decided. Reeder supported an election to elect

someone to be represented in Congress, and J. W. Whitfield won by a landslide. The vote is said to

have been biased because of the Missourian presence at ballot boxes and the deterring of abolitionists

from voting by force. Abolitionists were outraged and feared rule by the Missourian proslavery


The next governor of the territory was Wilson Shannon, a former governor of Ohio. When

Missourians came across the border to siege Lawrence (abolitionist town), Shannon gave the people of

the area the right raise a militia to thwart off the attack. With aid from the winter cold they chased the

Missourians out of Lawrence. The aggression/retreat of the Missourians at Lawrence was named, “the

Wakarusa War.” It proved to the abolitionists of the state that they did not have to be repressed by the

people of another state and could make the state a free state. Thomas Barber was credited as a martyr

for the abolitionist cause, and made the