A question that is often recurring with the Civil War of America is, what started the war? Now, the war officially began in 1861; however, some historians strongly believe the cause of this internal war truly began six years before 1861, with the series of events known as “Bleeding Kansas.”
Many historians today will say that the war technically broke out with the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861, but fighting actually broke out well before that in the years of 1855 – 1856 in the present day Sunflower State, Kansas.
As you may not know, the Compromise of 1850 resulted in an equal number of free and slave states. However, in 1853, legislation through the Senate encouraged the organization of the Nebraska territory (which includes present day Kansas as well). The North almost immediately reacted. Eli Thayer organized the New England Emigrant Aid Company, which sent settlers to Kansas to ensure its future of becoming a free state.
After a few rumors spread through the South of Northern emigration, Southern emigration became inevitable. Thousands of Southerners poured into Kansas, mostly from Missouri, but from other states as well.
Keep in mind that Northerner and Southerners in the same territory is just as having oil and water in the same container. They don’t mix. Therefore, fighting became inevitable, and a series of skirmishes broke out between the time period of 1855 and 1856.
Fighting only came to a halt in late 1856 when the new territorial governor John W. Geary came to Kansas. This period of time where these series of skirmishes broke out between Northerners and Southerners is known as “Bleeding Kansas.”
Now that is the historical context behind “Bleeding Kansas;” however, analysis is just as important as the context itself.
The Nebraska territory broke up into the Nebraska and Kansas territories. Why couldn’t the North and South take one territory a piece? Why couldn’t the nation reach another compromise like the Compromise of 1850? Why did these disputes lead to fighting? Just like the number of licks required to get to the center of a tootsie pop, the world may never know.
Actually, it is not that confusing. It is actually quite obvious why things happened the way they did. I believe that a potential compromise was inevitable because of a few reasons. Primarily, a major reason being the previous Missouri Compromise in 1820. It was repealed by the Kansas – Nebraska Act. I feel both the Missouri Compromise and Kansas – Nebraska Act both lead to the event “Bleeding Kansas,” and later the actual Civil War.
The reason a potential compromise (over the Nebraska and Kansas territories) was inevitable, is because the Missouri Compromise of 1820 prevented slavery in pretty much the entire Louisiana Purchase. Since slavery was prevented in the whole Louisiana Purchase, and if the North solely inhabited the territory, then slavery would of quickly been abolished. However, the South did not just let the North inhabit the territory of the Louisiana Purchase by themselves.
Let me make something clear, by inhabit, I really mean admitting a territory as a state. This is because that’s all that matters, whether or not the territory would give one side a greater majority of representation in government. Both sides wanted more representation in government so they could overpower the other. Compromises need to be compromises. The problem with the Missouri Compromise is that it was a temporary compromise, and not a permanent one. I feel that compromises need to permanent in order to avoid future issues.
George Washington once said in his Farewell Address that “permanent alliances” should be avoided. Maybe Americans took him to seriously. Perhaps not, but in the end, everything worked out and the Vivid and Bright Sunflower State lives on.
Bailey, Thomas A. The American Pageant. 11th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998. Print.
“Bleeding Kansas.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2013.
Weiser, Kathy. “Bleeding Kansas and the Missouri Border War.” Legends of America. N.p., 1 Apr. 2012. Web. 18 Dec. 2013.
“Kansas–Nebraska Act.” Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2013. [Picture]