Kansas, state, United States: Pro- and Antislavery Factions

Pro- and Antislavery Factions

Kansas, at this time mainly a region to be crossed on the way to California and Oregon, was organized as a territory in 1854. Its settlement, however, was spurred not so much by natural westward expansion as by the determination of both proslavery and antislavery factions to achieve a majority population in the territory. The struggle between the factions was further complicated by conflict over the location of a transcontinental railroad, with proponents of a central route (rather than a southern route) eager to resolve the slavery issue in the area and promote settlement.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854), an attempted compromise on the extension of slavery, repealed the Missouri Compromise and reopened the issue of extending slavery north of lat. 36°30′ by providing for popular sovereignty in Kansas and Nebraska, allowing settlers of territories to decide the matter themselves. Meanwhile, the Emigrant Aid Company was organized in Massachusetts to foster antislavery immigration to Kansas, and proslavery interests in Missouri and throughout the South took counteraction. Towns were established by each faction—Lawrence and Topeka by the free-staters and Leavenworth and Atchison by the proslavery settlers.

Soon all the problems attendant upon organizing a territory for statehood became subsidiary to the single issue of slavery. The first elections in 1854 and 1855 were won by the proslavery group; armed Missourians intimidated voters and election officials and stuffed the ballot boxes. Andrew H. Reeder was appointed the first territorial governor in 1854. The first territorial legislature ousted (1855) all free-state members, secured the removal of Gov. Reeder, established the capital in Lecompton, and adopted proslavery statutes. In retaliation the abolitionists set up a rival government at Topeka in Oct., 1855.

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