What was the short term significance of settlement in Kansas in the 1850s and 1860s?

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What was the short term significance of settlement in Kansas in the 1850s and 1860s?

The USA had become divided over the ‘great issue of the age’, the issue of slavery. Slavery first caused divisions on a political level which then seeped, like a virus, out across America to become a serious social issue. In the 1850s and 1860s the events which transpired in the Kansas territory echoed throughout America and signified the beginning of the bleakest moment in the country’s history; the American Civil War. Kansas showed the first signs of physical violence between Northern and Southern Americans.  Furthermore it was Kansas’ admission into the Union that would upset the balance of power within Congress, thus emphasising the enormity of the short term significance of the settlement in Kansas.

The American Congress became more and more divided by the power struggle between the North and the South over the major issue of the age, this was the significant problem of slavery. ‘From morning to night, day after day, and week after week, nothing can get a hearing that will not afford an opportunity to lug in something about Negro slavery...’. This rift in politics was particularly problematic when it came to deciding whether Kansas should become a ‘Slave State’ or a ‘Free State’. Senator Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854; this proposed that the slave status of Kansas would be decided by popular sovereignty, therefore revoking the Missouri Compromise of 1820. This greatly angered Northerners, creating ‘a hell of a storm’. In fact many believe that ‘No single act of slave power ever spread greater consternation, produced more lasting results upon the popular mind, or did so much to arouse the North.’   This shows the first signs of tensions that were becoming more apparent between the Northern and Southern Congressmen.  These initial tensions began to increase and soon this conflict between the North and the South spread beyond the point of mere heated debates and soon, rather inevitably, developed into acts of physical violence. This violence would soon seep out of congress and into Kansas. Violence in congress was apparent in the case of ‘Bleeding Sumner’.  In this instant Southern Congressman Preston Brooks brutally beat Northern senator Sumner because of his ideas concerning anti-slavery. ‘Bleeding Sumner’ showed Sumner as the victim of a brutal southern attack.  The actions of Preston Brooks were not just the attack of one man upon another but moreover symbolised an attack on the whole of the civilised North, at the hands of the primitive South. The South claimed that the attack was, "Good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequences", saying that the North need to be “lashed into submission.” The North, in contrast saw the attack as proof that, “The South cannot tolerate free speech anywhere, and would stifle it in Washington with the bludgeon and the bowie-knife, as they are now trying to stifle it in Kansas by massacre, rapine, and murder.” 

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This further divided the North and South as the North viewed the attack as vindictive and rather typical of the Southern slave movement, whilst the Southern belief that slavery was an issue worth fighting for was only strengthened by the attack. The repercussions of the aforementioned events meant that  matters within Kansas were no longer merely contained to politics but had now leaked out of Congress to become a social matter on a national scale; causing extreme tensions in America during the 1850s and 1860s. Due to this it is fair to suggest that the ‘Bleeding Sumner’ incident was further ...

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