A nation divided
In 1854, Sen. Stephen Douglas from Illinois wanted a transcontinental railroad to go from his state to California.
For the railroad to succeed, the land west of the Mississippi River would have to be organized into territories. In order to get the railroad approved by Congress, Douglas needed both Northern and Southern support.
To accomplish this, Douglas called for popular sovereignty to decide the slavery issue in the Kansas and Nebraska Territories. However, the Missouri Compromise had banned slavery in this area, so if the Kansas and Nebraska Act was passed, it would violate the Missouri Compromise and allow for more slave states.
The Kansas and Nebraska Act became a law in 1854, allowing popular sovereignty, and the race was on to settle Kansas by pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers.
Many settlers moved in from Missouri and elected a pro-slavery legislature, which made the laws for the territory. The anti-slavery people set up their own legislature and created their own government.
Tempers flared and soon violence broke out as the state became known as "Bleeding Kansas." A yearlong war was fought in Kansas between these two sides until federal troops finally restored order near the end of 1856.
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