After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Kansas became the center stage of the battle between the settlers in the North and the South. Thousands of people who had an interest in the slavery issue started moving to Kansas. Farmers in the pro-slavery state of Missouri who were afraid to be surrounded by three free states moved to Kansas.
They wanted to participate in the voting to ensure that there will be no chance of Missouri being surrounded by anti-slavery states. They established their own territories within Kansas, put up their own towns and gave it their own names. These communities were established as pro-slavery communities.
Meanwhile, the New England Emigrant Aid Society was organized by those in the North. Those who were determined to stop slavery in the North saw this as an opportunity to end slavery. So they went to Kansas to participate in the election. They likewise built towns and named it as Free-Soil towns.
As a result, Kansas now became the centerstage for what will, later on, be known as the Bloody Kansas. When the peace and security of the people are threatened, it could be expected that words will be spoken against those who hold the opposing views. It is also to be expected that emotions will be heightened. Considering the number of people who suddenly migrated to Kansas, it was like a time bomb waiting to explode.
In the election held in 1855, thousands of non-residents who crossed the border from the North and from the South likewise participated in the election. The crowd who crossed the border from Missouri, which numbered to thousands, drove away the actual settlers from the election and cast their own votes in favor of the pro-slavery settlers. So great was their number that when the votes were counted 6320 voted when the settlers only numbered to 2905.
The pro-slavery faction won in Kansas in view of the number of Southerners who illegally crossed the border to vote. They immediately established their own legislature who passed laws in favor of slavery. It was likewise illegal for anyone to speak against slavery which is punishable by imprisonment for two years. The pro-slavery faction also attempted to prevent the escape of slaves. It could be recalled that during this time the Underground Railroad Movement had developed notoriety in the South because of the number of slaves they have helped escape. According to this law passed, anyone who is caught helping slaves to escape will be punished by death penalty.
In view of the widespread election fraud and violations in Kansas, the anti-slavery settlers refused to accept the result of the election. They contested it and did not recognize the government established by the pro-slavery settlers. They responded by electing their own governors and legislature. They also passed laws that made slavery illegal as their response to the pro-slavery laws passed by the pro-slavery faction.
A prelude to the forthcoming violence between the pro and anti slaves is the violence that happened among their political leaders. On may, 20 1856, Senator Sumner from Massachusetts delivered a speech entitled “The Crime against Kansas” in the process he also ridiculed Senator Butler from South Carolina. Butler’s nephew, Preston Brooks, a member of the South of Representatives retaliated by beating Sumner on his head with his cane. The beating was so severe that in the process Brooks broke his cane.
Violence immediately escalated in the tension-packed town of Kansas. On May 21, 1856, days after President Pierce criticized the provisional government established by anti-slavery settlers, a pro-slavery federal marshal gathered 800 men and proceeded to Lawrence, a pro-slavery town in Kansas. They looted stores, destroyed newspapers offices, and burned the Free State Hotel to the ground. It was reported that a total of five anti-slavery settlers were murdered in cold blood by the pro-slavery settlers. In retaliation, John Brown, a fanatical abolitionist, organized his own men and raided a pro-slavery settlement in the Pottawatomie Creek. (John Robinson, 1998) They dragged five pro-slavery settlers and murdered them. This was subsequently known in the newspapers as the Pottawatomie Massacre. This triggered a mini-civil war in Kansas where the pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers organized their own raiding parties to burn homes, steal cattle and murder their enemies. A total of 200 people was said to have died because of these violence events.
In retrospect, the Bloody Kansas events showed the positive and the negative sides of Americans. We learned that American people are also capable of violence. We also learned that these acts of violence were not done for their selfish interest or motives, rather, these acts were done because they believed that they fought for what is right for their state, for their country. In committing these acts of violence they thought that they were protecting merely the interest of their own state. It can be recalled that most of those who fought for the pro-slavery states were not even plantation owners. Most of those who fought for the anti-slavery states had nothing to gain if slavery will be abolished. Indeed, the people fought for their principles and in the process they shed their blood and sacrificed their life.
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