The Civil War

Lesson 5 

Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott Case

Map of Kansas Nebraska Act

In 1854 the argument over slavery became part of the American political scene. Franklin Pierce was President. Congress wanted to open up the area west of Missouri and Iowa so that a railroad could be built across America to California.

The land over which the railroad would run had to be settled first. Arguments came up over whether this area should be a slave or free area.

Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas

Senator Douglas from Illinois introduced a bill called the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This act created 2 new territories, the Kansas Territory and the Nebraska Territory out of the land that the railroad would travel through. It also repealed the Compromise of 1850. This bill gave the people of those two states the right to choose whether they wanted slavery or not. The Northerners became angry about the law. They were afraid there would be two more slave states in the Union. The Southerners were happy.

The Northern abolitionists formed the Emigrant Aid Society. This society found people who believed that Kansas should be a free state and gave those people money, wagons, guns, and supplies to move to Kansas.

The Southerners formed a group called the Blue Lodge. They paid many settlers to move from Missouri into Kansas.

This fight in Kansas became an open war in 1855. It was called Bleeding Kansas because there were so many bloody battles all over the state. Congress decided to wait for the new President to decide about slavery in Kansas. The Presidential election was due in 1856.

The Whig Party which was the strongest party split in two. One part was the Whigs who were for slavery. The other part became the Republican Party which was against slavery. The other major party was the Democrats.

The election was won by James Buchanan who was a Democrat. Buchanan said the question of slavery had to be left to the Supreme Court.

Dred Scott was a slave. His master took him from the slave state of Missouri to the free state of Illinois. Scott lived as a slave for four years in a free state. Then his master took him back to Missouri. Abolitionists thought it was a good case to test slavery. Abolitionists paid for a lawyer so Scott could sue his master for freedom. The case went to the Supreme Court. On March 6, 1857 the court decided Scott had no right to freedom because he was property and could be moved anywhere, not a person. It also said that any state which did anything against slavery was unconstitutional.

Dred Scott

Dred Scott


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