When Congress considered legislation to organize the territories of Nebraska and Kansas, pro-slavery citizens opposed the measure because the territory would have been free due to the stipulations of the Missouri Compromise. To address these concerns, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, proposed by Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, which allowed the people in those territories to decide the question of slavery on their own.
- This panel features an image of the original copy of "An Act to Organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas," commonly known as the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which is housed in the National Archives.
While many in Missouri favored the admission of Kansas as a slave state, anti-slavery forces were equally determined to see the state admitted as free of slavery. Violence multiplied along the Kansas-Missouri border. Kansas "free-soilers" like John Brown and James Montgomery led raids against pro-slavery settlers, who led their own raids against the free-soilers. Missouri Senator David Rice Atchison even led about 1,000 armed pro-slavery Missourians into Kansas to vote in elections that would determine the fate of Kansas, and to prevent free-soilers from voting. Kansas was finally admitted to the Union as a free state on January 29, 1861, in the midst of the secession crisis.
The documents on this panel show the intensity of this conflict, which prompted Missouri Governor Robert Marcellus Stewart to send troops to protect citizens in border towns, a full seven months before the outbreak of war.