The Kansas-Nebraska Act resulted in a struggle between U.S. citizens from Southern states who were eager to extend slavery into the new territory and those from Northern states who were determined to stop the spread of slavery (called free-soilers). The chaos and violence that marked this period earned the territory the name Bleeding Kansas, during what was called the Border War.
Early in 1854 proslavery and antislavery advocates in other parts of the country began to organize societies to encourage the settlement of Kansas. These societies included the proslavery Blue Lodges in the neighboring slave state of Missouri and other slaveholding states, and the New England Emigrant Aid Company and other antislavery societies in the Northeast. In June 1854 proslavery and antislavery partisans began to settle in rival communities in the Kansas Territory.
Lawrence and Topeka soon became the leading antislavery centers and Leavenworth and Atchison were the main proslavery strongholds. Not every new arrival was an ardent advocate or opponent of slavery. Economic opportunity, and not the slavery issue, brought many early settlers, particularly from the Ohio and upper Mississippi river valleys. Elections for the first Kansas territorial legislature were held in March 1855. On election day, several thousand men, known as Border Ruffians, crossed into Kansas from Missouri. Stuffing ballot boxes, bullying voters, and intimidating judges, they helped the proslavery faction defeat the free-soil voters and elect a predominantly proslavery legislature. In July that body convened first at Pawnee, and later at Shawnee Methodist Mission in present-day Johnson County, to pass strong proslavery laws and expel its few free-soil members.
Governor Reeder, a proslavery moderate, refused to recognize the acts of the legislature, and at the legislature’s request he was removed from office by President Pierce and in 1856 had to flee the territory in disguise.
In September 1855 antislavery settlers met at Big Springs, midway between Lawrence and Topeka. They repudiated the earlier legislature, established the Free State Party, and organized local militia forces. At a convention at Topeka in October, they drew up a state constitution prohibiting slavery. Early in 1856 they elected their own governor and legislature, neither of which the federal government recognized. On May 21, 1856, after several months of inflammatory newspaper editorials on both sides, threats, and the murder of a Free Stater, a proslavery force attacked the Free State community of Lawrence, looting and burning several buildings. The Connecticut-born abolitionist John Brown and his sons avenged this crime on May 24, 1856, by killing five proslavery supporters at Pottawatomie Creek. This act, as well as his success in withstanding a large party of attacking proslavery Missourians at Osawatomie in August, made Brown nationally famous as a foe of slavery. Several raids and armed skirmishes followed, until the intervention of federal troops in September brought some degree of peace to the territory. However, factional violence in Kansas did not end until 1858, following the Marais des Cygnes Massacre of Free Staters by Missourians in what is now Linn County. "Kansas" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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