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MOOC | Bleeding Kansas | The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1850-1861 | 1.7.5


>>So President Buchanan says, alright, well, slavery — what is the consequence of this, directly? Slavery now exists in Kansas, he says. By virtue of the US Constitution, slavery now exists in Kansas. But that didn’t settle the question in Kansas either. And to understand this, we have to go back a couple of years and see the development of what they call Bleeding Kansas, the civil war in Kansas, which follows on the Kansas-Nebraska bill. In 1854, after the passage of that bill, a few months afterwards, an election was held in Kansas for local officials. And a couple of thousand pro-slavery people from Missouri crossed the border into Kansas and voted, cast votes in this election, swinging the votes in favor of pro-slavery candidates. And this became a common pattern in the next few years that many in Missouri, a slave state, many in Missouri felt: alright, look, Nebraska is going to be free, Kansas should be slave, with one on each side. We’re not going to let Kansas become a free territory. Very quickly people who were a little further removed realized there was no way Kansas was going to become a slave state. Northern migrants, Northern farmers, whether Republican, Democrat or anything, were far more likely to move into Kansas than big slave owners or people… You’re not going to move there with your valuable slave property if you don’t know if that property is going to be secure or not. You’re not going to go there if you think that they might not have slavery and what’s going to happen to all your slaves? Or they may run off in the middle of this war. So it becomes very clear that most of the settlers are coming from the North and whatever their political position, they don’t want slavery there, unless the federal government directly intervenes to make Kansas a slave state, which is what they will try to do. So in 1855,’56 is this period of what we call Bleeding Kansas, where there’s literally a little civil war going on between pro-slavery settlers, anti-slavery settlers. And this reverberates back. Now let me show you, it’s impossible the read but this is a political cartoon from this period showing Bleeding Kansas. And the figures from left to right — this is a Republican cartoon, as you’ll see. They’re kind of — in the background is the massacre of the free settlers. Here’s a guy being beaten. Here’s a guy on a horse shooting someone. Back here are some farms burning. So there’s all this chaos going on in the background. And here are the five leaders of the Democratic Party. Five of them. Marcy over here is a New York state leader. Here’s Buchanan, who apparently has stolen the watch of a murdered settler. He’s got this pocket watch in his hands, not the most elegant position for the President. Here’s Pierce, the previous president drinking out of a bottle and with knives and guns. Here in the middle is Kansas represented as a woman kneeling with an American flag over her and the cap of liberty. Remember the cap of liberty? She’s wearing the cap of liberty, but she’s being surrounded by these men. Here’s Cass, and he’s kind of blood thirsty. And here’s Douglas, who is scalping a murdered settler. This is what they used to do in these Indian wars is cutting the scalp off of a settler. There’s Steven A. Douglas. So this is the Republican view of Bleeding Kansas. The Democratic Party is marauding and massacring and destroying liberty in Kansas etc, etc. And the war, the chaos there was not only about slavery, but it was also about rival land claims and the rights of — it was all very chaotic. People would go and settle on land and then someone else would say this is my land, and try to kick them off. And this often happened in the early settlement of territories. And each spring (1855, ’56, ’57) new settlers flowed in mostly from the Old Northwest and some of these border states. People who wanted slavery were quickly quite outnumbered by the settlers who didn’t. Well, anyway, Pierce and then Buchanan appoint — the president can appoint a territorial governor to go out there and run things. So the first one was a guy from Pennsylvania called Andrew Reeder. But the pro-slavery people didn’t recognize his authority. They set up their own legislature. They passed laws, like the death penalty for anyone helping a slave to escape. And as I say, by 1856 there was this full scale civil war going on. And this discredited the popular sovereignty doctrine. Remember Douglas’s position was: put the issue into the states, or the territories, that is. But now, what kind of decision — it has only produced chaos and violence, not some kind of reasoned political disputation. There was violence on all sides. John Brown was there (we’ll talk about him next week) was there and, with his sons, killed a group of pro-slavery settlers. Pro-slavery people burned the town of Lawrence, the Sack of Lawrence, Kansas, which was the cause in a sense, the catalyst of Sumner’s speech in the Senate denouncing slavery and then the beating of Sumner which seemed to represent the violence of Kansas coming back to roost in Congress itself. Buchanan appointed a new territorial governor when he got in, a Southerner, a guy named Robert John Walker of Mississippi. Walker was a Southerner, pro-slavery, but a very shrewd politician. And he got there and he figured out immediately that the anti-slavery settlers greatly outnumber pro-slavery and that what should be done is trying to get Kansas in as a free state that will vote with the Democrats, sort of like California was. California was a free state in the 1850s but it was strongly Democratic. The Republicans had very little power or presence out there. There is what, he said, this is what we ought to — forget about slavery. We want them to be a solid Democratic Party state, and we can do it by drawing off — right now the free state movement is Republicans and Democrats who don’t really care that much about, who are not part of the Republican Party but don’t want slavery there. We can drain them off from alliance with the Republicans. But the pro-slavery legislature which had been elected through these fraudulent votes didn’t accept Walker either and in fact held an election for a new, for a constitutional convention to draw up a constitution for Kansas so it could become a state in the Union. No one had authorized them to do that, but they — by the way California did it, too, without authorization. Normally, Congress gives a territory the right or the power to do that, but they did it anyway, and they met in this town called Lecompton. This is a name that will bounce around for that whole year. Lecompton, Kansas. That’s where the pro-slavery group held their constitutional convention. They declared Walker ousted as governor and they appointed a regent, as they called him, to supervise elections. And they wrote a constitution that included protection for slavery, protection for slavery in what would become the state of Kansas, and also barring any free black people from entering the state. And then they decided — now popular sovereignty was based on the idea that people would have a right to vote on this constitution. But the pro-slavery guys weren’t so sure that they wanted that, so they said, we’re going to submit the constitution to a referendum, but the choice will be either vote for the constitution with slavery in the future or vote for the constitution with no more slavery in the future but current slaves will be protected, the measures against helping fugitive slaves… There were many pro-slavery features in the constitution, even apart from whether new slaves should be brought in the future. So there was no way to vote against the constitution in that referendum. It was either the constitution with certain provisions about slavery or the constitution without certain provisions relating to slavery. But this did not seem to be a real implementation of the principle of popular sovereignty. Well, anyway, at the end of December 1857 Steven A. Douglas — now Douglas is running for reelection in 1858 in Illinois. This is not a platform Douglas can run on, supporting the federal government forcing slavery into Kansas. Buchanan says we’re accepting this constitution. This is the constitution of Kansas. We’re accepting it and there’s nothing to be done. Douglas says forget it. I am sorry. I cannot do this. This is wrong. It’s not popular sovereignty. Supposedly Buchanan says to Douglas, you and I know very well what Andrew Jackson did to people who defied the Democratic Party and Douglas says, Mr. President, let me remind you, Andrew Jackson is dead. You’re no Andrew Jackson.

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