Popular Sovereignty and Bleeding Kansas

PopularSovereignty and Bleeding Kansas

Popularsovereignty can be traced back to the nineteenth century. It emergedas a compromise approach for determining whether a Western Territoryhad the power to permit or ban slavery. Consequently, it was based onthe principle that the authority of the state originates from theconsent of the people because they are the source of political power(Reece 38). Therefore, the idea of popular sovereignty is closelyrelated to social contract on the principle that the governmentactivities are designed to favor the citizens(Reece 45).This paper discusses how the popular sovereignty led to theformulation of the Nebraska-Kansas Act, which caused a conflictbetween proslavery and antislavery groups. Bleeding Kansas issignificant because it was one of the major consequences of thepopular sovereignty, which caused much bloodshed although it aimed atpromoting democracy in newly formed states. Nonetheless, it had animportant role in shaping the country’s politics and promotingpolitical stability.

Thepopular sovereignty in the United States history formed the basisunder which the citizens determined the status of slavery in theirrespective states (Reece 66). Thus, the people in each state wereexpected to vote on the issue of slavery in the future. It formed apolitical doctrine that people used to determine the nature ofgovernment they wanted to have in their state. Besides, the doctrinewas applied to the opinion that the settlers of the federalterritorial lands should define the terms under which they would jointhe Union (Reece 90). However, the hopes of those supporting thepopular sovereignty did not materialize because popular sovereigntywas not applied to the new territories to preserve the Union, but asa way to resolve the issue of slavery. Moreover, instead ofpreserving the Union, it led to further violence and discord thatpushed the country towards Civil War.

Later,the popular sovereignty was invoked when forming the Kansas-NebraskaAct in 1854 (Reece 12). Using it views, groups in both the Southernand the Northern States encouraged and helped individual and familiesto move to Kansans to influence the final vote. Hence, the Missouriand Kansas border became a source of intimidation and violence, whichresulted in several antithetical constitutional proposal and voterfraud in Kansas(Reece 35).The proslavery and antislavery militants struggled for five yearswith recurrent outbreaks of bloodshed, which resulted in the highestnumber of casualties in American history. Therefore, the tragicevents that took place in Bleeding Kansas showed the doctrine’sweaknesses as the antislavery and proslavery states fought againsteach other to achieve the outcome they wanted (Reece 43). Althoughthe territories eventually approved the antislavery constitutions,there was intimidation and fighting as antislavery and proslaverygroups tried to control the slavery policies in Kansas thus,affecting the whole country. For that reason, popular sovereigntybecame a victim of radical politics, which erased all hopes for peacein the region (Reece 87).

Nonetheless,Bleeding Kansas resulted in political stability in the United Statesas it led to the formation the Democrats Party from Kansas andRepublicans Party from Nebraska, which formed a strong basis forAmerican politics (Reece 9). Consequently, Bleeding Kansas played asignificant role in determining the future of the United Statespolitics as it set the stage for Republicans and Democrats to battlefor supremacy as they sought the support of the voters. During thistime, there were violent outbreaks between Nebraska and Kansas. Theevents that were taking place in the region were being published inthe newspapers such as the New York Tribune whose editor, HoraceGreeley, coined the term Bleeding Kansas. The violent clashesoccurred once the “border ruffians” from the South crossed toKansas to sway the vote to the proslavery side. Moreover, rivalgovernments were established in Kansas where one was backed byantislavery groups and other by proslavery Missourians. Consequently,the conflict between the two factions accompanied politicalpolarization as both sides fought to preserve the liberties andmeaningful self-governance. Besides, the Exoduster Migrationsignified the complex interactions among groups within and outsideKansas creating a comprehensive social, political, and intellectualhistory. Subsequently, the events of Bleeding Kansas facilitated therevolution in American history. Initially, the conflict was a proxywar between the Southerners and Northerners over slavery (Reece 83).Furthermore, the Bleeding Kansas taught Americans the power of thenewspapers. During the years following the conflict, the country wasobsessed with the progress in Kansas. Therefore, the Americanscontinually expressed their views that either aligned with the Northor the South in newspapers, which it facilitated the growth andinfluence of the media ever since (Reece 88).

Inconclusion, after passing the Nebraska-Kansas Act, hundreds of peoplefrom Missouri crossed the border to make Kansas a slave state. On theother hand, the Northern abolitionists were outraged by theintimidation tactics thus, they also started moving to Kansas to inthe hopes of making the territory a slavery-free state. Hence, itresulted in too much bloodshed known as the Bleeding Kansas, whichwas a preface to the war that loomed ahead. However, the doctrine wasessential because those who framed the Constitution wanted to createa government ruled by the people to prevent tyranny. Thus, theelected and appointed leaders work to improve the citizen’s lives.Besides, Bleeding Kansas enhanced the idea of self-governance andpromoted the development of major political parties in the country.Consequently, at this point, one would question whether politicalstability that accompanied the American Revolution would haveoccurred without the significant role played by Bleeding Kansas.


Reece,Richard. BleedingKansas.Minneapolis, MN: ABDO Publishing Company, 2012. Print.