Anniversary of the Single Most Consequential Law in American HistoryRoundup: Talking About History
From the Associated Press (May 29, 2004):
Take out your pencils and a clean sheet of notebook paper.
Sunday being the 150th anniversary of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, here's a pop history quiz.
Pretend the act died in Congress instead of being signed by President Franklin Pierce on May 30, 1854. With that in mind, answer these three questions:
When was slavery abolished in the United States?
What party has won six of the last nine presidential elections?
Whose picture is on the $5 bill?
The answer to all three questions: Who knows?
The law got Abraham Lincoln back into politics, led to the formation of the Republican Party and sparked what some historians consider the real first battles of the Civil War.
"It would be hard to find another single piece of legislation in all of American history that had greater consequences for the country - both good and bad - than the Kansas-Nebraska Act," said historian James McPherson of Princeton University.
To a 21st-century reader, the act appears fairly innocuous. It created the two territories out of land acquired through the Louisiana Purchase, and provided that residents of each would decide whether slavery would be allowed there.
But it had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which prohibited slavery in new territories - creating worries that the southern "Slave Power" wanted to expand slavery nationwide.
A coalition of anti-slavery Democrats, breakaway Whigs and Free Soil Party members responded by forming the Republican Party. In 1860, the fledgling Republicans gained the White House.
In Illinois, the act's passage fell "like a thunderclap" on Lincoln, a former Whig congressman who had taken himself out of politics five years earlier.
"He was so outraged by the act that he got back in," McPherson said.
On Oct. 16, 1854, Lincoln vented that outrage in a speech at Peoria, Ill. He argued that Congress, not a popular vote in the territories, should determine the slavery issue in Kansas and Nebraska.
"If there is any thing which it is the duty of the whole people to never entrust to any hands but their own, that thing is the preservation and perpetuity of their own liberties and institutions," he said.
The speech revitalized Lincoln politically. Six years later, with the Democratic
Party split along sectional lines over slavery, Lincoln was elected in a three-way
comments powered by Disqus
- Rubio Surges Into Second In New Hampshire
- Branstad Says Cruz Ran ‘Unethical’ Campaign
- Christie Highlights Santorum’s Endorsement of Rubio
- Portman Comes Out Against Trade Deal
- Megyn Kelly Gets a Book Deal
- A Big List of the Bad Things Clinton Has Done
- An Unambiguous Sign Sanders Won Last Night’s Debate
- Still Friends at the End
- Quote of the Day
- Trump Still Leads as Clinton Slips
- Clinton Can’t Shake Image as Wall Street’s Friend
- Maddow Doesn’t See Sanders Winning
- Why Does the Media Still Shield Chelsea Clinton?
- Bush Jokes His Mother May Have Abused Him
- Rubio Closes the Gap in New Hampshire
- Transcribed Document: Soviet Politburo Discussed CIA Billion Dollar Spy Adolf Tolkachev
- Pentagon withholds Iraq War photos showing detainee abuse
- These Rebels Have Amassed A Library From Syria’s Ruins
- Was 1916 fire at Canadian Parliament set by German saboteur?
- United Nations Calls On U.S. To Pay African Americans Reparations For Slavery
- Juan Cole says America’s inclination to turn to the military started with Manifest Destiny
- History Jobs Drop
- Paul Krugman gives credence to Robert J. Gordon's pessimism about American economic growth
- Harvard President Drew Faust Condemns Free Tuition Proposal from Outsider Overseers Ticket
- Andrew Roberts says Trump is the Mussolini of America with double the vulgarity