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Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott Decision

How was each section of the country impacted by the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision?

Both the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision promoted slavery against the backdrop of the pressure from the Northerners for the abolition of the practice. The passage of the Act coupled with the Supreme Court decision legitimizing slavery ignited the calls for freedom and the abolition of slavery. The Northerners feared that the newly established Kansas territory would become a slavery zone, thus, favoring the South and weakening the North.

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The fear led to the emergence of Anti-Nebraska organizations, which advanced anti-slavery ideologies and sponsored unity among the Northerners (Cheatham, 2007). Political realignments became evident among the Northerners where they ditched the traditional political parties that united both the North and the South in favor of the Republican Party.

The South was equally affected by the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Dred Scott decision as they strengthened the Southerners to advance their slavery ideology. Besides, just like the North recorded political realignments, the South saw the embracement of the Democratic Party to compete with the Republican Party. The political differences between the North and the South heightened the rift between the two parts of the country. In 1956, the Northerners, through the Republican Party, voted in their first president who represented solely the interests of the North (Wunder & Ross, 2008).

Which section of the nation did this Act and decision seem to favor?

The Kansas-Nebraska Act coupled with the Dred Scott decision seemed to favor the Southerners. Both Kansas and Nebraska were located north of latitude 36°30, and thus, they could not be slavery zones as per the provisions of the Missouri Compromise (Cheatham, 2007). Under the Missouri Compromise, which had been in force for many decades, all territories located north of latitude 36°30 were free from slavery. The Northerners advanced the anti-slavery ideology, thus, the repeal of the Act to allow more slavery zones was a major blow to them.

The favoritism exhibited by the sponsors of the Act for the Southerners also illuminates the view that the legislation and the Supreme Court decision were meant to benefit the Southerners at the expense of the Northerners. Stephen A. Douglas, the senator responsible for drafting and presenting the bill to the Congress for approval, was advancing his personal and financial interests, and thus, he did not consider fairness when drafting the bill (Wunder & Ross, 2008).

In the bill, the senator deliberately included a clause allowing the settlers residing in Kansas to choose whether to allow slavery in the newly formed state. The clause was included to woo the southern senators to pass the bill at the Congress, and it was in favor of the Southerners who advocated slavery.

How did Northerners react?

Despite the efforts by the Northerners to suppress the bill at the Congress, the Southerners managed to mobilize enough senators to pass it. The enactment of the bill into law marked the beginning of the rivalry between the Northerners and the Southerners for the control of the new state. After Kansas attained full statehood, settlers from both the South and the North flocked the state with each side seeking to advance own ideologies (Graber, 2006).

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The settlers then elected the first head of state in a poll organized jointly by the northern and the southern pioneers. Initially, the Southerners dominated the state leading to a landslide win for their preferred candidate. The Northerners, aware of the consequences of a southern win, rejected the poll results and organized another poll. In the meantime, the Northerners funded anti-slavery settlers to settle in Kansas to solidify their Free State vote.

By the time of the second election, the Northerners outnumbered the Southerners in Kansas hence the proslavery ideologists lost in the polls. Aware of the plot by the Northerners to elect their own leader, using the tyranny of numbers, the Southerners opted out of the vote. Both sides claimed victory leading to the establishment of parallel legislatures and the subsequent civil war between the two ideological enemies.

What does the Bleeding Kansas incident indicate about the feasibility of applying “popular sovereignty” to determine the status of future territories?

The case of Bleeding Kansas illustrates the shortfalls of democracy during the establishment of new states. Moran and Parry (2015) argue that even though democracy is a useful leadership style, it is disadvantageous for young nations since it may spark violence and animosity among the pioneer residents. The problem of democracy is not only limited to the young nations, but also the established ones. The greatest shortfall of democracy is that it promotes the principle of majority rule, which might result in the suppression of the minorities. The minorities may be sidelined in major decisions leading to animosity and violence between the involved groups.

The case of Kansas illustrates the inefficacy of the popular sovereignty style of governance. The violence that erupted between the Northerners and the Southerners was sparked by rivalry and corruption practices by the two sides. Both sides paid settlers loyal to them to settle in Kansas to increase the support for their preferred leaders. The result was heightened rivalry and animosity among the majority and the minority groups due to the malpractices leading to warfare. Therefore, democracy may not be a feasible tool for the establishment of a new state.


Cheatham, G. L. (2007). If the Union wins, we won’t have anything left. Kansas History, 30, 154-177.

Graber, M. A. (2006). Dred Scott and the problem of constitutional evil. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Moran, M., & Parry, G. (2015). Democracy and democratization. Milton Park, OX: Routledge.

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Wunder, R., & Ross, J. (2008). The Nebraska-Kansas Act of 1854. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

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