The establishment of the Kansas and Nebraska territories has recently transpired, via a bill which became law early this week. Until late, the area of vast plains and quaint rivers to the west of Iowa and Missouri had been unsettled. It is not the settling of the land, however, which is in controversy. The act is unavoidably bound to the expansion of slavery into the territories.
To further complicate the matter, conflict has arisen over the location of the projected transcontinental railroad. Steven A. Douglas, democratic, yearns not only for the organization of the territories, but also for a binding railroad to connect the expanded United States. These two actions are interrelated, for the reason that the railroad is contingent upon settlement of the territories. Earlier, Douglas had agreed to back a bill invalidating the Missouri Compromise line. Speculation on the motives behind this include his decision being a ploy to gain southern votes for territorial expansion and his belief that slavery would not survive in a Northern environment.
Proslavery congressman under no circumstances desire the new territories to be free states, while antislavery activists loathe the idea of slavery expansion. Therefore, Douglas also proposed that the people of the new territories decide for themselves whether or not their states would permit slaves and slaveholders. This contentious policy, which he labels “popular sovereignty,” is a key factor in the Kansas-Nebraska bill. Recently, there has been an uproar of Northern resentment regarding Douglas’ proposal. Senators Salmon P. Chase, Charles Sumner, and Joshua Giddings alike label the plan as a plot by a “slave power.” They argue that Douglass is attempting to make Nebraska “ a dreary region of despotism, inhabited by masters and slaves.” Clearly, an effort must be brought forth to halt the progress of such an outlandish proposal. One must consider the horrific possibility of a conspiracy for southern control, contrived by Douglas and the Pierce administration. It is inconceivable and undemocratic to allow the more sparsely populated South to control and rule the Northern states. To add insult to injury, many Northerners are now determined that they can no longer trust Southerners to keep a bargain. This is due to the disregard for the Missouri Compromise. The territory prohibited slavery, as stated in the compromise. The recent Kansas-Nebraska Act, however, restores the possibility of slavery expansion to those areas. The southerners are blatantly changing the established rules of a long-standing binding agreement! One may question if Northerners in turn should adhere to the Fugitive Slave Act, taking into account Southern indifference for accords.
“If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”-Abraham Lincoln