Progress and the Irrepressible Conflict
The Kansas-Nebraska bill must be reckoned one of the most important measures ever passed by Congress. Designed by Stephen A. Douglas to organize a new territory in order to accommodate the rapid growth of the nation, it quickly became entangled in the sectional issue of slavery expansion. In the first draft of the bill, Douglas would place under one government all of the remaining territory in the Louisiana Purchase still without organization, namely, the area north of Oklahoma and west of Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota. With regard to slavery, he offered a very ambiguous solution. While leaving untouched the old Missouri Compromise ban on slavery north of 36°30′, he also incorporated the doctrine of popular sovereignty which had been used in the Compromise of 1850. By the old law the central government had prohibited slavery in the territory; by the new principle the people in the territory would be free to make the decision for themselves. Any resulting conflict between the two rules for regulating slavery was to be resolved in the federal courts.1
But a new sectional crisis soon arose as the bill for organizing the territory assumed a different and far more significant form. Whig Senator Archibald Dixon of Kentucky demanded that the ambiguity in the first draft be
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Publication information: Book title: Space, Time, and Freedom:The Quest for Nationality and the Irrepressible Conflict, 1815-1861. Contributors: Major L. Wilson - Author. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1974. Page number: 178.
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