The Negro and the Nation: A History of American Slavery and Enfranchisement

By George S. Merriam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
THE STRUGGLE FOR KANSAS

THE foremost politician of the Northwest, in the early '50s, was Stephen A. Douglas, United States senator from Illinois. He was a native of Vermont, and had early gone West and pushed his fortunes with energy, audacity, and shrewdness. He was an effective, popular speaker; and his short and stout frame and large head had won for him the nickname of "The Little Giant." He was a leader in the Democratic party, and a prominent Presidential candidate, but never identified with any great political principle or broad policy. He was chairman of the Senate committee on Territories, and early in the session of 1853-4 he introduced a bill for the organization of a vast section hitherto known as "the Platte country," a part of the Louisiana purchase, lying next to the western tier of States, and stretching from Indian Territory to Canada; all of which was now to constitute the Territory of Nebraska, or, as it was soon divided, the two Territories of Nebraska and Kansas. This region had as yet been scarcely touched by permanent settlers, but it was the next step in the great onward march toward the Pacific. It lay north of the line Of 36 degrees 30 minutes, above which it had been declared by the compromise act of 1820 slavery should never be extended. Douglas incorporated in his "Kansas-Nebraska" bill, a clause declaring that the prohibition of slavery north Of 36 degrees 30 minutes, by the act of 1820, had been "superseded by the principles of the legislation of 1850," and was "inoperative and void." Later he added the

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