RISE TO POWER
ABRAHAM LINCOLN'S withdrawal from politics abruptly ceased in 1854. In a later autobiographical sketch, he acknowledged that “in 1854, his profession had almost superseded the thought of politics in his mind, when the repeal of the Missouri compromise aroused him as he had never been before.” His return to the political hustings following passage of the Kansas—Nebraska Act launched him on the path that would—amazingly—take him to the White House in just a few years.
ORIGINALLY INTRODUCED by Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, the Kansas—Nebraska Act organized the region immediately west of Iowa and Missouri. Under terms of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, slavery had been forever prohibited from this region of the Louisiana Purchase, but in response to southern pressure the new bill repealed this prohibition and substituted the doctrine of popular sovereignty, by which the residents of a territory were to decide the status of slavery. On May 30, President Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas– Nebraska Act into law.
As Douglas had correctly predicted, the repeal of the Missouri Compromise raised “a hell of a storm.” Across the North, indignant Whigs joined Democrats and Free Soilers in protesting Congress's unexpected action. Pondering Douglas's motivations and the significance of this legislation, Lincoln seemed more withdrawn than usual on the circuit. Back home in Springfield, he began reading the congressional debates on slavery, taking notes at the State Library for future use.
When Lincoln resumed his political career in 1854, he had changed