A Disruption of Partnerships
ON APRIL 30, 1853, JAMES S. PIKE, WASHINGTON correspondent of the Tribune wrote:
We expect Mr. Pierce will give us a quiet, moderate, conservative, unexceptionable, good-for-nothing kind of an Administration, to which nobody will think of making any especial objection or opposition; and that by the close of his term there will be a pretty general fusion of all parties.
Mr. Pike was singularly mistaken in his prophecy.
It was Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, or, rather, the historical forces of which Mr. Douglas was a tool, that upset the Pike prediction. The "Little Giant" from Illinois was the chairman of and the dominant figure in the committee on territories in the Senate. As such, he reported out of the committee in January 1854 a bill providing for the organization of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. This bill, as finally presented to the Senate, showed the influence of the slavery question in two ways. It transferred from Congress to the people of the territories the right to decide as to whether or not they would have slavery, and it specifically repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which prohibited slavery in the whole Kansas-Nebraska area. 1
Why Douglas acted as he did in framing the Kansas-Nebraska bill is a matter of conjecture. It is probable that his interest in land speculation and in a transcontinental railroad, his desire to please the South so as to ensure the passage of the organization bill, and his Presidential aspirations, all played a part in forming his decision. But whatever his motives, the results of his action were vicious in the extreme. The bill roused the country from a state of relative harmony to one of angry altercation and blew up the fires of the slavery controversy until they were hotter than they had ever been before. More than any other measure passed or threatened during the decade, this bill was responsible for the Civil War.
The Kansas-Nebraska Bill in its final form, backed by the ap