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Krwawiący Kansas

Ustawa o Kansas i Nebrasce wywołała gwałtowne starcia pomiędzy zwolennikami i przeciwnikami niewolnictwa w Kansas, na forum Senatu, a ostatecznie w całym kraju.


  • After the Kansas-Nebraska Act reopened the possibility of slavery extending into new territories, tensions between pro- and anti-slavery advocates erupted into violence.
  • Radical abolitionists, like John Brown, attacked and murdered white southerners in protest. A pro-slavery US Senator, Preston Brooks, viciously beat abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the Senate.
  • Bleeding Kansas foreshadowed the violence that would ensue over the future of slavery during the Civil War.

Border ruffians

In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act reopened the question of extending slavery to new states north of the Missouri Compromise line established in 1820. The Act stipulated that the settlers of the Kansas territory would vote on whether to permit slavery.
Pro- and antislavery activists quickly flooded Kansas with the intention of influencing the vote on slavery. Proslavery Missourians who crossed the border to vote in Kansas became known as border ruffians. Border ruffians helped to secure a proslavery legislature in Kansas, which drafted a proslavery constitution known as the Lecompton Constitution. Meanwhile, anti-slavery activists established an extralegal regime of their own based in Topeka.
john brown
John Brown, c. 1856. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

John Brown in Kansas

In 1856, clashes between antislavery Free-Soilers, or people that opposed the expansion of slavery, and border ruffians came to a head. A man named John Brown, along with his four sons and a small group of followers, heard the news that an antislavery activist had been attacked in Lawrence, Kansas.
Brown, a strict Calvinist and staunch abolitionist, once remarked that “God had raised him up on purpose to break the jaws of the wicked.”start superscript, 1, end superscript Brown and his posse went to the homes of proslavery settlers near Pottawatomie Creek, announcing they were the “Northern Army.” They burst into the cabin of proslavery Tennessean James Doyle and abducted him and two of his sons. Brown and his sons then brutally executed the Doyles and two other nearby proslavery settlers. None of the people Brown and his followers executed owned slaves or were involved in the incident at Lawrence.
Brown’s actions precipitated a new wave of violence; Kansas soon became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

The caning of Charles Sumner

The controversy over Kansas also prompted the caning of Senator Charles Sumner in Congress in 1856. Sumner gave an infamous speech on Bleeding Kansas, entitled “Crime against Kansas." In the speech, Sumner insulted proslavery legislators, namely Senator Andrew Butler, by comparing slavery to prostitution: “Of course [Butler] has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot Slavery.”squared
Because Butler was aged, it was his second cousin, Senator Preston Brooks, who sought vengeance for Sumner’s insult to his family. He cornered Sumner on the Senate floor and beat him viciously with a cane, which left Sumner physically and mentally incapacitated for a long period of time. Many pro-slavery advocates in the South rejoiced over Brooks’s defense of slavery, southern society, and family honor, and sent him hundreds of canes to replace the one he had broken assaulting Sumner.
Print depicting Preston Brooks attacking Charles Sumner, 1856. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

John Brown at Harper's Ferry

In 1859, John Brown led another attack. He planned to raid the federal armory at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, where he aimed to steal weapons and arm enslaved people for an insurrection. The raid was put down by proslavery militiamen and US Marines commanded by General Robert E. Lee, who would go on to become the commander of the Confederate Army. Brown was captured, convicted of treason, and hanged.
Two years later, the country erupted into Civil War. A famous marching song from the early 1850s called “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” incorporated Brown’s legacy into new lyrics to the army tune. The Union soldiers declared: “"John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave. His soul is marching on!" During the war, soldiers added new verses, with lyrics that even promised to hang the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis.cubed

Jak uważasz?

How did increasing radicalism and violence in Kansas foreshadow future conflict?
Was John Brown justified in his violence in the name of abolition? Why or why not?
Take a look at the illustration of Preston Brooks attacking Charles Sumner. Whose side do you think the artist was on? Why?

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