Kansas–Nebraska Act

Missouri Compromise line (36°30′ parallel) in dark blue, 1820. Territory above this line would be reserved for free states, and below, slave states
The United States after the Compromise of 1850 and the Gadsden Purchase. Douglas sought to organize parts of the area labeled as "Unorganized territory."
Stephen A. Douglas – "The great principle of self-government is at stake, and surely the people of this country are never going to decide that the principle upon which our whole republican system rests is vicious and wrong."
Forcing Slavery Down the Throat of a Freesoiler. An 1854 cartoon depicts a giant free soiler being held down by James Buchanan and Lewis Cass, standing on the Democratic platform of making slave states out of "Kansas," "Cuba," and "Central America". Franklin Pierce also holds down the giant's beard, as Stephen A. Douglas shoves a black man down his throat.
Sam Houston from Texas was one of the few southern opponents of the Kansas–Nebraska Act. In the debate, he urged, "Maintain the Missouri Compromise! Stir not up agitation! Give us peace!"
Alexander Stephens from Georgia – "Nebraska is through the House. I took the reins in my hand, applied the whip and spur, and brought the 'wagon' out at eleven o'clock P.M. Glory enough for one day."
Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri – "What is the excuse for all this turmoil and mischief? We are told it is to keep the question of slavery out of Congress! Great God! It was out of Congress, completely, entirely, and forever out of Congress, unless Congress dragged it in by breaking down the sacred laws which settled it!"
Charles Sumner on Douglas – "Alas! too often those principles which give consistency, individuality, and form to the Northern character, which renders it staunch, strong, and seaworthy, which bind it together as with iron, are drawn out, one by one, like the bolts of the ill-fitted vessel, and from the miserable, loosened fragments is formed that human anomaly—a Northern man with Southern principles. Sir, no such man can speak for the North."
This 1856 map shows slave states (gray), free states (pink), U.S. territories (green), and Kansas (white)

Territorial organic act that created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.

- Kansas–Nebraska Act

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Republican Party (United States)

One of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with its main historic rival, the Democratic Party.

Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States (1861–1865) and the first Republican to hold the office
Charles R. Jennison, an anti-slavery militia leader associated with the Jayhawkers from Kansas and an early Republican politician in the region
Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president of the United States (1869–1877)
James G. Blaine, 28th & 31st Secretary of State (1881; 1889–1892)
William McKinley, 25th president of the United States (1897–1901)
Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States (1901–1909)
Herbert Hoover, 31st president of the United States (1929–1933)
Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the United States (1981–1989)
Donald Trump, 45th president of the United States (2017–2021)
Calvin Coolidge, 30th president of the United States (1923–1929)
Arnold Schwarzenegger, 38th governor of California (2003–2011)
John McCain, United States senator from Arizona (1987–2018)
Donald Rumsfeld, 21st United States Secretary of Defense (2001–2006)
Colin Powell, 65th United States Secretary of State (2001–2005)
Newt Gingrich, 50th Speaker of the House of Representatives (1995–1999)
Annual population growth in the U.S. by county - 2010s
This map shows the vote in the 2020 presidential election by county.
Political Spectrum Libertarian Left    Centrist   Right  Authoritarian
U.S. opinion on gun control issues is deeply divided along political lines, as shown in this 2021 survey.

The GOP was founded in 1854 by anti-slavery activists who opposed the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which allowed for the potential expansion of chattel slavery into the western territories.

Bleeding Kansas

Series of violent civil confrontations in Kansas Territory, and to a lesser extent in western Missouri, between 1854 and 1859.

1856 map showing slave states (gray), free states (pink), and territories (green) in the United States, with the Kansas Territory in center (white)
1855 Free-State poster
Preston Brooks attacking Charles Sumner in the U.S. Senate in 1856
Tragic Prelude, in the Kansas State Capitol

The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 called for popular sovereignty: the decision about slavery would be made by popular vote of the territory's settlers rather than by legislators in Washington.

Missouri Compromise

United States federal legislation that compromised northern attempts to completely prohibit slavery's expansion by admitting Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state in exchange for legislation which prohibited slavery in those remaining Louisiana Purchase lands north of the 36°30′ parallel.

The United States in 1819, the year before the Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery in the unorganized territory of the Great Plains (upper dark green) and permitted it in Missouri (yellow) and the Arkansas Territory (lower blue area)
President James Monroe, who signed the Missouri Compromise
Representative James Tallmadge Jr., the author of the antislavery amendment to Missouri statehood
Thomas Jefferson: The Missouri crisis roused Thomas Jefferson "like a fire bell in the night".
Rufus King, the last of the Federalist icons
Massachusetts Representative Timothy Fuller
New York Governor DeWitt Clinton
Extension of the Missouri Compromise Line westward was discussed by Congress during the Texas Annexation in 1845, during the Compromise of 1850, and as part of the proposed Crittenden Compromise in 1860, but the line never reached the Pacific.
Animation showing the free/slave status of U.S. states and territories, 1789–1861, including the Missouri Compromise

The Kansas–Nebraska Act effectively repealed the bill in 1854, and the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), both of which increased tensions over slavery and contributed to the American Civil War.

Stephen A. Douglas

American politician and lawyer from Illinois.

Photo by Mathew Brady
Stephen A. Douglas
Adele Cutts, c. 1860
The United States in 1849, with Texas's land claims on New Mexico shown
The United States after the Compromise of 1850
Forcing Slavery Down the Throat of a Freesoiler – An 1856 cartoon depicts a giant "Free Soiler" being held down by James Buchanan and Lewis Cass standing on the Democratic platform marked "Kansas", "Cuba" and "Central America". Franklin Pierce also holds down the giant's beard as Douglas shoves a black man down his throat. A victim of lynching can also be seen in the background.
Stephen A. Douglas, photograph by Mathew Brady
Abraham Lincoln was Douglas's opponent in both the 1858 Senate election in Illinois and the 1860 presidential election.
Statue of Douglas at the site of the 1858 debate in Freeport, Illinois
Douglas (dark blue) had the support of most Northern delegates on the presidential ballot of the 1860 Democratic National Convention.
Douglas was defeated by Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 presidential election, as he won electoral votes from just two states.
Plaque at the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois, commemorating Douglas's "Protect The Flag" speech of April 25, 1861
Douglas's tomb
Douglas's widow, Adele, in mourning dress. From the Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Douglas depicted on the Series 1875 $10,000 Certificate of Deposit

Seeking to open the west for expansion, Douglas introduced the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854.

Compromise of 1850

Package of five separate bills passed by the United States Congress in September 1850 that defused a political confrontation between slave and free states on the status of territories acquired in the Mexican–American War.

Proposals for Texas's northwestern boundary
Map of Mexico. S. Augustus Mitchell, Philadelphia, 1847. New California is depicted with a northeastern border at the meridian leading north of the Rio Grande headwaters.
The United States Senate, A.D. 1850 (engraving by Peter F. Rothermel):
Henry Clay takes the floor of the Old Senate Chamber; Vice President Millard Fillmore presides as John C. Calhoun (to the right of the Speaker's chair) and Daniel Webster (seated to the left of Clay) look on.
An animation showing slave and free states and territories, 1789–1861
Map of New Mexico Territory in 1852
The Utah Territory is shown in blue and outlined in black. The boundaries of the provisional State of Deseret are shown with a dotted line.
Map of free and slave states c. 1856

The compromise also included a more stringent Fugitive Slave Law and banned the slave trade in Washington, D.C. The issue of slavery in the territories would be re-opened by the Kansas–Nebraska Act, but the Compromise of 1850 played a major role in postponing the American Civil War.

Whig Party (United States)

Political party that espoused traditionalist conservatism in the United States during the middle of the 19th century.

John Quincy Adams, the 6th president, became a Whig congressman later in his career.
Henry Clay, a founder of the Whig Party in the 1830s and its 1844 presidential nominee
Daniel Webster, a leading Whig from New England
William Henry Harrison, a two-time presidential candidate who became the first Whig president in 1841 but died just one month into office
William Henry Harrison defeated Martin Van Buren in the 1840 presidential election, thereby becoming the first Whig president
President John Tyler clashed with congressional Whigs and was expelled from the party.
Zachary Taylor served in the Mexican-American War and later won the 1848 presidential election as the Whig nominee.
The United States settled the Texas-Mexico border and acquired portions of seven current states in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Portions of present-day Arizona and New Mexico were later acquired in the 1853 Gadsden Purchase.
A political cartoon satirizing the candidacy of either Zachary Taylor or Winfield Scott in the 1848 presidential election
Millard Fillmore, the last Whig president
Gen. Winfield Scott, the unsuccessful Whig candidate in the 1852 presidential election
Whig journalist Horace Greeley
John J. Crittenden, an influential Whig leader who later established the short-lived Constitutional Union Party to contest the election of 1860
U.S. presidential election results from 1828 to 1852. Darker shades of blue indicate states that generally voted for the Democratic Party, while darker shades of yellow/brown indicate states that generally voted for the Whig or National Republican Party.
Charles Sumner, an anti-slavery "Conscience Whig" who later joined the Republican Party
Edward Everett, a pro-South "Cotton Whig"
Abraham Lincoln, a former Whig congressman, won the 1860 presidential election on the Republican ticket.
John Marshall Harlan, who began his career as a Whig officeholder, served on the Supreme Court from 1877 to 1911.

The Whigs collapsed following the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854, with most Northern Whigs eventually joining the anti-slavery Republican Party and most Southern Whigs joining the nativist American Party and later the Constitutional Union Party.

Nebraska Territory

Organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 30, 1854, until March 1, 1867, when the final extent of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Nebraska.

$1 City of Omaha 1857 uniface banknote. The note is signed by Jesse Lowe in his function as Mayor of Omaha City. It was issued as scrip in 1857 to help fund the erection of the territorial capitol building at Omaha.
The front page of the December 6, 1854 issue of the Nebraska Palladium, the first newspaper to be published in the Nebraska Territory
The front page of the May 4, 1857 issue of the Nebraska Advertiser founded by Robert Wilkinson Furnas, in Brownville, Nebraska Territory
Site No. JF00-072: The Nebraska–Kansas state line at the intersection of Nebraska counties Thayer and Jefferson and Kansas counties Washington and Republic
Map of the territory of Nebraska and seal of the Nebraska Territory

The Nebraska Territory was created by the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854.

Free Soil Party

Short-lived coalition political party in the United States active from 1848 to 1854, when it merged into the Republican Party.

Martin Van Buren/Charles Francis Adams campaign banner
James G. Birney was the two-time presidential nominee of the Liberty Party, a forerunner of the Free Soil Party.
Free Soilers sought to exclude slavery from the Mexican Cession (red), which was acquired from Mexico in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
The party nominated former President Martin Van Buren for president in the 1848 presidential election
1848 cartoon for Van Buren
Salmon P. Chase of Ohio was one of the most prominent leaders of the Free Soil Party
In this 1850 political cartoon, the artist attacks abolitionist, Free Soil and other sectionalist interests of 1850 as dangers to the Union
After the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854, Free Soilers joined with other groups to form the Republican Party, which nominated political neophyte John C. Frémont for president in 1856.
Free Soil performance in the 1848 election; darker shades of green indicate greater support
Frederick Douglass served as the secretary of the 1852 Free Soil National Convention

The 1854 Kansas–Nebraska Act repealed the long-standing Missouri Compromise and outraged many Northerners, contributing to the collapse of the Whigs and spurring the creation of a new, broad-based anti-slavery party known as the Republican Party.

Franklin Pierce

The 14th president of the United States serving from 1853 to 1857.

Portrait by Mathew Brady, c. undefined 1855–1865
The Franklin Pierce Homestead in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, where Pierce grew up, is now a National Historic Landmark. He was born in a nearby log cabin as the homestead was being completed.
Novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, a lifelong friend of Pierce, wrote the biography The Life of Franklin Pierce in support of Pierce's 1852 presidential campaign.
Pious and reserved, Jane Pierce was her husband's opposite in many ways.
Pierce in 1852
The Concord, New Hampshire house where Pierce lived from 1842 to 1848 is now known as the Pierce Manse. The house was restored in the 1970s and is now maintained as a historic attraction.
Pierce in his brigadier general's uniform
Pierce's brief term as a general in the Mexican–American War boosted his public image.
By the 1850s, Pierce had become a de facto leader of the New Hampshire Democratic Party.
Campaign poster for the Pierce/King ticket
This anti-Pierce political cartoon depicts him as weak and cowardly.
Electoral map of the 1852 presidential election
Jane Pierce and "Benny", whose death cast a shadow over Pierce's term in office
Vice President William R. King died a little more than one month into his term, leaving a vacancy that could not be filled.
Indian Peace Medal depicting Pierce
The Kansas–Nebraska Act organized Kansas (in pink) and Nebraska Territory (yellow).
Northerners resented Pierce's attempted expansion of slavery through Kansas–Nebraska and Cuba. In this 1856 cartoon, a Free Soiler is held down by Pierce, Buchanan, and Cass while Douglas shoves "Slavery" (depicted as a black man) down his throat.
Partisan violence spilled into Congress in May 1856 when Free Soil Senator Charles Sumner was assaulted with a walking cane by Democratic Rep. Preston Brooks in the Senate chamber.
Portrait by George Peter Alexander Healy. Pierce, seen here in 1858, remained a vocal political figure after his presidency.

He alienated anti-slavery groups by signing the Kansas–Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act, and conflict between North and South persisted until southern states seceded and the American Civil War began in 1861.

Democratic Party (United States)

One of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States.

Andrew Jackson was the seventh president of the United States (1829–1837) and the first Democratic president.
Martin Van Buren was the eighth president of the United States (1837–1841) and the second Democratic president.
Senator Stephen A. Douglas
The 1885 inauguration of Grover Cleveland, the only president with non-consecutive terms
Leaders of the Democratic Party during the first half of the 20th century on 14 June 1913: Secretary of State William J. Bryan, Josephus Daniels, President Woodrow Wilson, Breckinridge Long, William Phillips, and Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, 32nd and 33rd presidents of the United States (1933–1945; 1945–1953), featured on a campaign poster for the 1944 presidential election
John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, 35th and 36th presidents of the United States (1961–1963, 1963–1969)
Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States (1977–1981), delivering the State of the Union Address in 1979
Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the United States (1993–2001), at The Pentagon in 1998
Barack Obama speaking to College Democrats of America in 2007
President Barack Obama meeting with the Blue Dog Coalition in the State Dining Room of the White House in 2009
Eleanor Roosevelt at the 1956 Democratic National Convention in Chicago
President Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law at the White House on March 23, 2010
Secretary of State John Kerry addressing delegates at the United Nations before signing the Paris Agreement on April 22, 2016
Shirley Chisholm was the first major-party African American candidate to run nationwide primary campaigns.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Immigration Act of 1965 as Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Senators Edward M. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy and others look on
Then-Senator Barack Obama shaking hands with an American soldier in Basra, Iraq in 2008
President Jimmy Carter and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1978
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meeting with President Barack Obama at Ben Gurion Airport in 2013
Self-identified Democrats (blue) versus self-identified Republicans (red) (January–June 2010 data)
Higher percentages of Democrats than Republicans are members of union households.
Elected at age 33, Jon Ossoff is currently the youngest member of the U.S. Senate.
Hillary Clinton was the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party.
Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg
Vice President Kamala Harris
Julián Castro served as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer
U.S. opinion on gun control issues is deeply divided along political lines, as shown in this 2021 survey.

In 1854, angry with the Kansas–Nebraska Act, anti-slavery Democrats left the party and joined Northern Whigs to form the Republican Party.