On Jan. 29, 1861, Kansas joined the Union as the 34th state. By the time it joined, six states had already seceded. The status of Kansas had been one of the precipitating causes of the war. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act had provided that those two territories would decide for themselves whether to allow slavery or be free states. Following a violent campaign in which it took on the nickname “Bleeding Kansas,” in 1859, Kansas approved a Free constitution. Once the slave states had seceded from the Union, there were enough votes in the U.S. Senate for Kansas to become a state.
During the debate over the status of Kansas, many people came to the state specifically to determine its status. Across the border Missourians came and voted, and from afar John Brown came to lead an armed militia. Abolitionist preacher Henry Ward Beecher from New England sent “Beecher Bibles” – Sharps Rifles – to aid the abolitionists.
- Is such cross-border politicking appropriate when trying to allow a state to decide its own fate? How might you stop people from voting illegally by crossing state lines?
- How would you compare the tactics of abolitionists with those, for instance, of Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mahatma Gandhi? Which do you think is more effective?
John Steuart Curry. 1937-39 Tragic Prelud [Digital image]. Retrieved from <vahistorical.org>.