Study Guide

Kansas-Nebraska Act Compare and Contrast

By U.S. Congress

  • Abraham Lincoln's "Peoria Speech" (October 16, 1854)

    Guess who really didn't like Stephen Douglas' inclusion of the "popular sovereignty" stuff in the Kansas-Nebraska Act? That's right – future POTUS Abraham Lincoln.

    Honest Abe gave this speech just a few short months after the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed, and it's a doozy. Anyone who was unclear about his position on the issue before this speech surely wasn't afterwards.

    Lincoln and Douglas, though friends, disagreed on oodles of stuff. By the time they ran against each other for President in 1860, this speech was already six years old and they'd had all kinds of debates and whatnot since. But that doesn't make this speech any less important (or less eloquent).

    Prepare to be swept away by the words of the Great Emancipator as he shares with us some helpful history lessons and the most comprehensive burn on slavery of its time.

  • Charles Sumner's "The Crime Against Kansas" (May 19-20, 1856)

    Here's something we don't see every day: A United States Senator being caned (i.e. beaten up with a walking stick) into unconsciousness on the Senate floor by a United States Congressman.

    But that's what happened two days after Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner gave this beauty of a speech to his colleagues in Washington.

    In addition to uber-eloquently arguing that the soon-to-be state of Kansas should abolish slavery, he delivered a severe verbal smackdown to Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina.

    Senator Douglas was there to defend himself against the harsh attack; Senator Butler was not.

    And so, all irritated and puffed up on behalf of his hometown pal, South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks took it upon himself to assault poor old Charles while the rest of the Senate looked on in stunned disbelief.

    Not surprisingly, this ridiculous act of violence totally irritated a lot of folks in the North, and it's one of many things that kicked the Civil War party planning committee into high gear.

    It took Senator Sumner five hours over two days to give this speech. It's not short, but it sure is beautifully written. Even the insults are poetic and clever.

    Though maybe if he'd known what was going to happen, Sumner would have toned them down just a tad. Nobody likes getting the stuffing knocked out of them by a colleague.

  • Andrew Jackson's "On Indian Removal" (December 6, 1830)

    Slavery strife wasn't the only issue plaguing the people of Kansas and Nebraska during the 1850s.

    As a result of the Indian Removal Act, passed in 1830, many Native American tribes had been forcibly relocated from their ancestral homelands to land west of the Mississippi, known then as Indian Territory. Some of those folks ended up in what came to be known as—that's right—the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas.

    (Adding insult to injury, most of those tribes were relocated again in the late 19th century.)

    This speech is President Andrew Jackson's justification of the 1830 Act, and though he uses words like "benevolent" and "happy" in his speech, we have a feeling a lot of people affected by the Act were feeling anything but.

  • Constitution of the State of Nebraska (March 1, 1866)

    Slam-bolted together with serious speed by the Nebraska Legislature and approved by the Governor a mere five days later, the State's first Constitution might be one of the fastest government documents ever created in the history of the United States.

    Of course, speed has its price, and though this Constitution did some good stuff like prohibit slavery and uphold the freedoms written into the U.S. Constitution, it was replaced by a spiffier new version in 1875.

  • Wyandotte Constitution (July 29, 1859)

    It took Kansas four tries to write up a constitution that the voters as well as the U.S. House, Senate, and President would approve, thus allowing it to finally become a state.

    The Wyandotte Constitution is that document. Its predecessors, the Topeka, Lecompton, and Leavenworth Constitutions (named for where they were written), all failed.

    So what made Wyandotte so successful?

    Well, by 1859, when this puppy was drafted, most of the pro-slavery folks had been driven out of the state, and it was kind of a foregone conclusion that Kansas would be free. So 1861's Congress didn't have to hem and haw over that whole mess. (The fact that the Confederacy's Representatives and Senators had seceded and thus weren't involved in the proceedings probably helped too.)

    In addition to prohibiting slavery, this Constitution, which is still the Constitution of Kansas today (with a few tweaks), also did some other interesting and neato stuff.

    Like what, you say? Check this out: It gave women the right to own property and limited voting rights, both of which were pretty much unheard of back then. It also changed Kansas' western border from its location along the Continental Divide in what we now call Colorado to its present-day location.

    It was a combo of coolness that the voters and elected officials could get behind, it's still around today, and it's definitely worth a read.