Study Guide

Kansas-Nebraska Act Quotes

By U.S. Congress

  • Slavery

    […] when admitted as a State or States, the said Territory or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of the admission […] (1.1; 19.1)

    In other words, when Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory grow up and decide they want to be States, they can apply for admission regardless of whether they allow slavery or not. One little phrase, such ginormous ramifications.

    […] in all cases involving title to slaves, the said writs of error, or appeals shall be allowed and decided by the said Supreme Court, without regard to the value of the matter, property, or title in controversy […] (9.8; 27.8)

    So regardless of your personal feelings on slavery, judges, we're going to need you to judge court cases about slaves without considering the value of those slaves, monetary or intrinsic. Cool? Cool.

    And be it further enacted, That the provisions of an act entitled 'An act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from the service of their masters,' approved February twelve, seventeen hundred and ninety-three, and the provisions of the act entitled 'An act to amend, and supplementary to, the aforesaid act,' approved September eighteen, eighteen hundred and fifty, be, and the same are hereby declared to extend to and be in full force within the limits of said Territory of Nebraska. (10.1)

    Nothing to see here, folks, just making sure the people of Nebraska will be sure to return any escaped slaves they come across while enjoying their new territory, regardless of what their own stance on slavery might be. Same goes for Kansas in Section 28.

    That the Constitution, and all Laws of the United States which are not locally inapplicable, shall have the same force and effect within the said Territory of Kansas as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March sixth, eighteen hundred and twenty, which, being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with slavery in the States and Territories, as recognized by the legislation of eighteen hundred and fifty, commonly called the Compromise Measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void […] (32.4)

    And here it is, folks, the bomb-drop that repeals the Missouri Compromise in the Territory of Kansas. Same thing happens to Nebraska Territory in Section 14.

    […] it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States: Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to revive or put in force any law or regulation which may have existed prior to the act of sixth March, eighteen hundred and twenty, either protecting, establishing, prohibiting, or abolishing slavery. (14.4; 32.4)

    We're not just repealing the Missouri Compromise, here, folks. We're also saying that the people in each new State or Territory get to decide for themselves whether slavery is in or out. The only requirement as far as we the federal government are concerned is that whatever happens, it's constitutional. P.S. Don't just put old pre-Missouri Compromise laws back into effect. Everything's gotta be new.

  • Prejudice

    And Be it further enacted, That the executive power and authority in and over said Territory of Nebraska shall be vested in a Governor who shall hold his office for four years, and until his successor shall be appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the President of the United States. (2.1)

    Noticeably absent from this document is any mention of the word "she." We're not trying to start a pronoun war or anything, but it totally bites that a "she" wasn't even thrown in as a maybe. Women holding public office? Not today, Kansas and Nebraska.

    And be it further enacted, That every free white male inhabitant above the age of twenty-one years who shall be an actual resident of said Territory, and shall possess the qualifications hereinafter prescribed, shall be entitled to vote at the first election, and shall be eligible to any office within the said Territory […] (5.1; 23.1)

    Looks like voting and running for office are strictly for the twenty-one-and-over crowd. The free, white, male, legal resident twenty-one-and-over crowd, that is. Sorry, women, Native Americans, African Americans, and all the rest of you who aren't white and/or are too poor to be a legal resident of anywhere.

    And Be it further enacted, That the provisions of an act entitled "An act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from the service of their masters," approved February twelve, seventeen hundred and ninety-three, and the provisions of the act entitled " An act to amend, and supplementary to, the aforesaid act," approved September eighteen, eighteen hundred and fifty, be, and the same are hereby, declared to extend to and be in full force within the limits of said Territory of Nebraska. (10.1)

    So even if Nebraska (or Kansas, as lined out in Section 28) decides to vote no on slavery, they still have to help return escaped slaves to their rightful owners, regardless of how they feel about the whole thing. Guess 'popular sovereignty' doesn't overrule federally institutionalized caste-ness. That's right, caste-ness. It's a word now.

    […] it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States […] (14.4; 32.4)

    This sounds okay on the surface, all democratic and freedom-loving, until we realize that being free to not have slavery also means there's an option of having slavery, which really isn't a "free" thing at all, is it?

    And then another d'oh happens when we realize that the Constitution they speak of here didn't yet include crowd-pleasers like the 13th Amendment, 14th Amendment, 15th Amendment, 19th Amendment… You see where we're going here. A lot of groups of people weren't feeling "perfectly free" to do much of anything.

    And be it further enacted, That all treaties, laws, and other, engagements made by the government of the United States with the Indian tribes inhabiting the territories embraced within this act, shall be faithfully and rigidly observed, notwithstanding any thing contained in this act; and that the existing agencies and superintendencies of said Indians be continued with the same powers and duties which are now prescribed by law, except that the President of the United States may, at his discretion, change the location of the office of superintendent […] (37.1)

    So just in case you guys get any crazy ideas, Kansas and Nebraska, the feds are here to let you know that treaties between said feds and any and all Indian tribes will be obeyed. By you guys. And the Indians. Maybe not by us feds, though. We'll keep you posted.

  • Sovereignty

    […] nothing in this act contained shall be construed to impair the rights of person or property now pertaining to the Indians in said Territory so long as such rights shall remain unextinguished by treaty between the United States and such Indians, or include any territory which, by treaty with any Indian tribe, is not, without the consent of said tribe, to be included within the territorial line or jurisdiction of any State or Territory […] (1.1; 19.1)

    Basically, no state or territory can make laws infringing upon the rights of Native Americans, as long as those rights are already protected by treaties between various tribes and the U.S. Government.

    Now if those rights aren't protected by federal treaty… all bets are off. Infringe away.

    And be it further enacted, That the executive power and authority in and over said Territory of Nebraska shall be vested in a Governor who shall hold his office for four years, and until his successor shall be appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the President of the United States. The Governor shall reside within said Territory, and shall be commander-in-chief of the militia thereof. He may grant pardons and respites for offences against the laws of said Territory, and reprieves for offences against the laws of the United States, until the decision of the President can be made known thereon; he shall commission all officers who shall be appointed to office under the laws of the said Territory, and shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed. (2.1-2.3)

    Ever heard the argument that Governors make the best Presidents? That's because Governors are like little mini-Presidents. A lot of things that the POTUS is responsible for on the national level, a Governor is responsible for in his or her state or territory.

    Now, maybe not every Governor would make an awesome POTUS… but then again, maybe not every President would make a good Governor. So there.

    […] the right of suffrage and of holding office shall be exercised only by citizens of the United States and those who shall have declared on oath their intention to become such, and shall have taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of this act […] (5.1; 23.1)

    So if anyone's thinking of creeping over from Great Britain to run for office in Kansas and Nebraska with the intent of taking the country back for England, best think again. Because we don't allow those kind of shenanigans here.

    Anyone who wants to vote or hold office here has to be yay-USA all the way. Kansas and Nebraska might be all sovereign and stuff, but they still belong to the land of the free (cue bald eagle flying by in the distance).

    […] it being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of the United States […] (14.4; 32.4)

    Do what you want with your domestic institutions, Kansas and Nebraska. These are your territories, after all. Just make sure you don't do anything the United States Constitution wouldn't do.

    And be it further enacted, That the provisions of the act entitled 'An act respecting fugitives from justice, and persons escaping from, the service of their masters,' approved February twelfth, seventeen hundred and ninety-three, and the provisions of the act entitled 'An act to amend, and supplementary to, the aforesaid act,' approved September eighteenth, eighteen hundred and fifty, be, and the same are hereby, declared to extend to and be in full force within the limits of the said Territory of Kansas. (28.1)

    Okay, Nebraska and Kansas, we know we said you guys get to decide what you want to do about slavery, because you're sovereign and you're awesome, but if you could go ahead and return any escaped slaves to their owners regardless of what you decide, that'd be great.

  • Philosophical Viewpoints: American Democracy

    And be it further enacted, That the executive power and authority in and over said Territory of Nebraska shall be vested in a Governor who shall hold his office for four years, and until his successor shall be appointed and qualified, unless sooner removed by the President of the United States. (2.1)

    We're pleased to introduce everyone to the executive branch of Nebraska Territory. Many (many, many) details follow this statement, but this is our first glimpse at the territorial separation of powers. Kansas gets the same treatment in Section 19.

    And be it further enacted, That the legislative power and authority of said Territory shall be vested in the Governor and a Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly shall consist of a Council and House of Representatives. The Council shall consist of thirteen members, having the qualifications of voters, as hereinafter prescribed, whose term of service shall continue two years. The House of Representatives shall, at its first session, consist of twenty-six members, possessing the same qualifications as prescribed for members of the Council, and whose term of service shall continue one year. (4.1-4; 22.1-4)

    Just like at the federal level, the legislative branch of both territorial governments is bicameral. That means it's got two separate halves that work together to get stuff done, like a brain. The Governor has veto power, and he gets to break ties and stuff, but other than that, he's not supposed to get too-too involved in making laws.

    And be it further enacted, That every free white male inhabitant above the age of twenty-one years who shall be an actual resident of said Territory, and shall possess the qualifications hereinafter prescribed, shall be entitled to vote at the first election, and shall be eligible to any office within the said Territory; but the qualifications of voters, and of holding office, at all subsequent elections, shall be such as shall be prescribed by the Legislative Assembly […] (5.1; 23.1)

    We can't set up a government without saying who can be a part of it and who can vote for it. Open and fair elections are a hallmark of the American governmental system. For the first go-round of elections, the U.S. Congress has dictated who can participate, but after that? It's up to the territories. As long as, of course, whatever they decide is in accordance with the United States Constitution.

    And be it further enacted, That the judicial power of said Territory shall be vested in a Supreme Court, District Courts, Probate Courts, and in Justices of the Peace. The Supreme Court shall consist of a chief justice and two associate justices, any two of whom shall constitute a quorum, and who shall hold a term at the seat of government of said Territory annually, and they shall hold their offices during the period of four years, and until their successor shall be appointed and qualified. The said Territory shall be divided into three judicial districts, and a district court shall be held in each of said districts by one of the justices of the Supreme Court, at such times and places as may be prescribed by of law; and the said judges shall, after their appointments, respectively, reside in the districts which shall be assigned them. The jurisdiction of the several courts herein provided for, both appellate and original, and that of the probate courts and of justices of the peace, shall be as limited by law […] (9.1-4; 27.1-4)

    This is just the tip of the judiciary iceberg; Sections 9 and 27 go on for days about the specifics of how this branch of government should operate. But since judges are the ones who, you know, judge stuff that has to do with people's lives, it's especially important that the court system is laid out in a fair, balanced, and complete way.

    Mission accomplished, Kansas-Nebraska Act. No one's going to accuse this act of neglecting details.

    The Governor and a Secretary to be appointed as aforesaid, shall, before they act as such, respectively take an oath or affirmation before the District Judge or some Justice of the Peace in the limits of said Territory, duly authorized to administer oaths and affirmations by the laws now in force therein, or & before the Chief Justice, or some Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, to support the Constitution of the United States, and faithfully to discharge the duties of their respective offices, which said oaths, when so taken, shall be certified by the person by whom the same shall have been taken […] (12.2; 30.2)

    This line is like a firewall: one more level of protection against the fascists that are surely lurking right outside the territorial gates, waiting for the opportunity to slither in and take over. But by making sure the peeps in the executive branch (as well as peeps in other branches) swear to uphold and support the United States Constitution, there's a much better chance they won't let their territories become tyrannies.

  • Rules and Order

    And be it further enacted, That there shall be a Secretary of said Territory, who shall reside therein, and hold his office for five years, unless sooner removed by the President of the United States; he shall record and preserve all the laws and proceedings of the Legislative Assembly hereinafter constituted, and all the acts and proceedings of the Governor in his Executive Department; he shall transmit one copy of the laws and journals of the Legislative Assembly within thirty days after the end of each session, and one copy of the executive proceedings and official correspondence semi-annually, on the first days of January and July in each year, to the President of the United States, and two copies of the laws to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to be deposited in the libraries of Congress […] (3.1; 23.1)

    One of the most important aspects of job satisfaction is knowing what the expectations are. Like, specifically. If that's true, the Secretaries of these two new territories are gonna be thrilled.

    Previous to the first election, the Governor shall cause a census, or enumeration of the inhabitants and qualified voters of the several counties and districts of the Territory, to be taken by such persons and in such mode as the Governor shall designate and appoint […] (4.8; 22.8)

    The first elections, btw, are also supposed to be scheduled by the Governor. Sounds like these guys had a lot of chores on their charts.

    If any bill shall not be returned by the Governor within three days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Assembly, by adjournment, prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law. (6.4; 24.4)

    Ever had a parent say, "If this room isn't clean by Monday, I'm going to clean it for you"? Terrifying, right? No faster way to make sure we clean our room, right? Well, this is kind of the same thing: if the Governor doesn't put a quick sticker on approving or not approving bills, they're going to become laws without him, and he's going to have to live with the consequences of his inaction.

    No gold star if that happens, buddy.

    Writs of error, and appeals from the final decisions of said supreme court, shall be allowed, and may be taken to the Supreme Court of the United States, in the same manner and under the same regulations as from the Circuit Courts of the United States, where the value of the property, or the amount in controversy, to be ascertained by the oath or affirmation of either party, or other competent witness, shall exceed one thousand dollars; except only that in all cases involving title to slaves, the said writ of error or appeals shall be allowed and decided by said supreme court, without regard to the value of the matter, property, or title in controversy; and except also that a writ of error or appeal shall also be allowed to the Supreme Court of the United States, from the decision of the said supreme court created by this act, or of any judge thereof, or of the district courts created by this act, or of any judge thereof, upon any writ of habeas corpus, involving the question of personal freedom […] (9.8; 27.8)

    Basically, if any of this stuff happens, go ask Mom and Dad.

    And be it further enacted, That the Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Nebraska shall hold its first session at such time and place in said Territory as the Governor thereof shall appoint and direct; and at said first session, or as soon thereafter as they shall deem expedient, the Governor and Legislative Assembly shall proceed to locate and establish the seat of government for said Territory at such place as they may deem eligible; which place, however, shall thereafter be subject to be changed by the said Governor and Legislative Assembly. (13.1)

    The Nebraska Governor got to choose where his Legislative Assembly met; the Governor of Kansas didn't. Did it cause any sibling rivalry? Not really, because Kansas Governor Andrew Reeder said "whatever, federal government" and declared Pawnee the "temporary capital" before the first Legislative Assembly ever met.

  • Manifest Destiny

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all that part of the territory of the United States included within the following limits, except such portions thereof as are hereinafter expressly exempted from the operations of this act, to wit: beginning at a point in the Missouri River where the fortieth parallel of north latitude crosses the same; then west on said parallel to the east boundary of the Territory of Utah, the summit of the Rocky Mountains; thence on said summit northwest to the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude; thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the territory of Minnesota; thence southward on said boundary to the Missouri River; thence down the main channel of said river to the place of beginning, be, and the same is hereby, created into a temporary government by the name of the Territory Nebraska […] (1.1)

    The Nebraska Territory took up what we now know as Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. It was huge, and it, together with BFF Kansas Territory, connected the last dots between the eastern states and the western states and territories.

    […] nothing in this act contained shall be construed to inhibit the government of the United States from dividing said Territory into two or more Territories, in such manner and at such time as Congress shall deem convenient and proper, or from attaching a portion of said Territory to any other State or Territory of the United States […] (1.1; 19.1)

    Heads up, territories: you may be helping the United States fulfill its expansion destiny and everything, but no guarantees those borders we gave you are going to stay that way forever, okay?

    And be it further enacted, That all that part of the Territory of the United States included within the following limits, except such portions thereof as are hereinafter expressly exempted from the operations of this act, to wit, beginning at a point on the western boundary of the State of Missouri, where the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude crosses the same; thence west on said parallel to the eastern boundary of New Mexico; thence north on said boundary to latitude thirty-eight; thence following said boundary westward to the east boundary of the Territory of Utah, on the summit of the Rocky Mountains; thence northward on said summit to the fortieth parallel of latitude, thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the State of Missouri; thence south with the western boundary of said State to the place of beginning, be, and the same is hereby, created into a temporary government by the name of the Territory of Kansas […] (19.1)

    Originally, the area that became Kansas and Nebraska Territories petitioned to just be one huge Nebraska Territory. The 33rd Congress decided instead to make it into two territories, though Nebraska Territory was still totally enormous by anyone's standards.

    […] nothing in this act contained shall be construed to impair the rights of person or property now pertaining the Indians in said Territory' so long as such rights shall remain unextinguished by treaty between the United States and such Indians, or include any territory which, by treaty with any Indian tribe, is not, without the consent of said tribe, to be included within the territorial line or jurisdiction of any State or Territory; but all such territory shall excepted out of the boundaries, and constitute no part of the Territory of Kansas, until said tribe shall signify their assent to the President of the United States to be included within the said Territory of Kansas or to affect the authority of the government of the United States make any regulations respecting such Indians, their lands, property, or other rights, by treaty, law, or otherwise, which it would have been competent to the government to make if this act had never passed. (19.1)

    Hey, people who might already live here and not want to be organized, this is the U.S. Government. Just wanted to let you know that we're here and we're officially setting up shop. All you tribes can join us, or you can not, but either way, no matter what you say, we're here to stay.