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Bleeding Kansas

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Definition: Bleeding Kansas refers to the time between 1854-58 when the Kansas territory was the site of much violence over whether the territory would be free or slave. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 set the scene by allowing the territory of Kansas to decide for itself whether it would be free or slave, a situation known as popular sovereignty. With the passage of the act, thousands of pro- and anti-slavery supporters flooded the state. Violent clashes soon occurred, especially once "border ruffians" crossed over from the South to sway the vote to the pro-slavery side.

One of the most publicized events that occurred in Bleeding Kansas was when on May 21, 1856 Border Ruffians ransacked Lawrence, Kansas which was known to be a staunch free-state area. One day later, violence occurred on the floor of the U.S. Senate when Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina attacked Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts with a cane after Sumner spoke out against Southerners responsible for violence in Kansas.

Several constitutions for the future state of Kansas were created, some pro- and some anti-slavery. The Lecompton Constitution was the most important pro-slavery Constitution. President James Buchanan actually wanted it to be ratified. However, the Constitution died. Kansas eventually entered the Union in 1861 as a free state.

Also Known As: Bloody Kansas or the Border War

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