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The Kansas-Nebraska Act and the “Kansas Question”

On the National Stage
Within the Territory

View Complete Bibliography

On the National Stage

Ayres, Carol Dark, Lincoln and Kansas: Partnership for Freedom. Manhattan, Kans.: Sunflower University Press, 2001. Abraham Lincoln's brief 1859 trip from Elwood to Leavenworth, K.T., received relatively slight press coverage at the time, but Ayres marshaled the available primary and secondary sources to chronicle that story in detail in two of her six chapters; the others serve as historical context.

Fehrenbacher, Don E. The South and Three Sectional Crises. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980. The author's three crises are the Missouri Compromise, the Wilmot Proviso, and “Kansas, Republicanism and the Crisis of Union.”

Gara, Larry. The Liberty Line: The Legend of the Underground Railroad. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1961. In this important study for the famed UGRR, Gara questioned the railroads actual importance, with respect to real numbers and impact.

Gienapp, William E. "The Crime against Sumner: The Caning of Charles Sumner and the Rise of the Republican Party." Civil War History 25 (September 1979): 218-45. The success of this fledgling party was by no means certain in 1855 and early 1856; but Congressman Preston Brooks’ May 22, 1856, "assault was of critical importance in transforming the struggling Republican party into a major political force."

Gladstone, Thomas H. The Englishman in Kansas; or, Squatter Life and Border Warfare . . . With Intro. by Fred. Law Olmstead. 1857. Reprint. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971. This edition includes and introduction by historian James A. Rawley.

Hart, Charles. “The Natural Limits of Slavery Expansion: Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 34 (Spring 1968): 32-50. Hart examined the “survivability” issue with respect to these western territories in light of the contemporary evidence (i.e., 1854 congressional debates), rather than through “historical hindsight,” and concluded “many people living in the 1850s were convinced that Kansas and Nebraska were well within the natural limits of slavery expansion.”

Hodder, Frank Heywood. “The Genesis of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.” Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin for 1912. Madison: State Historical Society, 1913. Hodder, a professor of history at the University of Kansas, focused on Senator Stephen Douglas, a typical American politician of the 1850s who “was controlled by devotion to the development of the West.”

Hodder, Frank Heywood. “The Railroad Background of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 12 (June 1925): 3-22. The author began by calling attention to the railroad as “the most important factor controlling” the settlement of the West and the “principal means of its development”; thus, Senator Douglas’s interest in them should not be surprising.

Hodder, Frank Heywood. “Some Aspects of the English Bill for the Admission of Kansas.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1907-1908 10 (1908): 224-232. In essence, provided for resubmission of the controversial Lecompton Constitution; Kansas voters overwhelmingly rejected the pro-slave document at the August 2, 1858, referendum.

Holliday, Cyrus K. “The Presidential Campaign of 1856—The Fremont Campaign.” Kansas Historical Collections, 1891-1896 5 (1896): 48-68. For his KSHS presidential address, delivered January 20, 1891, focused on the Republican Party’s first presidential campaign in which the Kansas Question was the central issue.

Johannsen, Robert W. Stephen A. Douglas. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973. An important biography of the "Little Giant" who played a pivotal role in the sectional debate throughout the 1850s.

Johannsen, Robert W. “Stephen A. Douglas, `Harper's Magazine,' and Popular Sovereignty.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 45 (March 1959): 606-631. Holds that popular sovereignty (the principle of letting people of the territories vote slavery up or down) was Douglas’ main motivation for the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Lowell, James H. “The Romantic Growth of a Law Court.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1919-1922 15 (1922): 590-597. Some early (1850s) legal history with special attention to Holton, Jackson County.

Malin, James C. “Aspects of the Nebraska Question, 1852-1854.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 20 (May 1953): 385-391. While reflecting Malin’s “needless war” revisionism, this article focuses on issues and individuals involved in the pre-Douglas (Kansas-Nebraska) bill efforts to covertly make all of Nebraska Territory a slave state.

Malin, James C. “The Motives of Stephen A. Douglas in the Organization of Nebraska Territory: A Letter Dated December 17, 1853.” Kansas Historical Quarterly 19 (November 1951): 321-353. The article examines the Illinois senator's commitment to the north-central route for Pacific railroad as motivation for the Kansas-Nebraska bill, quoting extensively from the accounts of Douglas contemporaries James W. Sheahan and James M. Cutts, and concludes with a reprint of the Douglas letter.

Malin, James C. “The Nebraska Question: A Ten Year Record, 1844-1854.” Nebraska History 35 (March 1954): 1-15. That portion of the “Indian County” destined to become the territories of Nebraska and Kansas on May 30, 1854, was first call just “Nebraska,” and, according to Professor Malin, “the original focus on Nebraska, the Platte Valley, and the Pacific railroad, was lost in the controversy over slavery.”

Malin, James C. The Nebraska Question, 1852-1854. Lawrence, Kans.: James C. Malin, 1953. Malin began the work that resulted in this volume as a student of Frank Hodder’s at the University of Kansas; it consists of a detailed examination of the evolution of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Meerse, David E. “Presidential Leadership, Suffrage Qualifications, and Kansas: 1857.” Civil War History 24 (December 1978): 293-313. Meerse discussed the traditional view of a failed and inept Buchanan administration and its confrontation with Governor Robert Walker; after reexamining the affair, the author concludes that Buchanan deserves more credit for decisive action.

Pierson, Michael D., "‘All Southern Society Is Assailed by the Foulest Charges’: Charles Sumner’s ‘The Crime against Kansas’ and the Escalation of Republican Anti-slavery Rhetoric." New England Quarterly 68 (December 1995): 531-557. Pierson provides a detailed analysis of the famous May 1856 speech, that provoked a vicious physical assault on the senator, as well as some political context for Sumner and the nation in the early 1850s.

Rawley, James. Race and Politics: "Bleeding Kansas" and the Coming of the Civil War. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1969. Concentrating on the years 1854-1858 when “Kansas was the keynote of United States politics,” Rawley argues that America was a land of “racialists” and thus race, not slavery, was the fundamental issue to be settled in Kansas Territory.

Rhodes, Charles Harker. “The Significance of Kansas History.” Kansas Historical Collections 11 (1909-1910): 1-4. Its political struggles of 1850s, Harker argued, made Kansas history unique.

Siebert, Wilbur H. The Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom. New York: Macmillan Co., 1898. A classic, traditional account of the railroad's activities and its central place in the abolitionist movement.

Smith, Elbert B. The Presidency of James Buchanan. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1976. Kansas issues were central during Buchanan administration (1857-1861); this is a volume in the press’s “American Presidency Series.”

U. S. Congress, House of Representatives. Report of the Special Committee Appointed to Investigate the Troubles in Kansas; With the Views of the Minority of Said Committee. Report No. 200, 34th Congress, 1st Session, 1856. An elaborate report, giving majority and minority views. Congressional publications, including the Globe, are replete with items pertaining to the Kansas question during the 1850s.

Weisberger, Bernard A. “The Newspaper Reporter and the Kansas Imbroglio.” Mississippi Valley Historical Review 36 (March 1950): 633-656. Making reference to several specific territorial Kansas journalists, the author argues that with their “turbulent and thunderous name-calling” these writers helped make the Kansas Question “one of absolute rights and wrongs.”

Within the Territory

Adams, Franklin G. “The Capitals of Kansas.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1903-1904 8 (1904): 331-351. The late journalist, freestater, and first really permanent director/secretary of the KSHS discussed the capitals of Fort Leavenworth, Shawnee Mission, Pawnee, Lecompton, Minneola, and finally Topeka, with information on the construction of state capitol.

Baltimore, Lester B. “Benjamin F. Stringfellow: Fight for Slavery on the Missouri Border.” Missouri Historical Review 62 (October 1967): 14-29. The Virginian-born (1816) Stringfellow, who moved to Missouri in 1838, took the extremist position in the defense of slavery in western Missouri and was highly critical of Leavenworth “abolitionists” as early as July 1854.

Brewerton, George Douglas.The War in Kansas. A Rough Trip to the Border, Among New Homes and a Strange People. New York: Derby & Jackson, 1856. The author of this 400-page book claimed to be reporting the truth of the important events of the day in Kansas and to be on “neither side of this unhappy quarrel.”

Gihon, John H. Geary and Kansas. Governor Geary's Administration in Kansas. With a Complete History of the Territory. Until 1857. Embracing a Full Account of its Discovery, Geography, Soil, Rivers, Climate, Products; Its Organization as a Territory . . . Philadelphia: J. H. C. Whiting, 1857. Dr. Gihon was Geary's private secretary.

Johnson, David W. “Freesoilers for God: Kansas Newspaper Editors and the Antislavery Crusade.” Kansas History 2 (Summer 1979): 74-85. The author highlights more than half a dozen free state advocates in territorial Kansas, including George W. Brown, Josiah Miller, John Speer and T. Dwight Thacher.

Joy, Mark S. “Caleb May: Kansas Territorial Pioneer and Politician.” The Prairie Scout 5 (1985): 94-117. May, a freestater from Atchison County, was one of two men to serve as a delegate in three Kansas constitutional conventions.

Learnard, O. E. “Organization of the Republican Party.” Kansas Historical Collection 6 (1897-1900): 312-316. Lawrence’s Oscar E. Learnard’s account of the meeting at Osawatomie in May 1859 that birthed the Kansas Republican Party.

Lewis, Lloyd. “Propaganda and the Kansas-Missouri War.” Missouri Historical Review 34 (October 1939): 9-17. After the Civil War, Missouri was identified in the North as “a semi-hostile community,” according to Lewis, in part because antebellum Northerners held “superior propoganda skills” and won that “war” too.

Martin, George W. The First Two Years of Kansas; or, Where, when and how the Missouri bushwhacker, the Missouri train and bank robber, and those who stole themselves rich in the name of liberty, were sired and reared . . . Topeka, Kans.: State Printing Office, 1907. A speech delivered several times in 1906 and 1907 based on early newspapers and Martin’s interviews with early settlers.

McClure, James R. “Taking the Census and Other Incidents in 1855.” Kansas Historical Collection, 1903-1904 8 (1904): 227-250. The recollections of an Indiana lawyer and “Douglas Democrat” who removed to Kansas in October 1854.

Mullis, Tony R. “John Geary, Kansas, and the 1856 National Election.” Heritage of the Great Plains 25 (Winter 1992): 13-24. Governor Geary's timely “quelling of violence in `Bleeding Kansas',” although only a temporary pacification, “virtually assured James Buchanan and the Democratic Party success in November.”

Robinson, Sara T. D. Kansas: Its Exterior and Interior Life: Including a full view of its Settlement, Political History, Social life, Climate, Soil, Production, Scenery, etc. 1856. Reprint. Lawrence: Kansas Heritage Press, 1990. Although its biases are obvious, this is an interesting and useful account by the wife of Dr. Charles Robinson, free-state leader and first state governor.

Shenton, James P. Robert John Walker: A Politician from Jackson to Lincoln. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961. Walker, a prominent Pennsylvania Democrat, accepted appointed as territorial governor of Kansas in 1857.

Smith, Robert Emmett. “Indian Agent William Gay: A Victim of Bleeding Kansas.” Westport Historical Quarterly 10 (December 1974): 74-85. A native of New York and a 51-year-old father of two, Gay accepted a position in Kansas Territory in early 1856 and was murdered by some of Buford’s South Carolina Company in western Missouri in June 1856.

Tinkcom, Harry M. John White Geary: Soldier-Statesman, 1819-1873. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1940. Territorial governor (1856-1857) who, despite his Democratic background, developed close ties with many free-state leaders.

Tomlinson, William P. Kansas in Eighteen Fifty-eight. Being Chiefly a History of the Recent Troubles in the Territory. New York: H. Dayton, Publisher, 1859. Dedicated to “Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, the unwavering friend of Kansas,” Tomlinson’s was an “unwavering” defense of the Free-State cause in the wake of the “Fort Scott Difficulties” of 1858; he also provided interesting descriptions of settlements and developments from Lawrence south to Fort Scott.

Wolff, Gerald W. The Kansas-Nebraska Bill: Party, Section, and the Coming of the Civil War. New York: Revisionist Press, 1977. Based on his 1969 University of Iowa doctoral dissertation, Wolff’s Kansas-Nebraska Bill examined voting records of the Thirty-third Congress on Homestead and tariff issues and concluded that party spirit or loyalty survived the divisive Kansas-Nebraska debate.

Wolff, Gerald W. “Party and Section: The Senate and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill.” Civil War History 18 (December 1972): 293-311. Wolff’s scalogram analysis of seven senatorial votes demonstrated a “partial triumph of party allegiances over sectional considerations.


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