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The Election of 1856Americans were still divided over the Kansas issue as the election of 1856 approached, so parties nominated Kansas-neutral candidates in the hopes of overcoming the growing sectionalism. The Whig Party had by this time dissolved into Northern and Southern factions and was unable to agree on a candidate. Northern Whigs instead united with Free-Soil Partymembers and Unionist Democrats to form the new Republican Partyand nominate adventurerJohn C. Frémont. Democrats, on the other hand, rallied behind the relatively unknown James Buchanan. Whereas Frémont ran on a platform expressly opposed to the westward expansion of slavery, Buchanan campaigned for popular sovereignty. The nativist Know-Nothing Partyalso entered ex-president Millard Fillmorein the race, campaigning on a platform to stem the influx of Irish and German immigrants. In the end, Buchanan defeated his rivals soundly.Northern Backlash The Dred Scott ruling only exacerbated sectional tensions, however. Whereas Southerners hailed it as a landmark decision that would finally bring peace, Northerners were appalled. Thousands in the North took to the streets to protest the decision, and many questioned the impartiality of the Southern-dominated Supreme Court. Several state legislatures essentially nullified the decision and declared that they would never permit slavery within their borders, no matter who ordered them to do so. Buchanan himself was implicated when it was discovered that he had pressured the Northern justice into voting with the Southerners. Arguably, the Dred Scottdecision had almost as great an effect on Northern public opinion as Uncle Tom’s Cabin.The Lecompton ConstitutionMeanwhile, the bleeding had not stopped in Kansas, where abolitionist settlers and border ruffians, unable to agree on a territorial government, established two separate ones—a Free-Soil legislature in Topeka and a proslavery legislature in Lecompton. After the Free-Soilers boycotted a rigged election to draft a state constitution in 1857, proslavery settlers were given a free hand to write the document as they sought fit. When they finished this Lecompton Constitution, they then applied for statehood as a slave state.President Buchanan accepted the constitution immediately and welcomed Kansas into the Union. In 1858, however, the Republican-dominated Congress refused to admit Kansas on the grounds that border ruffians had rigged the election. Stephen Douglas declared that Kansas would be admitted only after honest elections were held to determine whether the state 1
would be free or slave. The Lecompton Constitution was put to a special vote in the territory the following year and was soundly defeated. Kansas eventually entered the Union as a free state in 1861.