1.Kansas-Nebraska Act: The Lawthat Ripped America in TwoA painting of John Brown and the anti-slavery movement in Kansas. Attacks on pro-slavery residents were led by Brown in Lawrence, Kansas. Photo from WikimediaOn May 24, 1856, anti-slavery crusader John Brown rode into the Pottawatomie Valley in the new territory of Kansas. Brown was intent on sending a message to his pro-slavery neighbors. With him were seven men, including four of his sons. An hour before midnight, Brown came to the cabin of a Tennessee emigrant named James Doyle and shot him dead. After butchering two of Doyle's sons withbroadswords, the party moved on to kill two other men.The five pro-slavery settlers were not merely casualties of Brown's bloody-mindedness. In some ways,they were also victims of a law described by historians William and Bruce Catton as possibly "the most fateful single piece of legislation in American history." 2.Law repealed Missouri CompromiseIronically, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, passed by Congress in 1854, was meant to quiet the furious national argument over slavery. It gave the new Western territories the right to decide on their own whether to accept the practice. Yet by repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had
outlawed slavery everywhere in the Louisiana Purchase north of Missouri's southern border, the new law inflamed the emotions it was intended to calm. In the end, it helped wrench the country apart. This political map of the United States shows the area of the free and slave states and the territory open to slavery or freedom by the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Photo from Library of Congress. The author of the bill was Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. Douglas was mildly opposed to slavery in principle, but he largely regarded the issue as a dangerous distraction.