Missouri-Kansas Civil War, 1854-1865 Lawlessness and violence characterized the territorial period in Kansas—the years from 1854to 1861--and continued even more virulently after the outbreak of the Civil War. The earlier period is sometimes referred to as “Bleeding Kansas,” a description sympathetic to the abolitionist cause, in fact are words suffused with propaganda intent. The events of the period, despite current, common interpretations, demonstrate violent actions by the abolitionists in Kansas Territory so pronounced and profound that they were tantamount to treason against the U.S. Federal government.With the exception of Jay Monaghan’s book, Civil War on the WesternBorder, most works sidestep the territorial period and focus on the two periods independently. But when you do that, you are only telling half thestory,and the meaning of the Border War, what the combined periods are referred to, becomes lost in the shuffle. How can you know why things are happening from 1861 through 1865, the way they do, unless you know about all the violence and contention that happened in the preceding seven years and how they are interrelated? First, it’s important to note that what was happening in Missouri and Kansas in 1854 through 1865 was happening also in the northeast United States as well. There was a growing movement in this nation toward the disregard of law. The abolitionists who defended this lawlessness said they were regulating their behavior in accordance with what they called a “Higher Law” But from a rational, legal viewpoint, there was no higher law than the Constitution of the United States of America, which defines the nation’s laws. Thus, when you abandon the law, you begin to participate in anarchy, and that’s what happened in Kansas during the Territorial period. Aiding the abolitionist lawbreakers was a Northern press that through the 1850s and 1860s 1
increasingly promoted the lawlessbehavior of abolitionists in Territorial Kansas andthe nationintheir newspaper articles and its propaganda tone and slanted views.The Border War started in 1854 with the passage of the Kansas Nebraska Bill. Senator Stephen A. Douglas introduced the bill in Congress, and its intention was to form two, new territories, Kansas and Nebraska, that would eventually become states. The idea was to have the inhabitants of the two territories decide for themselves whether they would be slave-holding or free territories, whether you could have slaves in the new territories or not have them. But the real reason for the Kansas-Nebraska bill being passed was to forward the development of a transcontinental railroad through one or the other of these two new territories. And the terminus of this railroad would be Chicago. That town was Stephen Douglas’ hometown. Naturally, the enterprising Douglas wanted the railroad to benefit Chicago and Illinois.