● James Buchanan: Fifteenth President. Serve 1857–1861. A Pennsylvania Democrat, Buchanan had a storied career as a U.S. senator and representative, a Secretary of State, and an ambassador to both Russia and Britain. He essentially
won his party’s nomination due to being abroad for so long, meaning he wasn’t tied to any of the contentious domestic issues of the 1850s. He supported the Dred Scott ruling, and the entry of Kansas into the Union as a slave state. Declined to run for a second term. Often ranked as the worst president for exacerbating regional tensions in the runup to the Civil War and then doing nothing to stop secession. ● Henry Ward Beecher: An abolitionist and clergyman. In response to proslavery “border ruffians” moving into Kansas from Missouri, he helped antislavery settlers establish footholds in the state and also funneled them rifles. Beecher attacked the Compromise of 1850 in Shall We Compromise, arguing that a Christian’s duty to feed and shelter slaves meant that liberty and slavery were compatible. During the Civil War, Lincoln sent him on a European speaking tour, rallying public support in order to prevent Britain and France from recognizing the Confederacy. ● Bleeding Kansas: The nickname for a period of bloody conflict in what became Kansas. Lasted 1855–1859. Proslavery and antislavery forces engaged in a number of battles, massacres, and raids in order to determine whether Kansas would be a free or slave state. Due to decrying slavery in Kansas, Senator Charles Sumner was nearly beaten to death on the Senate floor by Preston Brooks. Due to the objections of Southern states, Kansas would not be admitted to the United States until the start of the Civil War. See: John Brown. ● Lecompton Constitution: A proposed proslavery constitution for Kansas. It protected slaveholders and excluded free African Americans from the protections of the Bill of Rights. It encountered intense debate in Congress, as President Buchanan supported it and Senator Douglas vehemently opposed it. Antislavery forces boycotted the ratification process, prompting a re-vote; this second vote was then boycotted by the proslavery forces, allowing Kansas to be admitted to the Union as a free state. ● Dred Scott v. Sandford : A landmark 1857 Supreme Court case that was a major contributing factor to the outbreak of the Civil War. Dred Scott, a slave in Missouri, spent years in Wisconsin and Illinois with his master. After his master’s death, Dred Scott sued for freedom. The Court ruled that all African Americans (free or slave) were not citizens. Taney also ruled that Congress had no right to deny citizens of their individual property, and therefore the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional for stripping slave owners of their rightful property once they moved north.
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