- With newly acquired California and Oregon on the other side of the US, there came a need for a transcontinental railroad. The North and South wanted to build two separate railroads, but there was only enough money to build one. Whichever section the railroad would be would gain wealth, population, and influence. For the Southern railroad route, they found it necessary to purchase a small chunk of Mexican territory (the Gadsden Purchase for $10 million). After purchasing this, the South insisted that they get the railroad. The only possible northern railroad route would have to go through the unorganized territory of Nebraska. North wanted to organize Nebraska (but South against it, because it would create another free state).
- 1854, Illinois Senator, Stephen A. Douglas wanted the eastern terminus of the railroad to be in Chicago. Douglas came up with a scheme that would get the support of the South. The proposed Territory of Nebraska would be broken into two territories, Kansas and Nebraska. Their status regarding slavery would be settled by popular sovereignty - a Democratic concept to which Douglas and his western constituents loved. Kansas would presumably choose to be a slave state and Nebraska would presumably be a free state.
- But, in order to put this Kansas-Nebraska Act into law, they would have to go against the Missouri Compromise of 1820 (forbid slavery above 36'30) - and Kansas and Nebraska were above this line.
- President Pierce was for the K-N Act. Although Northerners were against it, Douglas (the great orator) rammed his bill through Congress.
- Douglas (a heartless beast) didn't give a damn about slavery, but he didn't realize how much the North was morally opposed to it. The K-N bill got the North riled up.
- This Kansas-Nebraska Act would lead to the fight over Kansas. Radical abolitionists and proslaveryites would tried to take control (through popular sovereignty) of Kansas. Lecompton Constitution. Kansas wouldn't be admitted a state for quite a while. More broadly, it raised conflict between the North and South, and led to the Civil War.