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  • Philip Drucker

Communique "Blood and Free-Soil" 9-8-2021


Has anyone else other than me gotten up in the morning thinking about the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854? You know, the one where due to an influx of new territory mostly due to the 1805 Louisiana Purchase and America’s quest under manifest destiny to extend from coast to coast that Americans eager to claim their own little patch of probably barren but hopefully close to water, private property heaven again began to as Americans even today tend to do, go west.


It’s a bit difficult to imagine, but in the first half of the 19th Century our western border for the average settler meant relocating in what we call today Middle America, and in 1854 Kansas and Nebraska would have been the destinations of choice. Although California was granted statehood in 1850, the “Eureka” state was still a dream/trek too far for the larger part of restless Americans with the pioneer spirit.


Similarly, it is hard to visualize that one of the concerns of settlers was whether to live in a state where slavery was still legal, or a free state where it was illegal to own and treat another human being as if they were property.


With our house still divided over the issue of slavery, Congress struck a deal with the Southern slave owning states to allow the new territories in the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase to enter the Union as free states in return for Missouri remaining a slave owning state. Not surprisingly, this new law was called the Missouri Compromise of 1850.


Problem was, when it came time to admit Nebraska as a free state, the pro-slavery advocates insisted on breaking off a part of Nebraska Territory, called it Kansas with the hope that Kansas, now a separate state allowing slavery.


This was far more problematic than it may first appear, as it was assumed by most Americans, at least in the form of public sentiment, that slavery was on the way out and by the sheer march of time and temper, America eventually became a nation of free men and women.


The Kansas-Nebraska Act did not reflect this and indeed was a sure sign the proponents of slavery were far from willing to concede their “rights” to own and abuse persons of color as they saw fit.


And so when it came time for each state to enter into the Union, Nebraska, a lock to become a free state, and Kansas, which was still up for grabs, the debate began to center around a theory of American politics then as now called the right of popular sovereignty.


An outgrowth of self-rule by the people, popular sovereignty gives the state the power to delegate in this case the of determination of the state’s status to individuals to determine their own fate, in the case of Nebraska and Kansas by popular vote. At first, popular sovereignty doesn’t sound too bad of an idea, but as with all good intentions, or not, things soon went, well, let’s just say south, as in Missouri south.


For what happened in Kansas on the way to the ballot box, was an outbreak of secret societies and informal militias dedicated to turning Kansas into a slave owning state proliferated.


As election day came closer, and still without any formal rules as to who could and could not vote, mind you with or without IDs that didn’t exist, the pro-slavery contingent of, as history recorded getting ever crazier and more unhinged by the day in their zeal to subjugate a specific group of human beings based on nothing more than the color of their skin, hatched a plot to ship into Kansas as many Missourians as they could to ensure victory by the forces of evil.


Led by a long lost and mostly forgotten figure, Missouri Senator David Rice Atchison, a natural born racist, slave and plantation owner, and leader of a terrorist group called the Border Ruffians, Missourians, 5000 strong who were not above committing acts of intimidation and violence against abolitionists and free-soilers alike as part of a series of anti-freedom/terrorist events executed during the days referred to as “Bleeding Kansas”.


Ever the ideologue on the wrong side of history, Atchison called on pro-slavery Missourians to uphold slavery by force if necessary and "to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the district" if necessary. And bleed the abolitionists did.


On election day, March 30, 1855 and with defeat looming large, Atchison and his merry band of Ruffians seized all of the polling places at gunpoint, stuffed the ballot boxes with fraudulent pro-slavery candidate ballots and as such fascist thugs often do, declared victory for the pro-slavery forces who dutifully did their job with a clearly illegal legislature making Kansas a slave state.


Once in control, Atchison and his protoplasmic band of MAGA/QAnon/GQP radicals began instituting pro-slavery legislation and laws that made questioning Kansas’ status as a slave state a felony and aiding a fugitive slave not only a felony, but a punishable by death capital offense at that.


But that was then, (was it?) and this is now. In another harbinger of the future, the freemen and abolitionists kept going west and homesteading in Kansas. With numbers and proper organization on their side, on January 29, 1861, after winning the battle for the legislature in a later election, Kansas was finally admitted into the Union as a free state.


Meanwhile, if you are wondering where was the quite literally, Federal cavalry all this time, well, in a cowardly and craven act of appeasement, President Buchanan, knowing of the illegal, unconstitutional and just bad for business takeover, decided to respect the results of the election as legitimate.


There is little doubt this blatant act of presidential malpractice and concession threw yet another log on the now already all but inevitable battle for succession culminating in the US Civil War.


Funny part is, as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the Democratic Party led by a somewhat familiar guy named Senator Stephen Douglas, loses Illinois, the last Northern Democratic state in their corner along with the 1860 Presidential election to the candidate of the newly minted and abolitionist Republican Party led by a very familiar figure indeed, our 16th President Abraham Lincoln.


With the Democratic Party becoming a regional, southern party catering to racism and hoping the “South would rise again” mentality, the DEMs would only win one presidential election between the Lincoln presidency, and the end of the century.


Sad story, no? Sound familiar?


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