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Historical Highlights

The Kansas–Nebraska Act

May 22, 1854
The Kansas–Nebraska Act Image courtesy of Library of Congress Representative Alexander Stephens of Georgia left the House in 1859 and eventually served as Vice President of the Confederacy.
On this date, by a narrow vote of 113 to 100, the House of Representatives approved the Kansas–Nebraska Act. The act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, undercut the Compromise of 1850, and greatly complicated hopes for a peaceful resolution to the problem of balancing the ratio of free and slave states in the U.S. Congress. Proponents favored the bill because it offered the territories “popular sovereignty”—giving voters a choice of determining free or slave status—instead of using the geographical boundary line set by the Missouri Compromise. Representative Alexander Stephens of Georgia revived the legislation, which had been delayed in the Committee of the Whole for months. On May 22, opponents brought 14 motions to adjourn the House before the vote on the bill could take place. After the vote Stephens wrote, “I feel as if the Mission of my life was performed.” The law precipitated violent unrest in the Kansas Territory and deepened abolitionist fervor in the northern states.

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