The Kansas Nebraska Act: The PNR

By: Katie Malcolm and Sarah Grace Ritter

The Mexican-American War created a foundation for the Civil War. However, more importantly, the Kansas Nebraska Act was the point of no return of the war. The Kansas-Nebraska Act is the point of no return because it directly addresses the idea of slavery instead of passing over it like the nation previously did.

The Kansas Nebraska Act

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was the point of no return for the Civil War because it finally brought the issue of slavery to a head. The act said that the territory of Nebraska would be accepted into congress as a free or slave state prescribed by the state’s constitution. The status of the state would be determined by the people. This idea became widely known as popular sovereignty because it let the citizens to decide the fate of the slaves in the states. While in theory, this may have seemed like an appropriate way to deal with slavery, the act caused tension between the people who wanted the states to be free and those who wanted the states to support slavery. According to “How Thayer kept Kansas free”, many people panicked at this new idea of popular sovereignty which led Thayer to suggest sending people down to live in Kansas. He suggested sending those who supported his position that Kansas should be a free state so that the majority would support a free state. This conflict over free state or slave state caused tension that continually built until the Civil War. The Kansas-Nebraska Act is the point of no return for the war because it directly addresses the idea of slavery instead of passing over it like the nation previously did. In the past, the debate over slave states versus free states was addressed more rigidly, meaning the boarders were exact and the state’s status was appointed by Congress. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was the first controversial move made by Congress because it left the decision in the hands of the people which caused tension. This tension continued to build and led to the Civil War. The Kansas-Nebraska Act was the point of new return because it left the decision in the power of the people.
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The Mexican-American War

The Mexican-American War did create a foundation for the Civil War, but it was not the point of no return because it did not create insurmountable tension over slavery like the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Mexican-American War was the first push towards the idea of a civil war because of the land disputes that came with it because the end of Mexican-American war brought purchases of new lands. The government did not know exactly what to do with the new land because the issues concerning slavery would demand that the new lands be classified as free or slave states. The government settled this dispute through the foundation of new rigid laws that continued to differentiate slave and free regions. They did this in an effort to compromise in the Compromise of 1850. The Compromise of 1850 further exacerbated these tensions by abolishing the slave trade in the District of Columbia and creating the Fugitive Slave Act. Abolishing the slave trade was upsetting to the South, but the South was appeased with the newly formed Fugitive Slave Act. Similarly, the North was upset with the Fugitive Slave Act but were pleased with the abolishment of the slave trade, so while this act started to heat up the tensions the point of no return has still not been reached. It’s not until the Kansas-Nebraska Act that a huge conflict becomes unavoidable because of its repealing of the Missouri Compromise agreement not to move slavery farther West. This leads to major conflict between believers of free and slave properties and leads to one of the first times blood is shed before the war. Therefore, while The Mexican-American War did help to lead up to the Civil War, it is apparent that the Kansas-Nebraska Act has the most direct consequences and is, therefore, the point of no return for the Civil War.
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Concluding Thoughts

While the Mexican-American War created a foundation for the Civil War, the Kansas-Nebraska Act was the point of no return leading to the war because it directly addresses the idea of slavery instead of passing over it like the nation previously did. The Kansas-Nebraska Act put the power of determining a territory's status in the hands of the people, something that had never been done before. By taking this action, the government no longer was able to construct careful compromises in order to ensure everyone was happy because now it was up to the people to decide, and they were less inclined to compromise. So, with the development of this act, the regional tensions over slavery escalated to a point of no return.

Bibliography

"Kansas-Nebraska Act." Kansas-Nebraska Act Of 1854 (January 6, 2009): 1. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed November 17, 2015).

Anderson, John. "How Thayer Kept Kansas Free." Telegram & Gazette (Mar. 11, 2014): GALE|A372789207