Lecture 13: Bleeding Kansas


This lecture continues treatment of the controversy over slavery through the 1850s, when the point of contention was the extension of slavery into the western territories. Kansas happened to be the flashpoint for a sectional division that flamed into the Civil War.


Outline of Lecture


The Compromise of 1850 was supposed to have taken care of slavery in the western territories, but it did not. North and South were distinct sections engaged in rivalry for control of western expansion, the key to the future. Would Kansas Territory become the land of corn and wheat, or the land of cotton and tobacco—and slavery?

From Ballots to Bullets in Kansas

The struggle over slavery centered on the Kansas Territory, opened to slavery under popular sovereignty with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. It was supposed to be a peaceful contest settled with ballots. It soon degenerated, however, into violence and terrorism, culminating in the massacre on Pottawatomie Creek. The territory became know to the nation as “Bleeding Kansas.”

Orators and Martyrs

In the late 1850s the pro-slavery side seemed to be prevailing—the election of Buchanan, the Dred Scott decision, and the proposal to admit Kansas as a slave state. Stephen A. Douglas stopped that. The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 kept the issue of slavery in the West before the public. John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry made him a martyr and moved the country toward war.

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5. Decentralization in America—Its Effects


This is a meaty chapter for its own sake, full of good counsel about governance and leadership in a democratic society. Its subject is decentralization of government—the vesting of power in local authorities. This was the opposite of the situation in France, where unitary, centralized government prevailed. We're reading this chapter in conjunction with a lecture that tells the story of decentralized democracy run riot under the name of "popular sovereignty."


·         In what things does centralized administration excel? In what things does decentralized administration excel?

·         What is the effect of decentralization on the American attitude? (This is what Tocqueville calls "the political effect of decentralization.")

·         How is it that in such a disorganized country as the United States, the laws are well enforced? And given what Tocqueville says on this subject, how would you go about lowering the high crime rate in America today?

·         Are you management material? If so, comment on what this chapter teaches you about organization and leadership in America.


Here's a brief account of John Brown and the Pottawatomie Creek Massacre. Now consider this event as a matter of terrorism. Are there grounds for terrorism in the name of a moral cause?

Film Review

Santa Fe Trail

Ronald Reagan leads the cast through some really scrambled history loosely organized around the conflict in Bleeding Kansas.

Book Review

Peterson, John Brown


Quarles, Allies for Freedom


Wells, Stephen Douglas