The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 undid the Missouri Compromise of decades earlier and–potentially–opened the entire west (some said the entire nation) to slavery. The newspaper editorial below illustrates one particularly strong view about the controversial law.
Laws which assured slave owners that runaway slaves would be returned had been in force since the ratification of the Constitution. Indeed, the Constitution required such laws. Decades later, however, many of these laws were unenforced in northern states and abolitionists actively helped runaway slaves flee ever northward to freedom. Slave owners, as part of the Compromise of 1850, pushed for the adoption of stronger fugitive slave laws. One section of the law is below.
Provided that, as an express and fundamental condition to the acquisition of any territory from the Republic of Mexico by the United States, by virtue of any treaty which may be negotiated between them, and to the use by the Executive of the moneys herein appropriated, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall ever exist in any part of said territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted.
This 1857 article by George Fitzhugh (“The Blessings of Slavery”) was a prime example of the assertion that slavery was not a necessary evil (as many in earlier generations had believed) but rather a positive good–both for whites and the African American slaves they owned. Many writings, such as this one, appeared to counter increasing abolitionist sentiment in the US during the 1850s.
Bacon’s Rebellion, a Virginia uprising led by Nathaniel Bacon in 1676, was an example of the growing class divisions in the colonial Chesapeake as well as the continuing conflict between Native American tribes and the Virginians. This document details the rebels’ demands.