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More Slave States

Now, no one had a right to force the Southern states to set the slaves free, except—some people said—the President, in time of war. But the Northerners thought it was bad enough to have slaves in the states which already existed. You know that when Missouri was admitted as a slave state, it was decided that all the rest of the Louisiana purchase, north of a line drawn west from the southern boundary of Missouri, should be free soil. But although people thought this Missouri Compromise would end all trouble about slavery, quarrels broke out again, as we have seen, over the lands acquired from Mexico.

After the Omnibus Bill had been passed (1850), people again thought the slavery question settled forever. But four years later Senator Stephen A. Douglas proposed that two territories, Kansas and Nebraska, should be carved out of the old Louisiana purchase, and be admitted as states as soon as they had enough inhabitants. He added that these should be allowed to choose for themselves whether they would be free or slave states, although they lay north of the Missouri Compromise line. This proposal made the antislavery men very angry, and they wrote and talked against it with all their might. Still, in spite of all their efforts, the Missouri Compromise was repealed, in 1854. The only way now left to prevent the new territories from becoming slave states was to send out as many settlers as possible who were against slavery; so the Northern people worked hard to do this.

On their part, the Southerners hastened into these lands with large bands of slaves. Thus it became a race, each party trying to send the most settlers. The two kinds of men—antislavery and proslavery—thus began farming side by side; but when they began to talk politics, they soon quarreled fiercely.

People rushed into the country so fast that before long there were men enough in the present state of Kansas to vote and decide whether it should be free or slave soil. The excitement, therefore, daily grew greater and greater, and as the Missouri people hoped it would be slave soil, there was some cheating about voting. Some Missouri men crossed the frontier to vote for slavery, and this fact helped to make trouble when the elections decided that it should be slave soil. For several years there were quarrels and fights between the two parties in the territory, and this time of violence, bloodshed, and border warfare won for that part of our country the name of “bleeding Kansas.”

Fillmore, in the meantime, had been succeeded by Franklin Pierce, fourteenth President of the United States. Pierce had been a poor lad, but he managed to secure a good education. He then became a lawyer, and was so determined to succeed that when some people made fun of him, after a first failure, he firmly said: “I will try nine hundred and ninety–nine cases, if clients continue to trust me; and if I fail just as I have failed today, I will try the thousandth. I shall live to argue cases in this courthouse in a manner that will mortify neither myself nor my friends.” As the young man proved as good as his word, it will not surprise you to hear that he did succeed.