America in the 1850s

1855 Through 1858 and John Brown

What was “bleeding” Kansas in 1855? Does it deserve the term “bleeding”?

Affairs in Kansas were heading in a negative direction, but it had not yet become the bloody battleground later described. The key fact, in 1855, was that the newly formed Territory of Kansas held its first election.

Given that Northern and Southern men alike saw Kansas as a potential battleground, it made sense that the former would win the race, if only because the North and the West now had so many people. But the territorial elections of 1855 went the Southern, pro-slavery way, thanks to a one-day invasion by men from Missouri. Called the Border Ruffians, these men galloped over the border into Kansas and voted illegally. As a result, the first territorial elections returned a pro-slavery governor and legislature, both of which were recognized as legitimate by President Franklin Pierce.


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