Bloody Kansas Timeline

Events

Missouri Compromise

1820

The Missouri Compromise prohibited slavery in western territories north of the 36°30’ latitude. Missouri was admitted as a slave state, but paired with the new free state of Maine.

Nat Turner Slave Revolt

1831

Nat Turner led a slave rebellion, killing approximately 60 white people in Southampton County, Virginia. Approximately 175 African Americans, many of them who had not been involved in the uprising, were murdered by white militias or executed by the state in retaliation.

American Anti-Slavery Society Founded

1833

The American Anti-Slavery Society was founded. Abolitionists sought an immediate end to slavery nationwide.

Compromise of 1850

1850

Compromise of 1850: California was admitted as a free state, voters in Utah and New Mexico territories were empowered to choose to allow or prohibit slavery, and the fugitive slave law was strengthened, making it more difficult for escaped slaves to find refuge in Northern states.

Uncle Tom's Cabin Published

1852

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published. The book became a best-seller, and helped to popularize a moral critique of slavery.

The Kansas - Nebraska Act

1854

The Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise, allowing territorial residents on both sides of the 36°30’ latitude to decide whether to admit slavery.

First Election for Territorial Representatives in Kansas

March 30, 1855

In the first election for territorial representatives in Kansas, illegally voting “border ruffians” from Missouri helped to elect a proslavery majority.

Topeka Constitution and Free-State Legislature

December 15, 1855

Antislavery “free-state” settlers approved the Topeka Constitution, and elected a free-state legislature which began meeting in Topeka. Proslavery Kansans boycotted these elections, and continued to support the official proslavery legislature.

Sumner - Brooks Affair

May 22, 1856

South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks attacked Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, beating him with a cane on the senate floor. Sumner had given an antislavery speech on the subject of Kansas which Brooks believed insulted the personal honor of one of his family members.

Pottawatomie Massacre

May 24, 1856

An abolitionist posse led by John Brown attacked proslavery settlers in the Pottawatomie massacre, killing five.

Congressional Report on the Proslavery Territorial Legislature

July 1, 1856

A congressional committee, which had been appointed to investigate “the troubles in Kansas,” delivered its report discrediting the proslavery territorial legislature.

Topeka Legislature Disbanded

July 4, 1856

Federal troops disbanded the free-state Topeka legislature by force.

Buchanan's Inauguration

March 4, 1857

Democrat James Buchanan was inaugurated as President of the United States.

Dred Scott v. Sanford Decision

March 6, 1857

The Supreme Court issued its decision in the case Dred Scott v. Sandford, declaring that African Americans were not entitled to citizenship rights, and that the already-repealed Missouri Compromise had been an unconstitutional federal regulation of slavery.

Lecompton Constitution Authored

November 7, 1857

A proslavery convention authored the Lecompton constitution, which would preserve slavery in Kansas. Rather than provide for a full territory-wide ratification vote on Lecompton, the proslavery convention scheduled only a vote on the proposed constitution’s slavery clause.