| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
PIERCE—THE STORY OF "BLEEDING KANSAS"
 IN 1853 Fillmore's term of office came to an end and Franklin Pierce
became President. He was only forty-eight, and was the youngest
President who had been elected so far.
He was the son of a soldier who had fought in the Mexican War. But
by profession he was a lawyer and not a soldier.
During the administration of Pierce another territory was added
to the United States. This was a strip of land which now forms the
south of New Mexico and Arizona. It was bought from Mexico in 1854
and, as James Gadsden arranged the treaty with the President of
Mexico, it was called the Gadsden Purchase. With this purchase the
territory of the United States as we know it to-day was completed.
Only seventy years had passed since the Peace of Paris. But in
these seventy years the country had made mighty strides and had
been doubled and trebled. Instead of being merely a strip of land
east of the Mississippi it now stretched from ocean to ocean.
The chief interest in this administration was still the slavery
question. It had not been settled as some people thought it had
been. But it slept, at least, until suddenly a senator named Douglas
awoke it again by bringing in a bill to do away with the Missouri
There was still a great deal of territory of the
Louis-  iana Purchase
waiting to be carved into states. Now said Douglas, "why make all
this fuss about slavery or no slavery every time a new state wants
to be admitted? Do away with this Missouri Compromise, and when there
are enough people in a territory to allow of its being admitted as
a state, let these people themselves decide whether they wish it
to be a free state or a slave state."
The bill which Douglas brought in thus to do away with the Missouri
Compromise was known as the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, as Douglas
suggested calling the great unorganised territory Nebraska in the
north and Kansas in the South.
Douglas was a Northern man, but he wanted to please the Southerners,
and get them to vote for him as President. So he brought in this
bill. It met the fierce opposition from the North, but it passed.
The President alone had power to stop it. But he did not use his
Douglas had brought in the bill to make himself popular. But he
made a great mistake. All over the North he was hated and cursed
because of it. In town after town he was hanged in effigy, and
then burned with every mark of scorn. He was reviled as a Judas,
and some women living in a little Northern village sent him thirty
pieces of silver.
In spite of this bill the Northerners were determined that slavery
should not be extended. So even before the President had signed
it men were hurring westward into Kansas. Claims were staked out,
trees were felled, and huts built as if by magic. Settlers streamed
in by hundreds every day. Some came of themselves, others were sent
by societies got up to help settlers, and by the end of the year,
two or three towns were founded.
But the slave holders were just as determined to make Kansas a slave
state. So from Missouri which was a slave state and bordered upon
the Kansas Territory, thousands of slave owners came over the border
and settled in Kansas.
 They too founded several towns, and there began a fierce struggle
for the upper hand.
March 30th, 1855 was appointed by the Governor for the election of
a council and House of Representatives for the Territory.
The "Free Staters" were already to vote in force. But the election
was a farce. For when the day came five thousand Missourians marched
across the border. They were a wild, sun-burnt, picturesque mob.
They had guns on their shoulders, revolvers stuck in their belts
and bowie knives in their big top boots.
They took possession of the polling booths, and if the judges would
not do as they wished they were turned out.
"Do you live in Kansas?" asked a judge.
"Yes, I do," replied the Missourian, without a moment's hesitation.
"Does your family live in Kansas?" asked the judge, who knew the
man was not speaking the truth.
"It is none of your business," replied the Missourian. "If you don't
keep your impertinence to yourself I'll knock your head from your
So the judge gave it up, and every one who liked voted.
There were not three thousand voters in the Territory, but over six
thousand votes were recorded, three-quarters of them being those
unlawful votes of the Missourians. Thus said a learned gentleman,
"It has been maintained by the sharp logic of the revolver and the
bowie knife, that the people of Missouri are the people of Kansas!"
The Governor of Kansas was named Reeder. His sympathy was with the
South. But he was an honest man, and when he saw the lawless way
in which the Missourians were behaving he resolved to see justice
done. And although they threatened to hang him he ordered new
elections in the seven districts which dared to make a protest. But
the new elections made little difference. Owing to the fact that
 so many of the people were disputing its result, this election
did not settle the question whether Kansas were to be admitted as
a slave or a free state, and it still remained a Territory. And as
soon as the legislature met the "Free State" members were promptly
unseated, and the others had things all their own way.
The laws which this legislature drew up with regard to slaves were
quite out of keeping with the needs and desires of free America.
If any person were to entice a slave away from his master they
were to suffer death. If they hid and protected a slave, they might
be imprisoned with hard labour for five years or more. And if any
person declared that Kansas was not a slave territory, they were
to be imprisoned with hard labour for at least two years.
These were only a few of the laws. But the Governor vetoed them
all. That is, he refused to pass them, veto coming from a Latin
word meaning "I forbid." This made the slave party angry and they
asked the President to remove Reeder and send a new Governor. This
the President had power to do as Texas was still only a Territory
and not a state.
The President was now quite on the side of the slave owners. So
a new Governor was sent, but the struggle went on just as before.
Both sides began to arm, and at length it came to bloodshed.
The town of Lawrence, which was a Free State town, was sacked by
a mob of ruffians, and civil war in Kansas was begun.
In Kansas there was an old man named John Brown. He was a fierce old
Puritan, and he believed that God had called him to fight slavery.
And the only way of fighting it that he thought possible was to
slay the slave-holders.
A few days after the sacking of Lawrence he set off with his sons
and one or two others to teach the slave-holders a
 lesson. Blood
had been spilled by them, and he was determined that for every
free state man who had been murdered he would have a life of a
slave-holder in revenge.
So in the dead of night he and his band attacked the farms of sleeping
men, and, dragging them from their beds, slew them in cold blood.
Before day dawned six or seven men had been thus slain.
When the Free Staters heard of this deed they were shocked. But it
roused the Border Ruffians to fury. Armed companies of both sides
marched through the country, and when they met there was bloodshed.
For three years Kansas was in a state of disorder and riot. Governor
after governor came with friendly feelings to the South. But when
they saw the actions of the slave party they resigned rather than
support such injustice.
At length the slave party gained their end, but they were defeated.
They were defeated by Douglas, that same man who had caused the
Missouri Compromise to be done away with. Then he had blackened
his fair name, now he redeemed it.
The President was ready to use all his power to force the admission
of Kansas as a slave state. Douglas warned him to beware, and
when the President persisted he rose in his place, and made such
a wonderful speech that the bill introduced by the slave-holders
was defeated. And when at length Kansas was admitted to the Union,
it was admitted as a free state.
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