Digital History

The Impending Crisis

The Revival of the Slavery Issue Previous Next
Digital History ID 3279



No single piece of legislation ever passed by Congress had more far-reaching political consequences. The Kansas-Nebraska Act led Northern Democrats with free soil sentiments to repudiate their own elected representatives. In the elections of 1854, 44 of the 51 Northern Democratic representatives who voted for the act were defeated.

The chief beneficiary of these defections was a new political organization, the Republican Party. A combination of antislavery radicals, old-line Whigs, former Jacksonian Democrats, and antislavery immigrants, the Republican Party was committed to barring slavery from the western territories. It included a number of people, like William H. Seward of New York, who believed that blacks should receive civil rights including the right to vote. But the new party also attracted many individuals, like Salmon P. Chase and Abraham Lincoln, who favored colonization as the only workable solution to slavery. Despite their differences, however, all of these groups shared a conviction that the western territories should be saved for free labor. "Free labor, free soil, free men," was the Republican slogan.

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