“Liberty, The Fair Maid of Kansas, in the Hands of the Border Ruffians,” attributed to artist John L. Magee, 1856
This 1856 election-period cartoon blames the violence provoked by the Kansas-Nebraska Act on the Democratic Party, including Senator Stephen Douglas, who introduced the Kansas-Nebraska bill; incumbent President Franklin Pierce, who supported it; Pierce’s advisors Secretary of State William Marcy and Senator Lewis Cass; and the Democrats’ new presidential candidate, James Buchanan.
Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress
The issue of slavery became more volatile as the nation expanded to western territories during the 19th century. In 1854 Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, repealing the Missouri Compromise, which had set a boundary between free and slave territories. The act supported popular sovereignty by allowing residents of new territories to decide whether to permit or prohibit slavery. The result was bloody conflict as pro- and anti-slavery forces flocked to Kansas to determine its future.