Bleeding Kansas and the Pottawatomie Massacre

Popular sovereignty is the idea that the people of a state are the ones who hold all political power within the state. While in theory, popular sovereignty sounds like a fair and just system of ruling, its application to real life allows for many problems to arise, such as who it is that gets to be the voice of the state. In this case during the growth of the U.S. where tensions between pro-slavery supporters and abolitionists were high, those who held power were those who had the most guns. Violence ran rampant and rose under the allowance of popular sovereignty in the state of Kansas, which eventually led to violent attacks like the sack of the free-state town of Lawrence or John Brown’s attacks on Pottawatomie Creek, a pro-slavery settlement where Mahala Doyle’s husband and sons would be murdered by Brown. These attacks illustrate the failure of solving the problems between free- and pro-slavery factions by fueling the violence through popular sovereignty. By trying to leave the power to the people, the problems between the factions were not directly addressed and rather was given to the people to try and solve by themselves. Issues such as the economy and morality were at stake when dealing with the issue of slavery, fueling folks to turn violent when they found it necessary in proving their side of the case. Mahala Doyle found herself to be a victim of the violence that surrounded the issue of slavery, and in her grief over the loss of her husband and sons, wrote a letter to John Brown to express her pain over her loss, and belief that Brown’s execution was just.



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