It is an odd time when a place is utterly confused that it cannot make up its own mind. When others must come in to force a decision that echoes their own biased beliefs, it only nourishes the division; this inevitably is bourn to conflict between the two warring factions. And it often escalates at an unsightly rate, leaving the civilians rather miffed. They did not intend isolated civil war to be the result of their petty dissents, of course. All they wanted was an answer, any answer—as long as it was akin to their own beliefs.
This is where the Kansas of 1854 found herself. Even at her conception, she was the work of avaricious politicians and their underhanded deals. Stephen Douglas wanted his railroad to start in Illinois; Southerners wanted the beginning of the line to be at glorious New Orleans but were willing to relent if popular sovereignty could be secured in the land remaining from Jefferson's wondrous plunder of 1803. What could be expected with circumstances so ripe for compromise? Thus the Kansas-Nebraska Act was penned, so forming the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, in which popular sovereignty should be used, declaring the 36°30' line null and void. The Southerners achieved their design of ensuring the continual legality of slavery, and Douglas got his railroad. In 1869—eight years after his death.
Who could have known the simple bill would lead to increased sectionalism? Apparently sense and foresight were not the strongest qualities of President Pierce and his henchmen. Therefore, Kansas and the country suffered, though few guessed the magnitude of what this act should ultimately be cause for. And even if they had, fewer still would have done anything differently
The town of Pottawatomie was not inherently free of that suffocating hold of politics. It was primarily pro-slavery, and, as the election drew nearer, the division was becoming more prominent. The pro-slavery citizens acted towards the abolitionists as the Patriots had treated the Tories in 1775—brutally. It was not at all uncommon to hear murmurs regarding the hanging of some suspicious individual. After all, it was one less vote in opposition of slavery. Good Sheriff Winters feigned ignorance as to not be stuck in the unsightly pickle of having to accuse his friends of murder. So the self-appointed executioners went unpunished. Their behavior, however, was not approved of by all Pottawatomie's pro-slavery inhabitants.
The prominent Alcott family, all members of which were zealots in the cause of slavery, did not favor the slaughters conducted by their countrymen. Lawson Alcott in particular loathed this violence. He had preached peace ever since his arrival in Pottawatomie 17 years prior to these onslaughts. He and his wife, Violet, had come to Kansas directly at the onset of the Panic of 1837. Before that, Lawson had been a successful lawyer in New York City, but the economic depression had seized his job. (It might well be guessed that, as supporters of slavery, the Alcott family was also not in favor with the rest of the New York aristocracy. However, this was only a small consideration in the family's decision.) Therefore, the 28-year-old ex-lawyer and his wife fled to Pottawatomie, Kansas, where Lawson got a decent job as judge in the district court. In 1838, a daughter, Cady, was born to the couple. Five years later, they had another child—a son—named Lawson after his father. The family did relatively well for themselves in the West. With the increasing sectionalism, it was well they were not still in the high North. So they went about their daily business, not having to hide their beliefs, but wishing the others who shared them would not be so brash.
As for Cady Alcott, she was at the ripe age of 16 when the Kansas-Nebraska controversy came about. She was rather unlike the other pioneer children; she was not so outspoken. She was a quiet girl who would have fit in well back in the high-society of New York; moreover, she really was not at all suited to the dusty pioneer life of Kansas. She was the type of girl who belonged at elegant balls, not on farms. She would never tell it to anyone, but she wanted to leave the countryside and be a part of world she had never known. She wanted to lose herself in a metropolis—any large city would do, although she would prefer a Southern one, in which her pro-slavery beliefs would not be cause for persecution. She knew the only way this could possibly happen was marriage; consequently, she did not discourage suitors. Mind, she had many of them. She was quite comely, with wavy auburn hair, milky white skin dotted with freckles, and exquisite cerulean eyes that shown like sapphires. Some might have called her a sight of America, and they would have been right. She was an ardently patriotic girl and proud of her country. What reason did she have for not so loving her country?
It was true that the Era of Good Feelings had ended nearly 30 years earlier, yes, but that was not reason enough for Cady, one who had never known those times, to loathe America. She often wondered how her countrymen could so abhor the country. Things were not really so bad, were they?