On March 30, 1855, “Border Ruffians” from Missouri illegally influenced elections in the new U.S. territory of Kansas. The Civil War had its origins in this dispute, a conflict nicknamed “Bleeding Kansas.”
 
The elections were important, as they would decide if the Kansas territory allowed slavery or not. Most settlers in Kansas were anti-slavery. However, just across Kansas’ eastern border was the pro-slavery state of Missouri. “Border Ruffians” was the name embraced by hundreds of Missouri residents who violently opposed Kansas’ “Free Staters.” 
 
Border Ruffians crossed the border, took control of polling places, prevented anti-slavery residents from casting votes, and stuffed ballot boxes. This was all illegal, but a pro-slavery government was elected.
 
The elections did not end the conflict. In fact, Kansas became the single most important region for the slavery debate throughout the 1850s. It was also the most violent. The brutal series of conflicts in Bleeding Kansas continued until Kansas joined the U.S. as a free state in 1861—the year the Civil War began.
ballot
Noun

technology (such as a slip of paper or an electronic form) by which a voter casts their vote.

Noun

natural or artificial line separating two pieces of land.

Civil War
Noun

(1860-1865) American conflict between the Union (north) and Confederacy (south).

conflict
Noun

a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

debate
Verb

to argue or disagree in a formal setting.

dispute
Noun

debate or argument.

election
Noun

selection of people to public office by vote.

embrace
Verb

to support enthusiastically.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

illegal
Adjective

forbidden by law.

influence
Verb

to encourage or persuade a person or organization to act a certain way.

Noun

any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

settler
Noun

person who migrates and establishes a residence in a largely unpopulated area.

slavery
Noun

process and condition of owning another human being or being owned by another human being.

territory
Noun

land an animal, human, or government protects from intruders.