Bloody Kansas, Missouri
In 1854, a year before Celia’s trial, the debate in Missouri around slavery had reached a fever pitch, with Missouri papers devoting entire columns to arguments for and against slavery in increasingly emotional tones.1 Widespread press coverage of pro-slavery conventions and Missouri press reporting propaganda of abolitionists mobilizing a slave uprising contributed to the increasingly polarizing social climate at the time.2 The Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854 effectively repealed the Missouri Compromise by allowing the states to decide if they wanted to adopt slavery, which would disrupt the social and political equilibrium of slave state to free state.3
The Kansas-Nebraska act was throwing the country into disarray, and no state felt is harder than Kansas’s neighbor, Missouri.4 With vigilantes enforcing their own form of justice, they flooded into Kansas, forcefully swaying the election towards Kansas being a slave-state.5
Violence broke out in Missouri; ministers lives were threatened, suspected abolitionists were rounded up and jailed, and an armed mob attacked a suspected anti-slavery paper editor. 6 The Fulton Telegraph, which operated in Callaway county, reflected through its columns the increasing chaos over the thorny issue of slavery.7 It is in Callaway county Missouri where the trial of Celia takes place, and under the backdrop of deeply rooted emotional and moral arguments regarding slavery in the Union.