File Name: eric foner about popular sovereignity and steven a douglas of illinois.zip
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- Was Stephen A. Douglas Antislavery?
- Lincoln's Legacy for American International Law |
- Kansas–Nebraska Act
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Was Stephen A. Douglas Antislavery?
It was drafted by Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas introduced the bill with the goal of opening up new lands to development and facilitating construction of a transcontinental railroad , but the Kansas—Nebraska Act is most notable for effectively repealing the Missouri Compromise , stoking national tensions over slavery , and contributing to a series of armed conflicts known as " Bleeding Kansas ".
The United States had acquired vast amounts of sparsely settled land in the Louisiana Purchase , and since the s Douglas had sought to establish a territorial government in a portion of the Louisiana Purchase that was still unorganized. To win the support of Southerners like Atchison, Pierce and Douglas agreed to back the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, with the status of slavery instead decided on the basis of " popular sovereignty ".
Under popular sovereignty, the citizens of each territory, rather than Congress, would determine whether or not slavery would be allowed. Douglas's bill to repeal the Missouri Compromise and organize Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory won approval by a wide margin in the Senate , but faced stronger opposition in the House of Representatives. Though Northern Whigs strongly opposed the bill, the bill passed the House with the support of almost all Southerners and some Northern Democrats.
After the passage of the act, pro- and anti-slavery elements flooded into Kansas with the goal of establishing a population that would vote for or against slavery, resulting in a series of armed conflicts known as " Bleeding Kansas ". Ongoing tensions over slavery would eventually lead to the American Civil War. In his inaugural address, President Franklin Pierce expressed hope that the Compromise of had settled the debate over the issue of slavery in the territories.
As settlers poured into the unorganized territory, and commercial and political interests called for a transcontinental railroad through the region, pressure mounted for the organization of the eastern parts of the unorganized territory.
Though organization of the territory was required to develop the region, an organization bill threatened to re-open the contentious debates over slavery in the territories that had taken place during and after the Mexican—American War.
The topic of a transcontinental railroad had been discussed since the s. While there were debates over the specifics, especially the route to be taken, there was a public consensus that such a railroad should be built by private interests, financed by public land grants.
In , Stephen A. Douglas , then serving in his first term in the U. House of Representatives , had submitted an unsuccessful plan to organize the Nebraska Territory formally, as the first step in building a railroad with its eastern terminus in Chicago.
Railroad proposals were debated in all subsequent sessions of Congress with cities such as Chicago, St. Louis , Quincy , Memphis , and New Orleans competing to be the jumping-off point for the construction. Several proposals in late and early had strong support, but they failed because of disputes over whether the railroad would follow a northern or a southern route.
In early , the House of Representatives passed a bill to 49 to organize the Nebraska Territory in the land west of Iowa and Missouri. Missouri Senator David Atchison announced that he would support the Nebraska proposal only if slavery were to be permitted. Other Southern senators were as inflexible as Atchison. By a vote of 23 to 17, the Senate voted to table the motion, with every senator from the states south of Missouri voting to table.
During the Senate adjournment, the issues of the railroad and the repeal of the Missouri Compromise became entangled in Missouri politics, as Atchison campaigned for re-election against the forces of Thomas Hart Benton. Atchison was maneuvered into choosing between antagonizing the state's railroad interests or its slaveholders.
Finally, he took the position that he would rather see Nebraska "sink in hell" before he would allow it to be overrun by free soilers. Representatives then generally found lodging in boarding houses when they were in the nation's capital to perform their legislative duties. Atchison shared lodgings in an F Street house shared by the leading Southerners in Congress. He himself was the Senate's President pro tempore.
His housemates included Robert T. Butler from South Carolina, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Goode , formed the nucleus that would insist on slaveholder equality in Nebraska.
Douglas was aware of the group's opinions and power and knew that he needed to address its concerns. Iowa Senator Augustus C. Dodge immediately reintroduced the same legislation to organize Nebraska that had stalled in the previous session; it was referred to Douglas's committee on December Douglas, hoping to achieve the support of the Southerners, publicly announced that the same principle that had been established in the Compromise of should apply in Nebraska. In the Compromise of , Utah and New Mexico Territories had been organized without any restrictions on slavery, and many supporters of Douglas argued that the compromise had already superseded the Missouri Compromise.
The bill was reported to the main body of the Senate on January 4, It had been modified by Douglas, who had also authored the New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory Acts, to mirror the language from the Compromise of In the bill, a vast new Nebraska Territory was created to extend from Kansas north all the way to the 49th parallel , the US—Canada border.
A large portion of Nebraska Territory would soon be split off into Dakota Territory , and smaller portions transferred to Colorado Territory and Idaho Territory before the balance of the land became the State of Nebraska in Furthermore, any decisions on slavery in the new lands were to be made "when admitted as a state or states, the said territory, or any portion of the same, shall be received into the Union, with or without slavery, as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission.
They were designed to establish certain great principles, which would not only furnish adequate remedies for existing evils, but, in all time to come, avoid the perils of a similar agitation, by withdrawing the question of slavery from the halls of Congress and the political arena, and committing it to the arbitrament of those who were immediately interested in, and alone responsible for its consequences.
The report compared the situation in New Mexico and Utah with the situation in Nebraska. In the first instance, many had argued that slavery had previously been prohibited under Mexican law , just as it was prohibited in Nebraska under the Missouri Compromise. Just as the creation of New Mexico and Utah territories had not ruled on the validity of Mexican law on the acquired territory, the Nebraska bill was neither "affirming or repealing Douglas's attempt to finesse his way around the Missouri Compromise did not work.
Kentucky Whig Archibald Dixon believed that unless the Missouri Compromise was explicitly repealed, slaveholders would be reluctant to move to the new territory until slavery was actually approved by the settlers, who would most likely oppose slavery. Douglas met privately with Dixon and in the end, despite his misgivings on Northern reaction, agreed to accept Dixon's arguments. From a political standpoint, the Whig Party had been in decline in the South because of the effectiveness with which it had been hammered by the Democratic Party over slavery.
The Southern Whigs hoped that by seizing the initiative on this issue, they would be identified as strong defenders of slavery. Many Northern Whigs broke with them in the Act. The party eventually died by the division over the issue. A similar amendment was offered in the House by Philip Phillips of Alabama. With the encouragement of the "F Street Mess", Douglas met with them and Phillips to ensure that the momentum for passing the bill remained with the Democratic Party.
They arranged to meet with President Franklin Pierce to ensure that the issue would be declared a test of party loyalty within the Democratic Party. Pierce was not enthusiastic about the implications of repealing the Missouri Compromise and had barely referred to Nebraska in his State of the Union message delivered December 5, , just a month before. Marcy both told Pierce that repeal would create serious political problems.
Dobbin supported repeal. Instead the president and cabinet submitted to Douglas an alternative plan that would have sought out a judicial ruling on the constitutionality of the Missouri Compromise. Douglas's committee met later that night. Douglas was agreeable to the proposal, but the Atchison group was not. Determined to offer the repeal to Congress on January 23 but reluctant to act without Pierce's commitment, Douglas arranged through Davis to meet with Pierce on January 22 even though it was a Sunday, when Pierce generally refrained from conducting any business.
Breckinridge of Kentucky. Douglas and Atchison first met alone with Pierce before the whole group convened. Pierce was persuaded to support repeal, and at Douglas' insistence, Pierce provided a written draft, asserting that the Missouri Compromise had been made inoperative by the principles of the Compromise of Pierce later informed his cabinet, which concurred in the change of direction.
On January 23, a revised bill was introduced in the Senate that repealed the Missouri Compromise and split the unorganized land into two new territories: Kansas and Nebraska. The division was the result of concerns expressed by settlers already in Nebraska as well as the senators from Iowa, who were concerned with the location of the territory's seat of government if such a large territory were created.
Existing language to affirm the application of all other laws of the United States in the new territory was supplemented by the language agreed on with Pierce: "except the eighth section of the act preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the Union, approved March 6, [the Missouri Compromise ], which was superseded by the legislation of , commonly called the compromise measures [the Compromise of ], and is declared inoperative.
Historian Allan Nevins wrote that the country then became convulsed with two interconnected battles over slavery. A political battle was being fought in Congress over the question of slavery in the new states that were clearly coming. At the same time, there was a moral debate. Southerners claimed that slavery was beneficent , endorsed by the Bible, and generally good policy, whose expansion must be supported.
The publications and speeches of abolitionists , some of them former slaves themselves, were telling Northerners that the supposed beneficence of slavery was a Southern lie, and that enslaving another person was un-Christian, a horrible sin that must be fought. Both battles were "fought with a pertinacity, bitterness, and rancor unknown even in Wilmot Proviso days. The Democrats held large majorities in each house, and Douglas, "a ferocious fighter, the fiercest, most ruthless, and most unscrupulous that Congress had perhaps ever known", led a tightly disciplined party.
It was in the nation at large that the opponents of Nebraska hoped to achieve a moral victory. The New York Times , which had earlier supported Pierce, predicted that this would be the last straw for Northern supporters of the slavery forces and would "create a deep-seated, intense, and ineradicable hatred of the institution which will crush its political power, at all hazards, and at any cost.
We arraign this bill as a gross violation of a sacred pledge; as a criminal betrayal of precious rights; as part and parcel of an atrocious plot to exclude from a vast unoccupied region immigrants from the Old World and free laborers from our own States, and convert it into a dreary region of despotism, inhabited by masters and slaves. Douglas took the appeal personally and responded in Congress, when the debate was opened on January 30 before a full House and packed gallery.
Douglas biographer Robert W. Johanssen described part of the speech:. Douglas charged the authors of the "Appeal", whom he referred to throughout as the "Abolitionist confederates", with having perpetrated a "base falsehood" in their protest.
He expressed his own sense of betrayal, recalling that Chase, "with a smiling face and the appearance of friendship", had appealed for a postponement of debate on the ground that he had not yet familiarized himself with the bill. While other Senators were attending divine worship, they had been "assembled in a secret conclave", devoting the Sabbath to their own conspiratorial and deceitful purposes.
The debate would continue for four months, as many Anti-Nebraska political rallies were held across the north. The New-York Tribune wrote on March The unanimous sentiment of the North is indignant resistance. The whole population are full of it. The feeling in was far inferior to this in strength and universality. The debate in the Senate concluded on March 4, , when Douglas, beginning near midnight on March 3, made a five-and-a-half-hour speech. The final vote in favor of passage was 37 to On March 21, , as a delaying tactic in the House of Representatives, the legislation was referred by a vote of to 95 to the Committee of the Whole , where it was the last item on the calendar.
Realizing from the vote to stall that the act faced an uphill struggle, the Pierce administration made it clear to all Democrats that passage of the bill was essential to the party and would dictate how federal patronage would be handled. Davis and Cushing, from Massachusetts, along with Douglas, spearheaded the partisan efforts. The House leadership then began a series of roll call votes in which legislation ahead of the Kansas—Nebraska Act was called to the floor and tabled without debate.
Thomas Hart Benton was among those speaking forcefully against the measure.
Lincoln's Legacy for American International Law |
The decade-long effort to solve the problem of the future of slavery had failed. For most of this time, Washington politicians trying to build broad national parties with policies acceptable to voters in both the North and the South had done their best not to talk about slavery. That the Lincoln—Douglas debates were devoted to one issue alone—slavery and the future of the Union—showed how serious matters had become. Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois and his Republican challenger, Springfield lawyer Abraham Lincoln, presented their views in three hours of closely reasoned argu- ment.
HD Daily Report, September 15, The Lincoln Log, September 15, View in larger map. In so far as he has insisted that all the States have the right to do exactly as they please about all their domestic relations, including that of slavery, I agree entirely with him. He places me wrong in spite of all I can tell him, though I repeat it again and again, insisting that I have no difference with him upon this subject. I have made a great many speeches, some of which have been printed, and it will be utterly impossible for him to find any thing that I have ever put in print contrary to what I now say upon this subject. I hold myself under constitutional obligations to allow the people in all the States, without interference, direct or indirect, to do exactly as they please, and I deny that I have any inclination to interfere with them, even if there were no such constitutional obligation.
Smith for perceptive criticism of multiple drafts. I would also like to thank Edward Linenthal for his expert criticism and guidance through the publication process and to express my gratitude to the four JAH readers, Ann Fabian, James M. McPherson, Randall Miller, and one anonymous reviewer, for their exceptionally thoughtful and helpful comments on the piece. Michael E.
Part 1: Part 2: Part 3: Resource Bank Contents.
For more information, read Michigan Publishing's access and usage policy. In Allan Nevins published the second volume of Ordeal of the Union , which included his scathing indictment of Stephen A.
It was drafted by Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas introduced the bill with the goal of opening up new lands to development and facilitating construction of a transcontinental railroad , but the Kansas—Nebraska Act is most notable for effectively repealing the Missouri Compromise , stoking national tensions over slavery , and contributing to a series of armed conflicts known as " Bleeding Kansas ". The United States had acquired vast amounts of sparsely settled land in the Louisiana Purchase , and since the s Douglas had sought to establish a territorial government in a portion of the Louisiana Purchase that was still unorganized. To win the support of Southerners like Atchison, Pierce and Douglas agreed to back the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, with the status of slavery instead decided on the basis of " popular sovereignty ". Under popular sovereignty, the citizens of each territory, rather than Congress, would determine whether or not slavery would be allowed. Douglas's bill to repeal the Missouri Compromise and organize Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory won approval by a wide margin in the Senate , but faced stronger opposition in the House of Representatives.
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. Whenever, if ever, he and we can come together on principle so that our great cause may have assistance from his great ability, I hope to have interposed no adventitious obstacle. There are those who denounce us openly to their own friends, and yet whisper us softly, that Senator Douglas is the aptest instrument there is, with which to effect that object. That reassurance actually only promised Dixie a slow death for slavery if people like Lincoln won office. Would this speech satisfy an …. David W.