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Book _i_ 



Edited by 

Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, Ph. D. 

Gbe Hmertcan Crisis Bioavapbies 

Edited by Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer, Ph.D. With the 
counsel and advice of Professor John B. McMaster, of 
the University of Pennsylvania. 

Each 121T10, cloth, with frontispiece portrait. Price 
$1.25 net; by mail, $i-37- 

These biographies will constitute a complete and comprehensive 
history of the great American sectional struggle in the form of readable 
and authoritative biography. The editor has enlisted the co-operation 
of many competent writers, as will be noted from the list given below. 
An interesting feature of the undertaking is that the series is to be im- 
partial, Southern writers having been assigned to Southern subjects and 
Northern writers to Northern subjects, but all will belong to the younger 
generation of writers, thus assuring freedom from any suspicion of war- 
time prejudice. The Civil War will not be treated as a rebellion, but as 
the great event in the history of our nation, which, after forty years, it 
is now clearly recognized to have been. 

Now ready : 
Abraham Lincoln. By Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer. 
Thomas H. Benton. By Joseph M. Rogers. 
David G. Farragut. By John R. Spears. 
William T. Sherman. By Edward Robins. 
Frederick Douglass. By Booker T. Washington. 
Judah P. Benjamin. By Pierce Butler. 
Robert E. Lee. By Philip Alexander Bruce. 
Jefferson Davis. By Prof. W. E. Dodd. 
Alexander H. Stephens. By Louis Pendleton. 
John C. Calhoun. By Gaillard Hunt. 
"Stonewall" Jackson. By Henry Alexander White. 
John Brown. By W. E. Burghardt Dubois. 
Charles Sumner. By Prof. George H. Haynes. 
Henry Clay. By Thomas H. Clay. 
William H. Seward. By Edward Everett Hale, Jr. 
Stephen A. Douglas. By Prof. Henry Parker Willis. 

In preparation : 
Daniel Webster. ' By Prof. Frederic A. Ogg. 
William Lloyd Garrison. By Lindsay Swift. 
Thaddeus Stevens. By Prof. J. A. Woodburn. 
Andrew Johnson. By Prof. Walter L. Fleming. 
Ulysses S. Grant. By Prof. Franklin S. Edmonds. 
Edwin M. Stanton. By Edward S. Corwin. 
Robert Toombs. By Prof. U. B. Phillips. 
Jay Cooke. By Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer. 


Stephen A. Douglas 






Copyright, 1910, by . 

George W. Jacobs & Company 

Published December, igio 

All rights reserved 
Printed in U. S. A. 

C CI. A 278939 

To my Mother 


The interest in the Civil War, so long superior to 
that excited by any other period in American his- 
tory, has for some time past evidently been super- 
seded by a closer attention to the more or less im- 
mediate causes which contributed to bring on the 
struggle. This is the natural sequence of the pas- 
sage of years and the sinking of the contest itself 
and of its heroic figures in the larger movement of 
which it was merely the result. The most signifi- 
cant epoch in American history is not that of the 
war itself but of the fifteen years preceding. In 
spite, therefore, of the care with which the ground 
has already been covered, there will be continued a 
vivid interest not merely in matter, even of the 
slightest, which will contribute to the knowledge of 
American conditions during those troubled years, 
but also in such critical discussions as may throw 
the events and personalities of the times into clearer 
relief, though the gain from any given effort be 

It is for this reason, probably, that the past few 
years have witnessed the repeated rewriting of the 
history of the ante-bellum period and of the 
biographies of those who were then influential in 
shaping the nation's future. The hold of Lincoln, 
Sumner, Seward, Davis, and many others, upon the 


imagination as well as upon the sober thought of 
students has grown rather than been weakened by 
continuous and valuable contributions to their his- 

Stephen Arnold Douglas fills a unique place in the 
years before the Civil War and in his case also the 
lapse of time has but intensified the interest of 
students of American history in his bold career. 
The scholarly work of Allen Johnson and the vivid 
personal recollections of Clark E. Carr have very re- 
cently presented not only the detailed history but the 
salient qualities of the man. In writing the follow- 
ing pages, the effort has been made to view Douglas 
primarily as a figure in national politics rather than 
as one of the chief actors in the slavery struggle. 
Picturesque and striking, his life possesses its own 
peculiar appeal apart from that of the causes and 
movements in which it formed but a strand. 

Very sincere thanks are due to Mr. Charles 
Francis Adams of Boston, who has examined the 
proof of the volume and has offered valuable sug- 
gestions ; and general acknowledgment is made to 
others who have aided at various stages of the 
author's work. 

Henry Parker Willis. 





Humble Beginnings 

. 11 


State Politics . 

. 30 


The Mormons in Illinois 

. 53 


Congressional Apprenticeship . 70 


War and Slavery . 

. 91 


The Illinois Central Bailroad . 108 


On the Senate Threshold 

. 128 


North and South 

. 148 


"American" Foreign Policy 

. 166 


The Kansas-Nebraska Struggle . 187 


Shifting Party Lines 

. 208 


The Admission of Kansas 

. 225 


The Joint Debates . 

. 265 


Breaking with the South 

. 291 


The Last Battle 

. 309 


Without a Party 

. 333 

Bibliography . 

. 354 

Bibliographical Notes . 

. 356 


1813— April 23d. Birth of Stephen Arnold Douglas. 

1814 — Death of Douglas's father. 

1828-1832 — Studies and apprenticeship. 

1833 — April. Departure for the West. 

1833 — November. Arrival in Illinois. 

1834 — March. Admitted to the bar. 

1835 — February 10th. Elected district attorney. 

1836 — Elected to the legislature. 

1837 — Resigns from the legislature. 

1837 — Appointed Register of the Land Offioe in Springfield. 

1837 — December. Resigns as Register to become a candidate 
for Congress. 

1838 — Is defeated for Congress. 

1838-1840 — Lawyer and politician. 

1840 — November 30th. Named Secretary of State of Illinois. 

1841 — February. Becomes Justice of the Supreme Court of 

1841 — Renders decision favorable to the Mormons. 

1843 — Resigns from Supreme Court and makes successful con- 
test for congressional election. 

1844 — Speaks in favor of the Jackson bill. 

1844 — August. Interview with General Jackson. 

1844 — November. Reelected to Congress. 

1845 — First discussion of slavery. 

1846-1847 — Adopts Polk's Mexican War policies. 

1847 — Elected to the United States Senate. 

1850 — Aids in passing the Compromise measures of 1850. 

1852 — Advocates "American " foreign policy. 

1852 — First real contest for the presidency. Defeated by 
Franklin Pierce. 


1853— Visits Europe. 

1854 — Seoures passage of Kansas-Nebraska Aot. 

1856 — Second candidacy for the presidency. Defeated by 

1857 — Sides with Republicans in Kansas question. 
1858 — Debates slavery question with Lincoln. Is reelected to 

Senate against Lincoln. 
1860 — Third candidacy for the presidency. Nominated by one 

section of the Democrats and defeated by Lincoln at 

the polls. 
1860 — March. Seeks to prevent war. Draws close to Lincoln. 
1860— June. Dies at Chicago. 




"Tell them to obey the laws and support the 
Constitution of the United States. ' ' ' This message, 
supposedly containing the last words of Stephen 
Arnold Douglas, transmitted to his boys "Robbie" 
and "Stevie," then four and two years old respect- 
ively, furnishes a key to the singular character of 
the rival of Abraham Lincoln. It is not necessary 
to inquire too narrowly into the question whether 
any man's "last words" were exactly what fell 
from his lips at the supreme moment ; they are 
usually those which are given to him by interpret- 
ers prone to accept the spirit for the word. The 
Constitution and laws of the United States, 
obedience to which was thus solemnly enjoined 
upon his infant children had, at the hands of the 
speaker, perhaps suffered sufficient modification to 
warrant him in urging a recognition of them. At 
all events, the anxious attention to " constitutional " 

1 These words axe quoted by all of Douglas's biographers 
without definite statement as to their authority. 


questions, which thus made itself apparent even on 
a death-bed, furnishes a parallel to many singular 
incidents in a career curiously misunderstood and as 
curiously misrepresented. 

Douglas's early beginnings were by him con- 
cealed behind a cloud of reticence. 1 Congressional 
leaders, not noted for their personal modesty, have in 
many instances abstained from vaunting the circum- 
stances of their origin or exposing them to the 
public eye, either because of ignorance, or of disre- 
gard for descent, or of recognition that in a democ- 
racy too much attention to ancestral detail is un- 
popular. Douglas, at any rate, was never a family 
historian. It is from sources other than his own 
writings that the details of his genealogy must be 
compiled. His earliest known forbears were Scotch, 
settling at New London, Conn., probably about 1645. 

1 There is no substantial controversy about the early history 
of the Douglas family. The clearest account of its origin so far 
as relates to Stephen Arnold Douglas is found in Sheahan's 
Life of Stephen A. Douglas (New York, 1860), which was pro- 
duced as an incident to the campaign of 1860 and undoubtedly 
presents authentic information approved by Douglas regarding 
his early history. Johnson in his Stephen A. Douglas embodies 
most of the material given by Sheahan and adds a few touches 
obtained from a manuscript biography of Douglas in the posses- 
sion of the Douglas family. A few additional points are sup- 
plied in the Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society 
and some minor items of information can be gleaned from con- 
temporary newspapers. Flint's Stephen A. Douglas adds al- 
most nothing to the matter contained in the other works al- 
ready referred to, and the same is true of Gardner's Life of 
Douglas and the biography by William Garrott Brown. Clark 
E. Carr's Stephen A. Douglas gives a brief sketch of Mr. 
Douglas's early life, which is of special interest because of the 
personal reminiscences and impressions. 


The family, though often represented as of dis- 
tinctly New England stock, did not long remain ex- 
clusively so. It extended itself not only over New 
England but throughout Virginia, the Carolinas, 
and other Southern states. About 1750 Doug- 
las's grandfather had established himself in New 
York and there married Martha Arnold. A son, 
Stephen A. Douglas, was born at Stephentown, 
Eensselaer County, New York, but he spent no more 
than his boyhood in that state. Having been 
educated as a physician, graduating first from 
Middlebury College, he married Sarah Fisk and, 
after the birth of two children, the first a daughter, 
the second, Stephen Arnold Douglas, the subject 
of this biography, he died of heart disease. His 
sudden death occurred but a little while after the 
birth of the son at Brandon, Vt, on April 23, 

The elder Douglas, though holding out promise 
of successful and useful work in his profession, had 
done little more than to care for the immediate de- 
mands of existence, and it was not long before the 
mother with her children was transferred to the 
farm which she and an elder brother had jointly in- 
herited. The farm, later referred to by Sheahan, 
Douglas's Boswell, as a "patrimonial estate," was 
not more than the simple New England homestead of 
the early nineteenth century. Douglas himself 
knew the meaning of manual labor, working until 
he was fifteen years old during the long summer 
seasons and getting a scant education at the district 


school during the winter. Yet the tradition of men- 
tal training had been strong in the Douglas blood, 
and it was a keen disappointment when at fifteen 
years an application for some arrangement whereby 
he would be prepared for, and sent to, college was 
met with a refusal. The uncle, upon whom Douglas 
had, in fact, depended, felt himself embarrassed by 
the presence of a young wife and of an infant son 
less than a year old, at the time when his nephew 
sought to make this severe though warrantable 
draft upon the narrow means of the family. The 
tenor of the conversation can be imagined from 
Sheahan's delicate description. " An affectionate 
remonstrance against the folly of abandoning the 
farm for the uncertainties of a professional life, ac- 
companied by a gentle intimation that he had a 
family of his own to support, and therefore did not 
feel able to bear the expense of educating another 
person's children, was the response made to the 
boy's request." ' 

It was partly pique based upon a belief that he 
had been cheated through the violation of a supposed 
understanding that he was to be given a collegiate 
education, and partly the reaction of this feeling 
upon a rugged and independent nature, that made 
Douglas on the same day walk fourteen miles to 
Middlebury, Vt. , where was situated the college at 
which his father had been educated, and there take 
service as a cabinet-maker's apprentice. He con- 
tinued at this work for more than two years, 
^heahan, Life, p. 4. 


Enough had then been earned to warrant Douglas, 
now seventeen years of age, in entering the academy 
at Brandon, Vt. Twelve months in the institution 
gave him a preliminary acquaintance with classical 
studies, and at the end of his year's schooling, a 
new opportunity was opened to him by the nearly 
simultaneous marriage of his sister, now in her 
twentieth year, and of his mother, still a young 
woman, the first becoming the wife of Julius N. 
Granger of Ontario County, N. Y. , while the latter 
married Gehazi Granger, father of her daughter's 
husband. An invitation to Stephen to make his 
home for the time with the rearranged family, re- 
sulted in his entering the academy at Canandaigua, 
N. Y., not far away. Some further progress was 
made by Douglas in his classical studies, but he was 
already beginning to drift away from scholastic and 
literary pursuits. Admiring biographers have 
noted the development of a taste for " political con- 
troversy" even during Douglas's early years, an 
observation for which there seems no authentic sup- 
port. The bitter discussions centering about the 
second election of President Jackson in 1832 could 
hardly have failed to arrest the attention of a pug- 
nacious and positive nature. In debating 'clubs and 
local meetings, Douglas appeared as an enthusiastic 
Jackson advocate and assumed a recognized position 
as an exponent of national policies in the school in 
which he was then enrolled. 

Until this time, Douglas had had no marked ob- 
ject in his course of self-cultivation. The classical 


studies to which he had addressed himself were the 
natural ami proper Introduction to a professional 
training in a period when it was thought not 
expedient U) decry general oulture in the interest of 
special money-making education. Yet even in his 
first application to his uncle for the aid which would 
render him Independent during the necessary years 
of collegiate life, Douglas hail specified a professiona] 
training as his ultimate object it is probable that 

this training WOUld have been that of his father 
Who, however, diet! too early to have left his 
sou with more than a transient predilection for 
his own profession. Douglas now found himself 

much more attracted to the law than to medicine, 
since the former held out far greater rewards as 

well as opportunities for political promotion. Four 
more years, however, would be necessary to gain 
admission to the bar. The young man had already 
done something by getting a preliminary acquaint- 
ance with a few fundamentals in the service of 
attorneys established in Braudon, but the prospect 
o( a full admission to the profession seemed remote, 
particularly as he had not yet completed his academic 

In June, 1883, Douglas finally took a step which 
he had contemplated for some months. He started 
for the West, with no definite post in view and with 
but a small sum of money, believing with foundation 
that the opportunities in a growing country would 
be broader and the restrictions upon his progress 
Severe than in the older states of the Atlantic 


seaboard. An attack of bilious fever overtook liim 

at Cleveland, O., where he had secured an associa 
tion of an advantageous character with Sherlock J. 
Andrews, a practicing lawyer. He had not reached 
Cleveland with any settled intention of remaining 

there, hut letters of introduction and personal friends 
in the city had succeeded in securing him an unex- 
pectedly favorable opening. The sharp attack, 

probably due to conditions developed by a compara- 
tively fr:i i I constitution on the somewhat trying 
journey, ho much reduced a vitality already low as 
to compel Douglas's physicians to advise against his 
remaining longer in Cleveland. Douglas, however, 
was unwilling to return to New York, and during 
October, 1 *•'*.'{, he, went by canal boat to Portsmouth 

on the Ohio Kiver and then by steamer to Cincin- 
nati, where a week's search for work left him with 
little money and no prospects. A. further journey 
to Louisville and then to St. Louis by steamer, iu 
the course of which the vessel was detained a week, 
owing to an accident to her machinery, gained him 
several traveling acquaintances, but brought him 
nothing more Ihan friendly and kind advice, with 
an offer from Edward Bates Of St. Louis, an eminent 
local lawyer, of the use of his office and library 
without charge until he could establish a practice. 
The expenses of living in St. Louis were compara- 
tively high and the very few dollars then in posses- 
sion of Douglas evidently would not warrant his 
awaiting the turn of fortune in a large city. He 
thought, therefore, of securing an appointment to 


teach — the occupation then as now considered al- 
most the only one for which no previous experience 
is necessary. Douglas had always been a close and 
an interested reader of books of travel and descrip- 
tion. It was this, in part, that had drawn him from 
the more settled portions of the Union. He recalled 
a description of Illinois in the neighborhood of Jack- 
sonville and, imagining the conditions there to be 
favorable, in default of any better plan, he spent the 
whole remainder of his money in reaching that 
place. The journey was made by steamboat up the 
Illinois River, with a short run by stage-coach from 
the landing to Jacksonville, then a mere frontier 
settlement with a huddle of cabins around the usual 
country inn. 

Jacksonville, in fact, was not a place of any 
commanding importance even for a state as little 
developed as Illinois. At that time the state was 
chiefly settled in the lower or southern half of its 
territory, the capital being Vandalia. The in- 
habitants in 1836-1837 included 267,000 whites, 
with about 2,200 free negroes and 488 negroes 
registered as apprentices, making a total population 
of nearly 270,000 souls. There was the usual system 
of government, with a Supreme Court having four 
members holding offices during good behavior, and 
also circuit courts created by the legislature. A 
peculiarly strong position was occupied by the 
Supreme Court, inasmuch as it was created by the 
constitution, while its members, jointly with the 
governor, constituted a council, a majority of whose 


members could approve or veto all acts of legisla- 
tion. Essentially the state was in an important 
transition period. It was facing the question of 
internal development, while politically its problems 
were as difficult and as evasive as those of its in- 
dustrial upbuilding. President Jackson had carried 
the state in 1832 and since then Democratic votes 
were in the large majority. 

To a frontier community thus constituted and 
agitated by the local application of broad national 
policies, Douglas had now come. Though he had 
been a Jacksonian in his Eastern home, it had been 
some little time since he had concerned himself 
actively with political questions, while to the local 
contests of Illinois he was of course an absolute 
stranger. Moreover, when he descended from the 
stage at Jacksonville, Douglas was practically 
penniless. By selling a few school-books which he 
had with him, he secured the temporary means of 
support, but Jacksonville held out no encourage- 
ment and a walk from that place to Winchester ap- 
parently did not bring him any nearer to employ- 
ment. His journey to Winchester had occupied the 
early part of December, for he had been compelled to 
take it slowly. Not only the low state of his funds 
but also the lack of transportation, made it impos- 
sible for him to arrive sooner. More than a week 
was required in making the trip. On reaching 
Winchester, it was imperative for Douglas to 
secure work immediately. He had not been able to 
bring with him the little baggage which he retained 


and therefore could not even resort to the expedient 
of selling or pawning it. This uncomfortable situa- 
tion was relieved by the sudden acquisition of six 
dollars earned by acting as clerk to the adminis- 
trator of an estate whose chattels were put up at 
auction on the very day of Douglas's arrival. An 
offer of two dollars per day was gratefully accepted 
and during the intervals of the sale, which lasted 
three days, Douglas had several opportunities of de- 
fending in conversation the Jacksonian policies 
then under discussion in the state. He seized the 
occasion to make it known that he was desirous of 
teaching school and chance acquaintances who had 
been favorably impressed with his acumen, suc- 
ceeded in organizing a school, partly for the benefit 
of the young stranger and partly for that of their 
children. Forty pupils, each paying three dollars 
per quarter, were soon found, and on the first 
Monday in December, 1833, he began work in an 
improvised schoolroom, continuing in this service 
barely for the length of time for which he had 
engaged himself. The three months were well 
occupied. Teaching did not prove a heavy drain 
upon his time and he was able to continue a little 
reading of the law, using borrowed books and oc- 
casionally earning a small fee before justices of the 
peace who required no license on the part of those 
practicing before them. General Murray McConnell 
had lent Douglas a few books during the short time 
that he spent at Jacksonville and had encouraged 
him to make application for an attorney's license. 


The little reading which Douglas had been able to 
accomplish and the good- will of his newly made 
acquaintances, brought him the desired recognition, 
and on the 4th of March, 1834, being then still less 
than twenty-one years old, he was admitted to the 
bar by the judges of the Supreme Court. 

According to the testimony of acquaintances of 
the time, Douglas was even younger in appearance 
than he was in years. S. S. Brooks, then editor of 
the Jacksonville News, has given his impression of 
the young man who came to Jacksonville at the 
opening of March for the purpose of securing his 
license. Douglas, says Mr. Brooks, was "a youth 
apparently not exceeding seventeen or eighteen 
years of age . . . beardless and remarkably 
youthful in appearance." Nevertheless Mr. Brooks, 
himself not perhaps a very critical judge, was sur- 
prised at the development of his acquaintance's in- 
tellect and his ''comprehensive knowledge of the 
political history of the country." Brooks says 
nothing about the scope of his legal training, but 
it is evident that he was better versed in politics 
than in law, and that his political wisdom was far 
more evident to those who agreed with him than to 
his opponents. Nevertheless, Douglas had now 
taken the first and necessary step to which he had 
for four years looked forward, more or less vaguely 
at first, and later with a growing positiveness and 
determination. He might not know much law, but 
he was a recognized lawyer, had made acquaint- 
ances, had accepted a definite political allegiance, 


and was in position to make capital of his native 
ability and his connections. He hastened to open 
an office in Jacksonville. 

There was, however, comparatively little business 
in the town which he had selected as his present 
home. Still, if there was little law, there was much 
politics, and Douglas turned to the latter field as a 
means of livelihood. He had already sought to get 
a foothold with the press, writing a commendatory 
letter to S. S. Brooks, who had just organized the 
Jacksonville News and had begun its publication in 
February, 1834. Brooks had appreciated this early 
commendation and encouragement, and as soon as 
Douglas had fairly settled himself in Jacksonville, 
the News repaid his support and approval by more 
or less tactful advertising. It was largely to the 
interest of the newspaper to secure a better organi- 
zation of the Democratic party, thereby building 
up a definite body of subscribers. Douglas could 
aid in this process and in return the paper stood 
ready to help him into office. The new-fledged at- 
torney began not only energetic but systematic work 
designed to put himself forward as a local leader. 
One of his most sympathetic biographers admits 
that there was no time even at this early stage of 
his career " when the arts of the politician were not 
instinctive in him." ' He entered politics distinctly 
as a means of livelihood and of self- advancement, 
wholly without "boyish illusions to outlive regard- 
ing the nature and conditions of public life." He 

1 Johnson, Life of Douglas, p. 19. 


naturally attached himself more and more to the 
strong, dominating figure of Andrew Jackson, then 
overshadowing every other upon the national stage, 
bent upon holding the whole applause and reward- 
ing with a more or less generous hand the Hessians 
who supported his policies. 

Douglas found an early opportunity for making 
himself known. The Whigs, Jackson's opponents, 
were apparently gaining ground, partly owing to 
local dissatisfaction with Jackson's attitude toward 
the Second Bank of the United States. In order to 
offset their efforts, " it was deemed by Mr. Douglas 
and the editor of the News expedient to call a mass 
meeting of the Democrats of the county to test the 
question whether General Jackson was to be entirely 
abandoned or heartily supported." 1 The call had 
been made at a well-chosen moment and a large and 
an interested audience filled the court-house and 
overflowed into the square. The usual resolutions, 
common at political conventions, had been prepared 
in advance, and partly as a result of the prominence 
which Douglas had acquired in the preliminary ar- 
rangements, partly because of the desire of his sup- 
porters to push him into a commanding position, 
partly because of uncertainty and doubt about the 
resolutions and a desire to unload their responsi- 
bility should such a course be necessary, Douglas 
was put forward as their advocate. 

According to Sheahan, when the meeting had 
been organized, Douglas "boldly advanced" and 
1 Sheahan, Life, p. 18. 


read the resolutions, strongly endorsing the policy 
of the President in refusing to recharter the Second 
Bank of the United States and removing the public 
deposits from the institution. The reading of the 
resolutions was the signal for a bitter debate, vividly 
described by Douglas's personal admirer and fol- 
lower in his usual florid manner. A local lawyer, 
one Josiah Lamborn, spoke in opposition to the 
resolutions, personally attacking their inexperi- 
enced advocate and flatly contradicting one of his 
statements. This led to a reply by Douglas, ad- 
mitted to have been " in his own peculiar style" — 
a style later immortalized by John Quincy Adams 
and others, and characterized by rather extreme 
and unbridled personal attack. The speech, how- 
ever, had not been pitched too low. His opponent 
left the room, whether, as intimated by Douglas's 
biographer, because of the " irresistible " effect of 
the discourse, or because he was not willing to an- 
swer in the same vein, is not certain. The rough 
farmers, "hardy pioneers," and local grocery-store 
statesmen, were delighted with the words of Doug- 
las, bestowing upon him what Sheahan has called 
"most expressive complimentary titles," such as 
"high-combed cock." 1 It would appear that the 
sobriquet, "Little Giant," which lasted through- 
out Douglas's life, was first applied to him on this 
memorable occasion. Political meetings were not 
so numerous at that early day as later and the re- 
ports of the speech were widely published. Prob- 

1 Life, ante cit., p. 20. 


ably the occasion had some influence in confirming 
the county (Morgan County) as Democratic in poli- 
tics and Douglas's success stimulated him to become 
a candidate for his first serious public office. 

Joseph Duncan had just been elected governor of 
Illinois and A. M. Jenkins, lieutenant-governor in 
August, 1834. Hardly had the new administration 
come into office early in January, 1835, when it 
passed an act providing for the election of states' 
attorneys by the legislature in joint session in place 
of appointment by the governor. The bill had been 
drafted by Douglas and was put through over the veto 
of the new governor, unwilling as he was to give up 
his appointive authority and, though chosen only by 
a plurality of votes, to surrender even in part his 
character as representative of the people of the 
state. Probably it would have been more delicate 
had Douglas declined to draft the bill, or, having 
drafted it, refused to accept any emolument in con- 
sequence. 1 If these ideas suggested themselves to 
the young man, he paid no attention to them, but 
suffered himself to be elected states' attorney for the 
First Judicial Circuit on February 10, 1835, by a 
very scant majority, being given thirty-eight votes 
against thirty-four for John J. Hardin, the former 
incumbent of the office and his most considerable 
competitor. The list of Douglas's supporters on 

1 John T. Morse, Jr., in writing of Lincoln {Abraham Lincoln 
— American Statesmen Series, 1899) says (Vol. I, p. 43; : 
" What has chiefly interested the chroniclers is, that at this 
[1835] session he first saw Stephen A. Douglas, then a lob- 
byist, and said of him : ' He is the least man I ever saw.' " 


that occasion, in fact, included some political 
workers who continued throughout life members of 
the Douglas "machine." The circumstances at- 
tending the incident, the fact that Douglas himself 
had up to that time never had a real case in court, 
had no law library, and had never practiced in any 
way, naturally made serious and dignified members 
of the bar look upon the action as a piece of polit- 
ical jobbery. The accusations were but too well 
founded and would have been sufficient to discredit 
an attorney who had more difficult duties to per- 
form. The fact was, however, that the work before 
Douglas required more energy and activity than 
legal learning. Although the cases he had to prose- 
cute included, according to the fluent Sheahan, 
" crime of almost every grade," there was a strik- 
ing similarity among them, and the methods were 
decidedly rough and ready both on the part of at- 
torneys and of the local courts. Douglas was still a 
mere stripling, small in figure, extremely short, and 
pinned his faith to a single copy of the criminal 
law, the only book he had with him. In the towns 
he visited, copies even of the statutes under which 
cases were brought, were lacking. An amusing 
attempt to discredit Douglas's early efforts turned 
entirely upon the spelling of the name of one of the 
counties employed in the indictments written by 
the prosecutor. It was necessary to send to Peoria 
for a copy of the act which was called in question 
and when this was finally produced, Douglas was 
able to show that his spelling of the name was cor- 


rect. He, however, succeeded in establishing his 
point, owing to a printer's error which had made 
the spelling appear as it had been used by himself 
in the indictments. ' 

With questions of no more significance than this, 
and with a nature specially adapted to the making 
of friends, Douglas succeeded well enough in per- 
forming his not very difficult duties. He devoted 
far more time to mingling with persons of influence, 
getting the attention of voters, and generally build- 
ing up a personal following than to routine busi- 
ness. This was with a view to the establishment of 
a distinct political organization. Douglas, sooner 
than almost any other in Illinois, saw the use that 
could be made of meetings and conventions, and re- 
garded the personal work he was doing as merely 
an incident in the preparation for the convention, 
rather than as the direct preliminary to a contest 
for office. In Jacksonville he had thought it best 
to call a meeting for the purpose of consolidating 
Democratic opinion ; he now thought it desirable 
to perform a similar act of consolidation for the 
Democracy of Morgan County as a whole. 

Working with his old friend Brooks, the pro- 
prietor of the little organ in Jacksonville, Douglas 
began a movement for a county convention. His 
idea was to cut down the number of candidates for 
each office, eliminate the factional or personal ele- 
ment, put forward a single candidate for each office 

1 Described by Johnson, Life, p. 24, following manuscript 


and thus concentrate the power of the party in the 
hands of the clique of leaders who were able to con- 
trol it. While, at the time, pretense was made that 
Morgan County was Whig in its politics, the fact 
remains that the reverse had been asserted after the 
Douglas meeting in Jacksonville when it had been 
announced as Democratic without question. The 
problem was essentially one of personal control 
rather than of political domination. So carefully 
had the preliminary preparations been made, that 
Douglas's county convention was entirely success- 
ful. When the meeting convened at Jacksonville, 
a complete ticket was chosen. The county was en- 
titled to six members of the lower house of the 
legislature and there were various more or less 
valuable county offices. Two members of the 
state Senate were also to be chosen. A complete 
ticket was put in the field and was met by an 
opposing ticket headed by Hardin, the state's 
attorney, who less than a year before had been 
displaced by Douglas's shrewd manoeuvre in the 
state legislature. Douglas was unable to avoid 
meeting Hardin on the stump and finally deter- 
mined to accept a nomination for the legislature in- 
stead of one of the candidates already named who 
gave way to him. Placing himself in the field as 
the leader of the contest, he carried through the 
struggle for the regular nomination and convention 
system and succeeded in securing the election of 
the full ticket with one exception — that of his 
principal opponent Hardin, the leader of his 


own ticket, who succeeded in gaining access to the 

The contest was of signal importance in several 
ways. It practically assured the maintenance of 
the convention system and implied for the imme- 
diate future a rigid system of party control with a 
hierarchy of leaders who directed the rank and file 
and compelled them to surrender personal prefer- 
ences. The convention system had already been 
discussed and attempted sporadically in other coun- 
ties, but would probably not have fastened itself 
upon the state so soon, had it not been for the suc- 
cess of Douglas in consolidating his personal fol- 
lowing. In another way also the occasion was im- 
portant. The campaign was carried on by the 
usual methods, with a copious flow of corn whiskey. 
The methods to which Douglas then became accus- 
tomed doubtless had a significant influence upon 
the mind of a young man unfamiliar with the world 
and possessing no illusions concerning public life 
and public service. u In those days," says ex- 
Governor Ford of Illinois, " the people drank vast 
quantities of whiskey and other liquors ; and the 
dispensation of liquors, or treating, as it was called 
by candidates for office, was an indispensable ele- 
ment of success at elections." l Probably it was 
during these early days of his life that Douglas laid 
the foundation of those habits which later marred 
his public career and were ultimately a primary 
cause of his death. 

1 Ford, History of Illinois, p. 104. 



By such means as have already been sketched, 
Douglas had definitely made his entry into public 
life. His choice as district attorney had been the 
result of a shrewd manoeuvre which might have 
given him merely a temporary incumbency, followed 
by retirement to private life. Douglas, however, 
had exhibited the first attribute of the politician — 
the capacity to adj ust himself to events and to pass 
rapidly from one position to a new one. He was 
now a member of the legislative body of his newly 
adopted state. The session which opened in Decem- 
ber, 1836, has been described as the most important 
that ever assembled in Illinois prior to the Civil 
War, because of the adoption of a large scheme of 
material development based upon public aid. The 
fever of speculative exploitation was then sweeping 
over the state. Agitation had already begun dur- 
ing the summer and fall of 1836 in favor of a gen- 
eral scheme of "internal improvements." The 
plan was inclusive, and was supported not only by 
the farming class but also by the townspeople, who 
had become infected with the speculative mania. 
When the legislature met, it found itself called 
upon to determine what should be done. The 
governor in his message had condemned Jackson's 


policies and had thus raised a warm political issue 
which could not fail to provoke ill-feeling and to 
lead to partisan balloting upon all questions pre- 
sented to that body. The scheme which finally 
took shape comprised a system of railroads running 
from Galena to the mouth of the Ohio, from Alton 
to Shawneetown, from Alton to Mt. Carmel, from 
Quincy to the Indiana boundary of the state, and 
various other lines, including in all about 1,300 
miles. By way of watercourse improvement, there 
was demanded provision for the deepening of 
several rivers, while in order to silence dissatisfac- 
tion among the counties which got no appropria- 
tion, there was asked a distribution of funds for 
local use. 

It was in some ways a remarkable body of men to 
which this plan and others of striking local signifi- 
cance were submitted. Not only Douglas but Abra- 
ham Lincoln was enrolled as a member of the legis- 
lature, while with them sat Hardin, Douglas's re- 
cent rival, John Calhoun, James Shields, and others. 
Douglas, however, started with a distinction ac- 
quired by his vigorous campaign. He became 
chairman of the Committee on Petitions and in that 
capacity had some important work demanding his 
personal attention. Petitions for divorce came 
numerously to the body over which Douglas pre- 
sided and, recognizing the importance of the issue, 
he presented to the legislature an inclusive report, 
concluding with a resolution "that it is unconstitu- 
tional and foreign to the duties of legislation for the 


legislature to grant bills of divorce." 1 The resolu- 
tion was adopted by a decisive majority (fifty-three 
to thirty-two) and the obnoxious system of legislative 
divorces was terminated. 

But this creditable performance was shortly to be 
offset by action in another field calculated to 
counterbalance the prestige acquired. Douglas was 
later to become known as a shrewd and daring real 
estate speculator. Finding himself confronted with 
the question of internal improvements and public 
works as an immediate and a pressing issue, he 
threw in his lot with the element which favored 
development. Early in the session he submitted 
resolutions providing for the completion of the 
Illinois and Michigan canal which had already en- 
countered serious difficulties involving large out- 
lay ; for the construction of a railroad from the end 
of the canal to the mouth of the Ohio ; for another 
railroad from Quincy east to the state line ; and for 
various other appropriations. 

These resolutions were merely an incident in the 
general discussion into which the legislature now 
plunged. Douglas recognized the lack of resources 
under which the state was laboring and proposed 
the issue of bonds, the interest on them to be met by 
sales of public lands. If he did not go as far as some 
of his more radical colleagues, and if his youth and 
total lack of knowledge of business excuse him for 
being carried away by the current demands of 

1 House Journal, pp. 60 ff. ; also Johnson's Douglas, pp. 33-34, 
especially footnote p. 34. 


special interests, the fact remains that at the time 
he did not raise his voice in opposition to the 
urgent calls of speculators. Sharing in the work of 
the committee of conference which attempted to rec- 
oncile the views of the two branches of the state 
legislature, Douglas, however, endeavored to restrain 
somewhat the excesses of the land speculators and 
directly opposed any system of improvement to 
which the state should be a party or in which it 
should hold stock. He likewise antagonized a 
scheme whereby Illinois would have authorized an 
increase in the stock of the state bank and would 
have become a large stockholder in it. Finally, 
however, he yielded his assent to a plan whereby 
large sums were voted for the improvement of the 
rivers of the state and still larger subsidies were 
devoted to the establishment of railroad lines, with 
a division of $200,000 among the several coun- 
ties. 1 Although Douglas's enthusiastic biographer 
Sheahan claims for him that, had his original plan 
been adopted, several millions of dollars would have 
been saved, he is obliged to admit that the legisla- 
ture ' ' laid the foundation of a public debt which 
for nearly a quarter of a century . . . loomed 
up in all its hideous proportions, an object of terror 
and of oppression to the people," while a more recent 
though hardly less sympathetic writer grants that 
Douglas was put "ina peculiarly trying position." 
It was only a short time after the adjournment of 
the legislature when disaster swept over the country. 
1 Sheahan, Life, p. 32. 


The state bank went to destruction, local bank 
stock being tremendously depreciated, and the sys- 
tem of internal improvements at once received a 
decisive check. It was not strange that the mem- 
bers of the legislature felt keenly the criticism to 
which their action had exposed them, and Douglas, 
who had had the foresight to accept a place as Reg- 
ister of the Laud Office at Springfield, found himself 
well out of the difficulty to which he would have been 
exposed had he remained a member of the legisla- 
ture during the special session shortly to be called 
by Governor Duncan. The place as register had 
been given to Douglas under conditions which sug- 
gested a political " deal." During his first term in 
the legislature, it had been voted to move the capi- 
tal of the state to Springfield. There had naturally 
been keen competition among the various towns de- 
sirous of being designated. Douglas had favored 
Springfield and had done what he could to secure 
the location of the capital at that place. He was at- 
tached to the towu, had gained his first start there 
and not unnaturally supported its claims. The 
charge that he had done the work in return for a 
pledge of the support of the Springfield people for 
the registership was one of the usual accusations 
likely to be made under such conditions, but seems to 
have no historical basis. The fact that Douglas had 
opposed moving the capital, though if it were to be 
moved at all he had favored Springfield, tends to 
relieve him from the imputations thus cast upon the 
conditions under which he had assumed office. 


He had in any event chosen wisely from a pecu- 
niary standpoint. Local newspapers promptly 
charged that his receipts were enormous, 1 and it is 
certain that they were sufficient to put him for the 
first time in his life upon a thoroughly independent 
basis. He was still, however, as much of a politician 
as ever, although holding a more or less non-political 
office. He resumed the life which he had led in 
Springfield 2 when he had first opened his office there 
without law books, without training, and with only 
a few political backers. Although not in the legis- 
lative body, he continued to be a close observer of 
state politics. The special session which had been 
summoned by Governor Duncan met but a little 
while after the inauguration of President Van 
Buren, who had called a special session of Congress 
before which he had laid a plan for a sub-treasury 
system. The position of Douglas with reference to 
national politics at this period is not clear ; his at- 
tention was far more closely concentrated upon 
local than upon Federal issues. 

The effect of the disturbances, however, was to 
weaken the Democratic party throughout the coun- 
try and of course in Illinois. There was danger 
that the party machinery which Douglas had been 

1 Johnson, Life, p. 35. 

2 When Springfield was organized as a city in 1840, under a 
special charter, a "grand hall" was given in the American 
House to celebrate the event. Invitations were sent to St. Louis 
and Chicago. " It was designed to be a grand affair which was 
to include wit, beauty, and fashion of the entire state. Among 
the managers appear the names of A. Lincoln, S. A. Douglas." 
Moses, Illinois Historical and Statistical, Vol. I, p. 431. 


so largely instrumental in building up, would go to 
pieces and that the controlling elements would lose 
the management of the state government and the 
patronage which they had held so long. This 
disorganization of public opinion naturally revived 
the hostility to the convention system. During the 
special session of the legislature, the political situa- 
tion was fully discussed and finally a state conven- 
tion was summoned. Douglas had visited the cap- 
ital for the purpose of securing concert of action and 
at a meeting on July 27th it had been determined 
that the convention should be called in December. 
The preliminary work was placed in the hands 
of a committee of thirty of which Douglas was made 
a member, while in each congressional district a 
committee of five was organized to look after local 
conditions. The committee of thirty issued an ad- 
dress to the people of the state which appeared dur- 
ing the early autumn and probably had some effect 
in directing public opinion. Douglas traveled 
hither and thither, addressing various local mass- 
meetings and now fully defending the policy of Van 
Buren in financial and other matters. There were 
then three congressional districts in the state and 
Douglas, as a member of the committee controlling 
one of these, was in a most important position of 
vantage. With this start, it was now not strange 
that he should endeavor to transfer himself from 
local to national politics. Just when he determined 
to become the successor of William L. May, then 
representing his district, is not certain. Practice 


favored the continuance of the congressmen for more 
than one term and May had had but one. The con- 
vention system which Douglas had so earnestly 
advocated, however, demanded that the nomination 
should be made in convention and consequently one 
was called to meet at Peoria in November, 1837. 
Brooks, the old time backer of Douglas, had been 
doing what he could to shape public opinion, and 
to make sure that the right men were nominated as 
representatives of the county in the district conven- 
tion. Singularly enough, Douglas was nominated 
on the first ballot, and thus as a candidate stepped 
immediately into the place of a recognized member 
of Congress who had rendered efficient service, and 
who was now displaced by an electoral device which 
was far from having obtained permanent recogni- 
tion. The convention itself had represented only 
about two-fifths of the total number of counties in 
the district. 

Had Douglas been sincerely attached to the con- 
vention system, he would hardly have subjected it 
to so rude a shock as that which it now received 
from the onset of public criticism. Douglas, in fact, 
was not a strong candidate. He was then less than 
twenty-five years of age ; the party was generally 
in a bad condition ; he was inexperienced save in 
purely local matters ; he had no financial resources 
with which to back the organization. It was a 
wonderful tribute to his personality and skill as a 
manipulator that he should have received the nomi- 
nation at all. The fact that at about the same time 


the Democratic state convention nominated weak 
meo as candidates more than correspondingly 
weakened the local tickets. Douglas was not the 
only Federal appointee designated on the slate, 
and the machine-made appearance which his own 
nomination presented was characteristic of prac- 
tically the whole party program throughout 
Illinois. He undoubtedly realized the difficulties 
of the situation, but he was in a position where he 
must go forward or lose ground. The land office 
business was by no means so profitable after the 
panic of 1837 as it had been before the disaster, 
while the character of the work did not suit 
Douglas's active spirit. He had exhausted about 
all that was immediately within his reach in state 
politics and his transfer to the national capital was 
the next and natural step for him to take. His 
position in the party had been unexpectedly con- 
spicuous, but was not sufficiently confirmed to 
warrant him in believing that two years outside of 
direct participation in political matters would leave 
him in a condition to regain his place. He plunged 
into the canvass, in opposition to a rival candidate 
named John T. Stuart, who was described as an 
eminent lawyer and a fine speaker, to neither of 
which classes Douglas could as yet be said to 

The progress of the campaign showed that he was 
heavily handicapped by the unfair tactics of his 
party, while the vigor and ability of his opponent 
would in any case have made it difficult for him to 


gain headway against the Whigs. Stuart was not 
only popular in Springfield, Douglas's own head- 
quarters, but he was widely known throughout the 
state, and had the stamina and energy that political 
campaigns in those primitive days especially de- 
manded. Yet the contest seemed to be more evenly 
matched than many had expected. Douglas gave a 
good account of himself even in a personal affray 
with his opponent, who picked up his rival and 
twisted his neck vigorously, while Douglas re- 
sponded with a severe bite that left its mark in 
after years upon Stuart's person. The result, how- 
ever, showed that the political jobbery of the 
Democrats had disgusted the district as well as the 
state, so that Stuart secured a small majority. 
About all that Douglas carried out of the cam- 
paign was a reputation as a vigorous and resource- 
ful fighter. It was the general belief that no other 
man could have done so well as he in this trying 
struggle. This, however, was rather cold con- 

Douglas now found himself in September, 1838, 
out of his snug nest in the land office and with but 
little to rely upon. He had not been able to save 
much money, and what he had saved had been 
heavily drawn upon by political contributions and 
his own expenses. Like most disappointed politi- 
cians, he fell back on the practice of law, his main 
obstacle being that he had no legal information. 
However, he opened an office in Springfield. The 
winter's work was not particularly profitable, per- 


haps because he spent more time in political schem- 
ing than in preparing for practice or in attendance 
on the courts. Early in the spring he had a sharp 
and wordy contest with Lincoln, who had himself 
begun the practice of law, although the affair had 
no general significance and was merely a local bout. 
Other political imbroglios, including a personal 
fight with a newspaper editor in a neighboring 
town, were less creditable and Douglas was at this 
time, perhaps more than at any other in his career, 
in danger of dropping back into the place of an 
incompetent local attorney who devotes himself not 
to law but to the meaner tasks of political manage- 

Fortune, however, or his own restless energy, did 
not permit this inglorious termination of his career. 
Douglas continued his political efforts, it is true, 
sharing in local conventions, but he also put him- 
self upon a more dignified basis than he had thus 
far been able to attain by securing a place as 
counsel in an important political case brought by 
some members of the Whig party to test the con- 
stitutionality of that provision of the Illinois con- 
stitution which allowed "inhabitants" to vote at 
state elections. The case never came to trial in the 
Supreme Court, Douglas and his associate counsel 
being called in at a moment when the Democrats 
had been defeated in the Circuit Court, and secur- 
ing an adjournment on technical grounds until after 
the election of 1 840 had passed by. As the case 
had been brought up largely with a view to the 


effect of a decision in that election, such action was 
equivalent, for the immediate purpose, to a victory 
for the Democrats. 

This danger out of the way, Douglas pluuged into 
the fierce contest of Van Buren and Harrison for 
the presidency and succeeded in carrying the state 
in favor of Van Buren. The campaign was one of 
the most bitter that Illinois had yet known and 
Douglas had acquitted himself with more than 
common skill and success. The party owed him 
something because of the clever trick he had turned 
in securing an adjournment of the case before the 
Supreme Court, as well as for his active and unpaid 
efforts during the campaign. What would he take ? 
The party would undoubtedly grant him anything 
that was available. He had already declined a re- 
nomination to the legislature, recoguizing, as every 
aspirant for political houors does, that a second 
term in a state legislative body means that he who 
accepts it probably has not much in store for him 
in Federal politics. Fortunately, the secretaryship 
of state was opened to him by the resignation of the 
previous incumbent. This resignation had not been 
voluntary ; it was the result of legal proceedings in- 
stituted by the governor who desired to oust Field, 
the previous appointee, because he was a Whig, 
while the administration was now Democratic. The 
case had been decided in Field's favor by the Su- 
preme Court of Illinois upon appeal from the lower 
court which had decided against him ; but so much 
irritation had been created as a result of the pro- 


ceedings, that Field, foreseeing that his retention of 
the office would be made a political issue, withdrew ' 
and was succeeded by Douglas. The latter took of- 
fice just at the close of 1840. 2 The new place, how- 
ever, proved to be of little importance save as a 

Douglas's accession to the Supreme Court of the 
state of Illinois is one of the most singular turns in 
the political wheel of fortune by which he was be- 
ing carried steadily on. He had become Secretary 
of State and had accepted the place as a temporary 
makeshift, just as he had accepted the various po- 
litical offices which he had held in the past. Ap- 
parently he had had no thought of securing ad- 
vancement in the legal profession, nor had he done 
anything which could serve as a medium of training 

1 The governor named J. A. McClernand as Secretary of State 
in place of Alexander P. Field, a Whig. The legislature re- 
fused to confirm the nomination. After adjournment of the 
legislature, he again commissioned McClernand. McClernand 
"made a formal demand for the office, and its surrender heing 
refused, sued out a writ of quo warranto before Judge Breese, 
who upon the hearing decided in his favor. Field appealed the 
case to the Supreme Court, where it was ably argued on his be- 
half by Cyrus Walker, Justice Butterfield and Levi Davis, and 
for the appellee by S. A. Douglas, James Shields, and the At- 
torney-General, Wickliffe Kitchell. The decision of the court 
below was reversed." Moses, Illinois Historical and Statistical, 
p. 443. 

2 The Democrats " availed themselves of the first opportunity 
offering itself to override, and virtually to reverse, the decision 
of the Supreme Court by promptly confirming Stephen A. 
Douglas whose nomination as Secretary of State was among the 
first official acts of the governor after the assembling of the 
called session, on November 30th. Mr. Douglas, however, only 
held the position until February 27th." Ibid., p. 444. 


to fit him for preferment in that direction. His law 
had throughout the few years of his career been 
simply a servant to his ambition, and that ambition 
had been consistently and steadily political. He 
had hardly taken office as Secretary of State when 
there appeared to be a probability of a new ar- 
rangement of the various scheming groups which 
were in practical control of the legislature. It had 
been thought that a change in the organization of 
the Supreme Court would be desirable at the session 
of 1840-1841. The idea was to substitute for the 
Circuit Courts of the state a larger bench of Supreme 
Court j udges, making nine in all, instead of the four 
previously appointed, the judges thereafter to be 
assigned to circuits. This plan apparently did not 
grow out of any general desire for better judicial 
organization, but out of partisan prejudice which 
had been stimulated by sundry decisions of the court 
in recent cases that involved political issues. 1 
Douglas, being a "good mixer," had early become 
popular with the legislative wire-pullers and he now 
demanded some action with reference to the court, 
that there might be adequate rebuke to it for its 
alleged political tendencies. The bill reorganizing 
the Supreme Court was therefore hastened forward 

•The court had "held that . . . one Kyle, upon the 
reception of whose vote the question was made, possessed all 
the qualifications required by the affidavit, under the law of 
1829. . . . The broad and important question of alien 
suffrage under the constitution did not arise in the case, and no 
opinion of the court was expressed upon it." Davidson and 
Stuve, History of Illinois, p. 456. 


by all the means of partisanship and legislative 
trickery, and was speedily enacted. 1 Thus arose the 
question of new appointments to the bench. 

It would have been far better for Douglas at this 
juncture had he resolutely refused to consider a ju- 
dicial appointment, especially in view of the sliare 
he had had in urging the reorganization. He was, 
however, troubled with no such scruples, or with 
undue modesty of any kind. The report shortly 
gained ground that he would be rewarded for past 
political service in this way and Douglas made no 
effort to contradict the rumor. Despite the opposi- 
tion of the more conservative and older lawyers of 
the state, his name was finally accepted as one of 
the appointees and he took the place with the usual 
statement about the sacrifice involved in a step that 
would cause him wholly to surrender himself to a 
judicial career. 

In the court as it was reorganized, Douglas was 
associated with some whose names were subsequently 
conspicuous in local history and with others who 
have continued practically unknown to fame. 
William Wilson was Chief- Justice and his associates 
were Samuel D. Lockwood, Theophilus W. Smith, 
Thomas C. Browne, Thomas Ford, Sidney Breese, 

1 " Meanwhile the bill to reorganize the Supreme Court was 
pending before the legislature, and with the rendition of this 
decision by the court, it was circulated about by the politicians, 
and boldly charged by Douglas in a speech made in the lobby 
of the house, that the main question had been purposely evaded 
by the court to allay the apprehension of Democrats as to the 
alien vote, and to conciliate their favor, with the object of de- 
feating the bill." History of Illinois, p. 457. 


Walter B. Scates, Samuel H. Treat, and Douglas 
himself.' Douglas was assigned to the fifth dis- 
trict for the performance of circuit duties under the 
new law. The only important feature about the 
fifth district was that it included the city of Quincy, 
in Hancock County,- and a place called Nauvoo at 
which had recently settled the peculiar religious 
sectaries who have come to be known as Mormons. 
Douglas at once began his duties and handed down 

1 The five additional supreme judges elected by the legislature 
under this law were, Thomas Ford (subsequently governor), 
Sidney Breese, Walter B. Scates, Samuel H. Treat, and 
Stephen A. Douglas. 

" The last named gentleman had been of counsel for the 
aliens, had derived his information of how the case was going to 
be decided in June preceding from Judge Smith, had obtained 
the contiuuauoe then on the defect in the record as pointed out 
by him, had made a violent attack upon the old judges by a 
characteristic speech in the lobby, and had furnished MoClernand 
the data upon which the latter denounced the court ; in view of 
all of which, it seems strange that he had sought and obtained a 
position side by side with the gentlemen he had traduced and 
attempted so much to bring into disrepute. Partisan scheming 
and the cravings of office could not well go further. 

"The new judges were charged with partisan conduct by the 
Whig press of the period, in the secret appointment of a clerk 
of the Supreme Court. Ebenezer Peck, it seems, as a member 
of the legislature had originally opposed the judiciary bill ; but 
his position became suddenly changed, and the bill passed the 
House by one majority over the objections of the council. After 
taking their seats, the new members of the court had no con- 
sultation with the old judges on the subject of the clerkship, 
and not a word was said in open court about removing the in- 
cumbent, Duncan. Indeed, one of them had given out that to 
avoid the imputation of being a partisan court, the clerkship 
was not to be disturbed. The public astouishment was not in- 
considerable, therefore, when shortly after its adjournment, 
Peck announced himself as the clerk by appointment of the 
majority of the court." History of Illinois, p. 460. 


various decisions. Among those which he delivered 
were Woodward vs. Turnbull, an action for debt in- 
volving the issuance of local licenses for the exhibi- 
tion of a menagerie in which Justice Scates delivered 
a long dissenting opinion ; Stevens vs. Stebbins, an- 
other action for debt, raising the interesting ques- 
tion whether there was any material variance in law 
between ' ' Stevens ' ' the Christian name of Mr. 
Stebbins and " Steven" the form in which the 
name had appeared in a note, Douglas reaching the 
conclusion that the variation between the two names 
was immaterial ; Warren vs. Nexsen, an action of 
assumpsit involving a minor legal question of 
technique ; Gardner vs. the People, which involved 
a motion for a writ of error in a murder case ; 
Roper vs. Clabaugh, in which was presented the 
question of trespass upon lands by one individual 
who took away fence-rails belonging to another ; 
and other cases of the same relatively inconspicuous 
sort. 1 Most of the causes which Douglas was called 
upon to decide furnished no principles of law that 
could not be settled by a man of shrewd common 
sense, and this he possessed in abundant measure, 
even though provided only with the single law book 
with which the new Supreme Court justice but a few 
years before had begun his career as prosecuting 
District Attorney. Although the cases coming into 
the tribunal to which Douglas had been elected 
were at that time possibly not of first-class impor- 

1 The cases here referred to will be found at length in Scam- 
nion's Illinois Reports, Vols. III-V, 1840-1843. 


tance, the work lying before him was as significant 
in its way as any to which he was likely to be 
called, and was more important than the work of the 
courts in many older and better-settled common- 
wealths. It was unfortunately true that Douglas 
had but too little training for the position which he 
now assumed. The condition of the bar, and of the 
bench as well, was exceedingly crude at that early 
day, and no very great amount of legal acumen was 
called for ; nevertheless, a good deal of tact and 
skill was needed in order to maintain the position 
of a member of the Supreme Court before a bar 
which included many able and alert minds, making 
up in shrewdness what they lacked in legal learning. 
Of more interest than the character of the cases 
passed upon by Douglas is the fact that one of the 
practicing lawyers who appeared before the court 
was Abraham Lincoln. Johu J. Hardin, Douglas's 
sometime rival for political honors, was another of 
the lawyers, while among his colleagues on the 
bench was Sidney Breese, who was in the future to 
be associated with him as a member of the United 
States Senate. Lyman Trumbull, who appeared 
before the court as an attorney, was also to join 
Douglas in the Senate some years later. Altogether 
the make-up of the bench and the bar gave Douglas 
interesting and valuable connections and enabled 
him to extend his political acquaintance. The ex- 
perience, moreover, brought him into contact with 
men with whom he was later to engage in some of 
the keenest struggles of his life, and gave him the 


opportunity of estimating their mental caliber in a 
way that would probably not have been possible 
under other circumstances. He gained an insight 
into the character of Lincoln that served him in 
good stead in subsequent years, and laid the founda- 
tion for the respect which he later accorded to the 
ungraceful countryman who was to guide the desti- 
nies of the nation during the Civil War. There was 
no close association between Douglas and Lincoln, 
nor probably was there any love lost on either side. 
Yet each contrived to get a fair appreciation of the 
other. 1 

The physical equipment of the court, too, was as 
limited as the training of those who appeared before 
it. " Eude frame or log houses served the purposes 
of bench and bar. The judge sat usually upon a 
platform with a plain table or pine-board for a desk. 
A larger table below accommodated the attorneys 
who followed the judge in his circuit from county to 
county." 2 Nor was there anything in the demeanor 

1 " When Lincoln was admitted to the bar, the practioe of the 
law was in a very crude condition in Illinois. General prin- 
ciples, gathered from a few text-books, formed the simple basis 
upon which lawyers tried cases and framed arguments in im- 
provised courtrooms. But the advance was rapid and carried 
Lincoln forward with it. The raw material, if the phrase may 
be pardoned, was excellent ; there were many men in the state 
who united a natural aptitude for the profession with high 
ability, ambition, and a progressive spirit. Lincoln was 
brought in contact with them all, whether they rode his circuit 
or not, because the Federal courts were held only in Spring- 
field. Among them was Stephen A. Douglas." Morse's 
Lincoln, ante cit., Vol. I, p. 67. 

2 Johnson, Douglas, p. 63. 


of the judges to inspire particular awe or anxiety 
among those who practiced. "The relations be- 
tween the bench and the bar were free and easy, 
and flashes of wit and humor and personal repartee 
were constantly passing from one to the other. The 
court-rooms in those days were always crowded. 
To go to court and listen to the witnesses and 
lawyers was among the chief amusements of the 
frontier settlements." x Douglas did not attempt to 
raise himself above his easy plane of familiarity. 
One who knew him well says that " when presiding 
as a judge on the bench he would frequently, while 
the lawyers were addressing the jury, go down 
among the spectators and seat himself beside an old 
friend and visit with him, all the time keeping 
cognizance of what was going on, ready to respond 
when his attention to the case was required, main- 
taining all the time the most perfect order. He has 
been seen at Knoxville, when the court-room was 
crowded, to seat himself upon the knee of old 
Governor McMurtry and, with his arm upon his 
shoulder, talk with him for a considerable time." 7 

Douglas was, however, still preeminently a poli- 
tician. Although there was comparatively little 
criticism of his decisions, it was evident that they 
were not the product of very much thought, and 
that their author was preparing for some other field 
than that of judicial life, notwithstanding his early 

1 Arnold, Reminiscences of the Illinois Bar, quoted by Johnson, 
p. 63. 

1 Carr, Douglas, pp. 42-43. 


statement to the contrary. In this respect he did 
not differ from his associates. 1 

His colleague, Sidney Breese, had long felt an 
ambition to go to the United States Senate, and in 
this Douglas himself thought he might perhaps rival 
his associate. Senator Youug was hoping to be re- 
elected in the autumn of 1842 and Douglas's friends 
at Springfield, knowing that he and Breese would 
soon be in a personal war, began a movement to se- 
cure support for Douglas as a potential "dark- 
horse" when the contest was settled in the legisla- 
ture. So well did they lay their plans that Douglas 
received a very substantial vote, although Breese 
was finally elected by a small margin. Douglas 
himself probably realized that the attempt thus 
boldly made in his behalf had been rather too am- 
bitious, and he now determined to effect some- 
thing of a more modest character. He coutinued 
to cast his eyes longingly toward the national gov- 
ernment and in the autumn of 1842 he allowed the 
rumor to be circulated that he would not object to 
being drafted into the service of the party at Wash- 
ington. Illinois had been gaining rapidly in popu- 
lation and the census of 1840 had indicated that the 
state ought to have seven members of Congress in- 

1 One of the newly appointed judges, writing of the reorgani- 
zation of the court, said : " The highest courts are but indiffer- 
ent tribunals for the settlement of great political questions. 
. . When any great political question on which parties are 
arrayed comes up for decision, the utmost which can be ex- 
pected of them is an able and learned argument in favor of 
their own party, whose views they must naturally favor." 


stead of only four. This change, however, required 
action by the legislature in re-districting the state. 
The problem was how to retain all of the districts in 
Democratic hands. Here Douglas saw his oppor- 
tunity. If a suitable district could be selected for 
him, he might easily secure election. The revision 
act was passed in June, 1842, aud during the next 
spring the problem of a nomination was taken in hand. 
The fifth district or circuit in which Douglas had been 
holding court was in part covered by a fifth congres- 
sional district, so arranged as to give him the maxi- 
mum number of favorable votes. A small body of 
Democrats on June 5, 1843, after the farce of con- 
sidering a number of candidates, gave Douglas a 
unanimous nomination and perfected the organiza- 
tion necessary to carry on the contest. Douglas, 
after the usual excuses and expressions of regret, 
resigned office on the 28th, little more than three 
weeks after his nomination. 1 His opponent, a 
Southerner named Browning, was put forward by 
the Whigs and the campaign was waged not only 
upon the usual local issues but also upon dis- 
tinctly sectional lines. The contest, although not 
unusually long, was carried on under great dif- 
ficulties. Constant travel by all sorts of con- 
veyances, the necessity of addressing many public 
meetings in the open air and the usual election 
excesses, wore out both candidates and at the 
close of the campaign, Douglas was obliged to 
take to his bed, where he lay for some time with 
1 Scammon, Illinois Reports, Vol. IV, p. viii. 


a serious illness. The election, however, resulted 
in his favor, giving him a fairly large majority. 
The district had been too well arranged to make 
good the chances of his opponent. 



Coincident with Douglas's short term as Secre- 
tary of State, local politics underwent a curious 
experience — an experience which extended into and 
partly modified not only Douglas's brief career on 
the Supreme Bench of the state but also his later 
political career. This was the entanglement with 
the Mormon church into which he was, probably 
unconsciously, drawn by his desire to secure political 
support and advance the interests of his party. 

The experience with the Mormons covers, in Doug- 
las' s life, a continuous period of some six years, 
1840-1846, and was destined to furnish him food for 
future thought. It has been variously interpreted 
by historians and biographers, some of whom regard 
it as little more than a temporarily annoying situa- 
tion out of which Douglas doubtless made the best 
that was possible ; while others bitterly denounce 
what they consider the unprincipled attitude adopted 
by him in connection with the fortunes of what was 
thought by the people of the state to be an odious 
sect, full of danger to the commonwealth. The 
truth seems to be that, throughout this singular 
episode, Douglas hardly recognized the character of 
the forces with which he was dealing, being in this 


regard perhaps not very different from his con- 
temporaries. He always endeavored to avoid an- 
tagonizing in an undue way any large section of 
voters who were not distinctly determined in oppo- 
sition to him already. It is fair to suppose, more- 
over, that in all of his decisions as a judge, he was 
animated by the desire to hold the scales substan- 
tially even. In the case of the Mormons, both the 
political and the judicial motive combined, with 
the result that the Mormons invariably found 
Douglas one of the most sympathetic judges with 
whom they had to deal. The Mormon experience 
throws into unusually clear relief some of the meth- 
ods which were becoming habitual with rising 

The Mormons had first gained a foothold at 
Nauvoo, Illinois, having come largely from Missouri. 
In Missouri their politics had usually been Demo- 
cratic, yet they had been driven out by the Demo- 
cratic governor of a Democratic state, while Van 
Bureu, although himself a Democrat, had refused 
to give them any relief. When they arrived at 
Nauvoo in Hancock County, 111., they declared 
that they would join neither party but would vote 
for the one which would give them the greatest aid. 
The announcement of this policy created no little 
excitement among local politicians, for with parties 
as evenly balanced as they then were, it was ap- 
parent to most persons that the Mormons might 
easily come to hold the balance of power. On 
settling at Nauvoo, they determined to secure some 


distinct recognition from the state. They employed 
a certain John C. Bennett as their agent and sent 
him to Springfield with instructions to secure a city 
charter and authority to establish a "military 
legion." Bennett naturally went to the representa- 
tives of Hancock County in the legislature and ad- 
dressed himself chiefly to a Mr. Little who was then 
a senator for the county. Bennett also thought it 
well to keep in touch with the Democrats, and after 
casting about for that person with whom it would 
be most expedient to deal, he determined to go to 
Douglas. 1 

There is no record, probably, of the exact nature 
of his negotiations but the outcome shows what they 
were clearly enough. The plan as finally developed 
was to have the charter, which Bennett desired, 
presented to the legislature by Whig interests, while 
Douglas undoubtedly promised that Democratic op- 
position should be prevented from showing itself. 
Senator Little did present such a charter, which 
was referred to the Judiciary Committee whose 
chairman, a Mr. Snyder, was a Democrat. Snyder 
recommended the passage of the charter, which was 
then adopted by a viva voce vote, no one wishing to 
go on record either one way or the other. The 
charter incorporated the city of Nauvoo, provided 

1 Douglas's relations with the Mormons are beat set forth in 
Linn's Story of the Mormons, and Ford's History of Illinois. 
Hheahan's Life of Stephen A. Douglas and Johnson's Stephen A. 
Douglas review the episode in their customary way. Some 
light on the Mormon situation in Illinois was also afforded by 
Douglas himself in certain of his later utterances. 


for the usual officers, aud gave them the usual 
powers to pass ordinances in case they ' ' were 
not repugnant to the Constitution of the United 
States or this state [Illinois]." Later the question 
arose whether the ambiguous language of the 
charter permitted them to pass ordinances in viola- 
tion of the laws of the state and to establish a 
system of government for themselves. Important 
as bearing upon this question is the fact that the 
charter established courts with exteusive jurisdic- 
tion, the municipal or higher court being composed 
of the mayor as chief -justice and the four aldermen 
as his associates, but an appeal was allowed to the 
Circuit Court of the county. This singular charter 
also incorporated the militia of Nauvoo under the 
title of "The Nauvoo Legion." That body was 
made entirely independent of the military organiza- 
tion of the state, and was divorced from the control 
of all the officers of the state militia except the 
governor. The commissioned officers of the Legion 
were to constitute a court-martial, which was to 
make and execute all ordinances necessary for its 
government, aud was not bound to regard the laws 
of the state of Illinois, though it was forbidden to 
do anything repugnant to the constitution. This 
Legion was placed at the disposal of the mayor for 
the purpose of assuring the execution of the laws 
and ordinances of the city of Nauvoo. Had it not 
been for the shrewdness of the Mormons in arrang- 
ing for the support of both parties, it is hard to see 
how such a document could have passed any 


legislative body. Governor Ford who took office 
some three years after the charter had been passed 
at the session of the Illinois legislature in 1840-1841, 
thinks that the powers " were unheard of and 
anti-republican in many particulars ; and capable 
of infinite abuse by a people disposed to abuse 
them." J The opinion is undoubtedly just and it 
would be hard to account for the passage of such 
measures on any ground other than that which is 
assigned by him — political timidity and unwilling- 
ness to run the hazard of defeat. 

Whatever may be thought of this charter and 
however little its ultimate effects were at the time 
foreseen, the real influence of the Mormons shortly 
became apparent. A city government was speedily 
organized at Nauvoo and the Nauvoo Legion was 
established. Joseph H. Smith was not only mayor 
but also commander of the Legion and head of the 
church. In the meanwhile Douglas had been 
elected to the bench of the Supreme Court of the 
state and in that capacity he had been placed in a 
position in which his recent attitude toward the 
Mormons, while Secretary of State, was likely to be 
sternly tested. As he had assisted in passing, per- 
haps had been primarily responsible for, the 
singular charter of the Mormons, he was now to be 
called upon to adjudicate the questions which might 
arise under it. The legislature had selected Douglas 
as judge on the 15th of February, 1841, and as we 
have already seen,' he was now sent to the fifth 

■Ford, History of Illinois, p. 265. * Supra, p. 45. 


circuit — the Quincy district — which happened to 
be that in which the Mormons had taken up their 
residence. Under the conditions, it would not 
have been strange if the inhabitants of the district, 
who speedily became antagonistic to Mormon in- 
fluence, had given special attention to the attitude 
which Douglas would assume. The circuit had 
been much agitated by the conflicts between the 
Mormons and the so-called Gentiles by whom they 
were surrounded, and the position of a judge was 
one of exceptional difficulty in such cases, because 
of the exceedingly bitter feeling that had been pro- 
duced between the Mormon and non-Mormon groups 
in the population. Douglas, however, did not 
waver in his attitude. He sought to give the 
Mormons full recognition in all of his decisions, 
and on one occasion when Joseph H. Smith, who 
was held by the populace to be responsible for the 
crimes charged against his sect generally, was per- 
sonally endangered, Douglas was largely responsible 
for rescuing the leader from a lynching which was 
imminent. 1 

Most of the cases coming before Douglas in this 
connection were comparatively trivial, but there 
was at least one of very considerable importance. 
This one raised a question concerning the JSTauvoo 
Legion and its power under the charter which had 
been granted it by the legislature through the in- 
fluence of Senator Little and Secretary Douglas. 
Douglas, almost as soon as he took his place on the 

1 Sheahan, Life, p. 50. 


bench, had appointed Doctor Bennett, the agent of 
the Mormons, a Master of Chancery, doubtless as 
representing the Mormon interests in Hancock 
County. Bennett was not only an influential Mor- 
mon, an alderman of Nauvoo and a major-general 
in the Nauvoo Legion, but prior to his joining the 
Mormons, he had also been appointed an adjutant- 
general of the state militia. Within a very short 
time after Douglas had taken office as judge, a war- 
rant for the arrest of Joseph H. Smith and several 
other Mormons was issued by Governor Carlin, of 
Illinois, at the demand of the governor of Missouri. 
Smith's case came up before Judge Douglas and he 
was discharged upon a technicality. This he, per- 
haps not unnaturally, regarded as a recognition of 
Mormonism by the Democratic party and directly 
assumed a position as an ardent supporter of Doug- 
las, publishing a proclamation to that effect in the 
Nauvoo newspapers in which he described the judge 
as a " master-spirit." The manifesto of Smith ap- 
parently transferred the Mormon vote from the 
"Whigs to the Democrats and led to an immediate 
change of front on the part of the Whig party, 
which now could hardly find strong enough lan- 
guage in denunciation of Mormon iniquities. 

In the meantime the growth of this singular sect 
had been proceeding rapidly. It numbered about 
16,000 in Hancock County in 1842, while, accord- 
ing to the estimate of Governor Thomas Ford, 1 there 
were "several thousand" scattered about in other 

1 Ford, History of Illinois, p. 313. 


counties. This was a compact body of voters which 
could not be neglected in a state where political 
power was as evenly balanced as in Illinois. The 
conduct of the Mormons and their status before the 
law, however, rendered it difficult to overlook cer- 
tain of their acts and consequently almost continu- 
ous conflicts had occurred between them and the 
recognized state officials. Crimes of all sorts were 
currently attributed to Mormon influence, or to the 
direct action of members of the sect, and the num- 
ber of cases coming before the courts, in which the 
religious and social prejudice aroused by Mormon 
doctrine was involved, was very considerable. 

In the opinion that Douglas had rendered in 
1841 in Smith's case, the attitude of the Mormons 
with reference to military service had already been 
discussed. The decision was construed, both by 
the Mormons and by others, as permitting them to 
control their military company through a court- 
martial of its own officers. According to Linn 1 the 
so-called " Nauvoo Legion" had actually been 
recognized as independent of state control by virtue 
of a provision of law which allowed it to be gov- 
erned by a court-martial of its own officers. This 
view of its independence, taken by the Mormons, 
says Mr. Linn, "may be seen in the following gen- 
eral order signed by Smith and Bennett in May, 
1841, founded on an opinion by Judge Stephen A. 
Douglas : 

"'The officers and privates belonging to the 

1 Story of the Mormons, p. 237, et seq. 


Legion are exempt from all military duty not re- 
quired by the legally constituted authorities 
thereof ; they are therefore expressly inhibited 
from performing any military service not ordered 
by the general officers or directed by the court- 

"In other words this city military company was 
entirely independent of even the governor of the 
state. Little wonder that the Presidency, writing 
about the new law to the Saints abroad said : ' 'Tis 
all we ever claimed.' " 

With the support which had been obtained from 
Douglas's decision and other favorable verdicts, the 
Mormons were emboldened to push their views be- 
fore the courts as well as to try to exert some polit- 
ical influence. In 1842, as we have seen, Governor 
Carlin had issued a warrant for the arrest of Joseph 
H. Smith, then the head of the Mormon church, on 
the ground that he was a fugitive from justice in 
Missouri. Governor Ford has stated that this war- 
rant had never been executed and was still outstand- 
ing when he took office two years later. The Mor- 
mons, however, were desirous of having the case 
well tested in the Federal court, and upon their ap- 
plication a duplicate warrant was issued during the 
winter of 1842-1843, and placed in the hands of the 
sheriff of Sangamon County. Joseph H. Smith 
consequently surrendered himself a prisoner in 
Springfield and then applied for a writ of habeas 
corpus to Judge Polk of the Federal court. 1 Polk 

1 Ford, History, p. 314. 


discharged Smith and, as the case had been man- 
aged for him by lawyers who were Whig in politics 
while Judge Polk was also a Whig, the Mormons 
now began to incline toward that side in politics. 

The situation was rendered particularly interest- 
ing because of the approaching election of a con- 
gressman in the Mormon district in August, 1843. 
Two candidates, Cyrus Walker and Joseph P. Hoge, 
the former a Whig, the latter a Democrat, had pre- 1 
sented themselves and the Mormons were inclined to 
favor Walker. Further legal proceedings were just 
then instituted by the governor of Illinois by reason 
of a new demand from the governor of Missouri for 
the person of Smith, based upon an indictment found 
against him in Missouri on the 5th of June, 1843. 
Judge Ford's warrant resulted in the arrest of 
the Mormon leader, and Walker appeared as his 
counsel. In the course of the proceedings before the 
municipal court in Nauvoo, Walker's opponent, 
Hoge, being present, both men were called upon to 
express their opinion as to the power of the munic- 
ipal court to issue writs of habeas corpus in all cases 
of imprisonment, and both affirmed the power. The 
municipal court discharged Smith, and immediately 
a request was made upon the governor for militia to 
renew the attempt to secure enforcement of the war- 
rant issued by the government. The governor was 
inclined to order out the militia. He restrained him- 
self owing to political considerations, but the local 
Democrats near Nauvoo allowed the rumor to be 
circulated that, should the Mormons persevere in 


their intention of voting for Walker, the militia 
would certainly be sent against them. There was a 
considerable amount of bargaining between the Mor- 
mons and the Democratic managers with the result 
that the Mormon vote, on what the sect believed to 
be a pledge of immunity from further persecution, 
was transferred to Hoge, who was elected to Con- 
gress by 600 or 800 majority. It was at this same 
election in the Quincy district that Douglas was sent 
to Congress for his first term although in that dis- 
trict the Mormons, not having had time to receive 
word of the change in the policy of their leaders in 
favor of the Democrats, voted for Douglas's oppo- 
nent. He was now in a peculiar and embarrassing 
position, since he was face to face with an important 
and influential group in the community who had 
opposed his own election but who had been re- 
sponsible for the choice of a Democrat in another 
district. They were at least potentially Democratic 
voters and decidedly difficult to control. In Doug- 
las's second candidacy for Congress two years later 
the Mormons were friendly to him rather than 
otherwise, and it would appear that he received a 
substantial number of votes from them. Early in 
1844, Judge Ford, who was then in charge of the 
ninth circuit, was nominated for the governorship 
by a little group of Democrats who were practically 
in control of the state organization. While Douglas 
had bent the knee to Mormonism, Ford had not, 
and in his later History of Illinois he did not hesi- 
tate to criticize Douglas in unmeasured terms for his 


action in deferring to the sectaries. Douglas ap- 
parently had no objection to Ford as governor ; he 
rather approved of the choice, as a clever ruse de- 
signed to win the support of those elements in the 
party which had been antagonized by his own 
friendliness to the Mormons. 

The attitude of the Mormons toward the people of 
the state had not been at all improved. Friction 
had continued and the apparent success of Smith in 
resisting arrest rendered them more and more assert- 
ive with regard to their own powers of self-govern- 
ment. Stolen property taken into Nauvoo could 
seldom be recovered, owing to the composition of 
the courts in the " holy city," and the effort of the 
two political parties to gain Mormon support ren- 
dered both of them unwilling to take any very pos- 
itive step. In the spring of 1844, Joseph H. Smith 
announced himself as a candidate for the presidency 
of the United States and at about the same time set 
up a much more elaborate and powerful religious 
hierarchy. Numbers of missionaries were sent out 
to preach the Mormon religion, and thus to political, 
legal and other difficulties were added the prejudices 
growing out of sectarianism. The situation became 
so strained as practically to lead to a threat of gen- 
uine war and the demand of the public that the 
Mormons should leave the state with as little delay 
as possible became insistent. Things reached a 
crisis about the beginning of 1846, when the people 
near Nauvoo determined to drive the Mormons out 
of the country. Governor Ford sent a body, con- 


sisting of about 450 men, toward Nauvoo for the 
purpose of arresting the Mormon leaders. The force 
was under the command of John J. Hardin, Doug- 
las's sometime bitter opponent and political rival, 
as colonel, while Douglas himself held a post as 
major. As it approached Nauvoo, it encountered a 
force of about 4, 000 Mormons, well armed and drawn 
up to oppose further advance. It was evident that 
in the event of actual conflict the Mormons would 
easily gain the victory. Hardin naturally saw the 
wisdom of avoiding an open breach aud determined 
to send Douglas to.Nauvoo for the purpose of ar- 
resting the twelve apostles of the church. He told 
Douglas to take a guard of 100 men and proceed at 
once to the town. Douglas, however, dreaded the 
consequences of any such effort ; he, therefore, 
begged Hardin to change his order and to send him 
alone as a personal ambassador for the purpose of 
discussing the question of the removal of the apos- 
tles. 1 Hardin finally reconsidered his original order 
and Douglas started at once, without any attendants, 
for Nauvoo. The Mormon forces, seeing him ap- 
proach alone, had no hesitation in allowing him to 
pass through their lines. Indeed, they sent an es- 
cort with him to the city, where he succeeded in per- 
suading the twelve apostles to accompany him to 
the militia camp for the purpose of talking over the 
situation. As soon as they arrived, negotiations 
were begun and terms, under which the Mormons 
should withdraw from the state, were finally worked 
^heahan, Life, p. 52. 


out, but proved unacceptable to some of the princi- 
pal factors in the Mormon hierarchy. Douglas, 
however, was successful in finally holding them to 
the chief points in the arrangement and it was 
agreed that they should withdraw. The outcome was 
regarded as a great triumph for Douglas, 1 but Gov- 
ernor Ford and other Democrats were not inclined to 
assign him the same amount of credit. They took 
the view that the Mormons had already practically 
determined to go on the ground that ' ' the kind of 
Mahometanism which they sought to establish could 
never be established in the near vicinity of a people 
whose morals and prejudices were all outraged and 
shocked by it." 2 Linn, the faithful historian of the 
Mormons, finds that ' ' they had begun arrangements 
to remove from the county before the recent disturb- 
ances, 1,000 families, including the heads of the 
church, being determined to start in the spring with- 
out regard to any sacrifice of their property." 3 

Whatever was the influence of Douglas in this 
particular incident, it is clear that his work was un- 
qualifiedly on the side of order and in the direction 
desired by the bulk of the non- Mormon inhabitants 
of the state notwithstanding that, as always in the 
past, he took pains to avoid unnecessarily antago- 
nizing the intruders. He of course could hardly 
have foreseen the growth of the sect in power and 
influence during later years, yet he for a time con- 
tinued his pleasant relations with the Mormon 

1 Sheahan, Life, pp. 52-53. 2 Ford, History, p. 411. 

'Linn, Story of the Mormons, ante tit., p. 340. 


leaders, and presented a memorial in the shape of 
an application for Utah's admission as a state sub- 
sequent to the final settlement of the sect in that 
territory. ' Several years later, when Douglas was 
looking hopefully to the presidential nomination 
and election, he devoted not a little attention to the 
Mormon question, dealing with it in a speech at 
Springfield, 111., on June 12, 1856. He then de- 
clared that reports from the Mormon territory 
seemed to justify the belief that nine- tenths of its 
inhabitants were aliens and that ' ' all were bound 
by horrid oaths and penalties to recognize and 
maintain the authority of Brigham Young." 2 "I 
think it is the duty of the President," said he, "as 
I have no doubt it is his fixed purpose, to remove 
Brigham Young and all his followers from office, 
and to fill their places with bold, able and true 
men ; and to cause a thorough and searching inves- 
tigation into all the crimes and enormities which are 
alleged to be perpetrated daily in that territory 
under the direction of Brigham Young and his con- 
federates ; and to use all the military force necessary 
to protect the officers in discharge of their duties 
and to enforce the laws of the land. When the 
authentic evidence shall arrive, if it shall establish 
the facts which are believed to exist, it will become 
the duty of Congress to apply the knife and to cut out 
this loathsome, disgusting ulcer." 3 The condition 

1 Liuu, ante cit., p. 430. 2 Ibid., pp. 476-477. 

3 Speech given iu full, New York Times, June 23, 1856, 
quoted by Linn, p. 477. 


of the Mormons after they reached Utah was per- 
haps not worse than it had been while they were 
still at Nauvoo, and their character as an element 
in the national constituency was perhaps not more 
seriously objectionable than it had been while they 
were still merely an element in the state constitu- 
ency. But presidential candidates necessarily take 
a different point of view from that of state politi- 
cians and Douglas had traveled a long way daring 
the ten years after 1846. His position with respect 
to the Mormons so long as they were residents of 
Illinois had, in fact, been almost purely political. 
He had clearly recognized the influence that these 
fanatics exercised in the doubtful counties where the 
balance between Whig and Democrat might readily 
be turned either in one direction or the other. His 
subsequent sympathy with the Mormons after they 
had moved from the state and had settled in Utah 
was possibly only a reminiscence. At all events 
the friendliness for Mormonism with which Douglas 
had often been charged was merely friendliness for 
a body of voters, and his position in 1856 was doubt- 
less truly representative of his own attitude on the 

It does not appear that Douglas's course with re- 
gard to Mormonism brought him into any local dis- 
favor. Ford and other partisan writers evidently 
regard his conduct as unprincipled, while the de- 
voted biographers like Sheahan treat it as simply an 
exhibition of tact and courage rather than as in- 
volving any political or moral blame. The fact that 


the Mormons finally left Illinois, as had been 
earnestly desired, and that they were evidently and 
undoubtedly furthered in this intent by Douglas, 
who had manifestly become convinced that they 
presented too serious a local problem, resulted in 
the closing of the incident so far as state politics 
were concerned ; while it was not until after Douglas 
had passed from the national stage that Mormonism 
really became a sufficient factor in national politics 
to call for definite governmental action. The 
Mormons served the purposes of Douglas during the 
troubled years when he was passing from his secre- 
taryship of state to his place on the bench, and from 
that again to his membership in Congress. Having 
answered that purpose, Douglas, now firmly es- 
tablished at Washington and a figure of state im- 
portance, could afford to discard them and was un- 
doubtedly glad when their removal westward re- 
lieved him of an embarrassing entanglement. 



Douglas was now to enter upon a much larger 
field than any in which he had yet appeared. Thus 
far his experience had been solely that of the local 
politician. The two experiences with the law — one 
as prosecuting attorney, the other as judge of the 
Supreme Court — had been mere interludes in a 
purely political career. Neither had given him 
any opportunity for reading, and the active life 
that he had led had not been such as to afford much 
leisure for serious attention to the study of history 
or the broader aspects of public questions. The 
reading he had done had been incidental, hasty, 
and planned merely for the purpose of meeting an 
immediate emergency, such as the preparation of a 
speech, the drafting of a political address, the writ- 
ing of a vehement newspaper article or some equally 
transitory production. 1 It was thus a grave ques- 

1 " Judge Douglas wrote little, but suggested much. His 
mind teemed with ' points. ' I never spent an hour with him 
which did not furnish me with new ideas. He grasped and 
understood most questions thoroughly. When he read was 
always a mystery. Social to a degree, driving out almost daily 
when not entertaining his friends at his own hospitable home, 
visiting strangers at their hotels, leading in debate or counsel- 
ing in committee, he was rarely at fault for a date or a fact. 
He was a treasure to an editor, because he possessed the rare 
faculty of throwing new light upon every subject in the 
shortest possible time. " Fornej', Anecdotes of Public Men, p. 21. 


tion whether the arts of the local frontier politician 
would serve to advance Douglas upon the wider 
stage to which he had gained access. He himself 
entertained few doubts upon the subject and allowed 
none to appear. His first entry into the House of 
Representatives took place in December, 1843, and, 
as usual, with true intuition, he sought for an op- 
portunity to catch public attention and place him- 
self in the centre of a group or movement which 
would recognize him as its spokesman. There was 
at that time no public question prominently before 
Congress with which he was personally and closely 
familiar. The usual delay in developing a program 
characterized the opening of a session which, as a 
matter of fact, turned out to be tolerably quiet and 
untroubled. Douglas would probably not have 
sought to attract general attention by discussing in 
public any subject of which he was obviously igno- 
rant, for he himself was far too astute to trade upon 
an undue ignorance on the part of others. Like 
many a new congressman just come to Washington, 
he therefore sought to make the subject of his first 
speech a topic of personal political interest likely 
to be understood by, and to appeal to, a body of 
men throughout the country, and calculated to 
arouse strong partisanship for and against the views 
advanced by the speaker. For this purpose a most 
favorable opening shortly presented itself. 

General Jackson, during his defense of New 
Orleans, had been fined $1,000 by a judge in that 
city for acts connected with the performance of his 


duties. Jackson paid the fine but later sought to 
induce Congress to refund it to him. A bill for 
that purpose had been pending intermittently for 
some time but had never been passed. Sheahan ' 
says that it had been considered by ' ' some of the 
best minds in Congress," although he does not tell 
who they were. The bill was one of those measures 
that are frequently offered by personal or partisan 
adherents who wish to compliment a public man, or 
furnish a bone of couteution that may be used to 
wrangle over during the intervals between real acts 
of legislation. This old bill was reintroduced at 
the session of 1843-1844, and again served its former 
purpose. The usual eulogies upon Jackson were 
offered and the usual controversial discussion was 
indulged in. It was in fact merely an opportunity 
for "oratory," being supported only, as even 
Sheahan admits (and as the record shows), "by its 
friends." This was an unexpectedly good op- 
portunity for Douglas. He had always been known 
as a Jackson man ; and, as has been seen when re- 
viewing his early history, 2 had on various occasions 
delivered himself of the sophomoric rant in eulogy 
of the general that is familiar in school and college 
debating societies. Later on he had found it con- 
venient to accept the position of a strong pro- Jack- 
son leader in Illinois. 5 He had probably followed 
and analyzed the career of Jackson, particularly its 
later phases, with as much attention as he had be- 
stowed upon that of any public man. The bill to re- 
1 Life, p. 60. 2 See ante, p. 15. 8 Ibid., p. 23. 


fuud the $1,000 was therefore an exceptional oppor- 
tunity for a maiden speech. Much old material 
could be used, and there was a chance for a great 
deal of fire and fury. 

Douglas, more fortunate than congressmen of the 
present day, had no difficulty in obtaining the 
floor, and on the 7th of January, 1844, undertook 
to present his views upon the Jackson bill. 1 The 
real substance of his argument was merely, first, 
that in declaring martial law, General Jackson, 
while at New Orleans, had acted in an entirely 
legal way, and that, secondly, even conceding that 
his action was illegal and unconstitutional, the 
local court had had no authority to condemn him 
for contempt of court. No act really done by 
General Jackson had ever been pointed to in 
specific terms as illegal or improper in such a sense 
as to constitute a contempt of court. Therefore 
there was no justification for the verdict and the 
least that could be done was to refund the money 
paid in consequence of the fine imposed upon 
him. There was nothing particularly novel in 
this "legal" argument, for it had been ad- 
vanced on various occasions in the past. Douglas 
perhaps put it somewhat more pointedly and freshly 
than ever before. It was not, however, the quality 
of the argument, but the character of the appeal 
which at once made Douglas a figure of some note. 

Adams's often quoted account of the speaker re- 

1 Douglas's speech is found in the Globe, 28th Cong., 1st Sess., 
pp. 112 et seq. 


mains the best and most graphic picture of the 
newly-elected legislator. His caustic criticism, 
however, was tempered by a note of appreciation. 
Adams admitted that the speech was eloquent 
though sophistical, while he noted as a further 
ground for disliking it that it was admired by the 
"slave Democracy." There was in fact little real 
merit in the effort. In rhetorical turgid language, 
Douglas sought to appeal to the strong pro-Jackson 
feeling throughout the country and in closing drew 
a melodramatic picture of the appearance of the 
" hero of New Orleans " before the judge who would 
have sent him " to his grave branded as a criminal." 
The real success of the effort was in fact largely found 
in certain passages which Adams with keen insight 
had noted as appealing to the states' rights senti- 
ment. For this Douglas was almost immediately 
taken up by the Southern Democrats. An after- 
math of the speech came shortly after the adjourn- 
ment of Congress at a political convention in Nash- 
ville, Tenn. , whither Douglas went with other Illinois 
delegates to attend the meeting. According to the 
later partisan legend, however, the occasion was 
to him more in the nature of a political pilgrimage 
than the sober work of a routine elective gathering. 
He wished to see Andrew Jackson personally. 
Jackson, like more recent politicians, was quite 
willing to receive the predetermined homage of the 
well-disciplined pilgrims who had been marshaled 
before the doors of the "Hermitage." The house 
was thrown open and the usual " countless multi- 


tude " filed through the trout hallway, iuflicting 
upou the retired statesman the customary hand- 
shaking suffering. It was hard for Douglas to reach 
the door. The strain of the convention and the dif- 
ficulty of struggling through the crowds had ex- 
hausted him, and his paleuess and apparent weari- 
ness were noticeable. Still a very young man and 
not yet as massively built as in later life, one ob- 
server noted that he looked " small and plain . . . 
beside the hundreds of robust and gallant specimens 
of Tennessee manhood." ' By one of those fortu- 
nate coincidences, likely to occur in well-regulated 
political lives, Douglas had at his side a faithful 
newspaper correspondent at the moment when he 
approached General Jackson and it is to the account 
of this eye-witness that much of the description of 
the incident is attributable. According to this cor- 
respondent, Mr. Walters, the editor of the Illinois 
State Register, General Jackson " raised his still 
brilliant eyes and gazed for a moment in the coun- 
tenance of the judge, still retaining his hand." 
After inquiring whether Douglas was the author of 
the speech in the House of Representatives and re- 
ceiving an affirmative reply, Jackson said : " Then 
stop, sit down here beside me. . . . You are the 
first man that has ever relieved my mind on a subject 
which has rested upon it for thirty years. . . . 
Throughout my whole life I never performed an 
official act which I viewed as a violation of the Con- 
stitution of my country ; and I can now go down to 
1 Quoted by Sheahau, Life, p. 70. 


the grave in peace. . . ." Douglas, according 
to the dramatic observer, was not able to accept the 
invitation to be seated. He shook the hand of 
General Jackson "convulsively" and left the hall. 
Touching as was the regard for the Constitution ex- 
hibited both by Jackson and by Douglas, the de- 
scription raises some doubt with reference to the 
circumstances surrounding the meeting. But what- 
ever they were, the endorsement of Jackson stood 
Douglas in excellent stead, and in the autumn he 
found himself reelected by a substantial majority. 

Meanwhile the support which he had afforded to 
the bill for reimbursing Jackson was not the only 
work performed by him during the session. In the 
assignment of members to committees, the most im- 
portant place that had fallen to him was that upon 
the Committee on Elections. The usual number of 
contested questions relating to elections had been 
presented and conspicuous among them was one of 
some general interest. There had recently been a 
reapportionment of representation in Congress, but 
in spite of the act dealing with that subject, 1 it had 
failed to receive observance in four states. The 
problem presented was whether the members from 
such states could be chosen en bloc or whether they 
must be selected in " districts composed of contig- 
uous territory equal in number to the number of rep- 
resentatives." The question was important from a 
party standpoint, because nearly all of the members, 
some twenty- oue in number, who had thus been erro- 

1 U. S. Statute* at Large, Vol. V, p. 490 (1842). 


neously chosen were Democrats, while the majority 
of the House was Democratic. A failure to act iu 
regard to the matter would be a permanent discredit 
to the party and might serve as a dangerous prec- 
edent. The result was the selection of a special 
committee, consisting of six Democrats and three 
Whigs, charged with the duty of investigating the 
legitimacy of the election in question. In appoint- 
ing the committee, search was made for earnest 
party men who had demonstrated their shrewdness 
in times of political pressure at home. Among such 
a body of men it was not strange to find Douglas. 
Though a new member, he was chosen to draft 
the majority finding, which, it was a foregone con- 
clusion, would be as favorable as possible to the 
status of the contested Democratic seats. Douglas's 
report must have fulfilled the expectations of the 
party. He pronounced the enactment requiring the 
choice of representatives by districts to be invalid 
and unconstitutional, unless accepted by the states 
and by them reenacted into local law. The power 
to prescribe the methods of electing its members 
under the Constitution undoubtedly could be exer- 
cised by Congress but only in the event that state 
legislative action was absent or was obviously un- 

This remarkable report was, not unexpectedly, 
received with vigorous criticism. Adams in com- 
menting upon Douglas's defense of the position 
taken, said that " at the House Stephen A. Douglas 
of Illinois, the author of the majority report from 


the Committee on Elections, had taken the floor that 
evening, and now raved out his hour in abusive in- 
vectives upon the members who had pointed out its 
slanders, and upon the Whig party. His face was 
convulsed, his gesticulation frantic, and he lashed 
himself into such a heat that if his body had been 
made of combustible matter it would have burnt 
out. In the midst of his roaring, to save himself 
from choking, he stripped off and cast away his 
cravat, unbuttoned his waistcoat, and had the air and 
aspect of a half-naked pugilist." 1 The unfavorable 
attitude of opponents, the criticisms of the punctil- 
ious Adams and the manifest impropriety of bringing 
into Congress this body of illegally elected members 
were, however, considerations insufficient to offset 
the manifest advantage which would accrue to the 
party from the acceptance of the report framed by 
the majority. 

Douglas, moreover, felt the necessity common to 
all new congressmen not only of working for the 
party in the national field, but also of getting some 
direct recognition from the public treasury for his 
constituents. His previous experience in pushing 
local river and harbor improvements, and in spread- 
ing the craze for internal development which was 
still prevalent in the West, naturally turned his at- 
tention to these subjects in the Federal arena. 
While he did not succeed in obtaining the exorbi- 
tant appropriation for the Illinois Eiver which he 

1 Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, edited by Charles Francis 
Adams, 1876, Vol. II, pp. 510-511. 


demanded, the item asked for being dropped from 
the bill, he was able by his oratory to attract con- 
siderable attention to himself at home and to im- 
press his constituents firmly with the idea that he 
was strongly devoted to their interests. Not only in 
regard to internal improvements, but in other mat- 
ters too, Douglas's early years in Congress showed a 
nice recognition of the necessities of his constituents. 
On one occasion an earnest effort to secure the pas- 
sage of a bill for the purchase of 1,500 copies of 
Somebody's " History of Oregon " called forth the 
caustic comment of Adams and threw light upon the 
methods by which the young legislator managed to 
retain the good graces of his constituents and 
others. ' 

The first session, at all events, though productive 
of nothing more than the biassed speech-making 
and repulsive drudgery of a well-bitted party hack, 
demonstrated that Douglas could fit into a very 
definite niche in Washington, just as he had done 
in Illinois. Thus far he was of the type which the 
leaders, even at the present day, recognize as one 
that will "stand without hitching" — always re- 
liable in partisan matters and possessed of sufficient 
shrewdness to cover any defects of knowledge. To 
many, however, Douglas's methods and manners 
were repellent. Lincoln's earlier description of 
him, couched in suggestively ambiguous language, 
as " the least man I ever saw," was now still about 
as valid as in 1835 when it had first been given, and 
1 Adams's Memoirs, Vol. XII, p. 154. 


the habits which are termed " convivial" by cour- 
teous biographers were by this time tolerably well 
established. ' Douglas, however, had not yet become 
well accustomed to the life of Washington, nor had 
he seen enough of men and methods auywhere to 
enable him to mitigate the crudities of his style and 
his attitude, which constituted so serious a hin- 
drance to his advancement. At the close of his 
first long session of Congress, with the endorsement 
of General Jackson and his triumphal reelection in 
prospect in the near future, as well as with the sub- 
stantial approval of the party leaders, it was still 
questionable whether he could advance himself to 
the higher levels of political management. 

Douglas had hardly expected the nomination of 
Polk for the presidency, and it is probable that it was 
not altogether acceptable to him. As a good party 
man, however, he had nothing to say in criticism of 
the selection, and speedily became a warm sup- 
porter of the national ticket, not only from the stand- 
point of the platform which the convention had 
adopted, but also in a personal way, offering Jack- 
sonian compliments to Polk upon the floor of Con- 
gress and eulogizing him at party gatherings. The 
election of Polk in the autumn of 1844, shortly after 
Douglas's own reelection, placed him in a favorable 
position as a strong administration Democrat of rec- 

1 " Judge Weldon remembers that he was once in Mr. Douglas's 
room at Springfield when Lincoln entered, and, following the 
custom, Mr. Douglas produced a bottle and some glasses and 
asked his callers to join him in a drink." W.E.Curtis, True 
Abraham Lincoln, p. 380. 


ognized utility, if not of undoubted talents. The 
short session of Congress, completing the first term 
for which Douglas had been elected, opened in 
December, 1844, and presented some questions of a 
considerable interest. Conspicuous among these 
was the now threatening problem of the annexation 
of Texas and the war which, it was already foreseen, 
might grow out of it. The national Democratic 
convention had placed the annexation of Texas 
upon the same basis as the problem of the Oregon 
Territory. The issue had figured to some extent in 
the campaign ; there had at least been no definite 
popular declaration against the annexation of Texas. 
Polk urged annexation from the outset, alleging this 
to be his duty because of the popular mandate he 
had received. With the question thus forced to the 
front in a large national way and with his own per- 
sonal endorsement of Polk in mind, Douglas's tend- 
ency toward the annexation policy, despite its in- 
evitable conflict with most of the theories of states' 
rights and the like, for which he had previously 
stood, was rapid. 

In the new Congress, opening in December, 1844, 
he had been recognized by two good committee ap- 
pointments, being given places on the Judiciary 
Committee and on the Committee on Elections. 
Without a commanding position in either, however, 
it was necessary for him to adopt some other method 
than faithful service, if he desired to become a man 
of prominence without delay. Having definitely 
accepted the leadership of Polk, he could not do 


better, it seemed, than become a pro administration 
exponent in the lower chamber. Anticipating the 
action of Congress, he introduced resolutions pro- 
viding for the annexation of Texas which he advo- 
cated in season and out of season. The effort to 
secure attention, however, fell flat. Not Douglas's 
resolutions, but others in process of formulation by 
the older and wiser heads of the party, were those 
which gained acceptance as a basis for discussion. 
He had in fact made a serious error. The effort to 
get the lead with his resolutions providing for the 
annexation of Texas would probably have been un- 
objectionable, although the older members would 
still have persisted in retaining for themselves the 
prominence which they conceived to be their just 
due as promoters of the movement. In addition to 
this, Douglas had committed the plain blunder of 
forcing to the front the slavery question in an un- 
necessary way, by providing that the boundary es- 
tablished by the Missouri Compromise should be 
extended through Texas. This alone would have 
rendered his proposal impossible and the fact was 
early recognized. When a new form of resolution 
for the annexation of Texas was reported by the 
Committee on Foreign Affairs, it became known that 
Polk had given this proposal his endorsement, so 
that it was emphatically the administration measure. 
The result, of necessity, was that Douglas found 
himself blocked in his effort at self- advancement 
and, unwilling to appear as the leader of a separate 
section of the administration forces, he now dropped 


his own scheme and turned heartily to the support 
of the new plan. Securing recognition by the 
Speaker, after some delay, he devoted his principal 
attention to an attack upon the New England men 
who were antagonizing the resolution, and delivered 
a speech in which he contended that a distinction 
must be drawn between the power of Congress to 
admit new states and its power to annex territory. 
His main point here was fouud in the thesis that the 
admission of the state was impossible save with an- 
nexation as a preceding step. The speech also was 
characterized by a rampant imperialism ; it was 
evidently intended as an appeal to those who were 
already urgent that the United States should seize 
the whole of the North American continent. But 
Douglas's style had not improved materially since 
his first appearance on the floor and Adams, ever 
critical of the young frontiersman, characterized him 
cleverly enough when he wrote in his diary that 
' ' Douglas of Illinois raved an hour about democracy 
and Anglo-phobia and universal empire." 1 Doug- 
las, in fact, distinctly advocated the expulsion of 
Great Britain from North America, and the exten- 
sion of the annexation policy northward as well as 

While he had discarded his early design to im- 
pose a slavery discussion upon Congress in connec- 
tion with the annexation of Texas, seeing the un- 
willingness of the administration to open the vexed 
issue, the suggestion which he had offered had not 
1 Adams's Memoirs, Vol. XII, p. 159. 


gone astray. Southern men were urgent that the 
question should be settled, and settled by permitting 
distinctively Southern states that might be formed 
out of the new territory to enter the Union as slave 
states if they so desired. Douglas suggested that in 
the event of states being formed out of the new ter- 
ritory north of the line established in the Missouri 
Compromise, slavery should be prohibited in such 
commonwealths. This final agreement was sub- 
stantially the idea which had been brought forward 
in Douglas's early resolutions about annexation. 
The conditions under which the modification had 
been made, and the final form given to the clause, 
however, were not favorable to Douglas's claims for 
credit either with Southern or with Northern men. 
He emerged from the Texan discussion with rela- 
tively little added reputation. So low an estimate 
does Douglas's own personal biographer put upon 
the achievements of his hero during the session of 
1844-1845, that he devotes almost no attention to it. 
The first skirmish over the Texas question had, 
however, a special significance. This lay in the 
fact that Douglas had now come, though incidentally 
only, face to face with the issue which colored all 
his later career, and which furnished the inspiration 
for most of his important public debates. Slavery 
changed the whole current of his life and while the 
subject gave him the opportunity for some of his 
most brilliant successes, it also exposed him to his 
most serious inconsistencies and opened the way to 
his worst defeats. 


There is no evidence that Douglas was naturally 
predisposed to the support of slavery. On the con- 
trary, his training, his traditions, his whole early 
career, were hostile to it. He had been allied neither 
with slavery advocates nor with the owners of 
slaves. He had never owned slaves himself, and 
the sentiment of his immediate environment had 
undoubtedly been antagonistic to the institution. 
The circumstances that made Douglas appear as an 
advocate of slavery throughout almost the whole of 
his congressional career were two-fold. 

He was above all things a partisan Democrat. 
As such he had the feeling of all partisans that 
nothing must be done to disrupt or weaken the 
organization of which he was in charge, or whose 
fortunes he was endeavoring to promote. Just as 
he had sought to gain the aid of the Mormons by 
favoring their peculiar ideas and institutions, so he 
sought to make to the Southern interests in Congress 
those concessions which he believed were necessary to 
satisfy them and to keep them harmoniously united 
with the Northern branch of the Democratic party. 
He saw the South a solid, compact body, held by 
the common tie of the institution of slavery. He saw 
the Northern Democrats united by no such common 
bond and influenced, if at all, ouly by general 
principles, in opposing slavery. Scantily trained 
in history or in general political theory, Douglas 
had not the knowledge or the insight to appreciate 
the significance of slavery as an historical institu- 
tion. From the economic standpoint, he was largely 


or wholly untrained, and he scarcely comprehended 
the bearing of the question upon the industrial de- 
velopment of the United States. There is every 
reason to think that Douglas's attitude toward 
slavery therefore when he first came to recognize it 
as a definite force in politics, was one of pure op- 
portunism. Always lacking in the idealistic in- 
stincts which lead some men to devote themselves 
to a cause for its own sake, Douglas had from his 
earliest years been a strictly practical politician. 
In every way, he felt impelled toward those courses 
which would best advance his own interests. In 
thus acting with reference to the slavery question, he 
might easily find a basis of j nstification in the fact that 
slavery actually existed, in the fact that its eradica- 
tion or suppression would involve a tremendous 
conflict, and in the general hopeful philosophy 
which was inclined to leave the subject to the 
future in the confidence that it would ultimately 
work out its own corrective. From all these stand- 
points, there was every reason why Douglas should 
stand ready to accept, up to a certain point, the 
dictation of the strongest element in his party, and 
should yield his assent to plans and proposals 
which under other circumstances he would probably 
have antagonized. 

The second important influence which tended 
to affect the life of Douglas in reference to the 
slavery question is seen in his own personal rela- 
tionships. Douglas early in his congressional career 
was thrown with slaveholders of the gentle and 


patriarchal type, to whom the welfare of the human 
property entrusted to their care was one of the 
most serious duties of existence. He had not be- 
come convinced of the fundamental and vital char- 
acter of the slavery question at the time of his first 
marriage in 1847. True, Illinois had been slave 
ground in the territorial days, and even at that 
time the issue was important. 1 Although the state 
came into the Union in 1818 without slavery, the 
institution existed there for a time and then, in 
theory at least, was driven out. Indentured negroes, 
who were practically slaves, continued to be held in 
servitude, 2 but they were not numerous and their 
condition was not very unfortunate. There had 
been a slow growth of anti- slavery sentiment in 
Illinois from 1830 to 1840 but progress toward 
Abolitionism or anything approaching it had been 
exceedingly slight. Not long after Douglas first 
went to Congress, he made the acquaintance of the 
lady who was to become his first wife, Miss Martha 
Denny Martin. Her father, Colonel Robert Martin, 
owned a substantial tract of land in North Caroliua 
with an adequate force of slaves, besides 150 or more 

1 " The legislatures of the Indiana and Illinois Territories had 
passed laws allowing a qualified introduction of slavery. . . . 
It had been enacted that emigrants to the country [Illinois] 
might bring their slaves with them, and if the slaves, being of 
lawful age to consent, would . . . voluntarily sign an in- 
denture to serve their master for a term of years, they should 
be held to a specific performance of their contracts. . . . 
Such slaves were then called indentured and registered servants ; 
the French negroes were called slaves. Many servants aud slaves 
were held under these laws." Ford, History of Illinois, p. 32. 

1 Moses, History of Illinois, Vol. I, p. 314 et seq. 


slaves upon a Mississippi plantation. During his 
courtship, Douglas visited the North Carolina plan- 
tation and there he saw slavery at its best. His bent 
was already friendly to the Southern slaveholders, 
and it was now to become still more so by reason of 
circumstances. His father-in-law's death within a 
year after the marriage threw a quantity of valuable 
property, whose worth was dependent upon slave 
labor, into the hands of his wife. Kecognizing the 
political unwisdom of such action, Douglas declined 
to accept the direct ownership of the slaves and the 
plantations, but the fact that the financial welfare of 
his family was thus so intimately bound up with the 
continued successful maintenance of a slave system 
of labor, could hardly have operated otherwise 
than to make him friendly to the existence of the 
institution. Though his wife lived for but six 
years, his children's pecuniary interests and the 
growing connection between himself and the South- 
ern party in Congress, had by that time definitely 
moulded his attitude toward the question. 

It would be wrong to suppose, however, that 
Douglas ever distinctly advocated the slave system. 
There is more than a little evidence that he re- 
gretted its existence, although in common with 
many high-minded Southerners he thought it 
neither possible nor feasible to attempt any im- 
mediate change. His doctrine that the people of 
every community should determine their own rela- 
tionship to the question was a natural outgrowth of 
his general states' rights and democratic ideas. It 


would probably have been better for him, in the 
sight of his contemporaries, — better, too, from the 
standpoint of his historical status, had he not mar- 
ried the daughter of a Southern slave-owner and be- 
come the father of slave-owning children. It was 
not an unfair inference for party opponents to draw 
that these connections influenced him in his public 
life, even though there were many others, following 
the same path as Douglas, who were entirely free 
from any suspicion of personal interest. 

Douglas's relationship to slavery may perhaps be 
fairly divided into three periods : the first embracing 
his early legislative career, which we have already 
traced, and covering the time of his courtship and 
first marriage, during which he was perhaps more 
friendly to slavery as slavery than at any subsequent 
period ; the second, extending from the passage of 
the legislation of 1850 to the close of the Kansas-Ne- 
braska contest, which may be regarded as his period 
of constitutional support of the slavery cause ; and 
the third, extending from the time of the Lecompton 
struggle in Kansas to his death, a period in which 
he manifestly underwent a course of development, 
carrying him away from the extremes toward which 
the slavery advocates were now tending, and in 
which he found himself in a state of revolt against 
the desperate measures of the Southern politicians. 
It is not inconceivable that, had his life been length- 
ened, Douglas would have appeared as the author of 
some plan for abolishing or limiting slavery in such 
a way as to dispose of the question with possibly 


less harshness than was finally resorted to in the 
settlement of the great economic and political dis- 

Meantime the issue was only germinating. The 
territorial questions raised by the Mexican War and 
the annexation of Texas, must much more fully de- 
velop before the differences on the subject of slavery 
could become acute. 



The question of the relations of the United States 
with Mexico and Texas came into Congress in 
December, 1845. Hardly had the session begun, 
when Douglas placed before the lower chamber a 
joint resolution in which he called for the admis- 
sion of Texas upon the same basis as the other 
states. Congress had now reached a point where it 
had, iu its opinion, ascertained the feeling of the 
country sufficiently to act, and the House promptly 
passed the resolution which Douglas had proposed. 
This was in line with the Democratic platform of 
1844, and coming from such a source cannot be re- 
garded as a novel proposal. He, however, was 
responsible for the earnest pressing of the measure, 
and there is evidence that he always regarded the 
work done by him in behalf of Texan annexation as 
among his greatest accomplishments as a congress- 
man. There was no delay in the Senate, and before 
the close of the year, on December 29th, the resolu- 
tion had been accepted and had thus practically 
received the force of law. 

The action taken meant war with Mexico as a 
matter of course. Information that Mexican troops 
had passed the border and had invaded the United 


States, was conveyed to Congress by President Polk 
on May 11, 1846 — the culmination of a long and 
entangled, but fruitless, series of negotiations. 
He asked for a sufficient body of volunteers to 
repel the movement. There was already pending 
before the lower chamber a bill which had 
been drafted and reported by the Committee on 
Military Affairs on the 27th of January pre- 
ceding. This bill had been shaped with a view 
to possible aggression on the part of Mexico, and 
action on it was now demanded. The measure was 
promptly passed. It authorized the enlistment of 
50,000 men beside appropriating $10, 000, 000. This 
at once opened the way for a debate involving the 
whole subject of policy with respect to foreign 
countries, and particularly with reference to the 
Mexican contest. In this Douglas took the lead. 1 
His chosen biographer says that the speech which 
he delivered "was a most thorough vindication of 
the war and of President Polk's policy " and " was 
never surpassed." Without endorsing this view, it 
is undoubtedly the case that Douglas made himself 
almost indispensable to the administration, and 
powerfully forwarded a cause which might other- 
wise have encountered difficulties. He spoke in 
vigorous but sufficiently moderate terms of the in- 
sults to the United States which had been offered 
and the injury to American commerce which had 

1 Congressional Globe, 1st Sess., 29th Cong., pp. 815, ei seq., 
for debate, also Sheahau, Douglas, Chap. 5, for full extracts from 
Douglas's argument. 


been inflicted by Mexico during the past fifteen 
years, while with respect to Texas he excul- 
pated the United States for its action in con- 
nection with annexation on the ground that the 
reason for hostilities with Mexico had been brought 
into existence prior to annexation. The war was, 
therefore, a much larger matter than a mere strug- 
gle for territory. France had been treated in the 
same way and had declared her ultimatum from the 
deck of a man-of-war off Vera Cruz. Great Britain 
had also sent an ultimatum. Payment for damages 
had been made in both cases, but the United States 
had supinely refrained from taking any step. 
Mexico had dismissed our minister, and had per- 
mitted him to be robbed by highwaymen ' ' accord- 
ing to the usage of the country." As for Texas, 
that state had become independent in 1827 and now 
simply desired to join the United States. Under a 
republican constitution, it was free and independent 
of the other united Mexican states and of every other 
foreign power, although in all matters relating to 
the Mexican confederation, it had delegated its 
powers to the general Congress of Mexican states. 
The republic of Texas held its position "by the same 
title that our Fathers of the Revolution acquired 
the territory and achieved the independence of this 
republic" — a successful revolution. "We had re- 
ceived the republic of Texas, which had thus 
divorced itself from the Mexican confederation, into 
our Union as an independent and a sovereign state. 
We could not retreat were we so disposed. We 


could not surrender a part of Texau territory since 
we bad accepted the state with her whole territory. 
Nothing was to be done then, save to resist the ag- 
gression of Mexico and to insist upon tbe mainte- 
nance of the entire territory of the United States in- 
tact, including therein such land as Texas had 
acquired for herself and bad brought into the Union 
of her own free will. 

Not only did Douglas thus seek to vindicate the 
Mexican War by reasoning that followed practically 
the only available line along wbich success could be 
attained from any other than a mere partisan stand- 
point, but it was a notable feature of the debate that 
he succeeded in part in winning over the good 
opinion of his most notable opponent, John Quincy 
Adams, who but a short time before had spoken of 
him as a " homunculus,"' given to abusive and 
frantic ravings. Adams bad contended that the 
western boundary of Texas was the Nueces River 
and not the Rio Grande. Douglas induced his dig- 
nified and venerable critic to commit himself defi- 
nitely and positively to that opinion and then pro- 
ceeded to refute the view expressed by Mr. Adams, 
basing his reply upon a dispatch which Mr. Adams 
himself had prepared about thirty years before 
while Secretary of State in President Monroe's 
Cabinet. 1 In this Mr. Adams had established con- 
clusively that the Rio Grande was the western boun- 
dary of Texas and that the country between the 

1 Congressional Globe, 1st Sess., 29th Cong., p. 817, for speech ; 
also Sheahaii, Chap. 5. 


Nueces and the Rio Grande was a part of Texas. 
Adams was fairly beaten by this ruse and frankly 
admitted his opponent's capacity, and in the main 
the courtesy and tact, which he had employed in 
the parliamentary struggle. 1 The speech and the 
Adams colloquy doubtless gave Douglas a decided 
increase of popularity and standing, and when he 
went to the White House, not long after the opening 
of the war, President Polk hastened to smooth over 
such irritation as Douglas felt because of political 
appointments to Federal places in Illinois, and 
practically designated him as the leader of the 
Democratic party in the lower chamber. 2 

The question now was the successful prosecution 
of the war. Polk needed aid in Congress, for he 
had to struggle not only with military problems, 
but also with those which surrounded the question 
of government in Texas. The President had gone 
on to establish a tentative administration in the new 
territory and this gave rise at the opening of the 
session, 1846-1847, to colloquies based upon the as- 
sumption that he had resorted to an excessive 
use of his power. Men looked to Douglas once 
more as the spokesman of the administration in 
matters relating to the war, and they were not dis- 
appointed. He had already been tutored by Polk, 
who had given him his side of the case at length. 
Douglas hastened to vindicate the position of the 

1 Sheahan, p. 74. 

8 Polk MS. Diary entry for June 17, 1846, quoted by Johnson, 
p. 106. 


administration and drew still closer to the Presi- 
dent. The question now was how to carry on the 
war, while at the same time looking forward to 
peace with Mexico. Polk thought that a transfer 
of $2,000,000 to pay Mexico for the ceded territory 
would be the best policy and in this Douglas con- 
curred, although they knew that the appropriation 
would be far from easy to secure. Just at this junc- 
ture Douglas secured his election to the United 
States Senate, and entered that body with the inten- 
tion of pursuing the same policy with reference to 
the war which he had already followed while a 
member of the lower chamber. 1 His advent upon 
the floor of the Senate was not characterized by the 
shrinking modesty enforced upon latter-day states- 
men by the managers of the legislative organization 
in the "American house of lords," for the change 
was to Douglas nothing more than speaking at one 
end of the Capitol rather thau at the other. 

He opened his senatorial career on February 1, 
1848, with a, vigorous speech in which he once more 
sought to vindicate Polk and urged the adoption of 
an administration measure then pendiug in the 
Senate. This was called the " Ten Regiments Bill " 
and had been offered by Lewis Cass. Douglas had 
comparatively little to say about the bill itself, 
save incidentally, but devoted himself chiefly to 
the subject of the necessity of the war and its pro- 
priety from the abstract standpoint, at the same 

l See page 102 for further description of circumstances sur- 
rounding election. 


time also giving due attention to the boundary ques- 
tion. While Douglas was thus striving to vindicate 
a weak administration by denying facts which were 
known of all men, the feebleness of Mexico was con- 
tributing to bring about the speedy termination of 
hostilities. Our troops had had success in pene- 
trating to the capital, and in holding most of the 
strong points that were needed to support the ad- 
vance. The question of peace was under serious 
discussion, and a draft of a treaty had reached the 
Senate even while Douglas was still working for the 
Ten Regiments Bill. The treaty was in fact form- 
ally transmitted by the President on February 23, 
1848, only about three weeks after Douglas had de- 
livered his opening address on the floor. Discus- 
sions continued until March 10th, when a vote was 
taken, thirty- eight to fourteen, in favor of the treaty 
in the form in which it then stood. Douglas had 
voted against it, but there were not enough senators 
with him to make up the necessary one-third in 
opposition. It was a surprise to many during the 
days between February 23d and March 10, 1848, that 
he who had so vigorously upheld the administration 
in its Mexican policy now attacked it at a vital 
point. He disliked the boundary provision of the 
treaty ' because, by providing that the line laid 
down in the agreement should be permanent, it cut 
off the possibility of a future rearrangement of the 
frontier. Such a rearrangement, Douglas appar- 
ently felt, might be necessary at a later date, but 

1 Sheahaii. Douglas, passim. 


his failure to support the Polk administration to the 
last was of comparatively little importance, since it 
was now considerably discredited in several direc- 
tions, while Douglas himself had grown remarkably 
in power and influence since the opening of the war- 
The question of territorial expansion, which had 
figured as one of the vital issues in the Mexican 
War, had also presented itself in a pressing form in 
connection with Oregon. While still in the House 
and still struggling with the Mexican question in 
its early stages, Douglas had bitterly assailed Great 
Britain because of her clcfim to Oregon, bringing 
forward the view that England should never be 
allowed to hold a single spot of territory in the 
Northwest. 1 He himself had introduced a measure, 
defining the legal status of the American inhabit- 
ants of the territory under the treaty which then 
existed with Great Britain. This treaty was to be 
abrogated and Douglas now urged that, in connec- 
tion with such abrogation, we should insist upon 
absolute and full control of the whole Northwest. 
On the 27th of January, 1846, he demanded the 
adoption of his proposed policy, and insisted upon 
the maintenance of American power upon the Pa- 
cific with a view to the control of future trade. 
Continuing in this strain, Douglas found himself 
but one of ten who voted for a substitute resolution 
(offered in place of the resolution terminating the 
treaty with Great Britain), iu which it was declared 
that Oregon was already defined in its status and 
1 Congressional Globe, 29th Cong., 1st Sees., pp. 124, etc 


could not be made the subject of controversy. The 
small number of supporters which he had succeeded 
in enlisting did not deter him from continued in- 
sistence upon the 54° 40' line. He persevered in 
his demand, and when it was suggested a little later 
that Polk thought of settling with England upon 
the forty-ninth parallel as a boundary, he declared 
himself positively to the effect that the acceptance 
of such a settlement would be a violation of party 
pledges as embodied in the last Democratic plat- 
form. In fact, the advocacy of extreme views about 
Oregon carried Douglas into an almost ridiculous 
position even with his own political associates, al- 
though he succeeded in pushing through the House 
his bill relating to the settlers in the territory, which 
was later allowed to die quietly in the Senate. 

The final draft of the treaty ' was unsatisfactory 
to Douglas, particularly in view of the language 
employed in the President's message conveying to 
Congress the information that the treaty had been 
agreed upon. 2 Douglas felt the concessions to Great 
Britain to be a serious personal rebuke, but he 
could not urge warlike action at a moment when 
we were evidently on the point of hostilities with 
Mexico. Polk had urged that a territorial govern- 
ment be promptly established in Oregon, and Doug- 
las was a sufficiently skilful tactician to drop such 
of his demands as were now plainly out of the ques- 
tion and take up the remaining issues. He pre- 

1 Treaties in Force, 1899, p. 231. 

1 Messages and Papers, Vol. IV, p. 449. 


sented a measure establishing a government in Ore- 
gon and when adopted by the House, he admitted 
an amendment prohibiting the existence of slavery. 
This measure, however, like Douglas's other bill, 
went no further than the lower chamber, so that the 
incorporation of the anti-slavery provision was sug- 
gestive rather than actual for the time being. The 
Oregon question was now shelved for a while and 
not until Douglas himself had entered the Senate, 
the Mexican War haviDg meantime passed by as a 
cause of alarm, was the discussion resumed. As 
soon, however, as conditions permitted, Douglas re- 
curred to the Oregon question and early in 1848 he 
offered a measure establishing a regular form of rule 
in that territory. It was unfortunate that the issue 
had been so long deferred, for in the meanwhile the 
annexation of Texas and the question of its govern- 
ment had sharply brought to the front the problem 
of slavery. Few, if any, were so extreme as to sup- 
pose that slavery would flourish in the far North- 
west, or that any declaration on the subject which 
might be embodied in the laws or constitution of 
Oregon, either as a territory or as a state, would be 
much more than an academic assertion of belief. 
While this was true, there was, however, a consid- 
erable distaste for any action which might be held 
to establish a precedent, to govern later policy in 
connection with other territories that might apply 
for admission. Many such territories were now in 
sight, and their entry into the Union was certain to 
raise the old question repeatedly. The subject was 


at length referred to a committee, charged with the 
duty of investigating the whole territorial situation 
in the Northwest, and this committee finally offered 
a plan for the government not only of the Oregon 
territory, but also of New Mexico and California in 
respect to this topic. 

The compromise proposal proved satisfactory in 
the upper chamber but the House would have noth- 
ing to do with it. Douglas had been willing to ac- 
cept the scheme, although he had suggested certain 
amendments designed to carry the line of the Mis- 
souri Compromise through to the Pacific Ocean, 
and to place the restriction of slavery in Oregon 
upon the ground that it was north of the parallel of 
latitude which formed the southern boundary of 
Missouri. Polk desired the adoption of some such 
measure, but at the last Oregon was finally provided 
for in a bill which retained the clause restricting 
the introduction of slavery, while Douglas had 
the poor satisfaction of knowing that the plan as 
adopted was substantially the one for which he had 
stood while still a member of the lower chamber. 
The significant feature of the situation lay in the 
fact that controversy had now been definitely opened 
on the slavery question and that Douglas had as- 
sumed a positive attitude on that issue. He had in 
fact committed himself in a preliminary way to the 
policy which was later to cause him so much em- 
barrassment, and ultimately to lead him into the 
mistake in his political career in connection with 
the Kansas-Nebraska question. 


Before Douglas could go further in his study of 
national politics, however, he must take account 
of his position at home. He had in a measure 
antagonized the national administration, notwith- 
standing the earnest and valuable support which he 
had rendered ; for Polk was not a sufficiently large 
man to allow much freedom to members of any 
party who might differ with him even in small 
particulars. Moreover, his status in Illinois was 
not altogether encouraging. The development of 
state politics had raised several serious questions, 
making it doubtful how men must shape their 
courses in order to maintain themselves at Wash- 
ington. As has already been seen, Douglas had 
been sent to the Senate by action of the legislature 
late in 1847. His election had been effected as the 
result of a caucus in which there had been the usual 
display of irritation and friction growing out of the 
opposition of the older politicians, unable to agree 
among themselves and equally dissatisfied at seeing 
a younger man substituted. The candidacy of 
Douglas had been known in connection with the 
senatorship for a long time, but most persons had 
supposed he would be unable to attain his ambition. 
Success in this regard was therefore somewhat sur- 
prising at the particular juncture in question, and 
the charge was made that he had entered into a 
political bargain whereby a possible opponent was 
eliminated iu return for a substantial Federal ap- 
pointment. Douglas's elevation to the Senate at all 
events was unexpected and could not be said in any 


sense to be the deliberate verdict of the people of 
the state, but rather a purely party matter. His 
problem, therefore, was that of identifying himself 
with the state as a whole more fully than he had 
been able to do while still representing only a part 
of it. If he wished to remain in the Senate, he 
must understand and accept the views of his con- 
stituency and definitely represent it. Meanwhile 
this constituency had been changing. The steady 
filling up of Illinois with eastern and northern 
emigrants and with the German element, which 
made its way across the Atlantic in consequence of 
the political disturbances in its native land, had 
made the vote there somewhat uncertain. It was 
no longer possible to determine accurately how 
the electorate would vote on any given question, 
nor was it certain that one man could fill and satisfy 
the ideals of the differing elements that existed in 
this new constituency. Douglas as a representative 
in Congress had reckoned cleverly and successfully 
with the pro-slavery element in the state, and as the 
Abolition element developed there he had made due 
allowance for it, though he still held it in but slight 
respect. He now saw it decidedly on the increase 
and was undoubtedly somewhat surprised at the 
action of the state in 1848 when a vote upon a Con- 
stitutional provision prohibiting the entry of free 
negroes into Illinois territory resulted in a sub- 
stantial ballot in favor of the entry of such negroes. 
Party lines were still very sharply drawn, however, 
and the Democrats had contrived to maintain their 


ascendency successfully. The party had skilfully 
arranged and rearranged the congressional districts 
in such a way as to keep a majority of votes within 
its own hands, in most of them changing the lines 
as the incoming population threatened to alter the 
political complexion of any given district. Doug- 
las's ability, his skill in manipulation, the fact that 
he had now risen to the highest Federal office in the 
gift of the state, marked him as its political leader 
par excellence. The retirement of his colleague, 
Senator Breese, shortly left him without a rival for 
the control of Federal appointments. It was nec- 
essary, however, to have a strong hold upon the 
national administration and to move, so far as pos- 
sible, with the current of opinion. 

Before leaving Washington after the struggle over 
the Mexican question, Douglas had done what he 
could to draw closer to the administration with 
which he had to some extent broken. He had even 
apologized to Polk in August, 1848, and had ob- 
tained promises of regard for his own wishes in 
local political matters. In apparent control of the 
party organization, sufficiently in favor with the 
national government to assure proper respect for 
his recommendations, it was only requisite that he 
should be sure of his ground on those broader 
questions involving slavery which, as he now recog- 
nized, were growing more and more acute. It was not 
possible ultimately to avoid the slavery question in 
some form, and this was keenly brought home to him 
when the Illinois legislature sought to instruct him 


regarding his position on the subject. The presi- 
dential election in the autumn of 1848 had revealed 
a remarkable strengthening of the anti-slavery 
forces. Zachary Taylor, the Whig candidate, had 
received 1,360,000 popular votes, but Cass, whom 
the Democrats nominated, had 1,220,000, while 
Van Buren, running on a Free Soil ticket, received 
291,000. Taylor's electoral vote was 163 against 
127 for Cass, and Taylor consequently assumed 
office. The contest was very close in Illinois, where 
Cass, the candidate of the Democrats, had received 
only 56,300 votes as against 53,047 for Taylor. 1 
The legislature was safely Democratic but the in- 
troduction of a resolution instructing the senators 
and representatives to use all possible means of an 
honorable character for giving the new territories a 
government free of slavery had been unexpected, 
and produced considerable confusion in the party. 

Opponents of Douglas had noted with interest his 
inclination to compromise on the question of slavery, 
and so far as possible to regard the wishes of its 
Southern advocates. He had opposed the limiting 
clause on the ground that the territories should be 
left free to come into the Union without any restric- 
tion upon the subject of slavery, and his course had 
also been directly opposed to the imposition of 
slavery or the withholding of it, during the time 
that the territories were organized as such, through 
congressional enactments. For these reasons the 
action of the legislature might by some be con- 
1 Stanwood, History of the Presidency, p. 243. 


sidered as a vote of lack of confidence in him, and 
under some conditions would probably have driven 
him out of office by a forced resignation. His 
efforts to accept the idea of the Missouri Com- 
promise as applied to the new territories of the 
southwest and northwest were directly opposed to 
the ideas embodied in the resolution of the legisla- 
ture of Illinois. This resolution had been passed 
by a combination of party groups, all of which 
were more or less opposed to slavery, and which in- 
cluded not a few Democrats. Democrats represent- 
ing southern Illinois did not of course sympathize 
with these anti-slavery leanings and naturally voted 
against the resolution, but they were unable to con- 
trol the legislature. 

Douglas was now faced by an embarrassing alter- 
native. Should he give up all that he had accom- 
plished by his strenuous efforts, — the titular head- 
ship of the party in his state, his favorable standing 
at Washington, his new prominence in national 
affairs, and other achievements merely because of a 
scruple over his relation to local politics? He 
determined not to hand in his resignation but to at- 
cept, at least formally, the idea which had been 
conveyed in the resolution sent him by the legisla- 
ture. He told the Senate that he would not resign 
because he thought the practical vote of lack of 
confidence in him was due to a fortuitous combina- 
tion of opposing elements. The call, however, was 
for strenuous political labor designed to reestablish 
his position in the state. Meanwhile, it was obvi- 


ous that he must cease his advocacy of the precise 
policy toward the slavery question which the 
Illinois legislature had opposed. The question then 
would be whether during the next two or three 
years he could succeed iu strengthening his founda- 
tions, and in setting himself four-square to the 
changing public opinion of his state. The course of 
political events justified his foresight, for within 
two years the shifting of party lines and the rapid 
development of new national issues altered the 
aspect of affairs. To this end, desirable as it was 
from his standpoint, Douglas vigorously contributed 
by effort to reshape the opinion of the state so as to 
lay greater stress upon the constitutional and legal 
side of the slavery question and less upon its moral 
or ethical aspects. Events showed that the conjunc- 
tion of parties against him in the Illinois legislature 
had been a matter of chance and of shrewd political 
manipulation, partly growing out of the newness of 
his own leadership ; and, as the coalition against him 
proved its inability to hold together, he steadily 
consolidated his own local organization, aiding 
wherever possible the disintegration of the oppos- 
ing groups. Threatening as it had seemed, the storm 
soon subsided and he emerged stronger than ever, 
because he was now fully warned of the dangers 
which confronted him. 



Like other members of Congress, Douglas had 
recognized the necessity of promoting the interests 
of his constituents in a definite and tangible way. 
Then, as now, the average voter was far from will- 
ing to take an active part in national affairs, and was 
most unwilling to put aside his own personal inter- 
ests and needs in behalf of those of the country at 
large. This situation was recognized by Douglas 
very early in his political life ; and throughout his 
subsequent career, while he was concentrating his 
mind largely upon national affairs and endeavoring 
to fight his way to the presidential chair, he was 
never without a distinct policy in regard to the 
economic questions which were closely and directly 
touched by Federal action. We have seen how, on 
the very threshold of his legislative life in the 
Illinois legislature, he had been confronted by the 
necessity of adopting a definite standpoint in regard 
to the use of state money for internal improvements 
and how, although setting his face against the 
wildest excesses of the internal improvement mania, 
he had seen the wisdom of voting for a bill which 
involved the state in most serious financial entangle- 
ments. The action then taken might well be over- 


looked in any critical review of Douglas's career on 
the ground that he was a young man untrained in 
economic thinking, with his political future still to 
work out, and unable alone to withstand the strong- 
current of popular sentiment. 

The course of Douglas while a member of the Illi- 
nois legislature must, however, be regarded as 
merely the beginning of a definite and set policy 
with respect to the distribution of public funds, 
which was continued and expanded as he advanced 
more and more in Federal politics and became in- 
creasingly able to dictate legislation in Washington. 
Douglas's faithful biographer maintains that "dur- 
ing his entire political life" he " agreed with the 
Democratic party in resisting any general system of 
internal improvements by the Federal govern- 
ment." ! Sheahan admits, that " upon some points, 
however, . . . he . . . had opinions some- 
what peculiar." These peculiar ideas related to the 
promotion of works that were intended to develop 
commercial and transportation enterprises, and were 
disapprovingly directed only toward those works 
which were " asked for by parties having local in- 
terests to serve." 2 The question in what sense the 
term "local" is used by his biographer is one that 
might give rise to differences of opinion. Undoubt- 
edly Douglas's action with reference to some of the 
most important commercial enterprises ever devel- 
oped in the state of Illinois constituted one of the 
principal features of his public career, although one 

1 Sheahan, Life, p. 354. * Ibid. 


which has been regarded as largely incidental to his 
participation in the broad national questions center- 
ing around the slavery controversy. While Doug- 
las, from the opening of his congressional service, 
recognized the political obligation, not to say the 
necessity, resting upon a young and rising politician 
of working actively for the usual river and harbor 
distribution of public moneys, the feature of his 
work which clearly distinguished him from the or- 
dinary seeker after congressional grants was that he 
had the insight to take up, and the pertinacity to ad- 
here to, a plan for a very large enterprise, which 
would be not only a permanent source of expendi- 
ture within his state but which would regularly 
divert to the pockets of a very large number of con- 
stituents some of the wealth of the Federal govern- 
ment, whether in the form of public lands (whose 
value he himself as a land officer had learned to 
know), or in some other form. He early attached 
himself therefore to the scheme for building a long 
line of railroad crossing the state of Illinois from 
north to south. 1 Thus he became one of the real 
originators of the great transportation system now 
controlled by the Illinois Central Eailroad Company. 
When Douglas entered the field of national pol- 
ities in the autumn of 1843, he undoubtedly had 
carefully considered the projects of railroad devel- 
opment which were most in the public mind in 
Illinois. The idea of a line from the junction of the 

1 The history of Douglas's ideas is best given by Cutts, Con- 
stitutional and Party Questions, pp. 187-199. 


Ohio and the Mississippi to some point on the Illi- 
nois River, and then north to Galena, had been talked 
of in the state for a good while, and its early begin- 
nings are to be found in connection with the great 
and impracticable scheme for internal improve- 
ments for which Douglas himself had voted when he 
entered the legislature and which had broken down 
because of the lack of adequate state funds subse- 
quent to the panic of 1837. This was accepted by 
Douglas as his leading proposal, and he soon had an 
opportunity of exhibiting his attitude, for the people 
of Illinois were now definitely looking to Congress as 
the available source of the aid which the state itself 
could not bestow. 

Simultaneously with Douglas's entry into Con- 
gress, a bill was favorably reported in the Senate 
whereby a man named Hoi brook was granted a 
right of way for a railroad through the public lands 
in Illinois. The railway was to be allowed to 
preempt the lands along the route at 81.25 per acre. 
This bill passed the Senate but failed of any action 
in the House, 1 and at the next session a similar bill, 
with some slight changes, was introduced but went 
no farther. Again in 1845-1846, a Senate bill 
granting to Illinois a large quantity of public lands 
located within the state for railroad construction was 
presented, but made no progress. The years 1843- 
1847 covered Douglas's career as a member of the 
lower house. During all this time he had been 
earnest in support of the general idea of the rail- 
1 Sheahan, p. 367. 


road, but he had not cared to support the particular 
propositions which were then presented for discus- 
sion. Sheahan thinks that he would have opposed 
the original measure providing for preemption at 
$1.25 an acre had it become a live issue in the 
House, and intimates that Douglas was largely re- 
sponsible for its failure on the ground that he had 
no faith in Holbrook or his associates who, he 
thought, would simply take the grant and sell it to 
others. His idea was that the grant of lands should 
be made direct to the state, and this idea, as already 
noted, was embodied in the subsequent bill bearing 
on the subject. All of these manoeuvres, however, 
came to nothing. 

In the meanwhile Douglas had become more and 
more attached to a railroad scheme and, during his 
travels in Illinois just before taking his seat as 
senator, he spoke freely upon the question. Aban- 
doning the idea of a direct grant to the state, as 
mentioned in the early Senate bills which had been 
framed somewhat along the lines he had suggested, 
he now advocated the gratuitous transfer to the rail- 
way of alternate sections of the public land on each 
side of the proposed railway, such grant, however, 
not to take effect until the road should be con- 
structed. The scheme proved to be very popular 
and Douglas was more than ever confirmed in the 
idea that something should be done. In fact, he 
became so strongly interested in it, that, as the plan 
took form, he gradually enlarged it and finally, 
growing enthusiastic over the commercial possibili- 


ties opening before him, he resolved to get for him- 
self a share of the magnificent development which 
he believed would follow the construction of the 
line. He was now in a position where he could be 
of immense service in promoting the railroad plan. 
All the bills thus far had originated in the Senate, 
and that body had on the whole been the home of 
the internal improvement scheme in its various 
forms. Douglas's name, too, had acquired large 
prestige in Illinois, and it might safely be antici- 
pated that any project in which he became inter- 
ested would secure favor for that very reason. 1 

Before taking his seat in the upper chamber 
Douglas purchased Chicago real estate on a large 
scale. Johnson thinks his action was the result 
of "a sort of sixth sense" which enabled him to 
foresee "the growth of the ugly, but enterprising 
city on Lake Michigan." a Whether his action was 
due to a "sixth sense" or to a confidence in his 
own ability to shape things in such a way as to 
promote the development of Chicago, is a matter of 
opinion. Chicago was not yet included within the 
proposed railroad route but Douglas promptly set 
out to correct this defect. Immediately after his 
land purchases in Chicago, he took the view during 
the summer of 1847, that the line to be built must 

1 Forney, in his Anecdotes of Public Men, p. 19, recites in- 
stances of investments in Superior City, at Fond du Lac, the 
head of Lake Superior, at the terminus of the projected Northern 
Pacific Railroad made at the advice of Douglas and speaks of the 
large returns reoeived therefrom. 

J Johnson, Life, p. 169. 


connect with the Great Lakes, and in support of 
this proposition he presented not only commercial 
considerations ' but also arguments growing out of 
local politics. 2 Going to Washington in the fall of 
1847, Douglas promptly introduced the bill. It 
provided for a grant to the state of Illinois of 
alternate sections of public land to aid in the con- 
struction of a railroad from Cairo to Galena, with a 
branch at some suitable point on the road to 
Chicago. This and rival bills were referred to the 
Senate Committee on Public Lands presided over by 
Douglas's own colleague, Breeseof Illinois. Breese 
had been somewhat cold toward the scheme and had 
apparently been an advocate of the original group 
of railway promoters headed by Holbrook, who had 
sought to secure a preemption privilege at $1. 25 per 
acre. Douglas had already sounded Breese during 
the summer, but had found him in favor of the 
Holbrook scheme. Breese, however, had become 
convinced that he could not afford to exhibit 
undue partiality toward Holbrook, and he there- 
fore reported both bills from the Committee on 
Public Lands. Douglas, in spite of the opposi- 
tion of his colleague, which was manifest in a sub- 
dued way, succeeded in forcing his measure through 
the Senate but without effect, for near the end of the 
session the house laid it on the table by a small vote. 
The opposition was partly due to the hostility of 
the Southern stales, but other states which had 
no public lands cooperated in antagonizing it. 
1 Sheahan, Life, p. 368. 2 Johnson, ante cit., p. 170. 


Douglas had already told the Chicago men who 
were backing the scheme, that the votes of other 
portions of the country would have to be secured, 1 
and he now proceeded to make practical use of an 
idea which had been neglected by other advocates 
of the plan and which he himself had not had the 
time to follow up. He believed that by forming an 
alliance with defunct or embarrassed railroad 
schemes iu the Southern territory which the new 
road was to penetrate, or with which it was to connect 
he would be able to bring about a diversion in Con- 
gress which would give him the votes he required. 
The enterprise that he selected for the negotiation 
was the so-called Mobile Railroad. In the course 
of a visit to the plantation owned by his children, 
he went by a circuitous route to Mobile, and there 
he arranged a scheme which would result in a 
public land grant to the Mobile Railway, simultane- 
ous with that to the Illinois Central, the votes of 
the advocates of both schemes being cast en bloc. 

With this clever " deal " arranged, Douglas rein- 
troduced his bill in December, 1849. Breese was 
now out of Congress and had been succeeded by 
Shields. Douglas, Shields, and the House delega- 
tion jointly drafted the measure and proceeded to 
push it. It was made public in January, 1850, but 
the pressure of the slavery question and the legisla- 
tion relating thereto greatly hampered its progress. 

1 A letter written by Douglas to Breese and published in the 
Illinois State Register January 20, 1851, is relied upon to prove 
this point. See Johnson, Life, p. 170. 


Enough was done, however, to make it evident that 
if any bill could be passed, it would be the Douglas 
bill and not that of the rival group of promoters. 
Recognizing their defeat, the Holbrook politicians 
aud boomers hastened back to Illinois and there 
"by the most dexterous management" succeeded 
in inducing the legislature to pledge them any lands 
which might in future be granted by Congress to 
the state for the construction of the Illinois Central 
Railroad. 1 This apparently blocked Douglas's 
further progress, for the latest bill, which had been 
approved by all of the Illinois members, now 
provided solely for a single road — the Illinois 
Central. The scheme had undoubtedly been 
cleverly managed and there was the usual igno- 
rance as to the methods by which Douglas aud 
his political followers had been outmanoeuvred.' 2 
However it had been done, no further progress 
could be made. It was evident, therefore, that a 
coup would be necessary. Boldly seuding for Hol- 
brook, the head of the rival group of boomers, Doug- 
las now threatened him with publicity and the abso- 
lute ruin of his whole scheme unless he should assign 
every right and claim to congressional land grants. 
This release was to be made in favor of the state of 
Illinois. The facts as to Holbrook' s machinations 
had apparently not become well known, and had 
only been discovered by Douglas in the course of a 

^heahan, Life, p. 369. 

2 Moses, Illinois Historical and Statistical, Fergus Printing Co., 
1889, Vol. II, p. 574. 


visit to Springfield in which he had happened to 
look into the text of a measure wherein the clause 
conveying the grant had been concealed. Holbrook 
became convinced that, with Douglas on guard at 
Washington, he could hope for nothing and being 
averse to the threatened publicity, he resolved to 
yield. He executed the desired release, which was 
then forwarded to Springfield and filed with the 
public papers. Satisfied on this point, Douglas 
pushed on with his effort to pass the measure. 

The bill, whatever the inspiring motive, now at 
least presented the appearance of a grand conception 
— a line from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. There 
was the same reason for acting in the matter that 
existed in the case of the Pacific railways, and in 
addition there was the argument that by enabling 
the construction of this road, Congress would con- 
nect the Middle West with the South and Southwest 
in a way never before possible. A good deal of 
shrewd political bargaining was still necessary. 
Votes must be conciliated in the Eastern states, and 
appear to have been gained by promises either of 
tariff changes or aid in securing such changes, by 
glowing predictions of the benefits to come to East- 
ern roads by reason of the connection at Chicago 
with the Illinois Central and in other ways. In the 
South votes were obtained by urging the advantages 
that would accrue to that section in the shape of 
quick and cheap transportation, while the interven- 
ing states without public lands almost inevitably 
drew to the side of the plan, as they realized the 


benefits that were likely to be gained from the con- 
struction of a road which would cost them nothing. 
The outcome of all this trafficking was clearly seen 
when the vote was taken on April 29th in the 
Senate, where the measure passed twenty-six to 
fourteen. It subsequently went through the House 
on the 17th of September by a vote of 101 to 
seventy-five. The result showed that Douglas had 
been unerring in his forecast of the support he could 
get by his manoeuvring, for he had won over 
nearly twenty votes, which would otherwise have 
been against him and would have sufficed to defeat 
the measure ignominiously. Eunning through the 
debate were the usual florid utterances and the 
familiar vague prophecies of untold wealth and 
enormous commercial expansion to follow from the 
new enterprise. 

The bill, however, had been passed and Chicago, 
the place of Douglas's new-made investments, was 
duly appreciative, offering to the two senators the 
customary "ovation." Work was immediately be- 
gun and the road shortly proved successful in many 
ways. The growth of Chicago was already in prog- 
ress and Douglas's property was advancing in value. 
He profited materially from the development he had 
helped to bring about. 1 In his later political career 

1 Forney, Anecdotes of Public Men, p. 20, seems to feel that Doug- 
las's work was not appreciated : " I say I could not help . . . 
drawing the contrast between the vital and vigorous champion- 
ship of Douglas in this stupendous work and the studied neg- 
lect of his memory by those who have profited by it. After 
passing through the magnificent depot [Chicago] and the ad- 


he received many favors from the Illinois Central 
Kailroad, while the increased cost of political 
campaigning, which had to be met in 1858 from the 
candidate's own resources, was paid out of a fund of 
$80,000 borrowed by Douglas on the strength of his 
land holdings in or near Chicago. More than this 
had been borrowed by him at one time or another, 
but the fact that at a critical period he could secure 
so much upon his real estate shows how largely he 
had profited from the commercial growth of the 
city, now to be promoted by the construction of the 
railway and later by the development of trade 
which followed the completion of the work. 1 
Douglas, moreover, in connection with the Illinois 
Central scheme, acquired a considerable degree of 
personal popularity with many of his constituents, 
and undoubtedly was well rewarded for all that he 
had attempted while in Washington by the growth of 
his prestige among business men. 

Douglas's experience with the Illinois Central 
now practically committed him to the advocacy 
of similar schemes in all directions. A certain 
degree of consistency is necessary in public life, and 

jacent buildings, I said to an employee, ' Who owns the most 
stock in the Illinois Central ? ' ' Indeed I do not know, sir,' was 
his reply. ' Well, my friend, I think the man who ought to 
own the most of it, and whose children should be most benefited 
by it, was Stephen A. Douglas.' I think the man may have 
heard of Douglas, but it was clear to me, from his look, that he 
thought I was a lunatic." 

1 The details about Douglas's use of these funds are supplied 
by Horace Greeley, Century Magazine, July, 1891, p. 375, 
quoted by Rhodes (with approval). History, Vol. II, p. 338. 


it was the more requisite in this instance because of 
the bargains that had been made for votes during 
the struggle in behalf of this railroad. Douglas 
could not very well refuse his aid, or at least his 
countenance to the advocates of any proposed land 
grant that had the color of legitimacy, when only a 
short time before he had relied for support in be- 
half of his own project upon the votes of these same 
men or their immediate predecessors. In con- 
sequence, during the decade of his greatest prestige 
and prominence, he found himself constantly obliged 
to lend his favor to land grant propositions and in 
this way paid a heavy price for the aid he had ob- 
tained for the Illinois Central. Particularly in the 
Southwest was the pressure strongly felt, for this 
was the region to which Douglas had first ap- 
pealed. He found himself obliged to vote at one 
time or another for land grant bills covering public 
property in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, 
Arkansas and Missouri. From the middle western 
states, to which appeal had also been made, came 
similar pressure, and Douglas was compelled to 
vote in behalf of schemes affecting Iowa, Michigan, 
Wisconsin, Minnesota, and possibly others.' 

The most important subsequent development of 
Douglas's economic policy was seen, however, in 
his promotion of the Pacific railway movement. 
He was strongly actuated in this connection by the 
stand he had previously taken on the subject of the 

1 Sheahan, Life, p. 371, summarizes these projects very 


Illinois Central, although the influence here was 
less specialized than had been the case with the 
smaller land grants. Having accepted the general 
idea of national aid to great through routes de- 
signed to connect distant parts of the country with 
one another, and thereby to help in abolishing sec- 
tionalism, he could not turn a deaf ear to similar 
pleas. Morever, as time passed, it became plain 
that a western outlet for the commerce of Chicago 
would be quite as desirable as a southern trunk line. 
All of these considerations shaped his subsequent 
policy. When the Nebraska bill was in process of 
passage in the Senate, Douglas materially modified 
its form ' in order to assure, if possible, a central 
route for the proposed railway to the coast. 2 In 
connection with the Pacific Railroad legislation it- 
self, Douglas early committed himself to a favorable 
attitude, and went so far as to recognize and ap- 
prove not one but three routes which later became 
substantially the lines across the continent. While, 
however, thus endorsing the scheme and occasion- 
ally making a declaration in favor of the general 
idea, Douglas never allowed himself to become an 
active promoter of these particular projects. The 
utmost that he did was to speak strongly in the 
Senate on April 17, 1858, in favor of the Pacific 
Railroad measure, providing that whenever a sec- 
tion of the road should be completed, the govern- 
ment might advance a certain amount of land and 
$12,500 per mile in bonds in order to enable the 
1 Infra, p. 193 n., etc. 2 Sheahan, Life, p. 372. 


company to construct the next section. He then 
presented 1 the stereotyped arguments in favor of 
government aid to trunk-line railroads, urging the 
desirability of such roads for the transportation of 
military equipment in time of war, as economical 
avenues over which to carry the mails, as means of 
uniting the country in its various parts, and on 
other grounds. In this speech he perhaps gave the 
most accurate and clear-cut expression of his phi- 
losophy with reference to the support of internal 
improvements by the Federal government. ' ' Some 
gentlemen," he said, " think it is an unsound policy 
leading to the doctrine of internal improvements by 
the Federal government within the different states 
of the Union. We are told we must confine the 
road to the limits of the territories, and not extend 
it into the states, because it is supposed that enter- 
ing a state with this contract violates some great 
principle of state rights. Mr. President, the com- 
mittee considered that proposition and they avoided 
that objection in the estimation of the most strict, 
rigid, tight-laced states' rights men that we have in 
the body. We struck out the provision in the bill 
first drawn, that the President should contract for 
the construction of a railroad from the Missouri 
River to the Pacific Ocean, and followed an ex- 
ample that we found on the statute book for carry- 
ing the mails from Alexandria to Richmond, Va., — 
an act passed about the time when the resolutions of 
1798 were passed, and the report of 1799 was adopted 

1 Congressional Globe, 1st Sess., 35th Cong., pp. 1643 etseq. 


— an act that we thought came exactly within the 
spirit of those resolutions. That act, according 
to my recollection, was, that the department be 
authorized to contract for the transportation of the 
United States mail by four-horse post-coaches, with 
closed backs, so as to protect it from the weather 
and rain, from Alexandria to Richmond, in the 
state of Virginia. It occurred to this committee 
that if it had been the custom, from the beginning 
of this government to this day, to make contracts for 
the transportation of the mails, in four-horse post- 
coaches, built in a particular manner, and the con- 
tractor left to furnish his own coaches and his own 
horses, and his own means of transportation, we 
might make a similar contract for the transporta- 
tion of the mails by railroad from one point to an- 
other, leaving the contractor to make his own rail- 
road, and furnish his own cars, and comply with 
the terms of the contract." ' 

The superficial point of view which could draw 
this analogy might perhaps be attributed to the en- 
tire lack of understanding of the position of rail- 
roads as common carriers, characteristic of most 
public men at the time this speech was delivered. 
It is difficult, however, to find anywhere in Doug- 
las's speeches or writings a satisfactory reconcilia- 
tion of his idea of government subsidies to private 
enterprises with the general philosophy of laissez 
faire and government non-interference, which is 
the controlling note in all of his other utterances. 

1 Globe. 


Taken as a whole, it must be admitted that Doug- 
las's career exhibits in the case of his pro-subsidy 
tendencies, one of those singular inconsistencies 
which must be ascribed to the direct pressure of 
immediate political or private interests upon the 
general trend of a public man's life. 

With the acceptance of so extensive and impor- 
tant a general policy as that of government aid to 
trunk-line railroads, it was probably not hard for 
Douglas to unite a theory or policy of conduct 
which would permit him to work steadily and con- 
sistently for the usual petty distribution of public 
money involved in excessive river and harbor ap- 
propriations. Douglas was one of the original ad- 
vocates of "systematic" river and harbor im- 
provement. Sheahan admits that he voted pretty 
generally for "all the river and harbor appropria- 
tion bills" although he always protested "against 
such items, as were included in them, that did not 
come up to his idea of justice or propriety." Never- 
theless, as a result of this policy he was " often 
compelled to vote for a number of small appropria- 
tions for what he deemed inappropriate works." ' 
It was a remarkable fact that, in order to get rid of 
the system of log-rolling, whose evils he plainly saw ? 
he urged a striking, though wholly impossible, plan 
which if adopted would have largely changed the 
development of one of our present chief items of 
Federal expenditure. In 1852 he suggested that 
three sections be added to the Eiver and Harbor 

1 Sheahan, Life, p. 355. 


Bill, whereby the consent of Congress would be 
granted to the several states, and might by the lat- 
ter be granted to their various municipalities, to 
levy a tonnage tax of not over ten cents per ton upon 
vessels entering the local harbors, such tonnage tax 
to be used in improving the harbors and the rivers 
and channels connected therewith. This scheme 
was an evident recognition of the inconsistency of 
the then extending river and harbor policy with the 
general policy of states' rights and was advocated 
distinctly on that ground. So earnestly did Doug- 
las believe in the practicability of the plan that 
he spoke on the floor of Congress in its favor, dis- 
cussing the constitutional phases of the issue, while 
later he sent to the governor of Illinois under date 
of January 2, 1854, 1 a letter in which he sought 
to vindicate his attitude. In this letter he took 
the view that by adopting his plan, commercial 
competition would automatically develop those 
harbors and channels which were of service to 
commerce in a way that was not possible under 
the system of artificial Federal aid. The notion 
was unmistakably a product of restlessness and 
discontent with the idea of Federal assistance, but 
can hardly be looked upon very seriously, since it 
was never proposed as a substitute for the river 
and harbor appropriations, — merely as an addition 

The record of Douglas regarding Federal aid to 
internal improvements must thus in all its aspects 

1 Text given by Sheahan, Life, p. 358 ff. 


be considered strikingly inharmonious with his gen- 
eral philosophy. 

It is significant of his point of view that, notwith- 
standing the prominence he speedily attained in the 
Senate, Douglas took little or no part in the discus- 
sion of the more important economic questions then 
pressing upon the attention of Congress. The tariff 
issue, which had been a fundamental problem with 
the Democrats for many years, did not appeal to 
him, though he favored reciprocity with Canada in 
1850-1851. ' True, when the question came up in 
1857, he undertook to express some views on the 
subject, but only with an unaccustomed reservation 
to the effect that he knew little or nothing about the 
issue. 2 That this modest statement was correct, was 
speedily demonstrated in his analysis of the ques- 
tion, as it then presented itself. He took the point 
of view that the question was essentially a matter of 
expediency, and that the framing of a tariff bill was 
therefore simply a problem of adjustments, so as to 
bring about an equality of burden upon different 
''classes" in the community. Some ideas of an 
unusually liberal character, however, were ex- 
pressed by Douglas in connection with the tariff 
issue. He in 1857 secured the adoption of an 
amendment to the tariff act 3 of that year, making 
wool worth less than twenty cents free ; advocated 
the free admission of works of art, and in certain 

1 Cutts, Constitutional and Party Questions, pp. 205-206. 

9 Congressional Globe, 34th Cong., 3d Sess., p. 353. 

3 Stanwood, American Tariff Controversies, Vol. II, p. 108. 


other respects appeared to be decidedly in advance 
of the narrow, materialistic views on the question of 
customs which then controlled men of far broader 
opportunities for early education. 



The chief work of Douglas's life was now to be 
begun. Up to the time of his entry into the Senate, 
his activities in national affairs had been of com- 
paratively slender importance when viewed from 
the historical standpoint. Although a useful party 
man, already recognized as exceptionally effective 
in debate, not overscrupulous, and placing the 
progress of his party as well as the development of 
his own personal fortunes decidedly ahead of con- 
siderations of abstract ethics, there are probably few, 
if any, who would consider Douglas more than an 
interesting figure in the early history of Illinois, had 
his life been cut short at the time of his election to 
the Senate, or even within the first two years of his 
membership in that body. 

This, however, was not to be. The ten years fol- 
lowing his entry into the upper house of Congress 
were to form perhaps the most critical decade in the 
history of the United States under the Constitution, 
and in this critical period Douglas was to play one 
of the leading rdles. 1 

1 For Douglas's personal appearance and for the impressions 
of contemporaries regarding the man at the time of his most 


The body of which Douglas was now a member 
was the greatest forum which the country presented. 
At that time, the Senate had not become hopelessly 
crippled by purely machine control, nor had it 
fallen a prey to the influence of special business in- 
terests. It was a wide field of open debate in 
which large personalities moved across the stage 
with decided freedom. Great forces were at work 
there and the traditions of the body were, on the 
whole, high. Whatever may be thought of the dom- 
inating influences operative among the different 
groups in the Senate, it is a fact that they were, at 
all events, political and not commercial groups. 
Douglas's entry upon this first-class field for the 
display of his capacity was particularly auspicious. 
Webster, Clay and Calhoun were shortly to pass 
out. Seward, Chase and Sumner had not yet at- 
tained their full promise and were busy during the 
early fifties in organizing their great party. Morse 
says that the period from 1852 to 1860 "belonged to 

conspicuous service in national political life, several sources of 
considerable value may be mentioned. The Washington corre- 
spondence of the New York Tribune gives in the main a sub- 
stantially correct picture of Douglas's appearance on the floor 
from day to day under varying conditions. Clark E. Carr, in 
his Stephen A. Douglas, embodies in his sketch of Douglas's life 
a considerable number of impressions as received by contempo- 
raries, including his own views. Mrs. Stowe, in a letter pub- 
lished in the New York Independent, has given a graphic pic- 
ture of the man, and for the later period of his career Schurz 
and Villard (Sohurz's Reminiscences, and Villard's Memoirs) 
are among the most receut and probably the most trust- 
worthy sources of information. Rhodes {History of the United 
States), drawing heavily upon contemporary periodical material, 
adds valuable touches here and there. 


Douglas more than to any other man." ' And the 
judgment thus expressed is obviously true. Upon 
his coming into the Senate he was not so much 
overslaughed, as to make necessary a long period 
of apprenticeship ere he could gain the permission 
of some masterful leader to appear in debate, nor 
was the Senate so lacking in organization as to pre- 
vent the recognition of ability when it was ex- 
hibited. Fortunate thus in the personnel of his 
colleagues, he was doubly fortunate in the charac- 
ter of the themes by which he was confronted. 
There have been times in the history of the United 
States Senate when the character of the topics de- 
manding attention has been such as to stifle ambi- 
tion, but during the decade after Douglas's entry, 
hardly a subject that was dealt with failed to touch 
the nation's life in its innermost cells. There was 
not an action, not a sentence spoken by a member 
on the floor, not a committee appointment that 
might not have unlooked-for and far-reaching in- 
fluence. It is not too much to say that Douglas 
seemed to have but a limited conception of the tre- 
mendous tasks to which he was now to set his hand. 

1 Morse, Abraham Lincoln, American Statesmen Series, 1899, 
Vol. I, p. 106. "From 1852 to 1860 Douglas was the most 
noteworthy man in public life in the country. Webster, Clay 
and Calhoun had passed away. Seward, Chase, and Sumner, 
still in the earlier stages of their brilliant careers, were organiz- 
ing the great party of the future. This interval of eight years 
belonged to Douglas more than to any other man. He had 
been a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presi- 
dency in 1852 and again in 1856 ; and had failed to secure it in 
part by reason of that unwritten rule whereby the leading 
statesmen are so often passed over. . ." 


Calm, self-assured, arrogant in the political success 
which had hitherto attended his every movement, 
he regarded the future with no kind of apprehen- 
sion. 1 

The portrait of Douglas during his earlier years 
in the United States Senate has been drawn by 
many hands and with substantial similarity of 
lines. It grew more and more distinct as time went 
on, until at the outbreak of the Civil War there was 
no man, not even excepting Lincoln, whose traits of 
character were more deeply graven upon the popu- 
lar imagination. "He had high spirit, was ambi- 
tious, masterful, and self-confident," says Mr. 
Morse; "he was also an aggressive, brilliant, and 
tireless fighter in a political campaign, an orator 
combining something of the impressiveness of Web- 
ster with the readiness and roughness of the stump 
speaker. He had a thorough familiarity with all 
the politics, both the greater and the smaller, of the 
times ; he was shrewd and adroit as a politician, 
and he had as good a right as any man then promi- 
nent in public life to the more dignified title of 
statesman. He had the art of popularity and upon 

lu Precocious in youth, marvelously active in manhood, he 
had learned without study, resolved without meditation, ac- 
complished without toil," says William Garrott Brown. 
" Whatever obstacles he had found in his path, he had either 
adroitly avoided them or boldly overleaped them, but never 
laboriously uprooted them. Whatever subject he had taken in 
hand, he had swiftly compassed it, but rarely probed to the 
heart of it. . . . His habits were convivial, and the vicious 
indulgences of his strong and masculine appetites had caused 
him frequent illnesses." 


sufficient occasion could be supple and accommodat- 
ing even in the gravest matters of principle." ' 

Douglas was now at an age when his faculties 
were in full vigor and when his physical appear- 
ance had taken on the aspect of maturity. He had 
been born in 1813 and upon his entry into the Sen- 
ate in 1847 he was therefore barely thirty-five years 
old. The epithet of "Little Giant," which had 
been bestowed upon him by his affectionate fol- 
lowers, had been retained and with the lapse of 
years had become a more and more suitable descrip- 
tion of the young politician. 2 In form he was now 
an exceedingly short, thick -set man, full of vitality 
and with remarkable energy. Mrs. Stowe in 1856 
saw him probably at his best and vividly described 
his good points as well as those in which he was less 
favored. "This Douglas," she wrote, unable alto- 
gether to suppress her antagonism, "is the very 
ideal of vitality. Short, broad and thick-set, every 
inch of him has its own alertness and motion. He 

1 Morse, ante cit. 

* Forney, Anecdotes of Public Men, p. 146, describes him as 
follows: "No character, certainly no candidate for onr highest 
office, was a completer master of the gift of securing tenacious 
friends than Stephen A. Douglas. He had scarcely touched the 
floor of Congress before he became an object of interest. His 
extreme youth, his boyish appearance, his ready wit, his fine 
memory, his native rhetoric, above all, his suavity and hearti- 
ness, made him a favorite long before he was named for Presi- 
dent. He delighted in pleasant company. Unused to what is 
called ' etiquette, ' he soon adapted himself to its rules, and 
took rank in the dazzling society of the capital. Many a time 
have I watched him leading in the keen encounters of the 
bright intellects around the festive board. To see him thread- 
ing the glittering crowd with a pleasant smile or a kind word 


has a good head and face, thick black hair, heavy 
black brows and a keen eye. His figure would be 
an unfortunate one were it not for the animation 
which constantly pervades it ; as it is, it rather 
gives poignancy to his peculiar appearance ; he has 
a small, handsome hand, moreover, and a graceful 
as well as forcible mode of using it. . . ." * De- 
spite his ' ' unfortunate ' ' figure and his lowness of 
stature, there is every evideuce that Douglas's per- 
sonality made a strong, vivid impression upon all of 
those with whom he came into contact. He was not 
one of the vague, shadowy personalities so hard to 
bring out in clear traits even when the mind that 
has been at work has left its mark upon history. 
Indeed, from the beginning of his mature manhood, 
the physical force, energy aud effectiveness of 
Douglas were superior in their effect upon contem- 
poraries to the mere weight of his argument or the 
skill of its presentation. 

Douglas, however, had never made up for the 

for everybody, one would have taken him for a trained courtier. 
But he was more at home in the close and exciting thicket of 
men. That was his element. To call each one by name, some- 
times by his Christian name ; to stand in the centre of a listen- 
ing throng, while he told some Western story or defended some 
public measure ; to exchange jokes with a political adversary ; 
or, ascending the rostrum, to hold thousands spellbound for 
hours, as he poured forth torrents of characteristic eloquence — 
these were traits that raised up for him hosts who were ready 
to fight for him. Eminent men did not hesitate to take their 
stand under the Douglas flag. Riper scholars than himself, 
older if not better statesmen, frankly acknowledged his leader- 
ship and faithfully followed his fortunes." 

1 Quoted in Rhodes, Vol. II, p. 128, from New York Independ- 
ent, May 1, 1856. 


lack of a cultivated and gentle early environment. 
Some of the formative years of his life had been 
spent on the frontier in the small country town 
where his chief forum of expression was the corner 
grocery, the saloon, or at best the dirty court room. 
The necessity of the most grinding economy during 
his earlier years had left its mark upon him, even 
though this had been partially erased by his subse- 
quent prosperity. As he had increased in wealth, 
he had hardly increased correspondingly in its 
judicious use. He spent much money upon rather 
dapper clothing and was inclined to be lavish in 
social entertainment. On dissipation of various 
kinds he perhaps spent most freely of all. But the 
greatest lack in Douglas's personal equipment was 
the absence of dignity. Carl Schurz, no friend to 
Douglas or what he represented, recognized the es- 
sential parliamentary ability of the man but could 
not condone the personal characteristics in which it 
was enveloped. "There was something in his man- 
ner," wrote Schurz, " which strongly smacked of the 
bar-room. He was the idol of the rough element of 
his party, and his convivial association with that 
element left its unmistakable imprint upon his hab- 
its and his deportment. He would sometimes of- 
fend the dignity of the Senate by astonishing con- 
duct. Once at a night session of the Senate I saw 
him, after a boisterous speech, throw himself upon 
the lap of a brother senator and loll there, talking 
and laughing, for ten or fifteen minutes, with his 
arm around the neck of his friend, who seemed to 


be painfully embarrassed but could or would not 
shake him off." ' 

The same view which had impressed itself upon 
the mind of Schurz had also presented itself from a 
somewhat different angle of vision to another more 
critical, though possibly less sincere and single- 
minded observer. Edwin L. Godkiu, keen critic as 
he was of men and events, spoke cuttingly in 1858 
of some of the same things which had offended 
Schurz, in a letter from Washington, written while 
Douglas was at the height of his prestige. "He 
is a model demagogue," said Mr. Qodkin. "He 
is vulgar in his habits and vulgar in his ap- 
pearance, 'takes his drink,' chews his quid, and 
discharges his saliva with as much constancy and 
energy as the least pretentious of his constituents, 
but enters into the popular feelings with a tact and 
zest rarely equaled, and assails the heads and 
hearts of the multitude in a style of manly and 
vigorous eloquence such as few men can command. 
There lies in his bullet head and thick neck enough 
combat iveness, courage, and ability for three men 
of his dimensions. The slightest touch of what 
genteel people would call improvement would spoil 
him. If he were one degree more refined he would 
be many degrees less popular. When he mounts 
the stump he holds the crowd in front of him in the 
hollow of his hand." 2 

1 Reminiscences, Vol. II, p. 31. 

* Life and Letters of E. L. Qodkin, edited by Rollo Oeden, 
Vol. I, p. 176. 


Other observers of foreign birth were more appre- 
ciative. "W. H. Eussell, who came to the United 
States as a war correspondent, was deeply im- 
pressed by him. "Few men speak better than 
Senator Douglas," he wrote; "his words are well 
chosen, the flow of his ideas even and constant, his 
intellect vigorous, and thoughts well cut, precise, 
and vigorous — he seems a man of great ambition, 
and he told me he is engaged in preparing a sort of 
Zollverein scheme for the North American conti- 
nent, including Canada, which will fix public at- 
tention everywhere, and may lead to a settlement 
of the Northern and Southern controversies. For 
his mind, as for that of many Americans, the aristo- 
cratic idea embodied in Eussia is very seductive ; 
and he dwelt with pleasure on the courtesies he had 
received at the court of the Czar, implying that he 
had been treated differently in England, and per- 
haps France. And yet, had Mr. Douglas become 
President of the United States, his good-will 
toward Great Britain might have been invaluable, 
and surely it had been cheaply purchased by a lit- 
tle civility and attention to a distinguished citizen 
and statesman of the republic." ' 

Douglas's first marriage in 1847 was nearly syn- 
chronous with his entry in the Senate. It had 
lasted only a brief period, which however sufficed 
to give him an experience of happy family life and 
to exert, according to close acquaintances, a refin- 
ing and restraining influence. His wife had died 

1 My Diary North and South, p. 37. 


in 1853, leaving him with two children. The por- 
trait of Mrs. Douglas is not very distinct, although 
Sheahan describes her in the usual eulogistic terms 
as a woman of " gentleness . . . and stroDg na- 
tive good judgment," who " made home an abiding- 
place of peace and tranquillity, where all the associ- 
ations were of a refined and Christian character." 
In entertaining, she " was judicious and yet munifi- 
cent," and "won the respect of all his friends and 
divided with him their unbounded admiration." 
Considerable sentiment has been expended upon 
Douglas's first marriage but apparently without an 
adequate body of data. The main significant fea- 
ture of this union was seen in connection with the 
fact that his father-in-law, Colonel Eobert Martin 
of North Carolina, was a slave-owner, and dying 
shortly after Douglas's marriage, bequeathed to 
Mrs. Douglas his plantation and the slaves 
thereon. 1 

Much more is known of Douglas's domestic rela- 
tions during the period of his second marriage. 
Subsequent to the death of the first Mrs. Douglas, 
he appears to have drifted, during the succeeding 
four years, into the somewhat nomadic and irregu- 
lar existence which is supposed to be characteristic 
of the unmarried man, deteriorating also in per- 
sonal habits and in mental traits. Late in 1856 he 
married again, this time Miss Adele Cutts of 
Washington. The second Mrs. Douglas was in 
every way a powerful moulding influence upon 
1 This incident has been treated elsewhere, see p. 88. 


the career of her husband, and it may not be too 
violent an inference to believe that she was partially 
responsible for the changes of front which occurred 
during his later years with reference to various 
political and party questions. He became, accord- 
ing to Schurz, " more tidy and trim in his appear- 
ance and more careful in his habits, although even 
then there were rumors of occasional excesses." 
Mrsj Douglas kept a close eye upon him and ac- 
companied him on electioneering journeys. Here 
the new influence which had now entered his life 
was plainly observed by the impressionable Villard, 1 
who recorded the favorable notion which he had 
gained in his first meeting with Mrs. Douglas at the 
time when, as a young newspaper correspondent, 
he was admitted to speech with the great man who 
was then engaging Lincoln in debate. This im- 
pression was practically that of all observers of 
Douglas's second union. It, in fact, tended much to 
promote his prestige in Washington society as well 
as his better self-control. The fact that Mrs. Doug- 
las was a Roman Catholic while her husband was 
either an atheist or an extreme liberal in religion ' 
was perhaps the only element of discord or of 
unsuitability in the match. Mrs. Douglas's enter- 
tainments during the trying later period of the 
Lecompton struggle did much to overcome the 
antagonism which her husband's course aroused, 
and to place him at the head of a social coterie 

1 Memoirs, Vol. I, p. 92. 

2 Ibid., Vol. I, p. 97. 


among the most brilliant, in the technical sense of 
the word, then existing in Washington. ' 

The refining influences thus thrown about Doug- 
las during the most eventful decade of his life 
were not, however, sufficient to remove all of the 
traces which his earlier career had left. The 
haughty and, in their own judgment, aristocratic 
Southerners, accepted Douglas's aid in the Senate 
but they privately sneered at some of the crudities 
which he still from time to time betrayed. When 
the Kansas struggle took place these private stric- 
tures, previously suppressed, became public and the 
organs of Southern feeling referred to " the rugged 
vulgarities of his early education," which, it was 
asserted, had been "smoothed down" by "associa- 
tion with Southern gentlemen." 2 Probably not too 
much weight should be given to the statements of 
such self-styled aristocrats, but it was true that 
Douglas had not the traditions of ancestral wealth 
or the consciousness of family power by which the 
claims of the Southerners on the floor of the Senate 
were fortified. He was essentially a self-made man 
and showed the roughnesses of his making all too 
plainly. A gentler spirit would perhaps not have 
succeeded as well in the frontier state from which 
he came, and Douglas stands favorably even in the 
comparison with Lincoln up to the time that the 
latter had been put into the crucible of stern respon- 

^heaban, Life, pp. 435 et seq., also Johnson, Life, p. 316. 
'Quoted by Johnson, Life, p. 341 from Richmond South, 
quoted in Chicago Times, December 18, 1857. 


sibility. lb would be too much to expect that 
Douglas, representative as he was of Illinois condi- 
tions, should rise much higher than his source or 
be more than a glorified and enlarged example of 
the average man upon whom his own political 
status directly depended. 

Perhaps there is nothing more noteworthy about 
Douglas's whole career in the Senate than his de- 
velopment of a distinct type of oratory, effective 
and to the point. It was this which attracted the 
attention of Mrs. Stowe during the trying days of 
1858. While commenting severely upon Douglas, 
with whose views she had no sympathy, Mrs. Stowe 
could not but admit that he had "two requisites of 
a debater— a melodious voice and a clear sharply- 
defined enunciation," while she unwillingly con- 
ceded to him " the very best of logic and language " 
in dealing with the points he chose to discuss. 
Mrs. Stowe, in common with many others, noted, 
however, that Douglas's "forte in debating is his 
power of mystifying the point," and others regarded 
him as the prince of special pleaders. Even his 
most devoted biographers have not been able to 
obscure the fact that in many of his greatest argu- 
ments he was purely technical, and that his skill 
was wholly employed in making the worse appear 
the better reason. Withal, Douglas had the un- 
usual talent of being interesting. By some, this 
was attributed to his "piquant personalities" ; by 
others to his wonderful ability to bring into an 
argument or consideration of a subject multitudes 


of side issues which succeeded in holding the atten- 
tion even of those who were not directly interested 
in the main theme ; by others to his keen ability in 
judging men and in pitching his argument so as to 
harmonize it with the tone of their minds. By all, 
it is conceded that his speeches had a wonderful 
clarity and force of presentation. Mrs. Stowe 
thought he lacked in " wit " and though he had a 
fair sense of humor, it is certainly true that in par- 
liamentary debate there is but little of the light 
allusion and gentle sarcasm which his critic per- 
haps had in mind. As a debater, his chief weak- 
ness was lack of self-control ; he was too easily led 
into the use of coarse and abusive epithets and 
personal references which did not suit the occasion 
and merely tended to put discussion or colloquy 
upon a low and offensive plane. Of this the most 
unfortunate example while he was in the Senate 
was perhaps his altercation with Sumner — when, 
however, there was but little to choose between him 
and his antagonist. On this as on many other occa- 
sions, the license to which Douglas resorted was 
unworthy of the best traditions of the Senate. 

Throughout his senatorial career, Douglas's re- 
lations with his colleagues were in the main appro- 
priate. His chief defect was in personal familiar- 
ities. 1 He could not be expected to mingle famil- 

1 "In all our accounts of him," writes William G. Brown, 
" he is represented as surrounded with intimates. Not without 
the power of impressing men with his dignity and seriousness 
of purpose, we nevertheless hear of him sitting on the knee of 
an eminent judge during a recess of the court, dancing from 


iarly and closely with the leaders of the anti-slavery 
party, for whom he professed a loathing and con- 
tempt which was evidently more than the mere 
expression of noisy parliamentary hatred, and 
which was returned with interest by the New 
England men. Yet in times as trying as those from 
1850 to 1860 it is worthy of comment that, on the 
whole, he maintained as equable a poise as he did. 
The most regrettable personal incident of the decade 
— the assault perpetrated by Brooks upon Sumner 
— was undoubtedly looked upon by Douglas with 
as much reprobation as by any other man. This 
incident, which occurred shortly after Douglas's 
speech, the culmination of the celebrated contro- 
versy with Sumner during the struggle over Kansas 
in 1858, was the result of the burning hatred of the 
extreme pro -slavery men for the bitter and austere 
statesman from Massachusetts. Sumner had been 
attacked by Brooks while on the floor of the Senate, 
and was inclined to think that just after the assault 
he saw Toombs, Douglas and Brooks standing by 
him. But for this there is no support, and Storey, 
the secretary and biographer of Sumner, evidently 
thinks the charge unjustified, for he says that 
Brooks ' ' had made his purpose known to Edmund- 

end to end of a dinner-table with the volatile Shields — the same 
who won laurels in the Mexican War, a seat in the United 
States Senate, and the closest approach anybody ever won to 
victory in battle over Stonewall Jackson ; and engaging, de- 
spite his height of five feet and his weight of a hundred pounds, 
in personal encounters with Stuart, Lincoln's athletic law 
partner, and a corpulent attorney named Francis." 


son, a representative from Virginia, aud to Keitt, 
one of his colleagues from South Carolina and both 
were present in the Senate chamber at the time. 
Edmundson had advised with Brooks on Monday 
and Wednesday and was present at his request. 
Keitt, when the assault began, hurried up, flourish- 
ing a cane as if to prevent any interference with 
Brooks until his purpose was accomplished." 
Storey adds, "Senators Slidell and Douglas were in 
the anteroom when some one rushed in and cried 
out that a man was beating Sumner." ' It was a 
substantial tribute to Douglas's known honesty of 
purpose that when he made his explanation on the 
floor to the effect that he was in the anteroom 
when the assault occurred and refrained from going 
in merely because he thought his motives might be 
misconstrued, the explanation was accepted without 
any question. No one familiar with the facts sup- 
posed that he had known of the plot against Sumner 
in any form or at any time. The intimate relation- 
ship which Douglas had with many of his col- 
leagues in a body wherein mutual suspicion is 
often the prevailing tone, was aided by his great 
memory for incidents, names and personalities, and 
by the ability he had of making every one feel that 
he entertained a direct personal interest in their 

1 Storey, Sumner, American Statesmen Series, pp. 146-147. 
Douglas said: "My first impression was to come into the 
Senate chamber and help put an end to the affray if I could ; 
but it occurred to my mind in an instant that my relations to 
Mr. Sumner were such that, if I came into the hall, my motives 
would be misconstrued perhaps, and I sat down again." 


welfare and in their doings. Despite the numerous 
encounters on the floor which he could not have 
avoided if he would, and probably would not have 
avoided if he could, he regarded them as part of 
the day's work and as such not to be too closely 
borne in mind later on. He had no objection to 
meeting Greeley, in spite of the New York Tribune's 
assaults upon himself, 1 nor did he hesitate in spite 
of the bitter words which from time to time passed 
between him and Lincoln, to lay aside any personal 
animosity that might have been inspired during 
their passages at arms. In all this he showed himself 
unmistakably a great politician, and a politician at a 
time when political ability received the utmost meas- 
ure of recognition and remuneration in popular 
prestige and personal advancement, and when 
it had never had in American history, probably, 
a more direct and significant influence in national 

Douglas had not lacked for personal prosperity 
since his entry into Congress. Though his early 
years had been marred by the necessity for the clos- 
est economy, and though his early political endeav- 
ors had been more or less expensive, from the time 
he entered Congress he was able to provide ade- 
quately for himself and to lead a dignified and 
comfortable existence. His first marriage, as we 
have seen, had been fortunate from a pecuniary 
standpoint, while to this he had added the results 
of successful land speculation in Chicago — specula- 
1 Johnson, Life, p. 320. 


tion whose success bad been materially aided by 
the happy termination of the Illinois Central proj- 
ect. After making a substantial gift to Chicago 
University J he was able to realize about $90, 000 in 
1856 by the sale of his lauds. His congressional 
salary was tolerably adequate and in his second 
marriage he lost no ground financially. Though a 
shrewd investor and speculator, Douglas was, how- 
ever, far too keenly interested in politics for the 
sake of the game itself to spend a great amount of 
time in the pursuit of wealth. The problems be- 
fore the Senate during his period of greatest activ- 
ity were not those in which questions of property 
or investment figured very largely, and the tempta- 
tion which has beset some later statesmen to shape 
his course in such a way as to advance his personal 
interests or to take advantage of official knowledge 
for the purpose of speculation, was not very strong. 
The Illinois Central "deal" was the most ques- 
tionable act, perhaps, in which he was concerned, 
and even this was of a kind that by many would 
not be considered at the present day particularly 
offensive. He had refused the cruder solicitations 
to speculate in Western lands from which he might 
liave drawn great gain as chairman of the Territories 
Committee, and in the main continued throughout 
his public life substantially clean-handed. 

Although shrewd and far-seeing in such business 
transactions as he undertook, Douglas lacked the 
New England instinct of frugality. He was fre- 
1 Sbeahan, Life, p. 442. 


quently but too careless in business relations. 1 He 
poured his money freely into his campaigns and 
lived at times in a rather prodigal manner. As his 
leadership in the Senate became better and better 
established, the social demands of his Washington 
life became more and more positive, and Douglas 
found himself compelled to meet these demands by 
concessions both of time and money which he prob- 
ably would not personally have sanctioned from the 
mere standpoint of social prestige or individual 
pleasure. The break with the party, which followed 

1 W. E. Curtis (who, however, is a far from trustworthy 
writer) tells the following anecdote ( True Abraham Lincoln, p. 
74) : "A singular story is told of a case in which a good many 
prominent men were involved hesides Lincoln. Abraham 
Brokaw, of Bloomington, loaned five hundred dollars to one of 
his neighbors and took a note, which remained unpaid. Ac- 
tion was brought, the sheriff levied on the property of the debtor 
and collected the entire amount, but neglected to turn the pro- 
ceeds over. Brokaw employed Stephen A. Douglas, who col- 
lected the amount from the bondsman of the sheriff, but re- 
turned to his seat in tbe Senate at Washington without making 
settlement. Like some other great men, Douglas was very 
careless about money matters, and, after appealing to him again 
and again, Brokaw employed David Davis to bring suit 
against the senator. Being an intimate friend and fellow Dem- 
ocrat, Davis disliked to appear in tbe case, and by his advice 
Brokaw engaged the services of Lincoln. The latter wrote to 
Douglas at Washington that he had a claim against him for col 
lection and must insist upon prompt payment. Douglas be- 
came very indignant and reproached Brokaw for placing such a 
political weapon in the hands of an Abolitionist. Brokaw sent 
Douglas's letter to Lincoln, and the latter employed ' Long 
John ' Wentworth, then a Democratic member of Congress 
from Chicago, as an associate in the case. Wentworth saw 
Douglas, persuaded him to pay the money, and forwarded five 
hundred dollars to Lincoln, who, in turn, paid it to Brokaw 
and sent him a bill of three dollars and fifty cents for profes- 
sional services." 


his attack upon Buchanan's endorsement of the Le- 
coinptou constitution in Kansas, did not diminish the 
social pressure upon Douglas. He was more sought 
after by curious callers and visitors to Washington 
than ever, and it became more necessary than ever 
that he should show a bold and prosperous front. 
It was largely to these social conditions, and to the 
heavy expenses to which during his struggle for ad- 
vancement he was compelled to submit in his later 
years that his subsequent financial embarrassment 
was due, yet the situation in all probability could 
not have been avoided if he were to play the role 
and live the life that had partly been achieved by, 
and partly thrust upon, him. 

It cannot be other than an interesting subject of 
speculation what would have been Douglas's course 
of personal development had he not been cut off in 
the flower of his maturity. His years in the Senate 
had already shown the power of growth, and of at 
least some change in point of view and in those in- 
timate characteristics which make up the fulness 
of a man. Lincoln at the outbreak of the Civil 
War had but just started upon his great career of 
four years' duration. Douglas might have had a 
like experience. His personality, vivid and dis- 
tinct as it was, had not, at the time of his death, 
been given an opportunity for complete expression ; 
but, as will now be seen, he had been whirled on- 
ward by ambition and the dictates of expediency 
which had prevented its real development. 



A critical period iu the history of the United 
States was now at hand. Events whose ultimate 
causes had loug before begun to have an obscure ef- 
fect succeeded one another with a rapidity which 
called for all the statesmanship of the ablest public 
men, but which even the wisest had not been able 
fully to forecast, and against which they could not 
provide. The chief factors in the complex problem, 
which was to occupy the attention of Congress for 
ten years to come, and to culminate then in a dis- 
astrous civil war, were the new territories now on 
the eve of organization and the relation which they 
should bear to the United States, and the general 
issue of slavery, partly with reference to the exist- 
ing states but more especially with regard to these 
newly organized territories. These difficulties had 
been brought to a pressing stage during the years 
1848-1850 by the development of conditions in Cali- 
fornia which called for some decisive action on the 
P'nt of Congress. Such action had not been taken 
at the session of 1848-1849 ; various efforts to secure 
it had been put forth in vain. The territory which 
had been acquired from Mexico under the treaty of 
Guadalupe-Hidalgo, including what afterward be- 
came California, Utah, New Mexico, etc. , had been 


left without any definite form of government, while 
the rush of gold-seekers to the southern Pacific coast 
had brought into existence a lawless community in 
which the better elements earnestly desired the es- 
tablishment of a settled system of social and polit 
ical life. Such, then, was the immediate situation 
when Congress was on the eve of assembling for the 
long session of 1849-1850. 

It was a remarkable Senate before which this 
issue of the new territories and their government, 
with all that it involved, was to appear. The body 
was essentially in a transitional stage. Webster, 
Clay and Calhoun were about to serve for the last 
time together. Around them a group of younger 
and less known men, representing a new generation 
of statesmen, had now sprung up. Under the care 
of the older statesmen, and as a result of the unusual 
capacity and ability of the generation before 1850, 
the Senate had been gradually assuming a place of 
first importance in the national government. It 
was then that the foundations were laid for that su- 
premacy over the House of Representatives which 
has continued to this day, subject to mutations and 
reverses. It was then that the Senate had indicated 
for the first time, with decided and definite tendency, 
its liability to become receptive ground for the 
peculiar type of interests which a later generation 
has denominated "special," as opposed to those 
presumably representing the broader popular well- 
being, although it had not yet committed itself to 
them. Douglas had already shown his general dis- 


position in the questions that were to be dealt with, 
but there remained the crucial test which would 
definitely place him on one side or the other in the 

In a general way, events had now so shaped 
themselves as to develop with substantial distinct- 
ness a sectional or geographical party line between 
the North and the South. Slavery had of course 
long been a burning issue, but patriotic men had 
hoped that it would not necessarily be the cause of 
division too deep for reconciliation. In substance 
the issues now at stake were as follows : 

The North demanded : 

I. The establishment of governments for all the 
territories of the United States, with a prohibition 
of slavery. * 

II. The admission of California. 

III. The abolition of the slave trade in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia. 

IV. The abolition of slaveholding in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia. 

The South demanded : 

I. An efficient fugitive slave act. 

II. The establishment of territorial governments 
for all the territories, including California, but 
without a prohibition of slavery. 1 

It was on this ground that the contest was to take 
place. Congress presented a rather varied political 
complexion. In the House there were 112 Demo- 

1 This classificatioD follows that given in Sheahan's Douglas, 
p. 126. 


crats, 105 Whigs, and thirteen Free Sorters,' while 
the division of opinion in the Senate, although less 
distinct, represented substantially the same lines of 
demarcation. In the President's message for De- 
cember, 1849, 2 the territorial question was called to 
the attention of Congress. He urged that action 
which had been taken by the inhabitants of Cali- 
fornia, with a view to organizing a territorial gov- 
ernment, should be considered. He thought that it 
was not wise to act on the position of New Mexico 
because its people would probably soon seek admis- 
sion just as had the people of California. The 
sentiment in Congress was now confused and deeply 
antagonistic. The Northern states desired that 
California and New Mexico should be added to the 
free territory of the Union. Southerners desired 
that there should be no interference with what they 
considered their right to take slaves into the new 
territory. California had held a convention on 
May 6, 1849, with the object of forming a state, and 
at a later deferred meeting on September 3d had 
adopted a constitution, similar to the constitutions 
of New York and Iowa, containing a bill of rights 
in which was a clause forever prohibiting slavery 
in the new state. The convention had finished its 
work on the 13th of October. The President's 
message, therefore, amounted to an endorsement of 
the action of the convention in California, while he 

•Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. I, p. 117. 
' Messages and Papers, Vol. V, pp. 18-19 ; see also Vol. IV, 
p. 629, et seq. 


reserved the New Mexican matter for the future. 
Iiu mediately a storm broke in Congress. Kesolu- 
tions calling for information were adopted in both 
houses, and early in January several important 
proposals were put into the form of bills and intro- 
duced. Simultaneously memorials were received 
from various states protesting against any action on 
the part of Congress which would extend the sys- 
tem of slavery. Among the proposals which thus 
jostled one another on the floor of Congress, were 
schemes for the reorganization of the state of Texas 
upon a smaller geographical basis, and a plan 
creating governments for California, Deseret, New 
Mexico and San Jacinto. New fugitive slave pro- 
visions were offered, and for a time it seemed as if 
Congress were about to plunge into an indefinitely 
protracted controversy. 

Events in the House had been such as to stimu- 
late this belief. The mixed composition of the body 
had necessitated a series of struggles lasting three 
weeks before a speaker could be chosen, and in the 
course of that time the issues pending between 
North and South had been thoroughly discussed. 
The contest had culminated in the election of 
Howell Cobb of Georgia over Eobert C. Winthrop, 
the New Euglaud candidate. Cobb was a strong 
pro-slavery man and his choice alarmed the 
Northern element. Clay and his associates were 
determined, if possible, to settle this threatening 
controversy without unnecessarily widening the 
breach between the two sections. On the 29th of 


January Clay offered a series of compromise resolu- 
tions, whose adoption he earnestly advocated. 
These resolutions provided for the admission of 
California with the prohibition of slavery contained 
in her constitution. They also included a proposal 
for the establishment of territorial governments in 
the area acquired from Mexico without any restric- 
tion as to slavery. The subject of prohibiting 
the slave trade in the District of Columbia was 
not neglected, but it was declared that the abolition 
of slavery without the consent of Maryland and 
without compensating the owners would be unwise. 
It was further affirmed that Congress had no 
power to interfere with the slave trade between the 
states. Adequate legal means for the recovery of 
fugitive slaves were demanded. As to the ques- 
tions affecting Texas and New Mexico, provision 
was made for determining the boundary line, pay- 
ing the public debt of Texas, and ending the latter' s 
claim to any portion of New Mexico. 1 

Clay's speech in behalf of his resolutions was 
powerful and convincing, despite some blemishes, 
but the time was not one when oratory could im- 
mediately gain the end in view. Douglas, as has 
been noted, 2 had become the chairman of the Com- 
mittee on Territories, and he now moved that the 
constitution of the state of California be referred to 
his own committee. An effort was made to send it 

1 These resolutions are fully analyzed in Rhodes, Vol. I, p. 
122 — an analysis which has heen followed here. 
8 See ante, pp. 145, etc. 


to a select committee of fifteen, which should also 
be charged with the duty of considering the general 
question of slavery in the territories. Douglas won 
his point and, as he had already secured the refer- 
ence to his committee of bills establishing a state 
or territorial government in Deseret, as well as 
other measures similar in character, he now had 
jurisdiction over the w r hole problem. He was thus 
the engineer in charge of the machinery by which 
the actual work of the Senate was to be done, al- 
though Clay and his compeers of the older genera- 
tion were still the spectacular figures on the floor. 

Clay's speech iu defense of his compromise pro- 
posals was answered by Calhoun on the 4th of 
March ; ' Webster followed on the 7th of the same 
month. Calhoun's reply was in fact his last public 
utterance, for before the end of the month he had 
been placed in his grave. His argument was cogent, 
calling attention to the necessity for union but out- 
lining the causes of the dissatisfaction of the South, 
and suggesting the danger which confronted the 
nation in the future. He thought that Clay's com- 
promise plan would not be effective. It was neces- 
sary that the Northern states, now rapidly growing 
in power and numbers and tending to surpass the 
South in political strength, should pause to consider 
whether they were willing to drive the opposite 
section to a point when it could be longer held in 
the Union only by force. Might it not be better to 
offer the South reasonable terms? Such terms 

1 Congressional Globe, 1st Sesa., 31st Cong., p. 451, et seq. 


would be found in a constitutional amendment 
which would give equal power to the Southern as 
against the Northern states, enabling them to pro- 
tect themselves from possible aggression. Equal 
rights must be given to the South in the new terri- 
tory, runaway slaves must be returned, and the agi- 
tation of the subject must be ended. Calhoun be- 
lieved that these issues could now properly be dis- 
cussed because the California question was a test 
issue ; should that state be accepted with its free 
constitution, similar action in the case of other 
territories might be expected. This would pro- 
gressively result in a relative narrowing of the 
borders of the slave states, and in limiting their 
powers in the Senate so that ultimately they would 
sink into a position of insignificance which could not 
be endured. 

Calhoun's prophecies of disaster were, by some, 
considered ridiculous, while even Benton thought 
the forebodings of the South Carolinian somewhat 
absurd. Others agreed with his opinions. Webster, 
on March 7th, while not depreciating the signifi- 
cance of Calhoun's views, urged with irresistible 
force the desirability of getting away from all con- 
templation of the prospect of secession. He would 
have the Senate adopt a positive and definite policy 
based upon the immediate necessities of the case. 
He reviewed the slavery situation and asserted that 
the South had been fairly dealt with by the estab- 
lishment of the existing boundary line for slavery — 
the line of 36° 30' which took in practically the 


whole of Texas and would ultimately create a slave 
area of substantial size. To the idea that slavery 
might exist in this area he said the government 
was solemnly pledged. As to California and New 
Mexico, the character of their industry and general 
climatic conditions showed that they offered no 
field for slavery. Both were free states by nature 
and as such both must be admitted to the Union. 
The South had a grievance, said Webster, in con- 
nection with the fugitive slave question, and this 
must be allayed. The speaker gave wholesome ad- 
vice to the Southern states. He suggested that 
they should not heed the partisan and bitter attacks 
of Abolitionists upon them and their slavery, and 
intimated that some of the writing and speech cur- 
rently tolerated in the South was equal in virulence 
to that of which Southerners complained as prac- 
ticed at the North. 

Webster's address had a decidedly wholesome 
effect, entirely apart from its remarkable oratorical 
success and its bearing upon the future status of the 
speaker himself. Northern men attacked him bit- 
terly because of his endorsement of the idea that 
they had been unfair in the fugitive slave question, 
while Webster's acceptance of a drastic bill pre- 
sented by Mason and containing provisions intended 
to coutrol this whole matter, goaded them to irrepres- 
sible irritation. But the savage denunciations of 
its author offered by the extreme Abolitionist ele- 
ment did not materially affect the permanent and 
far-reaching influence of the 7th of March address. 


Douglas had wisely waited for the indications of 
feeling in the Senate and elsewhere to become 
marked, and now finding them in conformity with 
his own ideas, he moved forward with a program 
which he had planned to develop in his committee. 
He spoke strongly on the 13th and 14th of March, 
but confined himself largely to the California question 
and presented cogently the same arguments which 
had been urged by the great figures on the floor in 
support of the admission of that state. He attacked 
Webster bitterly for his statement of the reasons 
why California and New Mexico should be admitted 
as free states, but he also rebutted with vigor the 
argument of Calhoun, in particular that portion of 
it which had been based upon the idea of sectional 
equality among the states of the Union. The 
amendment to the Constitution urged by Calhoun 
he stigmatized as ridiculous. The fears of the 
North about the admission of New Mexico and Cali- 
fornia as slave states he waved aside with a sneer, 
referring to his own former position when he had 
predicted that California would certainly establish 
a free constitution. He demanded for California 
that government which had been selected by the 
people, noting that the insertion in the constitution 
of the slavery or anti slavery provision was merely 
an academic issue, since the nature of the soil and 
of the industries of the state would, under any 
circumstances, dictate a system of free labor and 
free enterprise. Douglas did not attempt to cover 
the general field which Clay had covered in his first 


great speech ; nor did lie definitely accept the com- 
promise program, although he spoke in apprecia- 
tive fashion of Clay's action. 1 

The effort, however, to advance the bills in the 
form in which Douglas had reported them on the 
25th of March, i. <?., measures to admit California, 
and to establish territorial governments in Utah and 
New Mexico, was premature. Some members of the 
Senate desired to have the whole question of slavery 
in the territories, the California question, and the 
other territorial issues dealt with in one bill, be- 
cause they believed that such a measure would 
stand a better chance of adoption than a series of 
measures embracing the more or less debatable prop- 
ositions over which men's minds were now strug- 
gling. Benton, for his part, was particularly desir- 
ous that the California question should be dealt 
with separately. He saw no reason why it should 
be made a mere pawn in the slavery discussion, for 
in his view the Californians presented a simple and 
concrete issue. In this opinion Douglas substan- 
tially agreed, but the final settlement was not reached 
until April 18th, when, the subject having proven it- 
self too troublesome to be adjusted in any other way, it 
was decided to establish a select committee of thir- 
teen members to deal with the whole problem of 
slavery. This committee, as elected by ballot in 
the Senate, did not include Douglas, who had failed to 
align himself with Clay, Cass, Webster, and the 

1 The text of this speech is found in Congressional Globe, 
31st Cong., 1st Sess., Appendix, p. 364, et seq. 


other great leaders or to secure or accept a status 
as a distiuct follower of auy of the senatorial fac- 
tions. In spite of the creation of the committee 
Douglas requested that his bill for the admission 
of California should be taken up, and when Clay 
said that he must in that case seek to amend it 
by the insertion of extraneous provisions, Benton 
threatened protracted resistance. It was evident 
that Douglas's urgency could not succeed against 
the carefully framed plans of Clay, who confessedly 
and frankly favored a general or u omnibus " meas- 

Clay, as the chairman of the select committee, 
finally reported a so-called " omnibus bill " consist- 
ing of Douglas's two measures already reported from 
the Committee on Territories, the one providing for 
the admission of California and the other for the es- 
tablishment of territorial governments in Utah and 
New Mexico. In the latter the select committee 
had inserted a provision, refusing to the territorial 
legislature any right to act upon questions involving 
slavery. Clay spoke in behalf of the measure on 
the 13th of May, and two days later Douglas, with 
characteristic pertinacity, insisted that a test vote 
be taken on the question of dealing with the bills 
separately or together. He was defeated by a small 
majority, and, Clay's program having been adopted, 
actual debate was opened. A bitter struggle over 
slavery was now precipitated. Jefferson Davis 
asked to have the bill amended so as to restrain the 
territorial legislature from interfering with rights 


of property growing out of the institution of Afri- 
can slavery, but this proposal was defeated. Doug- 
las sought to strike out the provision restraining the 
legislature from acting in any way on the slavery 
question, but he, too, failed. Many efforts were 
made to secure some amendment which would spe- 
cifically authorize the people of the territories to 
offer constitutions with or without slavery, as they 
themselves might determine, whenever they came 
to present their territories for admission as states. 
Douglas definitely advocated the insertion of some 
such provision and explained why he had not 
placed it in the bill originally. He thought it was 
merely the assertion of an already existing, an un- 
questionable, an inextinguishable constitutional 
right. He had " always held that the people have 
a right to settle these questions as they choose not 
only when they come into the Union as a state but 
that they should be permitted to do so while a terri- 
tory." Nevertheless, he saw no reason why, if it 
were desired, an expression of constitutional princi- 
ple of this kind might not be incorporated in the 
bill. Finally the provision in the shape offered by 
Soule on the 15th of June was adopted by a sub- 
stantial majority. 

In the subsequent debate, Douglas favored the 
seating of the California members in the House im- 
mediately upon the passage of the bill. He opposed 
the plans of Soule and others who desired to make 
the state's admission conditional upon its relinquish- 
ment to the Federal government of the public do- 


main within its area. Thus the controversy dragged 
on until the 9th of July when the death of Pres- 
ident Taylor impended. Work was deferred until 
the 15th of the same month. Discussion was then 
resumed and continued throughout the remaining 
two weeks of the month. On the 31st of July, 
a long and heated day's work resulted in strik- 
ing out of the bill everything that related to Texas 
and New Mexico, and then everything bearing upon 
California. The territory of Utah was all that now 
remained and from the provisions concerning it 
Douglas succeeded in eliminating, with the consent 
of the Senate, the amendment, inserted by the select 
committee, by which the legislature would be pro- 
hibited from passing any laws relating to African 
slavery. Upon a motion of Jefferson Davis, con- 
curred in by Douglas, the Southern boundary of 
Utah was to be fixed at 36° 30', and thus Utah was 
to be definitely placed north of the much con- 
troverted line. Upon objection by Hale and some 
of the extreme anti-slavery men, however, the line 
was set at 37°, and the Utah bill was passed and 
sent to the House. 

The Senate had exhausted itself with the constitu- 
tional controversies and other struggles which had 
attended the progress of this measure, but Douglas 
was still fresh and unwearied. Without hesitating, 
he immediately called up his original bill for the 
admission of California and secured its passage on 
the 13th of August. He then called for the New 
Mexico bill, framed upon the same terms as the 


Utah bill, and pushed it through with comparatively 
little debate. The points in which he was now pri- 
marily interested had been disposed of, but he did 
not neglect the other features of the Compromise 
originally urged by Clay. Late in August the 
Fugitive Slave Law was passed. Three Northern 
Democrats voted against this measure while fifteen 
Northern senators did not vote at all. 1 The slave 
trade was abolished in the District of Columbia on 
September 15th, and the House promptly ratified 
the work of the Senate by moderate majorities, 
although there also a large number of Northern men 
refrained from voting. 

To all practical purposes Clay had succeeded in 
securing the adoption of his compromise plan. In 
the attainment of this result he had been powerfully 
seconded by Douglas, who had worked, and voted 
for, every feature of the general scheme except the 
Fugitive Slave Law, and he had refrained from 
voting on this only because he was under the neces- 
sity of being out of Washington at the time. He 
warmly favored the bill. 

Clay could not have developed the details of the 
great plan which his mind had originally conceived, 
nor could he probably have managed in the Senate 
the various bills in which the legislation was em- 
bodied. Douglas was familiar with the grouping of 
parties, and was an incomparable master of the 
peculiar art of congressional jugglery by which the 
adoption of ideas against which there is a substan- 
1 Rhodes, Vol. I, p. 182. 


tial feeling of opposition can be secured. Although 
eclipsed by the commanding personality of Clay, he 
nevertheless reaped an ample measure of recognition 
from his fellow senators. Davis directly and point- 
edly complimented him, and other Southerners, now 
that the battle was over for the time, were inclined 
to feel that they had emerged from the struggle very 
satisfactorily, and to accord due honor to the man- 
ager whose efforts had so greatly contributed to what 
they chose to regard as a victory. Douglas was not 
slow to accept the credit for the work and on the 
23d of December, 1851, plainly put himself on 
record as having " originated and proposed" the 
measures contained in the Omnibus Bill. 1 He was 
undoubtedly pleased with his own success as a 
manipulator, gratified at the apparently final dis- 
position of a vexed question, and willing to stand 
before the country as a harmonizer of conflicting 

Like many legislators, Douglas had, however, 
acted in the hazy political atmosphere of Washing- 
ton without a very clear perception of what his 
constituency would think of his course. He now 
found it necessary to meet the views of a body of 
voters which had its own ideas about the slavery 
question and the North's relations with the South, 
and which did not value so highly the arts of the 
floor manager as did the professional politicians at 

1 Congressional Globe, 1st Seas., 32d Cong., Appendix, p. 65. 
The speech is also quoted in Sheahan's Douglas, the words used 
above appearing on p. 166. 


Washington. The fugitive slave act had been bit- 
terly attacked throughout the North. This was in 
line with the denunciation which had been heaped 
upon Webster because of the latter' s assertion that the 
Southerners had some grievances in connection with 
the recovery of their slaves. Anti-slavery feeling 
had been growing rapidly in Illinois, as elsewhere 
noted, 1 and Douglas found himself out of harmony 
with his constituency. He was in a position to 
suffer from the misrepresentations of political op- 
ponents who were glad to find an opportunity of 
successful attack. The City Council of Chicago, 
falling under the control of such influences, passed 
resolutions denouncing as traitors those who voted 
for the Fugitive Slave Law, as well as those who 
failed to vote against it. Going somewhat beyond 
its sphere, the Council also released the citizens, 
officers and police of the city from any obligation to 
assist in the execution of the law. 2 Douglas himself 
was present at the meeting at which this action was 
taken, but desiring a better audience and feeling 
that the atmosphere was unfavorable to a fair hear- 
ing, he announced that he would speak on the 
following evening, October 23d. As promised, he 
delivered at that time a general defense of what he 
had done in the Senate, with special reference to the 
Fugitive Slave Law. So successful was his argu- 
ment on that occasion, so persuasive his review of 
the conditions which led to the action of Congress, 
that the speaker carried all before him. Eising to 
'Seep. 103. 2 Sheahan, Douglas, p. 159. 


the spirit of the occasion, as he more and more felt 
the drift of public sentiment toward him, he closed 
the speech by offering resolutions in favor of carry- 
ing into effect the provisions of the Fugitive Slave 
Law and of performing every other duty and obliga- 
tion under the Constitution of the United States. The 
resolutions were adopted without dissent and only a 
mild protest was heard against further resolutions 
repudiating the action of the City Council. It was 
a remarkable personal victory but little more ; for, 
as Douglas was presently to discover, the dissatis- 
faction in the West and North due to the conditions 
at which the Fugitive Slave Law was aimed was 
too deep seated to admit of easy extinguishment. 



Douglas's prestige was now such that he was an 
obvious possibility for the presidency. Up to the 
close of the struggle on the compromise measures 
of 1850, this had been at least doubtful. He was 
still only thirty-seven years old, and thus far his 
youth had decidedly militated against his chances. 
Moreover, it had been questioned whether his 
abilities were those which would warrant his party 
in considering him a figure of national size. The 
discussions centring about the Compromise of 
1850 had removed many of these doubts. They 
had shown him to be a man keen and acute in 
debate, skilled in congressional manipulation, and 
able to rally his own constituency to his position, 
instead of blindly listening with his ear to the 
ground for the rumblings of popular sentiment that 
he might shape his course as opportunity seemed to 
require. He had shown himself to be a man of 
vigor and of independence, by no means an idealist, 
but governed by the most practical of practical po- 
litical considerations. Moreover, it was not the least 
significant occurrence of the session of 1849-1850 
that there were now or soon after removed from the 
Senate some of the most important national figures. 
The overshadowing dominance of the elder states 


men had kept Douglas from exhibiting before the 
country as vigorous a growth as he would have 
liked, but he was at last in a position to move for- 
ward. It was evident that the Democratic party, if 
it wished control for the future, must have as its 
candidate a man who would to an extent harmo- 
nize the conflicting elements in the party. There 
was need of a leader who would in some measure 
assure a unity of spirit and purpose. The rapid 
growth of the West and Northwest had ren- 
dered those sections politically important, and past 
attachments yet sat so lightly upon the people that 
the vote of these states might be thrown one way or 
the other as circumstances seemed to require. 
They might thus become the deciding factor in any 
future national campaign. 

Furthermore, the controlling question in national 
politics now concerned the new territories which 
were seeking admission to the Union, and the status 
of slavery therein. Douglas, by reason of his chair- 
manship of the Committee on Territories in the 
Senate, was a foremost student of these issues and 
must be reckoned with in any consideration of 
them. Finally, he came from a state which in- 
cluded a substantial number of slavery as well as of 
anti-slavery men, and might be expected to hold the 
balance much more nearly even than one who was 
distinctly predisposed by surroundings toward one 
side or the other. Since he had entered the Senate, 
Douglas had gained in poise, and improved some- 
what in manner. Although he retained many 


Western roughnesses, having never been able to 
overcome the effect of early circumstances and 
conditions, he was at least adaptable upon the 
surface. The discriminating Ehodes * remarks that 
he " took on quickly the character of his surround- 
ings, and in Washington society, he soon learned 
the ease of a gentleman and acquired the bearing 
of a man of the world." Opinions to the con- 
trary were of course not lacking, 2 but he had 
at least gained so far in polish as to be an available 
man even for the highest office. Although he was 
already u convivial," there was at this time "no 
authenticated instance of his having drunk to such 
excess" as to warrant a charge of addiction to 
liquor. Despite his small stature he had attained 
what was considered an impressive personality, 
although, as his friends admitted, he was " a little 
bit corpulent" — a defect for which he somewhat 
made up by affecting fashionable dress. 

Moreover, Douglas had developed an almost 
perfect political machine. He controlled every 
Federal office in Illinois, 3 and through his friends 
he practically controlled almost every state and 
county office. In other states he had an active and 
influential personal organization and following. 
It was not strange, then, that as the great figures of 
his party fell away, he should regard himself as 
entitled to wear the mantle of leadership. Al- 
though he later declared that he was not so much of 

1 History, Vol. I. p. 245. 3 »See pp. 139. et aeq. 

3 Carr, Stephen A. Douglas, p. 61. 


a " sucker " as to aspire to the presidency, 1 there is 
ample evidence that before 1850 he seriously enter- 
tained this ambition, and the idea was now begin- 
ning to find acceptance in other minds. 

It was already time to prepare for the forthcom- 
ing campaign. Among those who might fairly be 
considered his rivals for the nomination of the 
party in 1852 were Cass, Buchanan and Marcy. To 
shape his course in such a way as to pass the older 
and better known figures in the race was now 
Douglas's desire. He had first to make up his 
mind as to the consequences of his action in con- 
nection with the Compromise of 1850, and the lines 
along which he would guide himself in the shifts, 
evasions, plots, and trickeries that must intervene 
between him and the nomination, if he were to get 
it. The year 1850 was closing ; the campaign 
would be actively begun early in 1852. He had, 
therefore, about a year in which to make his prepa- 
rations. First and foremost was the question of 
slavery and the ascertainment whether the country 
at large would accept the compromise measures of 
1850 as, for some reasonable time at least, a set- 
tlement. Douglas looked anxiously about for 
information on this subject. In Illinois, which 
might be regarded as a typical Western state where 
opinion was still two-fold, conditions did not seem al- 
together promising. In New England they appeared 
still less so. Incidents reported from Massachusetts 
in connection with the application of the Fugitive 
1 Villard, Memoirs, Vol. I, p. 96. 


Slave Law showed a degree of excitement which 
augured ill for the future. Southerners were quick 
to charge that the North was acting in bad faith ; 
that it would not enforce the legislation of Congress. 
As weeks went by, Douglas became convinced that 
his only safety lay in definitely upholding the 
Fugitive Slave Law, thereby gaining the support of 
the Southern wing of the party to which he felt 
himself more and more drawn, and in attacking 
with vigor the purely Abolition group which had 
already caused him trouble in Illinois, and was 
threatening to disturb the artificial harmony estab- 
lished at Washington. He was of the opinion that 
it was still not too late to make an end of the Aboli- 
tion movement, and as soon as he reached Washing- 
ton for the new session of Congress, he vigorously 
assailed those who had attempted to stir up general 
feeling against the legislation comprehended in the 
Compromise. In this attitude Douglas unexpectedly 
found himself supported by leaders in the opposi- 
tion party, who, despite their very hostile tactics 
of the preceding session and their refusal to vote 
either way on the Fugitive Slave Law, were desir- 
ous of conciliating public opinion. Especially 
were they concerned in preventing Democrats from 
getting into a position where they could put for- 
ward the claim that they were the defenders of the 
Constitution. On both sides, then, the effort to 
sustain the Compromise was pushed forward. 
Extremists, like Sumner, who sought to reopen the 
fugitive slave question, were rebuked in open Con- 


gress. There was thus no chance of an issue in 
connection with slavery, and, on the whole, 
Douglas's better judgment approved, for he felt 
that, by his action of the preceding year, he had 
already gained whatever political advantages were 
to be had. 

The question still remained how he should con- 
duct himself in reference to the presidential situa- 
tion. How could he develop a personal policy 
which would seem to entitle him to the nomination ! 
In looking for such a policy Douglas and his 
followers determined to put forward the idea of an 
American system under which the United States 
should develop a distinct position of its own with 
reference to foreign countries, giving up, in a meas- 
ure, the attitude of aloofness which had hitherto 
characterized it. It would not to-day seem that 
any prospective candidate for the presidency 
could very confidently base his hopes for popular 
support upon his attitude, with respect to foreign 
countries, or to the position of the United States in 
its relations with such countries. But conditions 
sixty years ago were different. The Mexican War 
had recently ended, the Cuban question was press- 
ing for solution, relations with Canada and Great 
Britain were somewhat uncertain. Perhaps Doug- 
las was right in thinking that the foreign policy of 
the country afforded the best field for his efforts. 
Immigration, already beginning to excite serious 
alarm in some minds, might necessitate important 
negotiations with other countries. To one who be- 


lieved that the slavery question had been set at rest 
for some time, the problem of foreign relations was 
possibly the most immediate issue. 

At any rate, Douglas and his friends went for- 
ward on this theory. The foreign policy upon 
which they now embarked was to be framed in ac- 
cord with a so-called "American idea." Every 
question which brought the United States into rela- 
tions with other countries was to be viewed and 
dealt with on an "American" plan. In order to 
throw discredit upon Webster and others who were 
following a conservative policy, designed to avoid 
the development of difficulty with foreign nations, 
they were to be charged with "old fogyism." As 
a target for practice, a minor issue, raised by the 
arrival of Kossuth in the United States and his de- 
sire that this country should intervene in the Hun- 
garian situation, was set up. Douglas's view, as 
expressed on the floor of the Senate, was that the 
same principle of states' rights which he had sought 
to apply in the relations between the states of the 
Federal union might be equally applicable to rela- 
tions between other countries or sections of other 
countries. Without very much acquaintance with 
foreign political conditions, he argued that wher- 
ever one nation sought to intervene concerning the 
affairs of another, destroying the liberties or privi- 
leges of that other, a third government might take 
a hand in the struggle in order to support the gen* 
eral idea of nationality and independence. As to 
the treatment to be accorded by the United States 


to Kossuth as an individual, Douglas argued that 
we had a right to do as we pleased without regard 
to what foreign countries might think. The United 
States must stand as an independent nation, sup- 
porting the general abstract principles upon which 
it Lad itself been organized. It should minimize, 
so far as possible, the dictates of diplomatic usage 
and the customs of international relationship as con- 
trolled by the traditions of European practice. 
This idea was promptly and enthusiastically ac- 
cepted by the Douglas party and utterances based 
upon it, sometimes couched in rather abusive lan- 
guage, were put into circulation. In these declara- 
tions an effort was made to discredit the element in 
national politics best represented by Webster. 

Coupled with the general notion of pushing for- 
ward this "American idea" in foreign politics, was 
the concrete plan to favor the acquisition of Cuba, 
probably on a slavery basis, shrewdly designed to 
secure Southern sympathy and votes. Douglas, 
however, was now convinced that it would not be 
wise to bring up the question of slavery in too acute 
a form during his campaign for the presidency, but 
he did not conceal his desire for the annexation of 
Cuba — a policy which he continued to advocate in 
after years at a time when the idea of accepting the 
island was much more offensive to the North. Pro- 
vided thus with a foreign policy which he intended 
to use for political purposes, especially in the South, 
and with the beginnings of an excellent organiza- 
tion throughout the country, Douglas now needed 


only the kind of personal support which would 
come from those who believed that they could ad- 
vance their own interests through a new man, rather 
than through an older one who had already pledged 
himself to the fortunes of a great number of de- 
pendents. In order to consolidate the support that 
he required in this particular respect, Douglas 
definitely committed himself to the notion that a 
general change of Federal officials would be desir- 
able. He practically declared war on the men who 
were then holding the minor offices at Washington, 
particularly in cases where these men had not ren- 
dered recent and effective political service. It is 
necessary, however, to acquit Douglas of acting in- 
consistently in this respect. He had been a spoils- 
man from his youth up, invariably seeking to throw 
such places as he could control to those who had 
done the work of the party. True, his influence 
had never before reached the large importance it 
had recently assumed, yet there was no reason why 
he should have applied to national affairs a prin- 
ciple different from that in which he believed as a 
guide for state and local conduct. In seeking to 
draw to himself the unattached and newer elements 
of the party whose nomination, he believed, would 
put him into the presidency, he was not much 
worse than other politicians of his day. There is 
no evidence that in his pledges or in his public ex- 
pressions of opinion he showed an undue brutality 
or went farther than his contemporaries would have 
gone under similar temptation. 


The work of making Douglas his party's candidate 
was being vigorously pressed and at first his pros- 
pects seemed very favorable, for the only mani- 
fest error of his friends was in attempting to 
discredit other competing candidates and to outline 
too distinctly Douglas's attitude on the slavery 
question. Although he himself resorted to the 
common political device of repudiating much that 
was done in his behalf as matter about which he 
knew nothing and over which he certainly had no 
control, the conditions were such as to alarm his 
competitors for the nomination. Douglas's candi- 
dacy was a new and difficult element in the familiar 
problem of presidential politics, and it was only 
natural that all should uuite for the moment in 
order to crush the candidate who was rising up to 
defeat the plans of the older groups. To do this, 
however, required time, and by the close of the 
year 1851, after a twelvemonth of contriving, 
scheming and organizing, Douglas believed himself 
well on the road to success. There is every evi- 
dence that in the early days of 1852 he felt that he 
had matters, potentially at least, very much in his 
own hands. In an unpublished letter to a friend, 1 
dated February 25, 1852, he said : "Prospects look 
well and are improving every day. If two or three 
Western states will speak out in my favor, the battle 
is over. Can anything be done in Iowa aud Mis- 
souri ? That is very important. If some one could 

1 Manuscript letter quoted by Johnson, Stephen A. Douglas, 
p. 203. 


go to Iowa, I think the convention in that state 
would instruct for me. In regard to our own state, 
I will say a word. Other states are appointing a 
large number of delegates to the convention, . . . 
ought not our state to do the same thing so as to 
ensure the attendance of most of our leading poli- 
ticians at Baltimore? . . . This large number 
would exert a great moral influence on the other 

These hopes soon faded. It became more and 
more evident that the elder statesmen had taken the 
alarm and that the existing organization of the 
party could not be controlled in the interest of 
Douglas. A few states in which he had succeeded 
in breaking ground with his own organization, and 
in which the errors made by overzealous followers 
had not aroused very strong prejudice, caused their 
delegations to be instructed for him. The con- 
vention was to be held on June 1st in Balti- 
more. 1 Fully a month before, however, it had 
become quite evident that Douglas's " boom," 
while lusty and vigorous, must be considered only 
preliminary to something that might develop in the 
future. On the first ballot, the convention gave 
Cass 116 votes, Buchanan ninety-three, Marcy 
twenty-seven, Douglas twenty, and other candi- 
dates twenty-five. The number necessary to a 
choice was 188. On later ballots Cass lost ground 
and Douglas grew stronger, his maximum being 

1 Rtanwood, History of the Presidency, p. 248, and same au- 
thority for ballot figureB. 


reached on the twenty-ninth ballot when he re- 
ceived ninety-one votes. In that particular ballot, 
a "dark horse" was brought into the race. This 
was Franklin Pierce, who received fifteen votes 
from the Virginia delegation. Douglas had been 
pretty well aware of the scheme which was now to 
be developed, and there is no evidence that he was 
at all disappointed by the result. He knew that 
the regular leaders had brought forward the name 
of Pierce, a good many weeks before the convention 
met, partly with a view to crushing his own 
chances and partly because it was believed that a 
man of a less decided position on national issues 
than the old-line candidates would have a better 
opportunity to win. Douglas's support on the first 
ballot had come very largely from his own state. 
Even such states as had promised their aid had not 
rallied to him at the outset, either because he him- 
self at the last moment had given orders to the con- 
trary, as some have believed, or for other reasons. 
The " dark-horse" plan met all the expectations of 
its advocates. Mr. Pierce gradually gained in 
strength until on the forty-ninth ballot he got a 
practically unanimous vote of 282, only six votes 
being cast for all other candidates. For Vice-Presi- 
dent, William R. King of Alabama was unanimously 
named on the second ballot, and it is an interesting 
fact that Douglas was not urged to accept the 
second place but reserved himself, wisely it then 
seemed, for the greater prize at some time in the 


Having fully anticipated this defeat of his hopes, 
Douglas was able to make the customary display of 
cordiality which is demanded by American politics 
between two rival candidates for office, after one 
has succeeded and the other has been defeated. He 
telegraphed his congratulations to the convention in 
the usual terms, and immediately began to cast 
about for the future, believing that at the end of 
the next four years he would be able to make a bet- 
ter showing. An analysis of his maximum vote in 
the convention indicated that his organization was 
well developed and wide-spread. That it had a pe- 
culiar staying quality was illustrated by the fact 
that on the very last ballot he still had two votes. 
What alarmed the older politicians even more was 
that he had not exhibited his greatest power ; but 
had evidently masked it to some extent as soon as 
he definitely understood that he could not muster 
the necessary number of votes. The point at which 
Douglas seemed to be lacking did not apparently 
lie where his friends had feared a year before, at 
the time when an effort was made to equip him 
with a national policy. They believed that he 
would prove to be weak as a figure in the country 
as a whole. Instead, singularly enough, he seemed 
to need strong sectional support. Although he had 
a good following in New England and the North, 
he could not of course rank as a candidate of that 
section. In the same way, although he was evi- 
dently well liked in the South, he was not yet defi- 
nitely accepted as a Southern candidate. It was 


strange, but manifest, that he lacked strength in 
the Middle West, exactly the region where he 
ought to have exhibited it. This was probably due 
to an overconfident belief that local pride without 
positive work would carry him forward in that sec- 
tion. But local pride was then somewhat scanty in 
the Middle West, and it would appear that the ex- 
perience with the convention of 1852 had convinced 
Douglas that he must get the support of some one 
portion of the Union for his candidacy, while of 
course he continued to draw around himself the 
broadly distributed reinforcements which every 
presidential candidate must have in sections remote 
from his main seat of power. The more cordial 
and hearty support of the South was indicated as a 
remedy for the weakness in his organization which 
had manifested itself at the last moment before the 
critical struggle in 1852, and toward the application 
of this specific the ambitious aspirant must now 
bend his energies. 

Meanwhile he had before him what was for the 
moment a more important contest — that of securing 
a reelection to the Senate wherein his term was 
now shortly to expire. The retention of his seat 
would evidently be necessary to the furtherance of 
his presidential ambitious. This task, however, 
proved not to be difficult. He entered the cam- 
paign vigorously, associating the move for his re- 
election with the effort of his party to elect the 
new President. He emerged from the fall contest 
in 1852 with a new term of office for himself and 


with additional personal prestige, due to strenuous 
and ardent speaking of the usual partisan type over 
a very wide territory. It is an interesting fact that 
the territory wherein he appeared seems to have 
been chosen with a view to giving him a chance to 
appeal to an electorate with which his weakness at 
the convention had been most obvious. 

Douglas's utterances, from the time of his defeat 
in the national convention throughout the campaign 
and on into the next session of Congress, indicated 
no belief on his part that his position, while a 
candidate, had been erroneously taken. He favored 
Cuban annexation during the summer and fall of 
1852 and also urged, as opportunity offered, his 
"American policy" in foreign affairs. This 
seemed to be a policy of defiance to European 
nations at every point where their wishes came into 
conflict with our own. The questions thus raised, 
however, were of no particular interest during the 
campaign and did not assume importance until 
after the opening of the next session of Congress. 
They were then unexpectedly made prominent by a 
curious conjunction of events. 

The question which was suddenly thrust forward 
was the old one of the extent to which European 
countries should be allowed to exert an influence 
in Central and South America, and the attitude of 
the United States in view of the so-called Monroe 
Doctrine, whose meaning was still as obscure as 
ever. The immediate difficulty was due to the 
course of Great Britain. That country was assert- 


ing rights over not only the Mosquito Coast, but 
also islands off Honduras. Friction had arisen be- 
tween Englishmen and Americans at Greytown and 
shots had been exchanged. Fundamentally the 
issue involved was the interpretation of the Clayton- 
Bulwer treaty, and the position in which the United 
States should stand there in connection with the 
Monroe Doctrine. The constant irritation existing 
both on the part of Great Britain and our own ad- 
ministration led to a discussion in the Senate, which, 
instead of being conducted in secret session, was 
allowed to go on upon the floor in the presence of 
the galleries. There was considerably more annoy- 
ance over the whole situation then than would 
probably be felt at the preseut time. This was due 
to special reasons. The opening of California had 
raised, in an acute form, the question of a trans- 
Isthmian route and this, it was believed, should 
run through Nicaragua, which was largely under 
the influence of Great Britain. The Clayton-Bulwer 
treaty, negotiated between England and the United 
States on April 19, 1850, for the purpose of im- 
proving the international situation, was little more 
than a compromise. Both nations had agreed to 
cease their efforts to establish a dominating influence 
in Central America, but the terms of the treaty had 
been both obscure and unsatisfactory. 1 In favor 
of the document had been cast, among others, the 
votes of Webster, Clay, Seward, and Cass, who had 
all at one time or another shared in the work of the 
1 Treaties in Force, 1899, p. 234. 


State Department. 1 The differences, therefore, had 
apparently been settled and to have the trouble 
break out afresh was alarming in a number of ways. 
In the Senate the general assumption had been that 
everything was disposed of by the Clayton-Bulwer 
treaty, but when the question of British control of 
the islands off Honduras came up, a new element 
was brought into the situation. In the course of 
the debate already referred to, Cass disclosed the 
fact that before the Clayton-Bulwer treaty had been 
accepted, the British representative had expressly 
limited his action, stating that the treaty had no 
application to Honduras and must not be so inter- 
preted. The announcement was unfortunate be- 
cause of the suggestion that everything had not 
been perfectly frank at the time of the ratification 
of the treaty. Cass said that in his opinion the 
Clayton-Bulwer agreement had included the Hon- 
duran question which now came up as an entirely 
fresh issue. In order to make the position of the 
United States clear, however, he offered a resolution 
designed to defiue the position of the United States 
in regard to South and Central America. This was 
practically a restatement of the Monroe Doctrine. 
Thus an opportunity was offered for a general de- 
bate upon the question of the nation's foreign policy. 
Could Douglas's "American" system be developed 
in connection with the settlement of this dispute ? 

Here at least was an opportunity for a test. In 
a speech in the Senate he bitterly assailed the 
1 Khodes, History, Vol. I, p. 201. 


methods pursued by the administration. He at- 
tacked Clayton with vigor for waiving certain priv- 
ileges, which had been assured to the United States, 
in regard to a trans-Isthmian canal. Incidentally 
he struck at Cass and alleged that the Monroe Doc- 
trine was a mere farce, entitled to no respect, since 
we ourselves did not insist upon attention to its 
provisions. Of Nicaragua he said that " her appeal 
to the United States for mediation or protection 
against British aggression being unheeded — her let- 
ters to our government remaining unanswered, 
their receipt not even acknowledged — her hopes of 
a closer relation to this Union blasted — the Monroe 
Doctrine abandoned — the Mosquito kingdom under 
the British protectorate rapidly absorbing her terri- 
tory, she sinks in despair, and yields herself to the 
European partnership which was about to be estab- 
lished over all Central America by the Clayton- 
Bulwer treaty.'' Douglas went on to say that, at 
the time the treaty was ratified in the Senate, he 
had been dissatisfied with the clause relating to the 
British protectorate over the Mosquito Coast. 1 He 
now saw that he had been correct in this position. 
The Monroe Doctrine was being grossly violated, 
and violated in such a way as to establish a general 
principle of partnership between the United States 
and Great Britain in regard to Central American 
affairs. This could not be endured, and he himself 

1 Congressional Globe, 2d Sess., 32d Cong., p. 941. The salient 
features of the speech are given in Sheahan's Douglas, pp. 
100-111. ' ™ 


proposed to stand firmly for the idea of a pure 
American system, since the whole plan of European 
colonization rested "upon seizure, violence and 
fraud." Partisan opponents might sneeringly ap- 
ply the term " young America" to the effort to up- 
hold the past policy of the Republic, yet he would 
stand his ground. He went further ; for he again 
adverted to the Cuban question, asserting that, de- 
spite the opposition of England or any other power, 
he should hold himself ready to favor the transfer 
of Cuba to the United States so soon as Spain should 
conclude that she could not longer maintain her 
control over the island. 

This argument had been presented on the 14th of 
February. The session would come to a close on 
the 4th of March following and Congress would re- 
assemble on the same day. In the meanwhile Clay- 
ton had been elected to the Senate and the contro- 
versy was immediately reopened. He seized the 
occasion to repay some of the compliments he had 
received from Douglas on the 14th of February, and 
on the 8th or 9th of March he assailed ' ' the Little 
Giant," as he sneeringly denominated his critic, 
applying to him in opprobrium the epithet which 
his devoted followers had bestowed upon him in 
token of affection. Cass, Mason and others also 
came in for their share of the rebuke. Douglas as 
well as his associates hastened to respond. In an 
address on the 10th of March ' he reviewed the re- 

1 Congressional Globe, 2d Sess., 32d Cong., Appendix, p. 257, 
et seq. Also Sueahan, pp. 111-114. 


ceiit history of the foreign policy of the United 
States, predicted its great future growth, and in 
flamboyant language attacked the course of those 
who would have crippled and fettered the nation in 
its struggle for expansion. It was here, perhaps, 
that Douglas most plainly and boldly assumed the 
position of contemptuous defiance of European 
countries. In so doing, and in mapping out his 
own particular line of foreign policy, he called down 
upon himself not only the wrath of Clayton but also 
of some of his own party associates. These did not 
hesitate to charge him with unfairness, narrowness, 
and partisanship. The charge was true and Doug- 
las could not but feel that in taking his extreme 
position, he had overshot the mark. The debate 
did not help him particularly, and it may have 
been that some of the intimations of ignorance on 
his part concerning European conditions operated 
to create in his mind a feeling that he would do 
well to investigate these conditions at first-hand. 
Whether this was the real cause of his visit to Eu- 
rope shortly after the adjournment of Congress, or 
whether he sought merely rest and refreshment is 
not certain. It would appear, however, that he be- 
lieved an observation of European conditions on the 
ground might enable him to speak with more au- 
thority. He went rapidly through England and the 
continent, visiting. Russia and various points in 
Turkey and Asia Minor. It seems hard to believe 
that this brief vacation could have wrought any 
real change in the mental character of the man, or 


that it could have materially altered his view of 
public questions. Yet it is apparent that by the 
time of his return he had quite positively changed 
the direction of his thought. Perhaps the interval 
of reflection and absence from the scene of sharp 
combat had enabled him to look at things in a 
larger way. Perhaps it had only enabled him to 
realize more keenly that the foreign question after 
all could not of itself suffice to stir public feeling in 
the United States. The issue must be local ; it 
must be national ; it must be something that would 
serve to rouse factional and sectional interest, yet 
be handled in a way to bind together enough ele- 
ments to insure the success of the cause. He re- 
turned to the United States toward the close of 
1853, ready to enter once more upon the campaign 
for the presidency, and this time with a new issue. 



At the opening of 1854 there were, for the Demo- 
cratic presidential nomination, at least four prin- 
cipal candidates who had been disappointed in 1852 
and whose ambition still remained to be satisfied. 
Marcy relied upon his record and upon his attitude 
with respect to Cuba. l Buchanan had accepted the 
English mission, but, despite a letter withdraw- 
ing from active politics, few regarded him as 
thoroughly sincere in this expression. General 
Cass was looking to the presidency as the repre- 
sentative of the Northwest. Pierce, of course, like 
every other President, desired a second term. The 
question before Douglas, as in 1852, was how, by 
manipulation within the party, to seize the prize 
and make off with it before the eyes of his four dis- 
appointed competitors. 

As has already been noted, Douglas had made ma- 
terial progress in consolidating his influence at the 
South, yet he lacked the hearty support of the 
Southern politicians. His first marriage, to a 
Southern woman, had not been taken as sufficient 
evidence of his complete allegiance to Southern 
ideals, especially as he had declined the legacy of 
slaves whose ownership might have passed to him. 

1 Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. I, pp. 423-424. 


Douglas's manners and methods still failed to ac- 
cord with the supposedly aristocratic predilections 
of Southern leaders, for he was enough of the 
Western type of politician to like to talk about the 
humbleness of his beginnings and the fact that he 
had been a cabinet-maker while a youth. It was 
apparently indispensable to Douglas that he should 
overcome the lurking sentiment of distrust which 
Southerners entertained in regard to him, and 
should convince them that only by supporting him 
could they gain a representative who would com- 
mand Northern and Western votes and would at the 
same time be sufficiently friendly toward the main- 
tenance of slavery in those parts of the country 
where it already existed. One hundred and seven- 
teen electoral votes 1 would be accredited to the 
South in the next national Democratic convention. 
It was a fair inference, from existing conditions, 
that no Southerner could get the nomination and 
Douglas, therefore, regarded himself as essentially 
the man of the hour. There still remained the need 
for some issue upon which he could demonstrate 
conclusively his pro-Southern sympathies, his 
power to control a substantial following, and his 
ability to manipulate and mold men to his pleasure. 
The attempt to develop a characteristic foreign 
policy had not succeeded, but as chairman of the 
Committee on Territories Douglas and his friends 
believed that he could create a situation which he 
could use to his own advantage. With a dominat- 

1 Rhodes, History of the United States, Vol. I, p. 425. 


ing power in his own committee and with an inti- 
mate acquaintance with territorial questions, it 
might be possible to make what would probably be 
a master-stroke for the presidency. 

The territory of Nebraska had been seeking or- 
ganization and a measure providing for the crea- 
tion of the territory, which had passed the House in 
the session of 1852-1853, had failed to receive action 
in the Senate. An identical measure was intro- 
duced early in December, 1853, and was of course 
sent to Douglas's committee where it was pending 
at the opening of the following January. The 
question now was what to do with the bill. Imme- 
diately after the holiday recess on January 4, 1854, 
Douglas reported it. In his report, he reviewed 
the compromise measures of 1850, asserting three 
fundamental propositions which he said inhered in 
them. The first was that all questions relating to 
slavery in the territories, and the new states to be 
formed therefrom, could be determined only by the 
decision of the residents of such states. The second 
was that all cases involving the title to slaves must 
be dealt with by local tribunals but with the right 
of appeal to the Supreme Court of the United 
States. The third was that the provision of the 
Constitution of the United States regarding fugitive 
slaves must be faithfully executed in all the organ- 
ized territories just as in the states themselves. 

It seems impossible to avoid the belief that 
this report was intended to reawaken or at any 
rate to stimulate the anti-slavery controversy, whose 


bitterness had been temporarily allayed. The 
Missouri Compromise had provided that slavery 
should not be allowed to exist north of 36° 30' north 
latitude, outside of the state of Missouri, yet in this 
report Douglas now took the view that ' ' in the 
opinion of those eminent statesmen who hold that 
Congress is invested with no rightful authority to 
legislate upon the subject of slavery in the territo- 
ries" the Missouri Compromise was "null and 
void." In spite of this alleged view attributed to 
" eminent statesmen," Douglas did not propose the 
repeal of the Missouri Compromise ; he recom- 
mended that the question of slavery, in the face of 
the terms of that compromise, should be left to the 
decision of the inhabitants of the territory which 
it was proposed to organize as Nebraska. Ne- 
braska as then defined included not only the 
present state of that name but also both North and 
South Dakota, Kansas, Wyoming, Montana and 
a part of Colorado. With very nearly half a mil- 
lion square miles of territory and with a white pop- 
ulation consisting of but a few hundred settlers 
and squatters, the territory was as yet a virgin field 
whose character and industrial development were 
still to be determined. By setting aside the Mis- 
souri Compromise, Douglas proposed to reopen for 
coming years the agitation over the existence of 
slavery in this enormous Western region. He thus 
held out to the Southern states a possibility of gain- 
ing, through the exploitation of the West upon 
slaveholding principles, that final and unquestion- 


able domination in the Senate of the United States 
which they had long desired. He therefore once 
more opened the bitter dispute which seemed to 
have been temporarily settled by the acceptance of 
the Fugitive Slave Law in the North and by the defi- 
nite determination of the status of slavery in all 
those regions where it had become established. 
Under these conditions, it seems not too much to 
assert that the new proposal was intended to open a 
road to the presidency which was to be purchased 
at the heavy cost of renewed sectional warfare. 

It has been charged that Douglas sought the re- 
peal of the Missouri Compromise in order that more 
slave territory might be admitted, and that the 
slave power might ultimately dominate the Con- 
gress of the United States. There is no evidence 
of a satisfactory character that such was the case. 
James Ford Ehodes l suggests that Douglas might 
have used the words of Frederick the Great when 
he began the unjust war against Austria for the con- 
quest of Silesia. ' ' Ambition, interest, the desire of 
making people talk about me, carried the day, and 
I decided " to renew the agitation of slavery. This 
contention has been well and satisfactorily answered 
by Allen Johnson, one of Douglas's most sympa- 
thetic biographers, 2 who shows clearly that Douglas's 
general principles bound him to the view that 
slavery in its successful and profitable application 
was undoubtedly circumscribed by nature. Slavery 

1 History of the United States, Vol. I, p. 430. 
"Johnson, Life of Douglas, p. 234. 


had proved a failure iu New England and in every 
Northern state in which it had been given a trial. 
A peculiar type of industry, agricultural and patri- 
archal in character, had grown up in the South. 
This " plantation system" had been successful 
largely because of the rapid expansion of the 
factory system abroad, resulting as it did in a direct 
demand for raw products, particularly cotton. 
Manufacturing had not developed sufficiently in the 
North to make an effectual demand for Southern 
products. Thus Southerners fell into the habit of 
considering their states as a separate "section" — 
economically far closer to Europe than to the 
Northern and Western members of the Union. 
There was no reason why Southerners should have 
expected the perpetual maintenance of slavery, and 
in some of the Southern states, notably in Virginia, 
there was already a vigorous agitation against the 
peculiar institution, largely on economic grounds, 
since it was already perceived that slave labor 
would become decreasingly profitable. To these 
considerations should be added the fact that Douglas 
himself was always to an eminent degree guided by 
motives of temporary validity. He had but little 
foresight, and few of his policies were framed with 
a view to their ultimate effect. He had neither the 
temper nor the nature of the statesman, and he was 
at all times too open to the claims of personal ad- 
vantage to be willing to sacrifice immediate gain 
for the sake of a principle. It was undoubtedly so 
in regard to the Nebraska bill. Douglas looked 


for an immediate issue and he found one in the re- 
vival of a controversy whose effects he could not 
foresee ; these he would leave the future to take 
care of. That the plan was framed with the idea 
of extending slave territory can hardly be believed. 
The whole burden of the proof goes to show that it 
was merely a political manoeuvre designed to secure 
an immediate partisan advantage. ' 

Even the severe critics of Douglas have admitted 
that there was no scheming between the would-be 
President and the Southern interests whose support 
he wished to enlist. 2 There had been no prior con- 
sultations. This was the flat and positive assertion 
of Douglas himself when he said on February 
23, 1855, that the bill ' ' was written by myself, at 
my own house, with no man present." According 
to his own statement he first secured the approval 
of representatives of Western interests. Later the 
Western men sought to get the aid of the Southern- 
ers in Congress. The bill almost immediately be- 
came highly popular with the Southern element. 
This fact impressed the anti-slavery party and 
Northerners generally. The real moving spirit in 
the legislation was said by some to be Toombs, by 
others Stephens, and by others Atchison. Atch- 
ison, like some more recent legislators, sought the 
credit for a bill he had never originated, and 
boasted that Douglas had acted at his dictation. 

1 Cf. A New Explanation of Senator Douglas's Motives, Ap- 
pendix I, Ray's Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, pp. 237-242. 
8 Rhodes, History, Vol. I, p. 431. 


The Southerners in fact were ready to take the 
fullest advantage of the alliance now proposed to 
them, without necessarily committing themselves to 
make any compensation for the service. They 
sought to graft upon the measure a provision 
whereby citizens of any state or territory might take 
their slaves into any of the territories of the United 
States or states in future to be created out of these 
territories. Such an amendment had been offered 
by Senator Dixon of Kentucky on January 16th, 
much to the alarm of Douglas, who saw the control 
of the situation slipping out of his hands, and now 
perhaps dimly recognized the nature of the tempest 
he had stirred up. 1 

Dixon did not yield to any of Douglas's urgent 
requests that he withhold his amendment, notwith- 
standing the strong and positive representations 
made by the author of the new bill, who left his 
seat for that purpose. In response, Dixon admitted 
that unless the Missouri Compromise was expressly 
repealed, it would continue to operate in the terri- 
tory of Nebraska. This was good reasoning, and 
Douglas now saw himself obliged to accept the 
logic of the situation by incorporating the amend- 
ment. He was moreover driven to this concession 
through the action of Senator Sumner of Massa- 
chusetts, who on January 17th, offered an amend- 
ment whereby the slavery clause of the Missouri 

1 Dixon, True History of the Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 
p. 458, et seq. Cf . also Ray, Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 
p. 210, et. seq. 


Compromise was positively reaffirmed. In choosing 
between these two conflicting amendments, Douglas 
necessarily committed himself to the Dixon plan 
and therefore accepted the duty of expressly repeal- 
ing the Missouri Compromise. Thus bound to an 
extreme view of the Nebraska situation, in spite of 
his original intent to leave the bill in an ambiguous 
position which would render it available as a sub- 
ject for future political jugglery, he saw the need of 
time for reflection and for the rearrangement of his 
forces. Opponents felt the same need in respect to 
their forces. Remarkable interest had been mani- 
fested throughout the country at large, and both 
sides desired to get into touch with their following 
among the voters. The anti-slavery newspapers 
were quick to publish articles assuming the exist- 
ence of a general conspiracy on the part of the 
slavery men, while opponents were equally ready to 
take a partisan view. Mingled with the strong and 
deep undercurrent of feeling about slavery was the 
effort to use a little of the power thus set free for 
the purpose of whirling one or another of the rival 
candidates into the presidential office. Already 
there had been efforts on the part of others beside 
Douglas to take advantage of the opportunity, and 
to get such credit as might come from the new 
political situation. To gain time, Sumner asked 
that the bill be deferred until January 31st. 
Douglas, according to his faithful apologist Shea- 
han, 1 "acquiesced" in this request, but there is 
1 Sheahan, Life, p. 193. 


every reason to suppose that he was delighted with 
the suggestion. 

It was now an important question to ascertain the 
position of President Pierce. Partly because of his 
open candidacy for a second term in an office which 
the senator from Illinois wished for himself ; partly 
because of the desire to be the sole leader in the 
attack on the Missouri Compromise, Douglas had 
had no word with the President prior to the time 
that the bill made its appearance on the floor. 
He now recognized that the struggle which he 
had precipitated would involve a much more bitter 
political contest than had been expected. His 
personal following was evidently not sufficiently 
strong to control the situation in the House, and he 
found himself forced to enlist the President, if pos- 
sible, on his side. The Washington Union, the 
personal organ of President Pierce, 1 had already 
given approval to the original Douglas bill, while 
refusing it to the Dixon amendment. Time was 
growing short and it was determined to bring 
the issue with the temporizing President to a 
head at once. Douglas was so fully committed to 
the extreme Southern element that he resolved to 
work directly and openly with them. He called 
for aid upon Jefferson Davis, then the Secretary of 
War, and Davis agreed to secure a personal inter- 
view with President Pierce at a time when they 
could be undisturbed. Pierce preferred not to 
transact public business on Sunday, but Davis 
1 Quoted by Rhodes, Vol. I, p. 436. 


ventured to disregard this preference, and took 
Douglas and several others to the White House on 
the morning of the 22d of January. The bill was 
read to President Pierce, and the latter finally 
yielded to the representations of his visitors, en- 
dorsing not only the Douglas bill but also the Dixon 
amendment, and thus committing himself to Davis 
and the extreme Southern wing of the Senate. 
Pierce, in fact, felt that a crucial issue had been 
presented to him, and that to refuse to meet the 
ideas of the Southerners represented by Davis would 
enable Douglas and the other aspirants for the 
presidency to control some support which he 
deemed necessary to his own political fortunes. 
Pierce, moreover, was strongly friendly to Davis in 
a personal way, and saw an opportunity to secure 
the further approval of the officer upon whom he so 
heavily leaned. 

With the support of the President assured, and 
with Davis and the Southern element behind him, 
Douglas prepared to make a decisive step. On the 
23d (Monday) he offered a bill to take the place 
of that which he had first introduced. The new 
bill positively conceded the points raised by South- 
ern interests. It asserted that the slavery clause 
of the Missouri Compromise was " superseded," 
and was therefore "declared inoperative." A 
division of Nebraska into two territories, the 
northern to be called Nebraska, the southern 
Kansas, was a new feature of the plan. 

The proposal to create two territories instead of 


one is of obscure origin. Some have asserted that 
the arrangement looked forward to the creation of 
a slave state and a free state. Others have believed 
that it was intended to render more easily possible 
the extension of slavery at a future time, since the 
slave interest was stronger in the proposed terri- 
tory of Nebraska than in Kansas. Others have 
contended that the scheme was designed merely to 
give better promise to local politicians in adjoining 
states, and to advance the pretensions of separate 
Northern and Southern transcontinental railways 
instead of a single route passing through the centre 
of the territory. No conclusive evidence seems to 
be available as to which of these considerations led 
to the proposed division, although more recent 
investigators have taken the view that it was the 
railroad situation, rather than considerations affect- 
ing slavery. The bill at all events was satisfactory 
to the Southern interests, as was evidenced almost 
immediately upon the floor. A formidable coali- 
tion had been brought about, including the per- 
sonal following of Douglas, the Western interests 
which liked the proposed measure independent of 
its slavery feature, the Southern group of senators, 
and the Pierce administration — the last, however, 
being counted upon principally for its influence in 
the House of Representatives. The President at 
once carried out the first part of what he had 
bargained to do by inspiring an article in the 
Washington Union in support of the new measure. 
Under such circumstances, it was plainly necessary 


that the anti-slavery men should be looking about 
them if they expected to prevent the realization of 
the enemy's plans. 

The opposition's call to action was prepared by 
Chase, Sumner, Giddings and Gerrit Smith who, 
with two representatives from Ohio and Massa- 
chusetts, signed a paper called the "Appeal of the 
Independent Democrats in Congress to the People 
of the United States." This was printed in the 
Congressional Globe under date of January 19th, but 
it was really written on the 23d, at least in part. 
Its preparation had probably occupied most of the 
Saturday and Sunday preceding. It was a strong 
partisan address to the anti- slavery men of the 
country, based upon the assertion that the Douglas 
bill would open to slavery all the unorganized 
territory of the Union. The bill, thought the 
authors of the ' ' Appeal, ' ' was framed in gross dis- 
regard of a pledge, and was an effort to cancel an 
agreement for many years regarded as an inviolable 
American law, the Missouri Compromise. The 
" Appeal " was particularly severe in its references 
to Douglas, and according to the latter's principal 
biographer " roused the tiger " in him. Whatever 
may be thought of this euphemistic description, it 
is certainly true that in his rejoinder on the 30th 
of January Douglas showed himself at his worst. 
Not only did he indulge in childish personal taunts 
directed against the authors of the "Appeal," but 
he resorted to unfounded and ill-judged efforts to 
demonstrate the inaccuracy of the historical por- 


tions of the document. He was considerably 
stronger when he passed to a discussion of actual 
conditions in the Nebraska Territory, and predicted 
the unsuitability of slavery as a system of industry 
for that part of the country. 

The bitterness of Douglas's rejoinder and the per- 
sonalities in which he indulged indicated that 
the supporters of the Kansas-Nebraska bill were 
by no means so strongly united as some had sup- 
posed. In fact, there was already doubt about the 
wisdom of so extreme a measure. Douglas's speech 
on the floor was not well received at the time and 
was described by listeners as "senatorial billings- 
gate," "intemperate violence," and as "more be- 
coming a pot-house than the Senate." 1 Most of 
the criticisms at the time came from those hostile to 
Douglas and friends said little. Apart from the 
abusive language that had been employed, he 
had perhaps done about as well as could have 
been expected under the circumstances. The re- 
ply of Chase was considered by Douglas's party 
as "a lame apology," but the incident, coupled 
with the popular favor granted to the "Appeal," 
had alarmed many members of the Northern Demo- 
cratic party who were personally attached to Doug- 
las. The shrewder Southern men thought it best 
to take heed and to remain content with what they 
had in hand without seeking to push slavery 
farther toward the North. Some concession was 

1 Quoted from contemporary newspapers by Rhodes, Vol. I, 
p. 445. 


deemed wise, and it was finally agreed that a clause 
should be inserted recognizing that the Constitu- 
tion was of controlling authority in the matter ; no 
effort would be made to change the constitutional 
position of slavery. On the 7th of February, there- 
fore, Douglas, yielding to the opinion of his Demo- 
cratic associates as expressed in caucus, proposed 
an amendment to the fourteenth section of the bill 
providing "that the Constitution and laws of the 
United States, which are not locally inapplicable, 
shall have the same force and effect within the said 
Territory of Nebraska as elsewhere within the 
United States except the eighth section of the Act 
preparatory to the admission of Missouri into the 
Union, ... it being the true intent and mean- 
ing of this Act not to legislate slavery into any 
territory or state, nor to exclude it therefrom, but 
to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form 
and regulate their domestic institutions in their 
own way, subject only to the Constitution of the 
United States." ' On the 15th this amendment 
was accepted by a vote of thirty-five to ten. Chase 
immediately moved to add after the clause already 
quoted the following words: " Under which the 
people of the territory through their appropriate 
representatives may, if they see fit, prohibit the ex- 
istence of slavery therein." On this proposal, after 
some discussion, debate continued in general chan- 
nels until March 2d, when it was rejected. By 
those who voted against the amendment, it was 
1 Congressional Globe, 1st Sees., 33d Cong., p. 421. 


urged that no such clause ought to be incorporated 
because, while it permitted the people of Nebraska 
to prohibit, it did uot allow them to introduce, 
slavery and was therefore an entirely partisan pro- 

Clayton next sought to secure an amendment to 
the bill. He had complained that the non-inter- 
ference of Congress with the affairs of the territory 
would amount to nothing, if a member of Congress 
could propose the repeal of any territorial law 
which might be submitted to the legislative body 
for its approval. Douglas, therefore, finally pro- 
posed to make territorial legislation non-submis- 
sible to Congress ; but Clayton was still dis- 
satisfied. He moved to deprive all persons within 
the territory, not fully naturalized, of the privi- 
lege of voting, and this amendment was carried 
against the wish of Douglas by a vote of twenty- 
three to twenty-one. After a few other minor 
changes, the bill was reported from the Committee 
of the Whole. All the amendments made by 
that committee were concurred in, save only the 
Clayton amendment which again passed by a 
recorded vote of twenty-two to twenty. On March 
3d the bill was put upon its passage and the debate 
continued until long after midnight, being adopted 
at about 5 o'clock on the morning of March 4th 
by a vote of thirty-seven to fourteen. It then 
went to the House and was there advanced by 
the use of the influence of the administration, 
passing on May 22d by a vote of 113 to 100. From 


the House it went directly back to the Senate 
where it was discussed on the 24th and 25th. 
Finally the debate was closed by Douglas on the 
morning of the 26th and the measure was adopted 
without division. 

Douglas had still to hear from the people. He 
had already been alarmed by the excessive violence 
of his opponents, and by the vigorous protest that 
had been received from the country at large. The 
"Appeal" had aroused an extraordinary amount 
of sympathy throughout the North and West. Reso- 
lutions denouncing the bill had been adopted by the 
legislature of Rhode Island ' early in the discussion, 
while numerous petitions, remonstrances and reso- 
lutions from all classes and conditions of men, from 
societies and associations, and from large bodies 
of clergymen, had been transmitted to Congress. 
Douglas was accustomed to such ebullitions and 
under ordinary circumstances probably would not 
have noticed them. The expression of public feel- 
ing had, however, been so remarkable and insistent 
that probably no man gifted with the power to rec- 
ognize public sentiment as he was could have failed 
to understand the unpopularity of the measure. But 
he had early seen that there was no way of retreat. 
He paid little heed to the expressions of Boston 
anti-slavery agitators or to the burnings in effigy 
to which he was subjected. He was, however, very 
much worried about the situation in Chicago. In 
that city, the testimony of the clergy had been 
•Sheahan, Life, p. 198. 


almost unanimously against him. As early as the 
27th of March, in a public meeting in Chicago, at 
which twenty -five clergymen were present, resolu- 
tions denouncing Douglas had been passed — in part 
because of his sneers at the protest submitted to the 
Senate by more than 3,000 New England clergymen. 
Douglas thought it worth while to write an elab- 
orate letter in reply, but the fact that he had no 
newspaper which would act as a personal organ in 
Chicago made the task of rebutting the current at- 
tacks difficult. The press was almost unanimous in 
denouncing his course. The passage of the bill set 
him free to attempt to rehabilitate himself. 

Congress had adjourned about the 1st of August, 
and Douglas reached Chicago about the 25th of 
the month. He there found himself attacked by 
a vigorous and widely organized opposition which 
resorted to radical measures for the purpose of 
venting its displeasure. It seemed necessary to 
attempt some public reply to the extreme ex- 
pressions of disapproval with which he had been 
greeted, and he therefore announced that on the 
1st of September he would make an effort to answer 
his critics. The notice was in the usual form of a 
promise to address his constituents, and the place 
named was the square in front of North Market 
Hall. It would probably have been better if he 
had waited until public feeling had become some- 
what less intense. Hardly had the announcement 
been made, when absurd stories began to be circu- 
lated with reference to the arrangements for the 


meeting. Douglas had written to friends outside 
the city asking as many of them as possible to come 
to Chicago and be present. 1 But this request, and 
other utterances of the same sort, were distorted, 
and it was stated that a substantial body-guard 
armed and ready to compel silence would attend. 
There was no evidence that any armed demonstra- 
tion had been planned. The situation, however, 
was such as might have been thought to demand 
something of the kind. Sheahan graphically de- 
scribes the half-masting of flags and the doleful 
tolling of the bells of numerous churches as even- 
ing closed in. At the appointed hour, Douglas 
tried to address the mob but the abuse, hisses, out- 
cries and offensive conduct generally were such 
that he was not able to offer any connected ar- 
gument. , After two hours of effort to get a hear- 
ing, he lost the composed and determined man- 
ner which had characterized him from the outset 
and which had had a powerful effect even upon his 
opponents. He was obliged at last to give up the 
attempted vindication and with a final outburst of 
ill-temper, he passed through the hostile crowds to 
his hotel. 

The Kansas- Nebraska Act, brought forward as a 
political game, had reacted upon its originator and 
had almost proved his undoing. The law in fact 
had opened a new phase of Douglas's career, for 
from this time until the open break with the South 
he was hopelessly identified with slavery, certainly 
1 Manuscript letter quoted by Johnson, Life, p. 258. 


in the minds of all his opponents, and to a much 
larger degree than heretofore in the view of his 
friends. Ehodes 1 describes the Kansas- Nebraska 
Act as "the most momentous measure that passed 
Congress from the day that the senators and repre- 
sentatives first met to the outbreak of the Civil 
War." The law, he thinks, "sealed the doom of 
the Whig party ; it caused the formation of the 
Republican party on the principle of no extension 
of slavery ; it roused Lincoln and gave a bent to 
his great political ambition ; it made the Fugitive 
Slave Law a dead letter at the North ; it caused the 
Germans to become Republicans ; it lost the Demo- 
crats their hold on New England ; it made the 
Northwest Republican ; it led to the downfall of 
the Democratic party. ' ' The historian might add 
that it also rendered Douglas permanently impos- 
sible as a presidential aspirant ; placed him in an 
anomalous position as a pro-slavery leader, in de- 
fiance of the sentiment of his own state ; allied him 
almost until his death with a losing cause ; and 
committed him to the advocacy of principles which 
he was obliged later practically to repudiate. The 
passage of the bill had been almost solely due to 
Douglas. He alone had had the daring to attempt 
its adoption in the face of the wishes of the country ; 
only he possessed the skill in political manipula- 
tion that made it possible to unite the warring fac- 
tions in Congress and to throw the administration 
solidly behind the measure. It was his personal 
1 History, Vol. I, p. 490. 


achievement ; and, as he afterward admitted, he 
possessed practically the power of a "dictator" 
dnriDg the period of its discussion. This the country 
could not but recognize and this inevitably deter- 
mined Douglas's status as a politician during his 
later life and subsequently his place in history. 

"It is interesting to reflect," says one of his per- 
sonal friends, 1 "upon what might and upon what 
might not have been, but for the repeal of the Mis- 
souri Compromise. Had that Compromise not been 
repealed, it is probable that the Democratic party 
would have gone on in control of the government as 
it had done so long. In 1856, at farthest in 1860, 
Stephen A. Douglas would have become President. 
The old Whig party would still have dragged its 
lazy length along. Ulysses S. Grant would have 
continued to weigh raw hides on the back alley of a 
leather store at Galena, and Abraham Lincoln would 
have continued to ride the circuit and tell stories in 
central Illinois. There would have been no Repub- 
lican party, no secession, and no war." 

1 Carr, Douglas, pp. 56-57. 



It was now plain to all that a rearrangement of 
party lines was about to occur, and that the issues 
which had been raised in the course of the Kansas- 
Nebraska discussion would be the subject of a far 
greater struggle than any Douglas had anticipated 
when he decided to reopen the slavery dispute. 
Short-sighted as he was with reference to large 
national questions, because of his habitual tendency 
to underestimate the strength of idealistic in- 
fluences in human nature, no one ever thought him 
else than the keenest of analysts of contemporary 
conditions. He saw that a realignment of voters 
was imminent ; and, simultaneously, he understood 
that his own position was seriously threatened. The 
bitterness of his reception in Chicago, the intolerable 
transition from an atmosphere of political adulation 
to one of contempt and hatred at once roused in 
Douglas not only his combative instincts but also a 
poignant sense of the change in his own immediate 
political situation. He determined to engage the 
enemy at once, and to solidify without delay so far 
as possible the broken ranks of his party. To this 
end he immediately started upon a speaking tour 
extending over almost the whole of northern and 
central Illinois. 


What Douglas learned on this tour was most dis- 
couraging to hiui. At least two important polit- 
ical forces were now coming prominently forward. 
These were the Abolitionists and the so-called Na- 
tive Americans. The Abolitionists were the product 
of a trend of thought which Douglas could well un- 
derstand and estimate. The Native Americans or 
"Know-Nothings" were a factor in the situation 
much harder to weigh. Both groups were united in 
their opposition to Douglas and to all that he rep- 
resented. The Whigs of course remained a more 
or less compact body. They would gladly have 
united with the other two groups, but it was doubt- 
ful whether the latter would be willing to merge 
themselves in the older party. Now for the first time 
did it appear as if state contentions were to become 
a direct and important element in national affairs. 
Here locally was mirrored a movement which later 
took place upon the larger stage of Federal politics. 

The Native American or Know-Nothing party was 
nominally based upon a desire to restrict foreign 
immigration and to prevent the domination of aliens 
(now coming to the United States in large numbers) 
over men of American birth. As Bhodes conserva- 
tively expresses it, 1 " ignorant foreign suffrage had 
grown to be an evil of immense proportions ; " 
there was, therefore, substantial basis for the general 
ideas for which the Native Americans stood. But 
with an element of justice, there had come to be 
mingled a large element of religious prejudice and 
1 Rhodes, Vol. II, p. 52. 


an unreasonable hostility to conditions which were 
either likely to correct themselves, or were not 
responsible for the problems which the Native 
Americans wished to solve. The Know-Nothing 
party had early committed itself to a crusade against 
the Roman Catholic Church as the source of most of 
what was thought to be evil in national affairs, al- 
though statistics showed that the Catholics, what- 
ever else might be said of them, were not then set- 
tled in America in sufficient numbers to exercise 
political control. Because of this element of re- 
ligious antagonism, a kind of secret character was 
given to the Know-Nothing party and branches with 
absurd machinery were created in each state. Ob- 
jectionable methods flourished under such a type of 
organization and Douglas had perhaps rightly 
divined that the demonstration against him iu 
Chicago, — flags at half-mast, the tolling of bells, and 
the uproarious manifestations during the meeting, — 
had been the work of Know-Nothing emissaries. 

The Abolitionists, while not secret in their meth- 
ods, were as wild in their utterances as were the 
Native Americans. Garrison had already (early in 
1854) burned the Constitution of the United States in 
public at Framingham, Mass. 1 Disturbances of a 
similar kind had taken place elsewhere and extreme 
violence had been displayed on all sides by the anti- 
slavery men. The fact that many of them had 
joined the Know-Nothings, combined with the 
similarity of the methods employed by the two 

1 Life of Garrison, Vol. Ill, p. 412. 


bodies, had given Douglas some warrant for declar- 
ing on July 4, 1854, that the Know-Nothing move- 
ment was nothing more than Abolitionism in an 
altered form. In this judgment he was probably 
mistakeu — to the extent at least that though anti- 
slavery ideas were of considerable weight with the 
Know-Nothing group, it was not the hitter's desire 
to lay special stress upon them for the moment, 
while to the Abolitionists the question of ending 
the existing system of slavery was of overwhelming 
importance, dwarfing everything else. However 
theories might differ with reference to the composi- 
tion and relationship of these various groups, it was 
perfectly plain to all that the formation of a new 
party, gaining the support of the various scattered 
and isolated groups, and uniting local disaffected 
elements for a strong stand against the further ex- 
tension of slavery was not only possible but almost 
unavoidable. "Kepublican " had already been 
suggested as the name of the new party, 1 and at a 
gathering at Jackson, Mich., on July 6, 1854, a 
declaration of principles had been adopted. Most 
of these "principles" had a bearing upon slavery 
in some way as was shown in the ticket which was 
put into the field by the Michigan convention. Five 
candidates were Whigs, two were Democrats who 
had opposed the Nebraska bill, and three were anti- 
slavery men. The future of this new party was still 
obscure but apparently promising. Its prospect of 
success lay in continuing to emphasize the one sub- 

-' Stanwood, History of the Presidency, p. 260. 


ject which constituted a bond of union between the 
opposition groups, and in bringing home to the 
people the necessity of presenting a united front if 
they wished to defeat the Democratic organization. 
The fate of the Eepublican party was, however, still 
quite unknown, and there was yet no certainty that 
it could become national in its scope. 

The elections in the autumn of 1854, while 
mainly adverse to the Kansas -Nebraska legislation, 
were various in their meaning ; they differed a good 
deal from state to state by reason of local conditions 
and prejudices. This was the general situation ; 
Illinois formed no exception to the rule. Douglas's 
early experiences in the northern counties speedily 
convinced him that his party organization would 
gain success, if at all, only by the most strenuous 
efforts. In several congressional districts he found 
the Democratic candidates very hard pressed, and 
although a much more friendly reception greeted 
him in central Illinois, it lacked the spontaneity to 
which he had become accustomed. 

Douglas was especially disturbed by the activity 
of his future senatorial colleague, Trumbull, and of 
Abraham Lincoln. Although for five years he had 
led a life apart from politics because current prob- 
lems had largely ceased to interest him, Lincoln had 
been recalled to the struggle through his feeling that 
now an issue like to none with which he had previ- 
ously dealt was at hand demanding a settlement. 1 
Douglas crossed his path during the campaign and 
1 Oberholtzer, Abraham Lincoln, p. 85. 


near its end, on October 3, 1854, they met at Spring- 
field for direct personal combat. The debate which 
ensued was the first real opportunity given to the 
two men for measuring each other's strength. The 
issue was plainly drawn between them on the . 
slavery question. Douglas spoke in the State 
House and on the following day Lincoln answered 
him at the same place. On the same evening, 
Douglas appeared in rebuttal, protracting the ses- 
sion of the day to almost six hours. The text of 
the speeches is lacking, but the testimony of con- 
temporaries is to the effect that Lincoln showed re- 
markable familiarity with the history of the slavery 
question. He attacked Douglas's position by pre- 
senting a review of the steps by which the existing 
situation had been brought about. Lincoln had 
busied himself during the summer in analyzing the 
Nebraska law. He was well able to find the weak 
places in his opponent's armor. Somewhat net- 
tled by Lincoln's evident mastery of the subject, 
and his own consciousness of the nature of the de- 
vices by which the bill had been passed, Douglas 
failed to make a good showing in his rejoinder. 1 
He was worn by months of speaking, in an exciting 
campaign, and by the apparent fact that he was 
steadily losing ground. The inconclusive character 
of the result at Springfield led to another passage 
at arms at Peoria two weeks later. Douglas opened 

1 This is generally conceded by biographers both of Lincoln 
and Douglas. Cf. Oberholtzer, Lincoln, p. 88, and Johnson, 
Douglas, p. 266. 


tbe discussion in a three-hour speech, and, after an 
intermission for supper, Lincoln answered, also oc- 
cupying three hours. In later years, Lincoln spoke 
of this address as the ablest he had ever made, 
while Douglas but little improved on the presenta- 
tion of the subject which he had offered at Spring- 
field. Lincoln, in fact, with his usual insight, now 
foresaw the probability of a renewal of the battle 
with Douglas and with the forces which he repre- 
sented, and was already preparing himself for such 
a contest. Douglas was still somewhat contemp- 
tuous of an opponent whose ability and popular 
support he did not fully realize, though he clearly 
detected a new kind of opposition, since Lincoln did 
not merely ring the changes upon slavery and its 
cruelties, but devoted himself to a cold, cutting 
legal analysis of the basis for slavery and of the ac- 
tion taken in violating the Missouri Compromise. 
Douglas also found himself bereft of one of his prin- 
cipal weapons, because Lincoln left open few points 
against which he could aim his shafts of denuncia- 
tion of Abolitionism. The unsuccessful struggles 
with Lincoln at Springfield and Peoria, both times 
in the presence of immense audiences, undoubtedly 
had much to do with his partial failure at the 
autumn elections. Opponents of the Nebraska 
legislation secured five out of nine members of Con- 
gress, their total majority in the state on the con- 
gressional ticket being over 17,000. They were in 
control of the legislature, which assured the election 
of Lyman Trumbull, who had cooperated with Lin- 


coin in cutting the ground from under Douglas's 
feet, as Douglas's colleague in the Senate ; and they 
had with them the evident sympathy of the people 
at large. In but one quarter did Douglas's con- 
tinuous and almost unprecedented efforts result fa- 
vorably. The Democrats succeeded in electing the 
state treasurer and some other state officers. 

Moreover, the Illinois situation was but one 
element in a national situation. Iowa had per- 
manently abandoned the Democratic party by 
electing as governor James W. Grimes, a bitter 
opponent of the Nebraska legislation. Maine and 
Vermont sent large anti-Nebraska delegations to 
Congress, the issue being mainly that of slavery. 
In Pennsylvania, the Whigs and the anti-slavery 
Democrats chose a governor through the assistance 
of the Know-Nothing party and sent an over- 
whelmingly large anti-Nebraska delegation to 
Congress. An even more striking outcome was 
that in Ohio, and elsewhere the results were similar. 
There could be no doubt that Douglas had wholly 
failed in his effort to create a winning issue. He 
had been the unmistakable cause of forcing upon 
his party the principle which had resulted in its 
downfall in a great territory where formerly it had 
been in supreme control. The efforts of Douglas to 
make it appear that the victory of his opponents 
was due largely to their junction with the some- 
what questionable Know-Nothing party were of 
little significance, and were thrown into an almost 
absurd light by the fact that the next House of 


Representatives would show a majority of seventy- 
five votes against the Democrats. The situation 
and the evident responsibility of Douglas for it, 
were forces tending strongly to weaken his control 
of the party, and at times during the succeeding 
short session of Congress it seemed that he might 
lose much or all of the immense personal prestige 
which he had earlier enjoyed in Washington. 

From the point of view of Douglas's personal for- 
tunes, probably the most important result which 
grew out of his unfortunate advocacy of the Ne- 
braska bill, was the fact that at last he appeared to 
be fully committed to the cause of slavery. If 
there had been any doubt in the popular mind on 
this question prior to the election of 1854, foes now 
left nothing undone whereby they could identify 
him with the Southern pro-slavery party. Just as 
he had sought to attach the then odious epithet of 
Abolitionist to every one who attempted to stand 
in his way in politics, so opponents now sought to 
make it appear not only that he was united with 
the slavery party in sympathy, but also that his 
personal interests had guided him toward the 
support of an institution from which he might de- 
rive personal profit. There was probably little 
basis for such charges, because, as we have else- 
where seen, 1 Douglas had refrained from becoming 
a slaveholder and was far too astute a politician 
to leave open so manifest an avenue of attack. Yet 
it was true that the logic of events drove him more 

1 See p. 88, et seq. 


and more to the side of slavery. His new colleague 
iu the Senate was an anti-slavery man whom he 
heartily despised. Trumbull had been supported 
by the Abolitionists and the Know-Nothings. 
Douglas found himself confronted by groups of 
opponents who were united by the single fact of 
hostility to slavery. He himself had formed family 
associations with slave-owners, was on friendly 
terms with the slavery party in Congress, and, 
though he knew it to be a weakness among his 
owu constituents, his own type of mind inclined 
him more and more to the acceptance of the general 
philosophy by which the slavery advocates were 
dominated. More and more he had allowed his 
early Democratic principles to slip into the back- 
ground ; more and more he had become involved 
in the attempt to justify distinct party measures 
rather than to expound clear party principles. 

Perhaps the bitterest element, to Douglas, in a 
bitter situation was the fact that to him, more than to 
any other man in public life, must now be ascribed 
the responsibility for the development whereby a 
new party of protest, embodying all of the opposi- 
tion elements and bearing the objectionable name 
" Eepublican," had been founded. The name had 
been more and more generally recognized through- 
out the latter half of 1854 and the early part of 1855, 
as the most available designation for the new party. 
It was recognized that party organization and the 
acceptance of popular issues were necessary in order 
to maintain the start which had been so auspiciously 


made through Douglas's overplaying his hand iu 
1854. Almost at once, clever leaders set to work 
to bring about a higher state of discipline than 
had yet been possible. In this, they were con- 
siderably aided by circumstances. The Know- 
Nothing party, pleased with the showing made in 
the fall of 1854, held toward the end of the year 
at Cincinnati l a national council, but the very 
growth of the group called down upon it opposition 
from some who had begun to fear its special and 
peculiar proclivities. One or two unfavorable 
elections early in 1855 preceded another meeting of 
the Council at Philadelphia. There the slavery 
question was bitterly discussed, the debate result- 
ing in a breach between the Northern and Southern 
wings of the organization. This tended to drive 
the Northern section into the ranks of the Ee- 
publicans. Anti-slavery men of the more reason- 
able type also began to give their allegiance to the Be- 
publican party as the most available means of push- 
ing forward their ideas, even though the progress 
made by the party along their lines was not 
sufficiently rapid to please them. Beside this tend- 
ency it was now notable that the Whig party was 
losing ground, and that its branches were gradually 
dying and falling off. Lines of cleavage between 
the Eepublicau party and the extreme Abolition 
group on the one hand, and the reactionary ele- 
ments among the Whigs and Know-Nothings on 
the other, were daily growing more and more evi- 
Rhodes, History, Vol. II, p. 87 fit. 


dent, while Northern Democrats were, in many 
instances, recognizing the Republican party, for 
the time being at least, as the party of progress 
and the only body to which they could look for 
the presentation of their ideas in moderate form, 
in opposition to the compact slavery interest. It 
was under such conditions that the presidential 
nominating conventions rapidly approached. 

Douglas had been slow to accept the designation 
of Eepublican for the new party. He attacked it 
bitterly on the floor, 1 noting that the party was 
tending to drop the word " national " ; he suggested 
the substitution of the word " black" on the 
ground that it substantially represented the idea of 
negro equality and of Abolition. But long before 
the nominating conventions met, Douglas had come 
to understand his mistake and to recognize the new 
party as a genuine political factor with which he 
must reckon. This he was at last ready to do. In 
fact, it seemed to many that despite his apparent 
failure to see his blunder in connection with the 
Nebraska Act, he must continue his leadership. 
He who had brought the party to its present diffi- 
cult straits could best extricate it. He had origi- 
nally embarked upon the experiment of the 
Nebraska Act through a desire for a presidential 
issue. He was not now minded to forego his pur- 
pose. He looked eagerly, therefore, to the national 
convention which was to meet on June 2, 1856, 
hoping that it would vindicate him by giving him 
1 Globe, 34th Cong., 1st Sess., p. 390, etseq. 


the nomi nation for the presidency. The outcome 
was a severe disappointment. At the outset, sup 
port was considerably divided. Buchanan had 135 
votes, Pierce 122, Douglas thirty-three, and Cass 
five. Douglas's maximum strength was exhibited 
on the fifteenth ballot when he received 118 votes 
against Buchanan's 168. Douglas had, however, 
taken most of the Southern votes of his rivals and 
it was plain to all of his supporters that he had 
done his utmost. The party stood waiting for the 
rivals to sink personal prejudice and personal 
interest, and this Douglas reluctantly concluded to 
do after the sixteenth ballot. At that time a dis- 
patch from him announced his withdrawal, and 
practically transferred his votes to Buchanan, ac- 
tion which was now unavoidable and was the less 
gracefully taken on that account. 1 

An analysis of the balloting in the convention 
seems to indicate a recognition on the part of the 
delegates that under the lead of Douglas they had 
gone much too far along the lines laid down by the 
slavery party. The party as a whole not only 
turned from Douglas's personality, at length so 
thoroughly and so unfortunately identified with 
extreme slavery views, but it selected one who had 
already pledged himself to moderation if not almost 
to opposition to Douglas. Buchanan had under- 
taken to see that Kansas was fairly treated, while 
some believed that he looked forward to the admis 

'Rhodes, History, Vol. II, p. 171, et seu. and Stanwood, His- 
tory of Presidential Elections, pp. 199-200. 


sion of the territory a8 a free state. He had the 
favor of New England Democrats and was not un- 
favorably regarded by some of the aristocratic ele- 
ment in the South. On his first ballot in the 
nominating convention he had received the votes 
of all the delegates from Virginia and Louisiana. 
He was more available than Douglas because he 
had made fewer enemies ; but more significant than 
this was the fact that he also represented the con- 
servative element which had been antagonized by 
the Nebraska Act and which believed that Douglas 
had injured the position of the party. 

It was doubtless even more displeasing to Doug- 
las to realize that while the party turned away from 
him in its convention, it laid down a platform 
which was intended to satisfy the Southern element, 
and to avoid the charge that the party had deserted 
the principles to which its foremost leaders had 
been committed during the Nebraska contest. This 
action, of course, still left Douglas a possible candi- 
date for the future, since it approved the position he 
had taken and to that extent it was gratifying. 
Buchanan, in fact, in his speech of acceptance, en- 
dorsed the platform and expressed sentiments 
which were satisfactory to the Southern delegates 
who had voted for him. He asserted that the 
slavery question was "paramount" and he be- 
lieved that the Kansas-Nebraska Act had furnished 
a necessary supplement to the Compromise of 1850. 
This view, formally expressed, was further ex- 
tended in private conversation, and thus Douglas 


had at least the satisfaction of seeing the party 
recognize the principle which he had sought to 
make dominant and continue to advocate the policy 
which he more than any one else had sought to de- 
velop and to render coherent. Douglas himself 
was thus left with practically nothing to say. Al - 
though unused to defeat, he had always been the 
most outspoken advocate of those views which 
place party regularity before everything else. It 
was not possible for him, then, to utter a word 
against a convention which had sinned only in 
refusing to accept his personality. Moreover, his 
future was now bound up with that of the party. 
He pledged himself unequivocally to Buchanan and 
was apparently content with retaining his position 
as the foremost Democratic leader, notwithstand- 
ing that the party was now nominally headed by 

The action of the Eepublicans in their national 
convention at Philadelphia in nominating Fremont 
and denouncing "polygamy and slavery" was not 
happy, while Fillmore, nominated some time pre- 
viously as a Native American, and endorsed by 
other minor groups, tended to draw off the support 
which should have gone to Fremont. In this way 
the election of Buchanan was made unavoidable. 
After the Republican convention had separated, it 
was safe to guess that the Democrats would remain 
in control of the government, notwithstanding the 
enthusiasm and excitement which marked the cam- 
paign of the new party. Buchanan was declared 


elected by 174 electoral votes, while Fremont received 
114 and Fillmore but eight. Buchanan's popular 
vote was 1,838,169 and that of Fremont 1,341,264, 
while Fillmore had 874,534/ Thus it was true that 
the Democracy remained by far the largest political 
group in the community though a juuction of all 
the opposing elements would have defeated it. To 
prevent such a junction was plainly the problem of 
the party leaders, and it was with this problem dis- 
tinctly in mind that Douglas entered upon a new 
period of his political life. Though it had been 
clear that the Eepublicans were not yet in a posi- 
tion to win the presidency, it was also clear that a 
continuance of existing conditions would render the 
continuance of the Democrats in power out of the 
question. This made it necessary to see how far 
the Democratic party, now so largely dominated by 
the pro-slavery element, could maintain itself in 
national politics upon that basis, and whether the 
party, if it should attempt to modify its position, 
could do so without alienating from it the Southern 
element which was identified with a strong pro- 
slavery policy at Washington. Now for the first 
time, perhaps, was it clear to Douglas that the 
slavery question must be dealt with definitely in 
the near future, and that upon this question hung 
not only all his personal chances of advancement 
but also all the prospects of his party as a national 
force. Slavery prior to the manifestation of Eepub- 

1 Rhodes, History, Vol. II, p. 235 and Stanwood, History of 
Presidential Elections, p. 210. 


lican strength had not been identical with Demo- 
cratic party existence. The need of concession to 
the Northern Democrats, dissatisfied as they were 
with the inroads of the slavery element in Congress, 
had been abundantly established by the outcome 
at the polls, since it was plain that the loss of the 
Northern men whose following had been secured by 
the selection of Buchanan might have led to defeat. 
To the old- line leaders of the Democratic party, 
this situation gave much ground for anxiety, and 
Douglas himself, confronted with the hostility of 
his own state on the slavery question, undoubtedly 
felt that he must guide his steps with great care 
unless he were willing to be isolated politically, 
perhaps to be retired from the Senate, and there- 
with to lose his chances of the presidential suc- 
cession. A retrograde movement, or at all events 
a refusal to advance further along the extreme line 
of attack, into which he had been led by his advo- 
cacy of the Nebraska law, was becoming almost 



The unfriendly reception accorded to Douglas 
upon his return to his adopted state, and the re- 
verses which both his party and he personally had 
met with in the course of the fall campaign had 
been merely the forerunners of a difficult experience 
in Congress. Douglas understood, by the end of 
November, that the Kansas- Nebraska Act had cre- 
ated a tumult, and that its consequences could 
not be evaded, even if he were willing to retreat 
from the attitude which he had assumed. A posi- 
tion had been taken and the party must press for- 
ward along the line which had been indicated. 
The question was still open how far it should go, 
and what should be its plan of action with respect 
to the problems immediately facing it, but it was 
not possible to escape the issue which the Kansas- 
Nebraska Act forced upon the Democratic party. 
Douglas was therefore confronted with the task of 
putting into operation the law which he had per- 
sonally driven through Congress. The difficulty 
was the more genuine in that the measure was one 
which could not be allowed to rest as a dead letter. 
It dealt with the most active and most controverted 
question of the day, and this must be further dis- 


posed of by a Congress in which one house was 
under the control of the opposition. 

The Kansas- Nebraska Act, as has been seen, had 
provided for the erection of two territories, Kansas 
and Nebraska. As we have noted, 1 there wire va- 
rious interpretations of the causes of this two-fold or- 
ganization, among (hem one which found the divi- 
sion to be the fruit of a desire to secure the admission 
of one territory, ultimately, as a free state, and the 
other as a slave state. Whether such an idea was 
cherished by Douglas or not, it did gain a place in 
the minds of many pro-slavery men. With affairs 
in this unsettled position, the passage of the Kansas- 
Nebraska Act opened the way to a great tide of im- 
migration into the new territories. The settlers had 
been held back by treaties with the Indians, but 
at last all obstacles were removed and the popu- 
lation of the great domain, which had been placed 
at the disposal of the land-seeking immigrants, rose 
steadily. It was necessary to organize governments 
in both territories. The situation had been ren- 
dered the more difficult by the introduction of con- 
rlietiug elements of population. In July, 1854, a 
party had started from New England with the 
avowed object of making Kansas a tree state. This 
company consisted of 500 emigrants, who were later 
followed by additional parties numbering 2,500 
more.- Other bands of settlers came from elsewhere 

1 See p. 198. 

'Thayer, The Kaiisn* Crusade, p. 170, et seq. ; also Rhodes, 
History, Vol. II, p. 78. 


in the North and this led to an effort in western and 
northern Missouri to offset the movement. Secret 
organizations were formed in that state with the idea 
of extending slavery into Kansas. Settlers began 
to pass over the border and soon the material was 
at hand for a sharp struggle. Edwin Reeder had 
been designated by the President as governor of the 
territory, 1 and his arrival was almost simultaneous 
with the entry of the new and hostile groups of col- 
onists. Feeling was running high. It was not true 
that there had been an effort on the part of the New 
England men to prepare for actual warfare by arm- 
ing their pioneers, but their admitted and concerted 
effort to gain control by settling enough men in the 
state to carry the territorial elections, had led l<> 
threats of violence on the part of the secretly or- 
ganized pro-slavery men in Missouri. Reeder' s ar- 
rival encouraged the Missouri uns, and was corre- 
spondingly disheartening to the New England im- 
migrants. He was strongly Southern in his princi- 
ples and fully believed in the idea underlying the 
Kansas- Nebraska Act. Moreover, he had already 
committed himself to the opinion that the main source 
of trouble in the territory would be found in the New 
England settlers. The election of a territorial dele- 
gate took place on November 29, 1854. Whitfield, 
the candidate of the Missourians, was chosen, a re- 
sult which was brought about by importing a large 
number of pro-slavery voters from across the line. 
.The situation attracted very little attention, com- 
1 On November 2'J, 1854. 


paratively speaking, in other parts of the country, 
because the act under which the election was held 
extended the ballot to all male inhabitants of free 
birth and of the white race, twenty-one years of age 
and over, who were living in the territory at the 
time of the election though not necessarily at the 
time of the passage of the act. 

In the spring of 1855, „ however, the issue was 
much more sharply drawn in connection with the 
choice of a territorial legislature. An army of 5,000 
Missourians marched into Kansas to aid in electing 
their candidates, and distributed themselves over 
the doubtful districts. 1 The New Englanders saw 
their chances of success disappearing, although the 
governor sought to * prevent fraud so far as the 
difficult conditions permitted. Moreover, he gave 
only three weeks' notice of the election, which was 
to occur on March 30th, thus curtailing as much as 
possible the time within which the outside voters 
could recross into Kansas. The current of Missouri 
influence was, however, far too strong to permit of 
its being resisted, and the pro-slavery candidates 
were returned to the legislature by a large majority. 
Where doubt as to the result arose, new elections 
were ordered by the governor, but these were ren- 
dered of no avail by the action of the pro-slavery 
managers in seating the bulk of original candidates. 2 
In complete control of the legislature, the pro-slav- 
ery men immediately proceeded to enact a series 

1 Rhode9, History, Vol. II, p. 81 ; Spring, Kansas, pp. 44-47. 
s Spring, Kansas, p. 50, et seq. 


of extreme laws, and Beeder, who had been strongly 
friendly to the slavery side because of his difficult 
and hazardous experience during the winter and 
spring, 1854-1855, now completely shifted his posi- 
tion. He came back to the East and told his story 
to the President, while the New England element in 
Kansas called a series of conventions for the purpose 
of drafting a constitution in opposition to slavery 
and applied for admission to the Union as a free 

Eeeder was superseded and the case was now be- 
fore Congress. Douglas had been detained at home, 
but he reached Washington not long after the open- 
ing of the session of 1855-1856. He found that 
President Pierce had already sent two messages to 
Congress in which he had discussed the Kansas 
situation. 1 In his annual message, he had laid 
down the rule that resistance to territorial law must 
and would be promptly suppressed ; while on Jan- 
uary 24th, in a special message, he had upheld the 
Kansas-Nebraska Act which he said made it clear 
that the general provision for political organization 
of the territories lay within the powers of the Fed- 
eral government, and that the inhabitants of any 
territory had the right to determine what should be 
their local laws, subject only to the Constitution of 
the United States. He referred to the action of the 
New England men who had drafted a constitution 
of their own, and recommended that the inhabitants 

1 Messages and Papers of the Presidents of the U. S. , Vol. V, 
pp. 342 and 352 ff. 


be authorized to form a state government and to 
seek admission to the Union whenever they became 
sufficiently numerous to elect delegates to a conven- 
tion called for that purpose. 

Douglas had not been able to present himself in 
the Senate until the 11th of February. He resumed 
his place at the head of the Committee on Terri- 
tories. In a month he was ready to report upon the 
Kansas situation apropos of the recommendations of 
the President and of various documents which had 
been transmitted to his committee. His report, 
and a speech accompanying it, offered a complete 
history of Kansas affairs as well as a discussion of 
the power of Congress over the territories. The 
minority submitted its report also. This was fol- 
lowed by a bill which Douglas reported on the 17th 
of March, authorizing the people of the territory to 
form a constitution and state government, and, on 
the 20th, by a speech in support of the bill. The 
debate was opened in good earnest by a sharp per- 
/ sonal encounter between Douglas and his colleague, 
■ Trumbull, who had taken occasion to speak upon 
; the report in the absence of Douglas, and continued 
until June 25th. Mr. Seward had introduced a bill 
which he offered as a substitute for the Douglas bill 
and in which he proposed to admit Kansas as a 
state under the anti-slavery constitution drafted at 
Topeka. Several other bills had been proposed by 
various members, but on June 25th Senator Toombs 
of Georgia offered a substitute for all bills then 
pending and the whole set of measures was referred 


back to the Committee on Territories for considera- 
tion. On the 30th of June Douglas made a report 
in which he accepted the Toombs bill as a general 
substitute, and reopened the debate, the measure 
passing at 8 o'clock a. m. on July 3d, after a twenty- 
hour session. 

It was during this protracted debate, covering 
the whole of the spring and early summer of 1856, 
that Douglas's theory of popular sovereignty and 
territorial rights received its most authoritative 
and clear-cut exposition. In his first report of 
March 12th, he had defended the Kansas- Nebraska 
Act upon familiar grounds, and had made the point 
with considerable force that Congress could not im- 
pose on any territory restrictions which would pre- 
vent it from becoming a state upon the same terms 
and with the same privileges as were enjoyed by 
other states. He could not, therefore, believe that 
Congress could admit a territory which had been 
organized with the previous understanding or re- 
quirement that there should not be slavery or any 
other system of labor within its borders. The 
speech of March 20th went farther than the report, 
and discussed the general question of slavery, as well 
as its special status in Kansas. Much of the discus- 
sion contained in the report was devoted to a more 
or less partisan and very detailed view of events in 
the territory. The portions of it which were of 
most interest, however, did not deal with current 
politics but sought to present the speaker's theory 
of the broader question at issue. "The leading 


idea and fundamental principle of the Kansas-Ne- 
braska Act as expressed in the law itself," he 
noted, ' ' was to leave the actual settlers and bona 
fide inhabitants of each territory ' perfectly free to 
form and regulate their domestic institutions in 
their own way subject only to the Constitution of 
the United States.' " ' The restrictions of the Con- 
stitution, he held, were " few, specific and uniform, 
applicable alike to all the states old and new. 
There is no authority for putting a restriction upon 
the sovereignty of a new state which the Constitu- 
tion has not placed on the original state. Indeed 
if such a restriction could be imposed on any state, 
it would instantly cease to be a state within the 
meaning of the Federal constitution, and in conse- 
quence of the inequality, would assimilate to the 
condition of a province or dependency." 

In examining the extent of the prerogatives or 
sovereign rights of the several states, Douglas urged 
that "African slavery existed in all the Colonies 
under the sanction of the British government prior 
to the Declaration of Independence. When the 
Constitution of the United States was adopted, it 
became the supreme law and bond of union between 
twelve slaveholding states and one non-slavehold- 
ing state ; each state reserved the right to reserve 
the question of slavery for itself, to continue it as 
a domestic institution as long as it pleased, and to 
abolish it when it chose." 2 The report took a 

Senate Report, No. 34; 1st Seas., 34th Cong., p. 39. 
9 Ibid., p. 2. 


view adverse to the anti- slavery party in Kansas, 
and sought to avert the threatened conflict there 
by recommending that the holding of a constitu- 
tional convention be deferred until "the territory 
contains 93,420 inhabitants, that being the number 
required by the present ratio of representation for 
a member of Congress." The speech of the 20th 
of March developed these same ideas and included 
a running colloquy of the keenest kind between 
Douglas, Seward and Sumner. Douglas went back 
to the compromise legislation of 1850, and at- 
tempted to make good the historical and constitu- 
tional position which he had then taken. This, 
however, was more by way of controversy than 
anything else, for his speech did not add materially 
to the value of the argument already developed in 
his report, although he rebutted with unusual skill 
the cutting criticisms of his opponents. Sumner 
now came into remarkable prominence because of 
his success in replying to Douglas, and because of 
the special vigor and effectiveness with which he 
met Douglas's peculiar style of oratory. The con- 
flict between Douglas and Sumner became very 
bitter and finally degenerated into personal criti- 
cism and retort. In fact the acrimony during the 
weeks succeeding Douglas's opening speech fairly 
surpassed anything that had ever been displayed 
on the floor of the Senate. Sumner charged Douglas 
with being a u squire of slavery, its very Sancho 
Panza," and, after his personal objurgations, 
asserted that Douglas's report and speech showed 


that their author had " constrained himself . . , 
to unfamiliar decencies of speech." ' This ex- 
cessively bitter onslaught had been induced by 
constant offensive comment directed personally 
against himself, charging among other things that 
he was guilty of the manufacture of stories about 
Kansas for his own ends. Douglas, in answering, 
asserted that Sumner's insulting references had 
been drafted at leisure, practiced, and prepared in 
order to make the proper impression. He suc- 
ceeded in turning against Sumner the laughter and 
ridicule of many of the members of the Senate, and 
the incident closed with offensive epithets and 
taunts on both sides. Storey, the secretary and 
biographer of Sumner, quotes the correspondent of 
a Missouri newspaper who was probably no over- 
friendly critic, to the effect that Sumner " was abused 
and insulted as grossly as any man could be, but 
he replied successfully to the unmeasured vitupera- 
tion of Douglas, and the aristocratic and withering 
hauteur of Mason." 2 Conflict between Sumner and 
Douglas seemed to be in certain prospect when 
Brooks of South Carolina made his nearly murderous 

1 Storey, Life of Charles Sumner, American Statesmen Series, 
1900. p. 140. 

2 Ibid., p. 144. The correspondent wrote as follows : " That 
Sumner displayed great ability and showed that in oratorical 
talent he was no unworthy successor of Adams, Webster, and 
Everett, no one who heard him will deny. In vigor and rich- 
ness of diction, in felicity and fecundity of illustration, in 
breadth and completeness of view, he stands unsur- 
passed. ... In his reply to Cass, Douglas, and Mason, 
who stung him into exoitement, he was more successful than 


assault upon the senator from Massachusetts, 1 — an 
incident for which, fortunately, Douglas was wholly 
free of responsibility. 

As finally reported by Douglas and passed by the 
Senate, the Toombs bill had made some concession 
to the opposing sentiment which, it was recognized 
was running so high that further hostilities would 
be unwise. The measure had carried with it a pro- 
vision that there should be a census of the popula- 
tion of Kansas, and that delegates to a constitutional 
convention should be elected subsequent to the 
taking of the census. In order to assure fairness, 
it was provided that the President should select 
five men whose choice should be ratified by the 
Senate. These men were then to make the enumer- 
ation and see that the population which it indicated 
was duly registered for voting. When this had 
been done, an election by these duly registered 
voters was to be held on the same date as the 
November presidential election. Granting the 
general position of Douglas, it was evident that 
these provisions were essentially just ; the only 
question was whether the commissioners would be 
fairly and disinterestedly chosen. And on this 
point the attitude already adopted both by Douglas 
and by the President might give rise to reasonable 

at any other time. The collision knocked fire from him; and 
well it might, for he was abused and insulted as grossly as any 
man could be ; but he replied successfully to the unmeasured 
vituperation of Douglas, and the aristocratic and withering 
hauteur of Mason." 
1 See p. 143. 


doubts. Such doubts were entertained by the op- 
position, and were in some instances directly voiced 
by them, although the measure, as already noted, 
was finally passed — the vote standing thirty- three 
to twelve. 

Meantime, however, the House of Representa- 
tives, dominated by the opposition, had passed 
a bill for the admission of Kansas on the same 
day on which the Senate acted — the vote stand- 
ing ninety-nine to ninety-seven. This action 
sent the House bill to the Senate Committee on 
Territories, whence it was reported on the 8th of 
July with an amendment resubstituting the Senate 
bill (the Toombs bill), while in the House the 
measure sent there by the Senate (the Toombs bill) 
was tabled. Douglas's report to the Senate with 
reference to the House bill explained and criticized 
that measure. The House, however, deferred all 
action until the 29th of July when a new measure 
was substituted for a relatively unimportant bill 
annulling certain acts of the legislative assembly 
of Kansas that had been pending. This substitute, 
the so-called Dunn Bill, was brought before the 
House by a special parliamentary manoeuvre, and 
the title was made to read "an act to reorganize 
the territory of Kansas, and for other purposes." 
The measure received an almost unanimous vote 
from the House Republicans and was without doubt 
an extraordinary and extreme proposal offered for 
purely party purposes. After a long delay, during 
which Douglas had time on the 11th of August to 


report against this new form of the House plan, the 
effort to secure any sort of compromise was aban- 
doned and Congress adjourned without action on 
the subject. 

Just at the juncture when Douglas was most 
keenly feeling the consequences of his course on the 
Kansas- Nebraska question, his position had been 
rendered even more difficult by the decision of the 
Supreme Court of the United States in the so-called 
Died Scott case. This decision was a sorry blow 
for Douglas, so much so that by some it is coupled 
with the accession of James Buchanan to the presi- 
dency — two fatal events in this period of his career. 
Dred Scott was a negro who had several years be- 
fore sued for his own freedom and for the freedom of 
his family from slavery. The case drifted through 
the lower courts, and finally, after the customary 
tedious delays, worked its way to the Supreme 
Court. Its interest was entirely constitutional and 
impersonal, because it had been brought up as a 
test case and because Dred Scott and his family, 
after being enslaved by order of the Supreme Court, 
were freed by their owner, a congressman from 
Massachusetts. It raised two important issues : the 
one whether a negro whose progenitors had been 
slaves could be a citizen of any state in the United 
States ; the other whether the Missouri Compromise 
was constitutional. 

Dred Scott came of slave parents and had spent 
most of his life in Missouri. Afterward his owner 
took him to Minnesota where he lived for two years. 


The Missouri Compromise had prohibited slavery 
in that part of the country and hence arose the 
question whether a negro slave who had lived there 
two years had gained his freedom. Connected with 
this was the question whether Congress could pro- 
hibit slavery in the territories. 1 The importance of 
the case was quickly seen and the Supreme Court 
was placed under very heavy pressure, the result 
being that the court hesitated and discussed the issue 
in an almost unprecedented way. There was no 
suggestion of any irregular or illegitimate influence, 
but it was an undoubted fact that the personal sym- 
pathies and sectional prejudices of the justices, five 
of whom were Southerners, were actively aroused. 
Chief-Justice Taney delivered the opinion of the 
court on the 6th of March, 1857. He held that 
negroes were not included as citizens under the 
Constitution, hence could claim no constitutional 
immunities. Furthermore, Congress had never 
been warranted in passing the Missouri Com- 
promise Act which was therefore invalid. 2 Dis- 
senting opinions were presented, but there was no 
doubt about the meaning of the opinion of the 
majority of the court. 

It was no wonder that the decision was received 
with joy by the pro-slavery Democrats who imme- 
diately printed and distributed it as a campaign 
document. To Douglas, who had fought fiercely on 

1 Cf. Rhodes, Vol. IT, pp. 251-264. 

5 Supreme Court Reports, Dred Scott v. Sandford, 19 Howard 
p. 393, et seq. 


the basis of the Missouri Compromise, the decision 
came as a severe blow. His often-repeated princi- 
ple of obedience to a mandate of the Supreme Court 
must now, however, determine his course. He saw 
that he must accept and seek to vindicate the ac- 
tion of the court. Because of this decision, he 
argued, there was the more reason why stress 
should be placed upon the necessity of preserving 
the absolute power of the inhabitants of a given 
region to determine what their position with refer- 
ence to slavery should be. Since the Supreme 
Court had thrown to the winds the basis upon 
which the geographical extension and restriction 
of slavery had been founded, there remained now as 
the sole guide the disposition of the inhabitants of 
any territory, as recorded in their constitutions and 
laws. For Congress to attempt to control would 
henceforward more than ever be unconstitutional 
and unwise. In every case the decision must be 
made to depend upon the carefully ascertained 
views of the voters. 

The situation in Kansas meanwhile had remained 
unsettled and unsatisfactory. President Buchanan 
had sent Bobert J. Walker of Mississippi to the 
state as governor. Walker had arrived there on 
the 26th of May, 1857, and published an inaugural 
address which had previously been submitted to 
both Douglas and Buchanan. As a Southern man 
he would gladly have seen Kansas a slave state, 
but as a fair-minded man he recognized that this 
1 Rhodes, Vol. II, p. 273. 


was out of the question. Only about two or three 
hundred slaves were now in the territory and it was 
the belief of Walker that, by making Kansas a free 
state, it would be possible to unite the opposing 
factions in a way that would nevertheless give its 
votes to the Democratic party, and would conse- 
quently place the state in the Senate on the side of 
the Southern group. "Walker urged all good 
citizens to join in the election of June 15th, which 
was to name delegates to a constitutional conven- 
tion, but with meagre result ; for the men who be- 
lieved in the anti-slavery doctrine practically 
refused to respond to the appeal of the governor, so 
that only a small percentage, less than one-quarter 
of the total number of registered voters, cast ballots. 
Those who did vote were largely pro slavery advo- 
cates, and the men whom they elected were of 
course of their own way of thinking. The outcome 
was the choice of a convention strongly biased in 
one direction, and from which little that was satis- 
factory to the men who had foolishly refrained from 
participating in the election could be expected. 

The Free-Soil men saw their error too late, and 
set themselves earnestly to work to control the 
autumn elections at which a territorial legislature 
was to be chosen. In this effort they were success- 
ful, electing a large majority of members, and thus 
the singular condition existed that,, though a pro- 
slavery constitutional convention had been chosen, 
an anti-slavery legislature was in control of the 
affairs of the territory. It had become apparent to 


most of the cooler-headed pro-slavery men, as it had 
to Governor Walker, that the sentiment of the state 
would not endorse a pro-slavery constitution. The 
convention, however, proceeded along its own lines, 
and a trick was relied upon to avoid a defeat when 
the constitution should be submitted to popular 
vote. Meeting at a place called Lecoinpton, in 
September, the convention had reassembled after 
the election, on the 19th of October, under the pro- 
tection of Federal troops. In the final draft of the 
document appeared this clause : " The right of 
property is before and higher than any constitu- 
tional sanction and the right of the owner of a slave 
to such slave and its increase is the same and as in- 
violable as the right of the owner of any property 
whatever." The constitution could not be amended 
until after 1864, and even at that time there was to 
be no alteration that would ' l affect the rights of 
property in the ownership of slaves." The election 
was to take place on December 21st when the people 
might vote for the " constitution with slavery, or 
the constitution with no slavery." There was to be 
no opportunity to vote against the constitution, and 
even if the " constitution with no slavery " received 
a majority, the situation was not hopeless from 
slavery's point of view. It was provided simply 
that slavery should ' i no longer exist in the state of 
Kansas, except that the right of property in slaves 
now in this territory shall in no measure be inter- 
fered with." ' 

1 Rhodes, Vol. II, p. 279. 


This action of the Lecomptou convention brought 
to a head all those elements of disorder which had 
been temporarily scattered in Kansas. The scheme 
was recognized throughout the Union as one of those 
contemptible tricks, common in American politics 
and too patiently endured, contrived for the object 
of advancing some temporary or local cause. In 
this instance, however, it was the general opinion 
that the ruse affected matters of too great moment 
to be accepted either in Kansas itself or anywhere 
throughout the UnioD. Governor Walker denounced 
the scheme as "a vile fraud, a base counterfeit, and 
a wretched device ; " 1 while all the decent people of 
Kansas, whether anti-slavery or pro-slavery in sym- 
pathy, exerted every effort to bring about the re- 
jection of the proposition, thus avoiding the neces- 
sity of submitting to a scheme which had been pre- 
pared in this dishonest way. 

The real nature of the trick had been hidden for 
a time from the eyes of the country, owing partly 
to the limited means then available of transmitting 
intelligence. During the time that the true situa- 
tion was thus obscured, some ground had been re- 
gained by the Democrats, who had won pretty gen- 
erally at the autumn elections (1857), and were 
nervously anxious not to sink back into the gulf of 
defeat. As soon as the facts began to leak out, as 
they did about the time that Congress assembled, 
there was an immediate outburst of public opinion. 
Throughout the northern section of the Democratic 
1 Rhodes, Vol. II, p. 280. 


party, the Leconipton plan was denounced ; even 
some of the most hide -bound partisans declared that 
it was not to be tolerated. In Illinois particularly, 
there was strong sentiment against the action of the 
convention, and pressure was put upon Douglas to 
oppose it. He would thereby separate himself from 
the extreme pro-slavery group to which he had be- 
come an ally and commit himself to the views and 
policies of the Northern Democrats and the moderate 
slavery men. 

Thus a most serious alternative was placed before 
Douglas. During the past two years he had already 
seen his personal power in Illinois wavering, due to 
the general feeling that he had gone too far in his 
advocacy of the wishes of the slavery party in Con- 
gress. Yet should he now break with those who 
were endeavoring to make Kansas a slave state"? 
If he should do so, would he not thereby forfeit the 
support of what was possibly the most closely or- 
ganized body of men in Congress ? Would he not 
hopelessly alienate friends and retainers who were 
necessary in the approaching presidential contest 
upon which his attention was now fixed 1 ? The 
choice was difficult, and it was rendered more so by 
reason of the intellectual complexities which beset 
him. He had advocated the right of citizens of the 
state to settle the slavery question as they pleased. 
The constitutional convention had been elected, al- 
though by a minority of the voters. Why should 
there be outside interference intended to prevent 
the inhabitants from dealing with their own prob- 


lems as they saw fit? On the other hand, if this 
constitution, with its double-faced provision as to 
slavery, should be foisted upon the people, would 
the real spirit and meaning of the Kansas- Nebraska 
legislation be maintained? Douglas was particu- 
larly embarrassed by the fact that he had already 
spoken in public on several occasions, eulogizing 
the action of Walker and asserting that the Presi- 
dent would unquestionably carry out the spirit of 
the Kansas- Nebraska act in every detail. 

Difficult as was the situation, there could be but 
one logical outcome. If Douglas now adopted a 
course of action which would reduce his personal 
popularity in his own state and perhaps deprive 
him of its direct support, he would lose an indis- 
pensable asset in his presidential aspirations. It 
was unfortunate to have to break with the extreme 
wing of his Southern support, but this was a loss 
that might possibly be overcome, while to cut the 
ground from beneath his own feet at home would 
be impossible. He decided upon a positive course, 
calculated to resist and condemn the action of the 
Lecompton convention, and in this mind he started 
for Washington in December, 1857, first giving out, 
at Chicago, a statement that he would oppose the 
pro-slavery scheme. Douglas, nevertheless, was not 
disposed to go unnecessarily far in the role of re- 
former. On reaching Washington he hastened to 
the White House and communicated his views to 
Buchanan. Buchanan, beset by some of the same 
doubts and embarrassments which had harassed 


Douglas, but directed by uo such imperative ne- 
cessity as had governed the action of the senator 
from Illinois, told the latter that he intended to 
throw his influence to the side of the slavery advo- 
cates and of the Lecompton convention. Douglas 
remonstrated, without avail. What happened at 
the interview has been variously described, but 
there is no difference regarding the main features. 
According to Nicolay and Hay 1 "Buchanan in- 
sisted that he must recommend it" [the Lecomp- 
ton constitution] "in his annual message. Doug- 
las replied that he would denounce it as soon as it 
was read. The President excited, told him ' to re- 
member that no Democrat ever yet differed from an 
administration of his own choice without being 
crushed. Beware of the fate of Tallmadge and 
Bives.' 'Mr. President,' retorted Douglas, ' I wish 
you to remember that General Jackson is dead.' " 
Douglas had thus definitely accepted the idea of a 
breach with Buchauau, whose weakness and reac- 
tionary tendencies he correctly estimated. 2 He 

1 Abraham Lincoln, A History, 1890, Vol. II, p. 120. 

2 Flint, Douglas, pp. 91-92 says: "The President, however, 
would tolerate no difference of opinion among friends on this 
question. Upon the tariff — upon specific and ad valorem du- 
ties — upon the Pacifio Railroad — upon the Homestead Bill — 
upon the Neutrality Laws — and, indeed, on any and every 
other question, Democratic senators and representatives, and 
cabinet officers, were at liberty to think and act as they pleased, 
without impairing their personal or political relations with the 
President. But on the Kansas question, having determined to 
abandon the principles and reverse the policy to which he had 
pledged the administration and the party, he regarded Mr. 
Douglas's refusal to follow him in his change of principles and 


himself had no mind to become the champion of 
a losing cause, for success was now his cardinal 
principle, and he had none of the Bourbon spirit 
which carried the extreme Southern slavery party 
forward even to the shedding of blood. He was 
as good as his word, and hardly had Buchanan 
sent in a message in which he weakly indicated ' 
that in case the Lecompton constitution was pre- 
sented he would advise the admission of Kansas 
under its provisions, when Douglas on the follow- 
ing day (December 9th) instituted a bitter attack 
upon that constitution, and incidentally upon the 
President. 2 After some rather scathing remarks 
directed at Buchanan and his recommendations, he 
restated the principle of the Kansas-Nebraska bill 
as having been that of treating the slavery question 
like every other, and consequently of leaving it to 
the inhabitants of each and every would-be state to 
settle for themselves. This idea had been violated 
by the Lecompton convention which proposed to 
"force . . . down the throats of the people of 
Kansas, in opposition to their wishes aud in viola- 
tion of our pledges, a constitution which was repug- 

policy as a serious reflection upon his own conduct. All free- 
dom of judgment and action was denied. Implicit obedience 
to the behests of the President wa9 demanded. The senator 
was required to obey the mandate of the Executive, instead of 
to represent the will of his constituency. The representatives 
of the states and of the people were required to surrender their 
convictions, their judgments and their consciences to the Ex- 
ecutive, and to receive instructions from him instead of them." 

1 Messages and Papers, Vol. V, p. 471. 

8 Globe, 1st Sess., 35th Cong., pp. 14-18. 


nant to them. " He rejected the views of those op- 
portunists who urged that Congress should await 
the result of the election on the 21st of December. 
The Lecompton constitution, he showed, made it 
impossible to have " a fair vote on the slavery 
clause" and therefore, he asked, " why wait for the 
mockery of an election, when it is provided unal- 
terably, that the people cannot vote — when the 
majority are disfranchised ? " 

The outcome of the election, he protested, was of 
no particular importance from the present stand- 
point, because there was no more reason for forcing 
upon Kansas a free state constitution than a slave 
state constitution. Passing definitely to the side 
of the Northern Democrats, he asserted: — "It is 
none of my business which way the slavery clause 
is decided. I care not whether it is voted down or 
voted up." The operations in Kansas, whereby 
the Lecompton constitution had been brought to 
the front, he denounced as " a system of trickery and 
jugglery to defeat the fair expression of the will of 
the people. ' ' The only way to get an honest decision, 
he thought, was to recur to the Toombs bill, or some 
other similar in character, and to enact legislation 
which would render it possible to get a fair ballot. 

Douglas's defection was bitterly resented by the 
pro-slavery men who had supposed that he was 
hopelessly bound to them by his presidential aspi- 
rations. 1 Instantly he was attacked by Bigler of 

'The powerful impression made upon the mind of John 
Sherman by Douglas's leadership has been expressed in his 


Pennsylvania and by Mason. He at once answered 
Mason, and then engaged in an interchange of shots 
with Bigler, based upon a suggestion of the latter 
that at certain secret meetings in Douglas's own 
house, Douglas had advocated the Lecomptou con- 
stitution. Bigler asserted that the question of sub- 
mitting the constitution to the people was dis- 
cussed at his opponent's house, but he professed to 
be somewhat hazy in his recollection whether 
Douglas himself had taken a definite stand upon 
the question of direct submission. Others, however, 
recalled that in former speeches and documents 
he had advocated leaving the slavery question to 
the people through delegates chosen for that pur- 
pose. Douglas emerged from the debate with sub- 
stantial success, notwithstanding the skill of some 

Recollections, Vol. I, p. 149 ff. — " When Congress assembled, the 
Lecompton scheme became the supreme subject for debate. 
Mr. Douglas assumed at once the leadership of the opposition 
to that measure. He said : ' Up to the time of meeting of the 
convention, in October last, the pretense was kept up, the pro- 
fession was openly made, and believed by me, and I thought 
believed by them, that the convention intended to submit a 
constitution to the people, and not to attempt to put a govern- 
ment into operation without such a submission.' But instead 
of that, ' All men must vote for the constitution, whether they 
like it or not, in order to be permitted to vote for or against 
slavery.' Again he said : ' I have asked a very large number 
of the gentlemen who framed the constitution, quite a number 
of delegates, and still a larger number of persons who are their 
friends, and I have received the same answer from every one 
of them. . . They say if they allowed a negative vote 

the constitution would have been voted down by an overwhelm 
ing majority, and hence the fellows shall not be allowed to 
vote at all.' He denounced it as ' a trick, a fraud upon the 
rights of the people.' " 


of his antagonists. The applause from the galleries 
of the Senate chamber was tremendous, while anti- 
slavery men hardly knew what to make of the 
situation. They saw, of course, that Douglas would 
shortly have to enter upon a campaign for reelection 
in Illinois, and they marked with satisfaction the 
growth of the anti- slavery feeling in that state. 
They knew that, if defeated for the Senate, he would 
be politically dead for the time being at least. For 
all these and other obvious reasons, they did not 
trust Douglas or in any measure believe in his new 
position ; they felt that with a shifting of political 
conditions he would shortly appear once more as 
the shrewd pettifogging advocate he had seemed 
during the early stages of the Kansas- Nebraska 

While Douglas was thus failing to get, among 
anti-slavery men, the recognition which some might 
have expected, but which he himself would prob- 
ably have detested, he had also failed in a more 
vital respect. He did not obtain the favor of the 
Northern Democratic wing in Congress, or of mod- 
erate Democrats anywhere. Save for a few scatter- 
ing supporters, he was now isolated, while the less 
courageous Northern Democratic senators, long 
jealous of Douglas's preeminent position, set them- 
selves at the task of harassing and annoying him 
on the floor. The change of front had succeeded 
admirably at home, and had retrieved what seemed 
to have been an almost hopeless situation in Illinois. 
The conspicuous position which Douglas had as- 


sumed flattered the vanity of the voters, while 
those who had feared that he was too close to the 
Southern slaveholders were now convinced that 
their suspicions had been wrong. ' ' An immense 
mass-meeting was held in Chicago," says Sheahan, 
' ' and resolutions of the most unqualified approba- 
tion of the doctrines of the speech were enthusi- 
astically adopted." 1 Douglas had once more shown 
himself a master in the political game, turning a 
threatened defeat into a brilliant personal victory, 
although by so doing demoralizing the forces which 
he had been leading in the Senate. 

The contest in Congress now opened vigorously. 
In Kansas, the Lecompton constitution was of 
course adopted. The anti slavery men regarded 
the election as a sham and remained absent. Hence 
the legislature provided for another election on 
January 4, 1858. This had been done by reason of 
the action of Stanton, then acting governor in the 
absence of "Walker, in convening a special session 
of the legislature which was under the control of 
the anti-slavery party. Stanton was immediately 
removed by Buchanan, but the second election was 
held in the meanwhile, and resulted in the casting 
of a large vote against the constitution under any 
conditions, thus making it clear that there was 
a substantial majority against its adoption. 
Buchanan, however, in a message of February 2d, s 
sent the Lecompton constitution to the Senate, 
recommending the admission of Kansas under it. 

1 Life, p. 324. 3 Messages and Papers, Vol. V, p. 471. 


This message was referred to the Committee on 
Territories, which in the meanwhile had been re- 
appointed with Douglas as chairman, and a bitter 
debate was opened on the floor. The President had 
also sent to Congress the constitution of the state of 
Minnesota which had been referred to the Commit- 
tee on Territories and was now pending, along 
with the Kansas question. Douglas's attitude had 
led his colleagues, while refraining from deposing 
him as chairman, to make up the membership of 
the committee in a way that insured opposition. 
The membership included beside Douglas, Jones of 
Iowa, Sebastian of Arkansas, Fitzpatrick of Ala- 
bama, Green of Missouri, Collamer of Vermont, 
and Wade of Ohio. This practically insured three 
distinct groups in the Committee. The Southern 
or pro-slavery group comprised Sebastian, Fitzpat- 
rick and Green, while the small Northern anti- 
slavery group included Collamer and Wade. Doug- 
las was practically isolated, although he had the 
tentative support of Jones of Iowa, who, however, 
finally attached himself to the Southern section. 

Under the leadership of Green, a majority of the 
Committee reported a bill to admit Kansas into the 
Union. This was on February 18th, and at the 
same time Douglas reported against the measure, 
while Collamer and Wade united in another com- 
mittee report. Douglas's report developed little 
that was novel, but followed the same line as the 
speech which he had delivered on the floor at the 
time of his breach with the administration. The 


Lecompton constitution had been adopted and sub- 
mitted in a way that was out of harmony with the 
spirit of the Kansas- Nebraska act, and therefore it 
was proper for Congress to intervene, and to exer- 
cise its superior power with a view to guaranteeing 
a true expression of the will of the people. While 
the report was made purely upon Douglas's own 
individual authority, and while he had evidently 
little personal following in Congress, it was plainly 
evident that his position was of considerable im- 
portance, since it was influencing many along lines 
which they had previously refused to follow. To 
the whole country it was a great and shining ex- 
ample of personal courage, and in that light it 
caused special annoyance to the ringsters in Con- 
gress who regarded nothing as more odious than in- 
dependent thought and action. Every effort was 
made to entrap Douglas into some inconsistent posi- 
tion, and this result was specially sought in connec- 
tion with the constitution of Minnesota, where the 
issue of direct submission to the people was like- 
wise raised. Douglas, however, took his stand 
upon the broad ground of a desire to have every 
state constitution represent merely the manifest 
wish of the majority of those who were to live under 
it, and no progress was achieved in suppressing his 
personality on the floor, although he did not take 
his usual conspicuous part in the debate. The 
effort was made, therefore, to attack him on purely 
political lines. The Democratic administration was 
then thoroughly and absolutely in control of all the 


apparatus of government, and the usual form of dis- 
cipline was now applied for the purpose of break- 
ing up his personal "machine." Appointments 
that should have gone to him were made without 
reference to his wishes, while his own political ad- 
herents were dismissed and proscribed. The local 
offices in Illinois which by custom he had been 
allowed to fill, were taken from him, and the effort 
was made to cut away the ground that had been 
gained by his change of front in connection with 
the Kansas question. 

None of these manoeuvres, however, was suc- 
cessful and the discussion, punctuated by efforts to 
force a vote, dragged on until March 23d, when Crit- 
tenden presented a substitute measure. It provided 
in substance that Kansas should be admitted with 
the Lecompton constitution, but admission was 
made conditional upon the prior submission of the 
instrument to a direct vote of the people, and a 
majority vote in its favor. In case the constitution 
should be approved, the President was to declare 
Kansas a state. This plan was rejected, however, 
by a moderate majority, and then the original 
measure, reported by Green and his colleagues of 
the committee, simply providing for the admission 
of Kansas with the Lecompton constitution, was 

This action was taken after Douglas, on the 
evening of the 22d of March, had delivered a long 
speech, having risen from a sick bed in order to be 
present. In it he reviewed his position and general 


attitude on the Kansas question. The speech was 
frequently interrupted and was far more desultory 
than most of his efforts, closing with a weak form 
of apology for the personalities he had indulged in. 
As we have seen, it did not change the course of the 
Senate's action. 1 The Senate bill had been passed 
by a vote of thirty-three to twenty-five. It now 
went to the House and on the 1st of April the Crit- 
tenden amendment, which had failed in the Senate, 
was substituted by a vote of 120 to 122. After dis- 
cussion, a conference committee representing both 
bodies reported a bill prepared by Mr. English of 
Indiaua and known as the English bill. This was a 
compromise which made a large grant of govern- 
ment lands to Kansas, and provided that the peo- 
ple should vote upon the question of accepting the 
lands and entering the Union under the Lecompton 
constitution, while in case they rejected the lands 
and the constitution they should not be admitted as 
a state until there was a sufficient population to 
conform to the congressional requirements for a 
representative. This proposal was accepted in both 
houses although, after some hesitation, Douglas 
voted against it in the Senate. When the proposi- 
tion was presented to the people of Kansas on 
August 2d, an overwhelming majority (11,300 
out of 13,088 votes) was cast against the English 
bill. Slavery had thus been defeated, and the 
Kansas question, although partially settled, re- 

'For text of this speech see Globe, 1st Seas., 35th Cong., 
Appendix, pp. 194-202. 


inained ; while the saving of Douglas's personal 
fortunes had again disorganized the Democratic 
party in Congress. It was a melancholy outcome 
of his movement for the presidential nomination, 
which had been the origin of the Kansas- Nebraska 

Attention was now more and more closely con- 
centrated upon Douglas's personal future. Not 
only had his own commanding position focussed 
public notice, but he was regarded by increasing 
numbers as embodying the prospects of the Demo- 
cratic party. As early as July, 1858, Godkin had 
already written: "In the political world every- 
body's attention is absorbed by the canvass for the 
Illinois election in the autumn, when Senator 
Douglas will have to struggle against a host of foes. 
It was rumored at one time that the Lecomptonites 
were disposed to forgive him his bad conduct last 
winter, and in order to preserve the unity of the 
party receive him once more into the Democratic 
fold. These expectations are, however, now at an 
end, and it is ascertained, beyond all question, that 
he will have to encounter the unrelenting hostility 
of his old friends, as well as of the Eepublicans. 
With the latter his services to the Free Soil cause 
during the last session of Congress have not sufficed 
to wipe out the recollection of the Missouri Com- 
promise, and a hundred other stabs administered to 
freedom by the same nervous arm. Douglas made 
his entry into Chicago on Saturday, and delivered 
a long address, reviewing his recent course. He 


was received with mixed demonstrations of ap- 
plause and disapprobation. In spite of his treason, 
his chances of victory are probably greater than 
those of any other man in the Union would be 
under the same circumstances. This division in 
the ranks of the Democrats gives the Eepublicans a 
better chance of victory in Illinois than ever they 
have had before ; and a Eepublican victory in Illi- 
nois, the headquarters of Douglas, would create the 
most tremendous 'sensation' of latter days, and 
would very materially influence the next presiden- 
tial election." ' 

No one was more keenly alive to the responsibili- 
ties resting upon him than Douglas himself. He 
now had at issue not only the presidency, his hopes 
for which had already received some very serious 
blows, but also his seat in the Senate, since it was 
necessary that he should seek reelection at the 
hands of a constituency profoundly dissatisfied with 
the position he had taken during the Kansas- 
Nebraska struggle and, it seemed, only partially 
reassured by the change of front which he himself 
had shrewdly made in connection with the Lecomp- 
ton question . Should he be defeated for the Senate, 
Douglas could not hope for any future whatever in 
national politics. The verdict against a man who 
could not carry his own state would be unhesi- 
tatingly unfavorable. Moreover, it would be a 
note of warning that would be heard all over the 
country and would call every doubting voter to 
1 Ufe ofE. L. Oodkin, Vol. I, pp. 177-178. 


arms against the Democratic party. On all ac- 
counts, then, it was incumbent upon Douglas to do 
his utmost. At all hazards, he must win the battle 
in Illinois, and he must win it in a way that would 
give him what might pass for a triumphant vindica- 
tion. Nothing less than this would suffice. 

There were, however, some hopeful indications. 
Not a few men of Republican sympathies were 
inclined to think that the best thing possible 
would be to unite on Douglas and positively 
draw to his support the Northern Democrats, the 
more liberal Southerners, and the doubters who felt 
that something must be done to check the excesses 
of the extreme slavery men as well as the extreme 
Abolitionists. Even Horace Greeley thought that 
because of Douglas's meritorious service against the 
Lecompton constitution and the resulting effect of 
that struggle in making Kansas a free state, the 
Republicans of Illinois ought to testify their appro- 
bation by giving Douglas a unanimous nomination 
for the senatorship. 1 Many other influential Re- 
publicans had the same thought, but such was not 
the feeling within the state. In Illinois itself, local 
issues had played an important part in Douglas's 
career and his action upon purely national ques- 
tions was considered of decidedly minor importance. 
Those who were close to him at home could alone 
judge of his tremendous resource, and they more 
than others realized that his change of front on the 
Lecompton question had been, in part at least, ani- 
'Carr, Life of Douglas, p. 72. 


mated by the necessity of controlling the current of 
events in Illinois. They were not inclined to ac- 
cept the more or less sentimental suggestions of 
Greeley and others, and besides, unlike outsiders, 
they realized that they had among them one who 
was in many respects Douglas's equal as a politi- 
cian, while possessing a vastly deeper fund of 
moral power and high determination. Abraham 
Lincoln had only recently returned to active polit- 
ical life, yet he had often crossed swords with Doug- 
las — as attorney, as stump speaker, and in other 
ways. He had felt Douglas's powerful influence 
throughout the state militating against everything 
in which he himself believed, and Douglas, too, 
had been conscious that in the ungainly form of 
Lincoln there lay possibilities of statesmanship and 
political skill that might well give him reason for 
alarm, should he ever be forced to meet such an 
antagonist in open battle. 

It was soon evident that Douglas had behind him 
the united Democratic strength of the state. Early 
in April the state convention endorsed him 
heartily, 1 notwithstanding heavy pressure from 

1 Flint, Douglas, pp. 94-95, sketches the views of the Douglas 
men as follows : " Notwithstanding the ferocity with which 
the warfare was continued against Mr. Douglas and his friends 
during the Lecompton controversy, all fair-minded men took it 
for granted that hostilities would cease with the settlement of 
the question out of which the contest arose. Mr. Douglas and 
the Illinois Democracy seem to have entertained this reasonahle 
expectation, as appears from the proceedings of the Illinois 
Democratic State Convention, which assembled at Springfield, 
on the 21st of April, 1858, for the nomination of candidates for 


Buchanan and a political massacre of his per- 
sonal followers, who were ruthlessly sacrificed to 
build up a "machine" that could successfully 
create a diversion against the hated antagonist of 
the administration. Douglas, however, was so 
strong that it was plain to all he would repeat his 
customary successes unless a man of unusual fibre 
should be put into the field against him. About 
the middle of June, a Republican convention nomi- 
nated Lincoln in opposition to Douglas, basing 
hope of success upon the fact that Buchanan's ef- 
forts would probably divide the Democratic party 
into at least two sections. Buchanan in fact had 
sent Francis J. Grund to Chicago to begin vigorous 
war against Douglas. He undertook active work, 
not only displacing the occupants of the better 
Federal offices, but also endeavoring to mobilize 
the postmasters of the state for operations against 
Douglas. In the latter attempt, he was only par- 
tially successful, and before long the effort of the 

state offices. While the resolutions were explioit and firm in 
the assertion of the principles on which they had rejected the 
Lecompton constitution, they were conciliating in spirit and 
respectful in language. They contain no assault on the Presi- 
dent, no attaok upon the administration, and indulge in no 
complaint at the unprovoked and vindictive warfare which 
had been waged against them. They maintain a dignified and 
manly silence, a generous forbearance on all these points, with 
a view to the preservation of the organization, the usages, and 
the integrity of the Democratic party upon its time-honored 
principles, as enunciated in the Cincinnati platform. The 
resolutions adopted by the convention were introduced into the 
Senate by Mr. Douglas on the 25th of April,' as furnishing the 
platform on which the Illinois Democracy stand, and by which 
I mean to abide.' " 


administration was largely centralized upon secur- 
ing the nomination of anti-Douglas state officials 
rather than in direct opposition to the candidate 
himself. It began to look as if the effort of 
Buchanan would be ultimately to defeat as many as 
possible of the Democratic nominees for the legis- 
lature, and possibly for Congress as well. 1 

Douglas, bringing with him his family, hastened 
to Chicago as soon as his senatorial duties would 
permit. He reached the city on the 9th of July 
and was met by a procession which escorted him, 
with salvos of artillery, cheers and boundless en- 
thusiasm, to his hotel. Lincoln, meanwhile, had 
already begun his campaign, declaring the dangers 
of slavery and charging Douglas in veiled terms 
with double-dealing or at least with not knowing 
his own mind. The cause of progress, said Lincoln, 
must be entrusted only to those who were unques- 
tionably its friends. Douglas readily took up the 
gauntlet, accepting Lincoln's innuendoes and attacks 
as directed immediately at himself. Lincoln in 
accepting the Eepublican nomination had delivered 
a written speech — good evidence that the offer 
was no surprise to him. In this, he had em- 
phatically put forward the view that slavery and 
the question of its continuance must be the real 
issue in the campaign. That point was met by 
Douglas in his answer to the welcome which 
awaited him at Chicago. He denied that slavery 
must be wiped out and that Abolitionism must be 

1 Sheahan, Life, p. 396 ff. 


forced upon the inhabitants of those states which 
from the beginning had maintained the peculiar 
institution, any more than that slavery must be 
forced upon those states which disliked it or whose 
economic institutions made it an unsuitable and 
inapplicable method of industry. The speech was 
on the whole decidedly effective and was well 
received, though it was evident that there was a 
very sharp division of opinion. Much buncombe 
had been added by Douglas in an effort to catch 
the crowd, but the principal issues were clearly set 
forth and could not be mistaken. Lincoln could 
not fail to note the effect on public sentiment pro- 
duced by his opponent's speech and answered it on 
the following night in an address of less self-posses- 
sion and assurance than that with which he had 
opened the contest. Douglas undoubtedly felt that 
he had gained the advantage of Lincoln in the 
first round of the battle, and he hastened to follow 
up the victory. He went to Springfield on the 16th 
of July, attended by constant demonstrations of pop- 
ularity and good-will, stopping at Joliet where he 
spoke again, and at Bloomington, where Lincoln, 
determined that his rival should not anticipate 
him, boarded the same train. Sheahan remarks, 
with satisfaction and some malice, that "Lincoln 
was perhaps the only Lincoln man on the train." 
But there were many who differed from this 
view. Douglas's effort at Springfield was im- 
mediately answered by Lincoln himself in a speech 
which was received in a way that indicated 


vigorous and wide-spread support of the latter' s 

Douglas was now thoroughly alive to the danger 
by which he was confronted. He sat with the 
State Democratic Committee and mapped out a 
loug list of meetings, extending until the end of 
October ; to these he subsequently added about 
twenty others. It is worthy of note that the people 
gathered at the places on his regular list of ap- 
pointments almost invariably listened to speeches 
of about two and a half hours in length. Lincoln 
had not neglected a move in his opponent's game. 
The list of appointments had been published almost 
immediately in Democratic newspapers all over the 
state. He saw that Douglas, with his tremendous 
energy, his close alliance with the railroads, and 
his splendid organization, would be able to reach 
the voters in a way and to an extent that he 
himself could hardly hope to rival, unless some 
positive step were taken. He had full confidence 
that, if given the opportunity, he could offset 
the effect of Douglas's argument since no man 
ever believed more firmly than did he himself in 
the righteousness of his cause. To match his 
antagonist and to obtain in some measure an equal 
opportunity of reaching the same constituency, he 
resolved to propose to Douglas a series of joint 

Douglas had left Springfield, after working out 
the plans for the campaign, and had returned to 
Chicago on the 24th of July. On that same day, 


Lincoln addressed him in a very brief note in 
which he asked whether his opponent would 
" divide time and address the same audiences." 
In answer, Douglas responded that his appoint- 
ments were now made and that he could not accept 
the proposal, though he was willing to arrange for 
a discussion at one point in each congressional 
district except the second and sixth districts, where 
both had already spoken. He suggested that the 
debates take place at Freeport, Ottawa, Galesburg, 
Quincy, Alton, Jonesboro and Charleston. In a 
letter of July 29th, 1 Lincoln showed some heat, 
answering rather sharply the cutting remarks of 
Douglas's letter of the 24th, but he accepted the 
arrangement to speak at the seven places desig- 
nated. Under date of the 30th of July Douglas 
confirmed his original proposal and fixed the dates 
and places as follows : Ottawa, August 21st ; 
Freeport, August 27th ; Jonesboro, September 
15th ; Charleston, September 18th ; Galesburg, 
October 7th ; Quincy, October 13th ; Alton, Octo- 
ber 15th. He further suggested that he himself 
should open with an hour's speech at Ottawa, 
Lincoln to follow with an hour and a half and he to 
close with half an hour, the order to be alternately 
reversed at the succeeding meetings. In a brief 
note of July 31st Lincoln referred somewhat pet- 
tishly to the fact that this gave his opponent four 

1 This correspondence is given in fall in Political Debates 
between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, 
Columbus ; Follett, Foster & Co., 1860, pp. 64-66. 


opening and four closing speeches to his own three, 
but he nevertheless accepted the conditions of the 
debate. Thus the issue was joined and an historic 
forensic struggle was at hand. 



The first debate of the series had been set for the 
21st of August at Ottawa, iu LaSalle Couuty. 
Douglas arrived on the scene with a considerable 
flourish, in a special train, one car of which carried 
a gun for the purpose of firing salutes en route. 
Liucoln made the journey in his accustomed modest 
style. There was the same difference between the 
appearance of the contestants on the platform. The 
speeches were out-of-doors in the public square of 
the town with "an immense concourse of people 
from all parts of the state " in attendance. 1 Others 
had come from a greater distance for the purpose 
of witnessing what they expected to be one of the 
critical struggles of the campaign. Henry Villard, 
then a newspaper correspondent and later to be the 
promoter and builder of one of the country's great 
railways ; Carl Schurz, the young German idealist 
who was within a few years to play so conspicuous 
a part in moulding public opinion, and others, 
either then or subsequently influential in shaping 
national destinies, were listeners. 

Another eye-witness, deeply attached to Doug- 
las, has vividly described the scene: "It was a 
curious sight to look upon when the vast crowd 
'Villard, Memoirs, 1904, Vol. I, p. 92. 


of earnest men and women of both parties were 
wedged in together before the grand stand. There 
was the usnal jostling and crowding to get good 
places. There was taunting and jeering between 
the representatives of each party, but very few 
breaches of the peace. When the speaking began 
there was almost perfect order. If the pent-up 
feelings of either party caused an angry demon- 
stration, its representative on the platform would 
rise and beg his friends to desist. When they 
applauded a speaker, he would beg them to cease 
as it would be taken out of his time. The time- 
keepers, made up from both political parties, seated 
upon the platform, were inexorable. The speakers 
alternated at the different places in opening and 
closing. At the precise moment in which the time 
for opening arrived, the first speaker must begin. 
A speaker was given an hour for his opening ; then 
his competitor had an hour and a half ; and he who 
opened was given half an hour to close. Time was 
called at the moment a speaker should conclude, and 
he could only finish the sentence he was upon and 
could not begin another." ' 

Upon discerning men the effect of the speakers in 
this crucial contest was far from being that which 
some over-enthusiastic chroniclers have described. 
The aureole later to become firmly fixed about the 
head of Lincoln, had not yet begun to form, and to 
the eyes of those who were not too deeply tinged 
with anti-slavery feeling the future President offered 

1 Carr, Douglas, p. 84. 


anything but a dignified figure. Schurz, who ac- 
companied him to the place of meeting, had already 
found it hard to think of Lincoln as a great man, 
while Villard in contrasting the two noted " noth- 
ing in favor of Lincoln," who "used singularly 
awkward, almost absurd, up and down and sidewise 
movements of his body to give emphasis to his 
arguments." Schurz was annoyed by Lincoln's 
habit of shooting up into the air upon tiptoe to 
emphasize a point, and was equally displeased with 
Douglas, notwithstanding the latter' s more dapper 
costume, since he found that the "Little Giant" 
"smacked of the bar-room." The audience, how- 
ever, was not greatly troubled by the personal peculi- 
arities of the two speakers, nor were they over-nice 
in their weighing of constitutional and ethical 
questions. Perhaps little blame can be attached to 
either of the debaters for recognizing the peculiar- 
ities of the rank and file of the audience, and for 
occasionally drifting off from the slavery question 
and other public issues to indulge in personal abuse, 
somewhat coarse stories and charges of falsehood, 
misrepresentation and early low associations. 
There are probably few who at the present day 
are either willing to read through the text of the 
debates or can endure with patience the style of ar- 
gument which forms their basis. 

Douglas led off with an hour's speech. 1 His 

1 The matter for discussion of Douglas's debates with Lincoln 
must be drawn primarily from the text of the speeches them- 
selves. That which has been used in the preparation of this 


main point was an effort "to put the question to 
Abraham Lincoln . . . whether he now stands 
and will stand by each article in the [Eepublican] 
creed and carry it out." ' He asked pointedly 
whether Lincoln was willing to stand " as he did in 
1854, in favor of the unconditional repeal of the 
Fugitive Slave Law " ; whether he stood pledged to 
the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, 
or to the prohibition of the slave trade between the 
different states, or to the prohibition of slavery in 
all the territories, and whether he was opposed to 
the acquisition of more territory unless slavery 
should be prohibited therein. From these ques- 
tions, Douglas passed rapidly to personal abuse of 
Lincoln couched in the form of ironical compli- 
ment. 2 Later he charged Lincoln with "following 
the example of all the little Abolition orators who 
go around and lecture in the basements of schools 
and churches," in asserting that all men are 
created equal. Douglas did not regard the negro as 
his equal and positively denied that "he is my 
brother or any kin to me whatever." * 

In answer Lincoln made little or no effort to meet 
the questions of his opponent. It is probable he 

chapter is the text published by Follett, Foster &Co., Colum- 
bus, 1860. which includes not only the debates but also some of 
the more important speeches by both men immediately preced- 
ing and immediately following. The most vivid recollections 
of eye-witnesses to the struggle between the two men are 
those of Schurz (Eeminiacencea), Villard (3Temoirs), and a few 
others. Contemporary newspaper matter is of comparatively 
little service during the period of the debates. 

1 Debates, p. 68. * Ibid., p. 69. s Ibid., p. 71. 


had not expected so keen and direct an onslaught. 
The speech of rebuttal in fact was almost painfully 
wandering and tedious, beginning with some 
display of irritation at the personal charges of 
Douglas, and with a suggestion of inability on his 
opponent's part to tell the truth. From this, 
Lincoln passed to a lengthy review of his own 
position on the Fugitive Slave Law, explaining 
incidentally his relationship to certain resolutions 
on that subject said to have been adopted at the 
Eepublican convention in Springfield which Doug- 
las had read. He flatly denied that he had even been 
in Springfield at the time when the alleged resolu- 
tions were accepted. Few points of principle were 
developed in the discussion. In answer to Douglas's 
charge about the supposed claim of negro equality, 
Lincoln answered with force that while he made no 
pretense of supporting any claim to such equality, 
he believed that the negro "in the right to eat the 
bread [he had earned] without the leave of anybody 
else ... is my equal and the equal of Judge 
Douglas and the equal of every living man." A 
long and rather tiresome discussion of the Nebraska 
bill with some references to the Dred Scott decision, 
interrupted by an impatient Irish auditor, who 
bawled out, "Give us something besides Drid 
Scott," closed what was undoubtedly an unsatis- 
factory rejoinder. 

Douglas's sur-rebuttal of half an hour's length 
did not add much to the matter in hand. He dealt 
chiefly with the alleged facts about the Springfield 


resolutions and charged Lincoln with an effort to 
dodge the question. 1 Strongly confident in the 
good impression which he believed he had produced 
upon his hearers, Douglas did not hesitate to reit- 
erate with force the position he had taken in his 
opening speech. As usual, however, on such occa- 
sions, neither orator convinced any one who had 
already made up his miud. Hoots and shouts of 
derision or approval had punctuated the speeches as 
the partisans of one or the other of the two men 
saw or believed that his own favorite was gaining 
the advantage in the argument. The debate had 
barely closed when two ardent admirers of Lincoln, 
rushing to the platform, seized their idol and ele- 
vated him to their shoulders, affording to the 
humorously minded a " ludicrous sight" as the 
"grotesque figure" of the future statesman was 
carried from the scene, the hands frantically grasp- 
ing the heads of his supporters, his legs dangling 
from their shoulders, while in the scuffle his 
trousers had been so far pulled up as to expose his 
underclothing almost to the knees. 2 Douglas was 
not subjected to so undignified a form of approval, 
a fact upon which he laid some stress in the next 
debate, ridiculing his opponent and getting from 
him the familiar charge of falsehood by way of 

At the second debate in Freeport in Stephenson 
County, on August 27th, the discussion was really 
opened. Lincoln sought to meet categorically the 

1 Debates, p. 84. 9 Villard, Memoirs, Vol. I, p. 93. 


issues that had been raised by Douglas at the open- 
ing of his first speech on the platform at Ottawa. 
As already noted, Douglas had there asked whether 
Lincoln was "pledged" to opposition to the ad- 
mission of more slave states, following this with 
other questions. Lincoln now took up the ques- 
tions put by Douglas seriatim, answering each 
with the statement that he was not ' ' pledged ' ' to 
anything of the sort. The weakness of this kind of 
special pleading, however, was perceived, even by 
its author, and he presently noted that while he was 
not technically pledged on any of the points in 
question, he entertained more or less definite ideas 
about them. He believed that the people of the 
Southern states were entitled to a fugitive slave 
law, although he thought the existing law should be 
remodeled " without lessening its efficiency." ' As 
to whether he would favor the admission of more 
slave states, he said that he " would be exceedingly 
sorry ever to be put in a position of having to pass 
upon that question." The abolition of slavery in 
the District of Columbia was, he said, within the 
power of Congress, yet if in Congress he would not 
himself endeavor to abolish the institution except 
gradually and with compensation to owners. Turn- 
ing the tables upon Douglas, he put some questions 
of his own, inquiring whether his opponent would 
favor the admission of Kansas into the Union with 
less than 93,000 inhabitants, whether the people of 
any United States territory could exclude slavery 
1 Debates, p. 89. 


prior to the formation of a state constitution, 
whether his opponent would accept a Supreme 
Court decision to the effect that states cannot exclude 
slavery from their limits, and whether he would 
favor the acquiring of additional territory without 
regard to the question how such acquisition might 
affect the nation on the slavery question. 1 Ee vert- 
ing to the personal phases of the controversy, he 
took up the question of the alleged Springfield 
resolutions and charged Douglas with a gross 
blunder in mistaking the resolutions of a minor 
convention in Kane County for resolutions passed 
by the Eepublican convention at Springfield. He 
called attention to the fact that there was, in the 
fall of 1854, no convention, holding a session 
in Springfield, which called itself a Eepublican 
State Convention. The earlier suggestion of a con- 
spiracy with reference to the Nebraska bill, in- 
tended to make slavery perpetual and national, was 
reiterated, and the speech was closed by an ad 
captandum appeal to the prejudice of the voters of 
the northern counties of Illinois who constituted 
the rank and file of his audience. Lincoln's ques- 
tions had been intended to put Douglas into a diffi- 
cult position by compelling him, if possible, to say 
that in the event of a Supreme Court decision, such 
as had been outlined, he would advocate the accept- 
ance of the verdict. Should this reply be made, 
the effect would naturally be to produce a breach be- 
tween the ambitious man who was now eagerly look- 
1 Debates, p. 90. 


ing to the presidential nomination and some influen- 
tial group among his supporters. In the event of a 
reply adverse to the final authority of the court, 
much of Douglas's general argument with reference 
to the location of sovereignty would be set at 
naught, and in either case a distinct point would be 

There was, however, no such equivocation in his 
opponent's rejoinder as had characterized Lincoln's 
method of meeting the first set of questions. As to 
Kansas, Douglas answered at once that since 
Kansas had people enough for a slave state, it had 
in his opinion enough for a free state. 1 As to 
whether the people of a territory could exclude 
slavery from their limits, Douglas stated plainly 
that in his opinion there were lawful means whereby 
that end could be attained. As to the Supreme 
Court of the United States and its verdict, Douglas 
answered with indignation that Mr. Lincoln's ob- 
ject was "to cast an imputation upon the Supreme 
Court." Unquestionably the court would never 
reach a decision so violative of the Constitution as 
to hold that the states could not exclude slavery. 
This he said "would be an act of moral treason 
that no man ou the bench could ever descend to." 2 
And finally, said Douglas, regarding the increase 
in territory, he was in favor of an enlargement of 
the nation's boundaries without any reference to the 
question of slavery, leaving the inhabitants to make 
it slave or free territory as they chose. 3 
1 Debates, p. 94, ! Ibid., p. 96. 3 Ibid., p. 96. 


It was the position taken by Douglas with refer- 
ence to the Supreme Court and its relation to the 
slavery question that gave to the debate at Freeport 
more significance than was assigned by the country 
at large to any of the other meetings. So broad and 
deep an interest did his utterances on this question 
of jurisdiction arouse, that the reasoning then put 
forward by him shortly came to be known as the 
"Freeport doctrine" — a name which it has since 
retaiued. Lincoln had embarrassed Douglas most 
seriously by asking whether the people of a United 
States territory could, in any lawful way, exclude 
slavery from their limits prior to the formation of a 
state constitution — a question whose bearings upon 
the Dred Scott case made it hard for him to an- 
swer without in some measure compromising or con- 
tradicting himself. The best he could do was to 
carry his doctrine of local rights to its extreme, not- 
withstanding that this action necessitated his mini- 
mizing the powers of the Supreme Court itself. The 
hypothetical position of the court in future cases 
was of no moment even in the abstract, he urged, 
since "the people have the lawful means to intro- 
duce it or exclude it [slavery], as they please, for 
the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an 
hour anywhere unless it is supported by local police 
regulations. Those police regulations can only be 
established by the local legislature, and if the peo- 
ple are opposed to slavery they will elect represent- 
atives to that body who will by unfriendly legisla- 
tion effectually prevent the introduction of it into 


their midst. If, on the other hand, they are for it, 
their legislature will favor its extension. Hence no 
matter what the decision of the Supreme Court may 
be on that abstract question, still the right of the 
people to make a slave territory or a free territory 
is perfect and complete under the Nebraska bill." 

Having thus met the direct inquiries of Lincoln, 
Douglas attempted to explain the errors into which 
he had been betrayed with reference to the alleged 
Springfield resolutions of 1854. He stated that he 
had obtained the information from Charles H. 
Lanphier, editor of the State Register at Springfield, 
and that he had supposed the resolutions were as 
represented. Whether they were or not, they were 
at all events the principles of the "black Bepub- 
lican party" — an assertion in which he was sup- 
ported by one of the men who had originally drawn 
the resolutions and who happened to be present. 
From this, Douglas passed to a diatribe against the 
position of the extreme advocates of Abolition, and 
closed with a charge that Lincoln in his argument 
had suggested corruption on the part of the Supreme 
Court and of two Presidents of the United States. 

Opening with a few words of personal vindication, 
Lincoln in rebuttal addressed himself chiefly to per- 
sonalities and minor charges, thereby seriously 
weakening the strong impression which he had pro- 
duced in his earlier argument. The main point in 
Douglas's discussion was shirked, and the audience 
was left with the decided feeling that Douglas had 
scored as great a success in the second round of the 


battle as in the first. The apparent unwillingness 
of Lincoln to express himself with vigor on the 
slavery question, his abandonment of his own 
natural weapon — the simple ami forceful enuncia- 
tion of broad principles, — and his acceptance of the 
hair-splitting, logic-chopping methods of his oppo- 
nent, in which the latter was far his superior, annoyed 
and disturbed the advocates who had expected that, 
long before the end of the second meeting, the posi- 
tion of Douglas would have been turned and his 
weak pro-slavery flank and rear subjected to a keen 
fire of criticism. 

The third debate of the series had been set for 
September 15th at Jonesboro, Union County, in the 
southern portion of the state. It was now Douglas's 
turn to open. He and his opponent had been grad- 
ually working southward, during the weeks which 
had intervened since the meeting at Freeport, and 
both were worn and weary with almost continual 
rough travel and political warfare. As the north- 
ern part of the state had been that of which Lin- 
coln had been surest, and the central that in which 
the issue was most doubtful, so Douglas was gener- 
ally considered to be substantially assured of the 
support of the southern counties. The inhabitants 
of southern Illinois, never particularly intelligent, 
were included in a district locally known as 
"Egypt," apparently from the mental darkness 
supposed to prevail there. Although the audience 
was biased and practically predetermined in its hos- 
tility toward Republican ideas, the meeting at 


Jonesboro was the least satisfactory of the series up 
to that time, both in point of attendance and in the 
lack of interest displayed. In opening, Douglas 
gave a brief review of the political alignment of the 
country prior to 1854, which he said had been 
based upon the Whig and Democratic parties. Best- 
less, ambitious and disappointed politicians had 
in 1854 taken advantage of the temporary excite- 
ment caused by the Nebraska bill to create an Abo- 
lition party, founding their hopes upon the belief 
that they could control the country by appealing to 
Northern prejudice. 1 Coupled with this partisan 
interpretation of politics, Douglas presented a 
charge that Lincoln had participated in a scheme to 
divert members of the Whig party to the new 
group, pretending that he himself was as good a 
Whig as ever. Taking up the issues of the current 
campaign, he said that Lincoln had made war upon 
the Supreme Court and its decision in the Dred 
Scott case. He himself was content to accept the 
Supreme Court's view. He was in favor of preserv- 
ing the government " as our fathers made it." 2 The 
question of the negro's rights and privileges was a 
question which must be determined by every state 
in the Union for itself. He was utterly opposed to 
negro suffrage anywhere and under any circum- 
stances, yet, since the Supreme Court had decided 
in the Dred Scott case that a state had a right to 
confer the privilege of voting upon free negroes, he 
had nothing to say in criticism. Only by maintain- 
1 Debates, p. 111. 2 lbid., p. 117. 


ing in each state the right of each state to do as it 
pleased without meddling with its neighbors, could 
the Union continue upon its old basis. 

When Lincoln rose to reply, he was obliged to 
admit that Douglas had presented a substantially 
strong case. More tactful than in his former open- 
ings, he conceded that he " cordially approved " of 
very many of the principles of his opponent. He 
agreed "entirely" with Douglas's doctrine "that 
all the states have a right to do exactly as they 
please about all their domestic relations including 
that of slavery," and added that he had no disposi- 
tion to interfere with them. Inconsistently, how- 
ever, he continued that it was impossible that the 
Union could permanently endure half slave and half 
free. Referring in an uncomplimentary way to 
Brooks, the assailant of Sumner, and to the latter' s 
statement that no one had expected tbe institution 
of slavery to last as long as it had, he insisted that 
the time had come when an effort should be made to 
get back to the early conditions regarding slavery 
which had been contemplated by the founders of 
the Constitution. Without, however, explaining 
how this was to be done, Lincoln drifted into along 
reply to the partisan and unfair political diatribe 
which had consumed so much of Douglas's hour 
and a half, and from this he drew the conclusion 
that all the trouble aud confusion of the time had 
not arisen from the effort to maintain the rights of 
the states to do with slavery as they pleased, but 
had flowed from the effort to spread slavery gen- 


erally throughout the Union. Eeourring then to 
the substance of the Freeport discussion, Lincoln 
quoted numerous resolutions, questions and answers 
that had come up in the local politics of Illinois 
during the years since 1850, and nearly equaled 
Douglas in his appeal to prejudice. He twitted his 
opponent with failure to discuss further the inter- 
rogatories which had been offered at the Ottawa 
meeting and which he himself had answered at 
Freeport. Closing his wandering and unwise 
remarks, he referred to the incident at Ottawa in 
which the two young farmers had carried him 
sprawling from the platform and at length charged 
his opponent with misrepresentation. 

Douglas's sur-rebuttal developed little that was 
new or valuable but was undoubtedly in better 
temper than his opening address. The burden of 
his argument lay in the assertion that Lincoln 
was still unwilling to meet the question of Aboli- 
tionism, and with great force he called attention to 
the fact that an agreement existed among certain 
members of the Republican party in favor of the 
exclusion of slavery from the territories. 

At Charleston on September 18th, only three 
days after the meeting at Jonesboro, the debaters 
met for a fourth time. Charleston was situated in 
a district whose vote was unsettled and where the 
interest was much more intense than that which had 
been exhibited in the more southerly region. 
Attendance was much better, partly due to the 
existence of a state fair at Centralia not far away, 


and the intelligence with which the discussion was 
followed was substantially higher. The privilege 
of opening had now, in the process of alternation, 
fallen to Lincoln. He had been impressed with the 
belief that the doctrine of "social equality" had 
been too definitely fastened upon the party he 
represented, and that he had indulged in too much 
personality toward his opponent with probably too 
little specific political accusation. He began, there- 
fore, by declaring his attitude upon the social posi- 
tion of the negro. A " physical difference " existed 
between the white and black races which, Lincoln 
believed, would "forever forbid the two races living 
together on terms of social and political equality. ' ' ' 
This necessarily meant, said he, that the "su- 
perior position" must fall to the white race, — 
a view which left some of the speaker's previous 
assertions and doctrines much clouded by doubt. 
From this positive statement of his convictions 
upon the delicate issue of the negro's relation to the 
white man, Lincoln passed to a series of definite 
political charges against Douglas. Primarily he 
discussed a controversy which had been carried on 
between Douglas and Trumbull, the other senator 
from Illinois. He reviewed the history of the 
Toombs bill, and charged that in its original form 
the measure had directed that the constitution to be 
drafted by the Kansas convention should be sub- 
mitted to a vote of the people. Douglas had, said 
Lincoln, been instrumental in cutting out the provi- 
1 Debates, p. 136. 


sion for a vote. In answering Trumbull on the 
point, he also charged that Douglas had failed to 
meet this accusation though it could be supported 
by a "pretty fair show of proof" that the senator 
from Illinois had entered into ' ' a plot to put in 
force a constitution for Kansas without giving the 
people any opportunity of voting on it." l This 
charge Lincoln elaborated at great length, and when 
Douglas rose for reply he displayed manifest irrita- 

Congratulating his rival upon having defined his 
position as to negro citizenship and eligibility to 
office, he plunged into the question of the Toombs 
bill and his relation to it. He read from the report 
he himself had made at the time when he reported 
the Toombs substitute to the Senate, asserting that 
he "took it for granted that the [Kansas] constitu- 
tion was to be submitted to the people, whether the 
bill was silent on the subject or not." 2 There was, 
he said, " a conspiracy to carry this election for the 
black Republicans by slander and not by fair 
means." Lincoln had misrepresented the situation, 
and Trumbull had deliberately lied about the mat- 
ter. In bitter personal invective, he attacked 
Lincoln and Trumbull jointly, though asserting that 
he had no charges to make against them. Then, 
plunging into the usual political discussion, he 
devoted himself for a time to local affairs in their 
relation to existing national issues, presenting both 
Lincoln and Trumbull as disreputable figures but 

1 Debates, p. 138. * Ibid., p. 146. 


closing with the usual vague appeal to his hearers 
in behalf of a government founded upon the prin- 
ciples laid down by the fathers of the Constitution. 

Lincoln's sur-rebuttal met the charge that he had 
been evasive in regard to the position of the negro 
by the statement that he had never been questioned 
on that point. He even went further and declared 
that he was "not in favor of negro citizenship." ' 
He showed bad temper because of the insinuation 
made by Douglas that there was a difference between 
his utterances in the northern, and what he had said 
in the southern, counties. The effort to pin the whole 
controversy to Kansas he objected to, saying that 
if Kansas were to sink beneath the earth, the real 
question would still remain. He insinuated that 
Douglas desired to "plant slavery over all the 
states," and leading forward one Orlando B. Fick- 
lin, who was seated on the platform, said that Mr. 
Ficklin knew that a charge made by Douglas about 
the Mexican War and Lincoln's conduct therein 
was "a lie." ' l 

The bad feeling which had been developed in the 
third and fourth debates was prominent in the fifth 
discussion, held this time at Galesburg, Knox 
County, on October 7th, although the language of 
the speakers was somewhat more in harmony 
with the usages of decent society. Douglas, open- 
iug the discussion as was now his privilege, de- 
scribed retrospectively the Kansas-Nebraska bill 
and the so-called English bill relating to the admis- 

1 Debates, p. 156. ■ Ibid., p. 158. 


sion of Kansas as a state. He sketched the origin 
of the Republican party, and pointedly asked 
whether the country had any interest in maintaining 
a sectional organization of this type. The harm of 
sectionalism was feelingly referred to, and the charge 
already made, that Lincoln varied his opinions to 
suit his audience, was reiterated in detail. Lincoln 
countered with an elaborate rejoinder to the allega- 
tion of sectionalism and then reviewed the Com- 
promise of 1850. He referred again to the error 
made by Douglas in quoting the alleged Spriugticld 
resolutions, and charged his critic with acting in 
the same way as did the fisherman's wife whose 
drowned husband was brought home with his body 
full of eels. When asked what was to be done with 
him she said, "Take the eels out and set him 
again," — a characteristic Lincolnian anecdote which 
the speaker applied to the repetition of the "stale 
fraud " of the Springfield resolutions. A new point 
was raised by Lincoln in connection with the further 
acquisition of territory and its probable relation to 
the slavery question. Douglas in his closing answer 
paid no attention to this matter, but devoted him- 
self largely to the Springfield resolutions and his 
own attitude toward slavery. 

There was not much advance in the process of 
developing the real merits of the controversy 
during the sixth joint debate, which took place at 
Quincy on the 13th of October. Lincoln opened 
with another discussion of the position of the negro, 
referred again to the Dred Scott decision and closed 


with a more positive and explicit statement of 
the wrong involved in slavery than he had yet 

Douglas answered with more remarks about the 
Springfield resolutions, passed to the question of 
slavery in the territories, reiterated his charge about 
Lincoln's inconsistency, admitted that he was un- 
willing to discuss the question whether slavery was 
right or wrong in the abstract, because slavery al- 
ready existed and must be dealt with by the several 
states as they saw fit, again referred to the Dred Scott 
decision and the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and closed 
by making his customary appeal for the mainte- 
nance of the Union upon traditional lines. 

Lincoln's final answer called attention to an 
alleged admission of Douglas that his system of 
policy with regard to slavery contemplated the 
permanent establishment of that institution and 
again brought forward the question of inconsistency. 
There had been little novelty in the discussion, and 
no advance in the development of the merits of the 
issues at stake. 

The last debate of the series was now to occur at 
Alton on the 15th of October. Douglas opened this 
last, as he had the first, debate, thus gaining the 
advantage for which he had shrewdly arranged in 
the original correspondence. It was logical that 
both men, although speaking to new audiences, 
should endeavor in this concluding passage at arms 
to summarize what they had already said in their 
preceding meetings. This to the reader causes the 


text of the speeches to seem little more than bare 
repetition, but to the audience made the discus- 
sion perhaps more interesting than any of those 
that had gone before. Douglas's main point was 
again seen in his effort to show that Lincoln, 
despite his disclaimers, had accepted the idea of 
negro equality and was disposed to introduce 
into the constitutional system of the United States 
innovations which would result in weakening the 
powers of the several commonwealths. He first 
sketched the history of his opponent's position and 
his own reply, then charged that Lincoln, sub- 
sequent to the Ottawa meeting, had begun " to 
crawfish a little and let himself down," and had 
finally passed to a position radically opposed to that 
which he had first adopted. Taking his stand upon 
the belief that his opposition to the Lecompton 
constitution was not due to the slavery clause, but 
was due to the fact that it was not the willing 
opinion of the people of Kansas, he maintained that 
' ' there is no power on earth under our system of 
government, which has the right to force a con- 
stitution upon an unwilling people." ' This issue 
he placed above the question of slavery and all 
other issues. In closing, Douglas laid special stress 
upon the immediate need of a united Democracy 
and of the necessity for white supremacy. Perhaps 
this presentation was the most effective that he had 
yet offered although here as elsewhere he was 
galled by the factional strife within his own party, 
1 Debates, p. 218. 


and fell at times into more or less acrimonious 
attack upon his antagonist. 

Lincolo, in answering, clearly showed his appreci- 
ation of the merits of Douglas's opening. He 
rebutted the interpretation of the position he had 
himself assumed on the question of negro equality, 
charging Douglas with building up a " beautiful 
fabrication" by a process of "garbling." This 
restatement of his own position Lincoln then 
followed with a review of the arguments he had 
previously developed. Growing strouger as he pro- 
ceeded, and as he abandoned the personal recrimi- 
nation which had so greatly marred his earlier 
efforts, Lincoln brought forward his really effective 
point in connection with the slavery question. He 
showed, with more force perhaps than ever before, 
that the great issue in the controversy lay in the 
question whether slavery was a wrong, and if so 
whether it should be treated as a wrong by han- 
dling it in such a way that it should grow no 
larger. Nothing, said Lincoln, had ever threatened 
the existence of the Union save slavery. If that 
were true, he asked with crushing force, how could 
the posture of affairs be improved by enlarging 
slavery? Yet Democrats regarded slavery as not 
wrong. 1 They insisted upon avoiding it in discus- 
sion, although the issue could not be avoided in 
fact. Douglas, after all, by the very nature of his 
argument upon constitutional questions, was the 
greatest Abolitionist in the country, since any 

1 Debates, p. 233. 


argument that would justify unfriendly legislation 
to deprive a slaveholder of his right to hold his 
slaves in a territory would furnish an equally 
strong argument for nullifying the Fugitive Slave 

The last word in the discussion now fell to 
Douglas, yet of this opportunity he made but poor 
use. Seeking to establish the fact that Lincoln had 
fallen into inconsistencies, he charged that his 
opponent was also historically wrong in asserting 
that slavery had been the only cause of serious 
internal strife. Nullification, said Douglas, had 
been as great an issue. Disunion had appeared 
during the last war with Great Britain. Sectional- 
ism was as great a danger. The interference of one 
section with the rights of individual states was 
farther reaching in its implications than the effect 
of any position taken on a concrete question such as 
that of slavery. But acceptance of the funda- 
mental constitutional ideas would bring about 
peace between North and South, and incidental 
issues would settle themselves upon broad lines of 

That Douglas had had decidedly the better of 
Lincoln in the joint debates was pretty generally 
admitted by the time the contest was over. This 
was variously explained. Douglas and his fol- 
lowers had undoubtedly struggled with the ferocity 
of men who recognized the absolute necessity of 
winning, while to Lincoln, as has already been 
noted, the contest was merely the first battle in a 


great campaign which was, if necessary, to last in- 
definitely. Douglas's organization, too, was vastly 
superior to that of his antagonist which had as yet 
not had time to perfect itself. Douglas, however, 
was not content with the apparent growth of his 
movement and the seemingly satisfactory success 
which he had enjoyed in the debates. No sooner 
was the last round with Lincoln over, than he 
resumed his own independent canvass, continuing 
this up to the last moment and averaging consider- 
ably more than one speech a day for a period of one 
hundred successive days. The usual number of 
falsehoods were circulated to his disadvantage, as 
might have been expected in an election where so 
much was at stake, and every effort was made to 
get the full list of voters out on election day. 
When the ballots had been counted, it appeared 
that the Democrats would be able to cast about 
forty votes in the lower house of the legislature 
against the Republicans' thirty-five, while in the 
upper chamber with fifteen contested districts they 
got eight votes and the Republicans the other 
seven. The fiual ballot in the legislature gave 
Douglas only eight more votes than Lincoln, the 
ballot standing fifty-four to forty-six. Had the 
issue been based upon popular majorities, Lincoln 
would easily have carried the state, as the candi- 
dates who were pledged to him totaled about 
17,000 votes more than did Douglas's members, the 
latter receiving in all about 174,000 votes. The 
candidates who had been put forward at the in- 


stance of Buchanan to vex Douglas secured hardly 
any support. In substance, the election meant that 
Douglas had succeeded in uniting the Democrats 
solidly behind him, and that with the state ar- 
ranged as it was he was tolerably safe. The fact 
that Douglas had a popular majority against him 
was made much of at the time but was little to the 
purpose. Many votes would unquestionably have 
been differently cast had the issue been reduced to 
that of getting a mere majority. Some districts 
were from the outset hopelessly in Lincoln's favor 
just as others were solidly pro-Douglas. The state 
had been gerrymandered a long time before as the 
result of political necessity, or what was then 
considered to be such. This fact fixed the con- 
ditions under which the Lincoln -Douglas struggle 
must be made and drove the candidates to their 
utmost efforts upon the debatable ground. It was 
on this ground that the issue was determined, and 
by the vote in the doubtful districts that the result 
must be fairly judged. The election, however, 
undoubtedly indicated a vigorous growth of the 
radical anti-Southern and anti-slavery sentiment, 
and showed that Illinois was no longer to be con- 
trolled by the elements on which Douglas had 
relied in former years. While, therefore, it was 
unquestionably a Douglas victory in every sense, it 
was a victory which had been achieved by the 
hardest work and which depended very much more 
upon the personal hold he had succeeded in getting 
than upon his ability to take the voters with him. 


He was already approximating to the dangerous 
position of the politician who is without a party, 
aud who must rely upon personal admiration or 
sympathy in order to maintain his place. 



Although Douglas had apparently achieved a 
triumph over Lincoln, the victory was not as satis- 
factory and conclusive as he had hoped to make 
it. This was for the reason that Douglas had 
been battling for his political existence, while Lin- 
coln, with his eyes on the future, had merely par- 
ticipated in the first campaign of a great struggle 
to which the remainder of his life was now to be 
given. Had Douglas failed to secure his reelection, 
he would have been for the time at least hopelessly 
out of the race. Presidential aspirations might 
then have been regarded as only a chapter of pri- 
vate personal history. Douglas, although so great 
a figure on the national stage, would undoubtedly, 
like so many other defeated senators, have slowly 
and with difficulty taken up the profession from 
which he had been lured away by the prizes of 
politics, or would have spent his time in plotting 
and contriving to get back again into the life from 
which he had been excluded. He had staked far 
more than Lincoln, and his victory left him in a less 
favorable position than he had previously occupied. 
The admissions he had made during the campaign, 
the slightly but fundamentally altered position he 
had taken as a result of the constant pressure of his 


antagonist, had materially changed his relation to 
national affairs. It was a striking commentary 
upon the result of the election that it was not on the 
whole distasteful to those Republican newspapers 
which were far enough from the scene of action to 
view things from a broad general standpoint. Such 
observers held that the election of Douglas was per- 
haps a good thing, because, in his present attitude 
of revolt, he would be able to do much harm to the 
party which he represented and would undoubt- 
edly inflict such injury. There was truth in this 
philosophy, for Douglas like every man of strong 
and virile temperament had his personal following 
which regarded his interpretations of Democratic 
principle as the right ones. To such a personal fol- 
lowing appeal could and would still be made for the 
aid that was necessary in maintaining and continu- 
ing the ascendency of the leader's personality. The 
effect could not be other than slowly to widen the 
rift which had already appeared within the previ- 
ously compact Democratic organization. 

It was but too true that Douglas's position in the 
electoral contest, while it had strengthened him 
locally, had diminished the devotedness of his 
Southern following. Shortly after the election he 
started upon a trip through the Southern states in- 
tending to visit Cuba and to return by way of New 
York. The trip was essentially political, notwith- 
standing that it was nominally for the purpose of 
restoring a good condition of health, his physical 
state being far from satisfactory. The journey took 


hiin to the mouth of the Mississippi and from there 
to Havana, from which point he sailed for New 
York, and then traveled to Washington via Phila- 
delphia and Baltimore. With his eye upon the 
forthcoming presidential contest, Douglas wished to 
estimate the probable strength of his candidacy in 
the Southern states, while the question of Cuban 
annexation, then acute, suggested to him the possi- 
bility of another " issue " which might be used as a 
basis for political activity in the near future. He 
returned to Washington somewhat reassured as to 
the attitude of the Southern states toward him. He 
had spoken in several of the principal Southern 
cities as well as at points between New York and 
Washington and had been very cordially heard. 
Yet it was manifest that the sentiments which called 
forth the strongest approval from Southern listeners 
were those party generalities which would have been 
acceptable almost anywhere. The slavery position 
that he had assumed during the Lincoln debate was 
unacceptable to the extremists, who felt that he had 
not made good his Kansas attitude or sufficiently 
supported the views with respect to the South which 
he more than any other man in the Senate had de- 
veloped prior to the Lecompton controversy. The 
effervescent greetings of audiences in the Southern 
states were apparently not too seriously taken by 
Douglas, for he much more accurately than many 
later statesmen had gauged the meaning of South- 
ern hospitality, and recognized the distinct line 
that was drawn between personal regard and civil- 


ity on the one hand and political support on the 
other. He was in fact far more inclined to consider 
the Southern wing of the United States Senate as 
the real index of his political support in the South- 
ern states. In this slavery group in the Senate, 
Douglas found but cold comfort on his return, for 
the memory of the Lecompton controversy was fresh 
and vivid, while the President was exceedingly em- 
bittered against him. So far had the hostility to 
Douglas developed, that during his absence he had 
been deposed from his chairmanship of the Commit- 
tee on Territories, 1 a position he had held through- 
out the whole period of his membership in the 
Senate. That he did not find in the Southern 
states sufficient popular feeling to warrant him in 
appealing from the Southern congressional leaders 
to their constituents was indicated by his silence 
under this marked and unusual affront. 

While Douglas thus thought it best to ignore an 
incident which might have been used as the basis of 
an effort to define his own position in Congress 
more exactly, for the sake, if possible, of recover- 
ing lost ground in a quiet and steady process of 
growth, the position of the party was not such that 
it could successfully waive its differences of opinion 
and await the healing which time might bring. 
The differences within the party were seemingly as 
irreconcilable as were those dividing the two great 
parties in national affairs. Cuban annexation now 
presented itself as an issue for settlement. It of- 

1 Rhodes, Vol. II, p. 355. 


fered in many particulars the same problems 
which had been thrusting themselves upon the Sen- 
ate for years and which taken together now def- 
initely pointed to an " irrepressible conflict." A 
bill for the purchase of Cuba had been framed by 
the Foreign Affairs Committee, the appropriation 
carried for that purpose being $30,000,000, and this 
received the earnest support of Douglas, who bent 
himself to work under the leadership of Senator 
Slidell, the chairman of the committee and a lead- 
ing figure in the anti-Douglas faction of the party. 
Douglas had already attempted to gain Southern 
support by reasserting that Cuba naturally be- 
longed to the American continent, a statement he 
had made during his stay in New Orleans. The 
fair inference from what was then said was that 
slavery would naturally exist in Cuba and might be 
established there, subject to the terms and condi- 
tions of the constitutional doctrine as to the local 
control of slavery which he himself had expounded. 
The discussion of Cuba and the question of its an- 
nexation with or without slavery would have been, 
as Douglas undoubtedly saw, a* far better and more 
promising basis on which to continue the slavery 
controversy than was afforded by the Kansas situa- 
tion. Had it been possible to occupy the short 
session of 1858-1859 with Cuban discussion, par- 
ticularly in its bearing upon slavery, much would 
have been gaiued from the tactical standpoint, and 
Douglas would have been afforded as good an op- 
portunity as he could have wished for regaining his 


hold upon the waning sympathy of the Southern 
section of the party. 

This was not to be. Interesting as the question 
of Cuban annexation was, the immediate imminence 
of the slavery question as applied to the mainland 
of the United States gave it a commanding position 
and importance which could not be transferred to 
any other issue. Late in February, when it was 
hoped that the session might expire without the 
further exploitation of party differences, the clash 
of factions was renewed. Senator Hale of New 
Hampshire had offered an amendment to an appro- 
priation bill as a means of reviving the slavery dis- 
cussion and, as if by preconcerted signal, the bitter 
controversy was resumed. 1 The question was 
whether adequate protection was to be afforded to 
slave property existing in the territories. 2 Senator 
Brown of Mississippi undertook to discuss this mat- 
ter and to take issue with Douglas's "Freeport 
doctrine" in which he had affirmed the idea that 
"slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere 
unless it is supported by local police regulations. 
Those police regulations can only be established by 
the local legislature ; and if the people are opposed 
to slavery, they will elect representatives to that 
body who will by unfriendly legislation effectually 
prevent the introduction of it into their midst." 
Brown felt that this was not an adequate view. He 
desired that full protection should be guaranteed 

1 Rhodes, Vol. II, p. 355. 

1 Congressional Globe, 2d Sess., 35th Cong., p. 1244. 


by the Federal government to slave property in the 
territories. This he said was an "obligation 
. . . npon Congress. " Menacingly, he remarked 
that, in case he could not obtain the rights guar- 
anteed in this respect under the Constitution of the 
United States, he should be forced to the conclusion 
that the Constitution was a failure, the Union a 
despotism, and under those conditions he would be 
"prepared to retire from the concern." 

It was now necessary for Douglas to determine 
in his own mind upon a choice of conduct which he 
had undoubtedly hoped to avoid making. Were he 
to remain silent, the " Freeport doctrine" might 
stand or fall as best it could, leaving its defense to 
other Northern Democrats of whom Brown had re- 
quested an expression of opinion. It is not likely 
that any one of these Democrats would have rushed 
to the defense, in any satisfactory way, of a peculiar 
doctrine developed by Douglas as the result of his 
own special political necessities. Silence, therefore, 
would have permitted the party practically to 
repudiate the u Freeport doctrine." It was neces- 
sary, if he were to maintain his leadership, to sup- 
port the doctrine, and Douglas, perceiving this 
situation, took the floor in answer. In plain 
language, he told the Southerners that he could not 
accept the view of the extreme pro-slavery party, 
and, voicing in so many words what others were 
only thinking, he distinctly foreshadowed the elec- 
tion of 1860, remarking that it was impossible to 
carry a Northern Democratic state for a principle 


which would compel the people of a territory to ac- 
cept slavery when they were opposed to it. 

With much force, Jefferson Davis, the former 
ally of Douglas, hastened to point out the inconsist- 
ency of the senator from Illinois in refusing to dis- 
criminate between various classes of property as 
such. Douglas had asserted that there could be no 
distinction between the protection accorded to dry- 
goods, horses, cattle or slaves in the territories, but 
Davis noted that the question went far beyond this 
interpretation and raised the fundamental issue of 
the right of citizens to hold slaves. Non-interven- 
tion, he said, was no longer possible as a practical 
guide for national conduct, nor would he vote for 
any candidate who stood upon a platform so con- 
structed. The issue was more and more clearly 
drawn, and the colloquy between Davis and Douglas 
increased in bitterness, until Davis plainly said to 
his antagonist that with the views he now advocated, 
the vote of Mississippi would necessarily be with- 
held from him in any future struggle for the presi- 
dency. Commenting sharply upon the heretical 
tenets which Douglas had been obliged to embrace 
during his struggle with Lincoln, he keenly noted 
that although Douglas had been given a chance to 
recant or to explain away what he had said on the 
stump in Illinois, he was now " as full of heresy as 
he once was of adherence to the doctrine of pop- 
ular sovereignty." Douglas in this debate was tol- 
erably well supported by the Northern and Western 
Democrats and the incident went far toward indicat- 


ing with greater clearness than ever before the 
ultra-radical position of the extreme Southern ele- 
ment in the Senate. Party policies were now per- 
mitted to suffer as a result of the absorption in the 
all-consuming slavery controversy and of the exten- 
sion of party differences on that question to other 
issues for the purpose of striking factional blows. 
It had been hoped to pass the Pacific Railroad bill 
which Douglas had favored, but this failed, while 
an advance in the tariff proved to be impracticable 
in spite of what was considered an urgent party ne- 
cessity. 1 The whole scheme of legislation went 
awry, and it was more and more accepted as a ne- 
cessity that the party should reach some conclusion 
within itself about the great controlling question of 
the dividing line between Federal and local au- 
thority in its bearing upon sovereignty in the terri- 
tories, or, in other words, should reach a decision 
upon slavery and its future. 

Douglas had been far too closely pressed during 
the debate to neglect the weak points in his own 
position. The taunts of Davis and others had cut 
him. He knew that it was necessary in some way 
to ensure the general acceptance of his u Freeport 
doctrine." In the Senate he had done what he 
could, but with little success, despite the nominal 
adherence of the Northern and Western Democrats. 
In Illinois, his ideas had received some favor, but 
Illinois was only a single state. Douglas deter- 
mined to prepare a careful exposition of his doc- 
1 Rhodes, Vol. II, pp. 359-360. 


trine and this be finally set forth in Harper's Monthly 
Magazine 1 in an article which bore the signifi- 
cant title "The Dividing Line between Federal and 
Local Authority." The proper principle to be ac- 
cepted was there stated by Douglas to be as follows : 
"That every distinct political community, loyal to 
the Constitution and the Union, is entitled to all 
the rights, privileges, and immunities of self-govern- 
ment in respect to their local concerns and internal 
polity, subject only to the Constitution of the 
United States.'" In support of this principle, 
Douglas rehearsed with detail the conditions under 
which the Colonies had dealt with African slavery, 
and then coming down to more recent times he dis- 
cussed the compromise measures of 1850 and the 
Kansas-Nebraska act of 1854. He sought to vindi- 
cate his own action on the Kansas-Nebraska act 
with special reference to the section which pre- 
scribed and defined the power of the territorial legis- 
lature, and he struck a blow at the position of Pres- 
ident Buchanan by quoting from the latter' s com- 
munication accepting the nomination, in which he 
had asserted the right of the people of the territo- 
ries to "decide for themselves whether slavery 
shall or shall not exist within their limits." Re- 
ferring to the position assumed by Davis, Douglas 
showed that he had distinctly drawn a line between 
those who contended for the right to carry slaves 
into the territories and to hold them in defiance of 

1 September, 1859, Vol. 19, pp. 519-537. 
* Ibid., p. 537. 


the local law, and those who contended that such 
light was subject to the local law of the territory. 
He quoted from Davis paragraphs in which the 
latter admitted that national legislation could not 
" confer power beyond that which exists in Con- 
gress," although he had also argued that "if our 
right to carry slaves into these territories be a con- 
stitutional right, it is our first duty to maintain 

Although the magazine article was naturally 
much more carefully prepared than the ex tempore 
speeches which Douglas had delivered on the 
stump and in the Senate, and was better supported 
by citation and illustration, it was not of a charac- 
ter that would command general attention. The 
publication of the article had undoubtedly been 
intended to appeal to the thinking popular audi- 
ence among which Harper' 1 s was supposed to 
circulate, but if it was read by the rank and file of 
the subscribers it attracted no particular notice. 
As usual, however, an article by a man of national 
prominence in a current publication led to reply, 
and there were rebuttals and sur-rebuttals, Douglas 
himself finally falling back from the calmer heights 
of the constitutional lawyer to the lower ground of 
the political controversialist. The discussion, more- 
over, was too minute and detailed to gain public 
interest and the most important result of this 
revival of the slavery question was the attention 
which it provoked from Lincoln. So far as the 
article had secured readers it had obtained them 


among the Northern and Western Democrats and 
Bepublicans, so that the essay was rather more 
truly another round in the Lincoln-Douglas battle 
than a further prolongation of the controversy with 
Davis. In the autumn election contest in Ohio 
both Lincoln and Douglas were given prominent 
places, and Lincoln particularly sought to under- 
mine the argument in the Harper's Monthly article. 
Ehodes expresses the opinion that he "utterly de- 
molished" the basis of Douglas's reasoning, while 
Nicolay and Hay properly regard the controversy 
as a continuation of the debates of the preceding 
year, and note that Lincolu merely added "search- 
ing comments on the newer positions and points to 
which Douglas had since advanced." ' Lincoln 
held that Douglas was insidiously laying a founda- 
tion for slavery in the territories and the newer 
states, and scathingly criticized Douglas for regard- 
ing the slavery question as of relatively small im- 
portance. He particularly complained of Douglas's 
view that there was no necessary wrong in slavery, 
and added: "We must not interfere with the 
institution of slavery in the states where it exists, 
because the Constitution forbids it. . . . We 
must not withhold an efficient fugitive slave 
law . . . but we must prevent the outspread- 
ing of the institution . . . the revival of the 
African slave trade and the enacting by Congress of 
a territorial slave code." 2 

1 Abraham Lincoln, A History, Vol. II, p. 185. 

2 The speeches of Lincoln at Columbus and Cincinnati are 


With Lincoln pressing him hard in Ohio, Doug- 
las was equally hard pressed by the administration, 
which set Attorney-General Black to work with an 
anonymous pamphlet deprecating Douglas's Har- 
per's Magazine essay as a crude production lacking in 
legal ability. This reply was published in Wash- 
ington and received a considerable circulation. In 
the Southern states, however, Douglas was likewise 
sharply criticized and in California the debate upon 
his positions surpassed in bitterness that which was 
carried on in any other part of the Union. Senator 
Broderick, the leader of one section of the Cali- 
fornia Democrats, and Gwin, the leader of the 
other, engaged in a struggle which finally resulted 
in a duel to the death between Broderick and 
Judge Terry of the California Supreme Court. 
Douglas's doctrine played a commanding part in the 
campaign there, despite the prominence of local 
issues and bitter personalities. The Southern ele- 
ment in the long run was substantially worsted, the 
Douglas Democrats and the Bepublicans being 
emphatically in the majority and later guiding the 
state into the path of allegiance to the Union when 
war had become inevitable. In spite of some 
tentative and partial successes in places where local 
issues aided, or where personal allegiance advanced 
his cause, or where peculiarly favorable conditions 
prevailed, Douglas evidently lost ground during 

quoted in part in Nicolay and Hay and are given in fnll in 
Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. 
Stephen A. Douglas, pp. 240-268. 


the campaign of 1859. It was a bad omen for the 
outcome which he hoped for in the approaching 
national convention, and before the year had closed 
it was plain that only some unusually fortunate 
turn could restore the prestige of the Democrats or 
secure to Douglas that position as titular leader of 
the party to which he had so long aspired. But 
history was making fast and this unexpected turn 
was promptly given. 

John Brown had gradually developed the idea of 
an invasion of the South and had, during the years 
1856-1859, secured a supply of arms and ammuni- 
tion for use in his prospective attempt. In Kansas, 
he had had the rough border experience and had 
gained the hatred of the South which both ani- 
mated and, as he believed, fitted, him for his at- 
tempt to begin a civil war designed to liberate the 

On July 4, 1859, Brown had finally settled in 
Maryland near Harper's Ferry, establishing there a 
depot of ammunition and supplies. On October 16, 
1859, he attacked Harper's Ferry, cutting the tele- 
graph wires and taking possession of the town, but 
a small body of about eighty marines from the 
Washington Navy Yard, under command of 
Colonel Eobert E. Lee, was at once dispatched to 
the scene and made short work of the "invaders," 
killing ten and capturing seven. Brown was 
promptly tried, convicted, sentenced and hanged, 
his death occurring on December 2d, while Con- 
gress with its usual ineptitude promptly appointed 


an investigating committee to look into facts with 
which the whole country was instantly familiar. 
The incident was in itself of no importance except 
as it furnished a spark to set off the high explosives 
with which national politics were then undermined. 
The committee appointed by Congress included Jef- 
ferson Davis of Mississippi, Mason of Virginia, and 
Fitch of Indiana, all Democrats of course, together 
with Collamer of Vermont and Doolittle of Wis- 
consin. As usual the effort was made by the ma- 
jority of the committee to fasten the unlawful acts 
of Brown's followers upon the Bepublican party, 
while the Republicans regarded the occurrence as 
an aftermath of the slavery controversy in Kansas. 
The undoubted effect of the incident and of the 
lucubrations of the committee was to sharpen the 
political discussion and, more important still, to 
concentrate it ever more pointedly upon slavery. 

The congressional committee was not able to 
recommend any legislation designed to prevent 
similar raids in the future because, as the report 
ran, it found the invasion of Virginia to be 
"simply the act of lawless ruffians under the sanc- 
tion of no public or political authority," ' but 
Douglas, unable to keep out of the controversy, 
hastened to urge the passage of a bill which would 
punish conspiracies in one state or territory against 
the government, people or property of another. 
Lincoln withheld his judgment for a time, but as 
soon as he had had opportunity to gauge the feeling 
1 Nioolay and Hay, Vol. II, p. 210. 


of the nation, said in a speech at Cooper Institute 
on February 27, 1860, that the John Brown in- 
vasion was " absurd," the result of the efforts of an 
"enthusiast" who had brooded over the "oppres- 
sion of a people till he fancied himself commis- 
sioned by heaven to liberate them." Lincoln ex- 
pressly repudiated responsibility for the John 
Brown affair, but it had an undoubted effect in em- 
bittering a section of public feeling against the 
Bepublican party, and in driving some to the 
opinion that a conservative Democrat of the Doug- 
las type would be safer as a presidential choice than 
a Republican. Within the Democratic party itself, 
the effect of the incident upon the more conserva- 
tive minds seems to have been mainly that of pro- 
ducing alarm and enforcing the necessity of reach- 
ing some accommodation by moderate means. Ex- 
treme Southern Democrats considered the episode 
practically a threat of war and as justifying their 
own radical position. They were, however, not 
yet ready for war, and many men who had unthink- 
ingly gone with Davis, Brown and the other ex- 
tremists in threats of violence and secession hesi- 
tated when the final step was suggested. On the 
whole, the Harper's Ferry episode and the circula- 
tion of certain partisan documents like Helper's 
Impending Crisis, which was endorsed by numerous 
influential Republicans, operated to aid Douglas, 
because they aggravated the issue between the ex- 
treme anti-slavery wing of the Republican party 
and the extreme pro-slavery wing of the Democrats. 


Thereby the necessity of electing a Democratic 
President upon a platform of moderate character 
which would to some extent unite the Northern and 
Southern wings of the party, was emphasized. 
The election of a Republican candidate, it seemed 
probable, would drive the country still nearer to 
war, by putting in charge of the government a 
group which had already shown a distinct sectional 
and partisan bias. 

Under these conditions, it was obviously true that 
Douglas was the logical candidate of the Democratic 
party. There had, however, been no reconciliation 
between him and the ultra- Southern senators on the 
floor and they continued to denounce him for his he- 
retical compromising with the opponents of slavery. 
But the extreme tendencies of the Southerners were 
now growing so marked that Douglas, strouger in the 
confidence of popular support than he had been, felt 
able to defy them. On the floor of the Senate, he 
boldly stated his position, asserting his willingness 
to accept the nomination, but refusing to recant or 
to give pledges of a change of heart with reference 
to slavery. Efforts to force him to commit himself 
were made both by the pro-slavery extremists and 
by New England and other anti-slavery propagan- 
dists, but to no purpose. Douglas definitely settled 
back upon the u Freeport doctrine " and more and 
more indicated his reluctance to discuss the slavery 
question in its general aspects, insisting that it be 
dealt with everywhere as a local issue. This posi- 
tion commended itself strongly to conservative voters 


in the Northern and Western states in whom the 
abstract spirit of reform was not very pronounced. 
During the early weeks of 1860, the Western section 
of the party rallied to his aid, electing Douglas 
delegations to the forthcoming national convention. 
This still further confirmed him in maintaining his 
own position. Signs of weakness, however, ap- 
peared in New York and Illinois, where contesting 
delegations were chosen, and it was early apparent 
that his success in gaining the approval of public 
opinion could be made fruitful only by means of a 
most bitter struggle in the convention. For this 
Douglas was fully prepared, realizing as he did that 
the crucial moment of his career had come and that, 
unless he now secured his party nomination, it 
would probably never be his portion. He therefore 
determined to accept the issue. 



The convention was to be held at Charleston, 
S. C. Delegates from the North and West made it 
a point to pass through Washington on their way 
to the place of meeting, and adherents of Douglas 
who were not regularly appointed delegates also 
resorted to Charleston in great numbers. It was 
recognized that the party was now at a turning- 
point, while the career of Douglas, with all that it 
meant to his followers, was in an equally critical 
position. He must go on and must succeed. Prob- 
ably most Democrats, even among the extreme 
Southern men, believed that they could carry the 
election with him as their candidate, but they were 
not willing to accept him in that capacity. They 
preferred to take the chances with some other who 
would be more sympathetic with their ideas and 
who would, if elected, assure them of the carrying 
out of their policies. 

On the whole, the Democratic convention at 
Charleston was a representative gathering. Ac- 
cording to Ehodes, 1 "the politicians who came were 
of the better class ; lawyers, men of business and 
planters of large iufluence and high character in 
their respective communities, though little known 
1 Ehodes, Vol. II, pp. 441-442. 


beyond their own states, were glad to have the 
honor of assisting in the deliberations of their 
party's national council. The selections had for 
the most part been made with care, and, except in 
New York and Pennsylvania, the action of the 
minor conventions that met to choose delegates was 
little disturbed by the operations of machine 
politics." A Tammany delegation from New York 
and a few congressmen constituted the representa- 
tion of the routine political element, but they were 
relatively weak. In such a meeting, composed of 
minds of good average quality, it was possible to 
test the sentiment of the country with unusual 
accuracy, and while the meeting was not charac- 
terized by the same technical bickerings that had 
marked scenes in both the Senate and the House, it 
was soon evident that Northern and Southern 
Democrats were not harmonious ; the Northerners 
because of the presence of slavery which some of 
them now saw for the first time in real life, the 
Southerners because of the comparative plainness 
and lack of culture which they found in the North- 
ern delegates. In all, about six hundred members 
were present in the convention, three hundred and 
three, the number of electors, being the total vote, 
each state casting votes equal to its electoral vote. 1 
Early in the discussions it became plain that 
Douglas by his recent changes of position had 
practically consolidated the Northwest behind him, 
and would be able to control the whole party, 
1 Rhodes, Vol. II, pp. 441-442. 


barring its extreme Southern section, but that his 
attitude on the question of Kansas and the issues 
that had later been linked with it, had hopelessly 
alienated that section. Deliberations had begun on 
the 23d of April and canvasses showed that Douglas 
had a majority of the delegates numerically, but that 
his opponeuts had seventeen out of thirty-three 
states. Caleb Cushing became the president of the 
convention, and as there was no disagreement about 
the desirability of determining the platform before 
the candidate was named, the Resolutions Committee 
began its sessions in earnest. Hardly had the work 
of the committee been started, when it appeared 
that among its members there was the same division 
of opinion as had already appeared in the conven- 
tion itself, and in Congress. Douglas dominated one 
faction in the committee while Jefferson Davis con- 
trolled the other, determined as the latter was to 
stand by the resolutions which Davis had sub- 
mitted to the Senate on the 2d of February, 1860. 
In one of these resolutions he had asserted that 
there was no power either in Congress or in a ter- 
ritorial legislature, directly or indirectly, to curtail 
the constitutional right whereby citizens of slave 
states were entitled to take slaves into the territories, 
and had laid down the principle that it was incum- 
bent upon the Federal government to furnish to 
slave-owners just as to the proprietors of every other 
kind of property, the protection they required for 
safeguarding it. 
Five days of heated discussion on the part of the 


Resolutions Committee led only to the rendering of 
majority and minority reports, on April 27, 1860, 
the former asserting the substance of the Davis 
resolutions, the latter reaffirming the Cincinnati 
platform of June 2, 1856, in which it was declared 
that "the Democratic party will resist all attempts 
at renewing in Congress or out of it, the agitation 
of the slavery question," endorsing the Dred Scott 
decision, and upholding the authority of the 
Supreme Court. When the two reports appeared 
on the floor, the controversy resulted in the asser- 
tion by the Southern delegates that they would not 
allow their interests to be overwhelmed by the men 
of the North and West. They would not suffer 
what they called the poison of Abolitionism to 
spread throughout the party, and they charged that 
the admission of the wrongful character of slavery, 
tacitly made by many of the Northern Democrats, 
lay at the root of all the evil. The minority of the 
committee, though at first calm and dispassionate 
in their argument, finally reached somewhat the 
same level of passion that had been early arrived 
at by the men of the extreme South. A long 
debate which filled the rest of the week, including 
the sending back of the rival platforms to the 
Resolutions Committee, resulted in no compromise, 
save the suggestion, made near the beginning of the 
convention by the Southerners and now renewed 
with great force, that in case the platform of the 
minority must be accepted in order to carry the 
Northern Democratic states, Southerners would 


consent upon condition that they should be given a 
candidate who would be sound, according to their 
own ideas, upon the slavery question. To this 
proposal Douglas and his followers — determined as 
they were to win the reward of their labors — op- 
posed a united front. Aside from the purely per- 
sonal element for which they were struggling, they 
had some basis of logic in the assertion that their 
platform and their candidate were inseparable, and 
that to attempt to run a pro-slavery man upon the 
Douglas platform would expose them to ridicule as 
well as defeat. The Douglas platform was finally 
accepted, 165 to 138, on Monday, April 30th. A 
round dozen delegates from slavery states voted in 
its favor, while there were thirty from free states 
who voted against it ; this was the result of Bu- 
chanan's anti-Douglas efforts in the Northern con- 
stituencies. The action was at once followed by 
the withdrawal from the convention of Alabama, 
Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, 
Texas and Arkansas, and finally Georgia. This 
great defection left but 253 votes in the convention 
and of these 202 were necessary to a choice. Doug- 
las, however, could not get at any time above 1522, 
although balloting was continued for several days 
and no fewer than fifty- seven distinct ballots were 
taken. Adjournments, on the part of the Douglas 
wing of the convention to meet in Baltimore on 
June 18th, and of the slavery wing to meet in 
Bichmond somewhat earlier, were at length taken 
and the convention broke up. 


The disappointing outcome at Charleston might 
well have moved Douglas to retire from the contest, 
had he been more given to vacillation or less 
certain of his own sufficiency. But the result of the 
convention had merely strengthened his determina- 
tion to maintain his own position ; he believed that 
he might draw away from the Republican party the 
more conservative elements which had passed over 
to it from the Democrats. 

Davis was now once more put forward by the 
extreme Southern element in the Senate to hamper 
and embarrass Douglas, and to assail the moderate 
platform which his friends had endeavored to have 
adopted by the Charleston convention. A savage 
attack by Davis upon the platform, coupled with 
unpleasant allusions to Douglas himself, was the 
striking incident of May 17th, and was the signal 
for a long and bitter rejoinder by Douglas in 
which he considered the recent history of the party ' 
and asserted that the attempt to nominate him was 
necessary, if only as a vindication from the charges 
openly made on the floor of the Senate as well as 
implied in the action taken when he had been 
removed from the chairmanship of the Committee 
on Territories. While the personal portions of this 
speech, and the review of the constitutional ques- 
tions centring around slavery were wearisome and 
tedious to the last degree, there were parts which 
had vital interest. Douglas at last openly admitted 
that the position of the Southern pro-slavery wing 

1 Congressional Globe, 1st Sesa., 36th Cong., pp. 2145-2156. 


of the party at the Democratic convention could 
mean only secession and the breaking up of the 
Union. He warned the Southerners that they were 
better off under existing conditions than they could 
ever hope to be again, and Davis, stung by the 
manner of Douglas, disclaimed a desire for seces- 
sion, charging his antagonist with being respon- 
sible for the threat of disunion through his con- 
tinued effort to press his own candidacy and his 
own theory of slavery under the Constitution upon 
a reluctant party. 

The resolutions of Davis, offered on February 
2d, to which reference has been made in con- 
nection with the Charleston convention, were 
adopted by the Democratic senators against the 
wishes of Douglas and of Pugh of Ohio who alone 
opposed them. Many voted for the resolutions 
without actually believing in them, but with the 
idea of placating the Southern element and giving 
an appearance of party harmony which did not 
exist. A further attempt to make the action thus 
taken entirely nugatory that it might appear to the 
country as a purely academic proposition, was the 
acceptance of a resolution to the effect that slave 
property in the territories was already safe without 
the interference of Congress. In spite of the 
attempt to rob the action of most of its significance, 
however, the adoption of the Davis resolutions was 
a source of alarm to the country, while the course 
of the Republican convention at Chicago in nomi- 
nating Abraham Lincoln made the situation still 


more acute. This step had been taken ' on the 
18th of May, Lincoln receiving 364 votes, and the 
nomination was promptly made unanimous. 

Douglas, with genuine political insight, recog- 
nized that the party of his opponents had taken the 
course which was most calculated to endear it to 
the public mind, and that Lincoln, whose power he 
had felt in the Illinois debates, would prove a 
formidable foe in those very states where his own 
strength was supposed to be greatest. He realized 
also that the choice of so distinct and positive an 
opponent of Southern ideas would render his own 
pro-slavery antagonists more insistent than ever 
upon a candidate of equally positive views, and less 
inclined to accept one whom they considered a 
compromiser or trimmer like himself. He told his 
political friends in Washington that he recognized 
Lincoln as both able and honest, and in reviewing 
conditions in his own mind he found them so 
difficult as to render it necessary that he should at 
least make some offer of withdrawal before the 
Baltimore convention on the 18th of June. Think- 
ing thus, he reluctantly and ungraciously wrote to 
the controlling members of the Tammany delega- 
tion from New York, that if his retirement could 
preserve the unity of the party, he would prefer to 
see his name dropped and that of some more suit- 
able Democrat substituted. The New York delega- 
tion was in a peculiarly significant position, because 
of an effort which was now making to admit to the 
1 Nicolay and Hay, Vol. II, p. 277. 


convention some of the delegates who had with- 
drawn at Charleston, and who, having repented, 
wished to resume their places at Baltimore, as 
well as sundry delegations pledged to Douglas 
which had meanwhile been appointed in certain 
other states. The Tammany men, after carefully 
considering the situation, determined to stand 
by Douglas and the new delegations from the 
Southern states were admitted. This practically 
settled the contest ' and at once further withdrawals 
began. Men from the border states like Kentucky 
and Maryland, as well as some from North Carolina 
and Tennessee, now retired, and Douglas's nomina- 
tion promptly followed. The men who had with- 

1 Halstead, Caucuses of 1860, p. 227, gives the best survey of 
the situation : 

"When the seceders appeared at Baltimore, pursuant to the 
program of the Southern congressmen, advertised in their 
manifesto and perfected at Richmond, the contest between the 
autagonisms which had been fully developed at Charleston, 
resolved itself into a simple one on credentials, between the 
original Charleston delegates, and the delegations from several 
states, provided to fill up the gaps caused by secession, with 
the deciding vote in the hand of Dean Richmond, chairman of 
the New York delegation. Richmond & Co., while able to say 
whether the convention should be consolidated by admitting the 
original Southern delegates, or disrupted by excluding the 
seceders, could not say, in case of consolidation, who should be 
the nominee. The friends of Douglas were without confidence 
in Richmond ( - the Dean '), and were only prevented from 
denouncing him by the appreciation of their dependence upon 
him. If he slaughtered Douglas, they had the power and will 
to slaughter his man, and would have prevented the nomi- 
nation of any candidate for whom he, in connection with the 
South, might have thrown his influence. Hence the hesitation 
of New York — her long consultations, her vacillation, and 
retrograde movements. She struggled for a compromise, but 


drawn were joined by the majority of those who 
had originally retired from the Charleston con- 
vention and hastened to nominate Breckinridge for 
the presidency, selecting Lane of Oregon as a vice- 
presidential candidate, while the Douglas wing of 
the party added Johnson, a Georgian, as his associ- 

Douglas's letter of acceptance sought to make the 
point that the pro -slavery men were essentially 
sectional in their appeal, and that his own branch 
of the party was the true national Democratic 
organization. This idea he based on the view that 
special Federal protection of slavery was essen- 
tially a sectional issue, and a demand for the con- 

both sides were so fierce that compromising was out of the 
question. The Southerners thought they had compromised 
enough in coming to Baltimore, and condescending to ask 
admission into the convention from which they had seceded. 
The friends of Douglas could not be expected to throw away 
the last chance for their candidate, by making up the con- 
vention, so far as possible, out of its original materials. Such 
a compromise as that would have been, not a capitulation, but 
a surrender at discretion. They did, at the solicitation, 
indeed, the dictatorial demand of New York, back out from 
two propositions, and were sorry for it afterward. They had 
taken the ground that no delegate accredited to the Richmond 
convention should be allowed to enter that at Baltimore. 
They were drawn from this point by the strong case of 
Mississippi. They had also declared the necessity of a pledge 
or understanding, that all delegates entering the convention 
should make or assent to, to the effect that they would support 
the nominees of the convention. After urging this for a few 
hours, and observing the explosive excitement engendered by 
it, they withdrew it. They also, or rather New York, suc- 
cumbed respecting their delegation from Georgia. Yet it was 
impossible to satisfy the demands of the South and preserve the 
unity of the convention, without passing under the yoke of 
Yauoey, and they could not consent to that humiliation." 


sideration of one group of states to the disadvan- 
tage and against the wishes of the main body of 
states. The trouble in Douglas's letter lay in the 
fact that the whole question at issue in national 
politics was now essentially a sectional issue and 
could not be made anything else. Sectionalism had 
itself become a national question. The utter im- 
possibility of ignoring slavery, or the constitutional 
issues which had become associated with it, was 
seen in connection with the efforts of the so-called 
Constitutional Union party, which in a convention 
at Baltimore had put forward a ticket with Bell of 
Tennessee and Everett of Massachusetts as candi- 
dates for President and Vice-President respectively, 
while it entirely ignored the slavery question. Its 
platform was "the Constitution of the country, the 
union of the states, and the enforcement of the 
laws." That the time was now past when any such 
platitudinous evasion would serve the purposes of 
national politics was promptly seen in the fact that 
the Constitutional Union party attracted little sup- 
port. It received fewer votes in the election than 
did any of the other tickets now in the field. The 
effort to disclaim a desire to break up the Union 
was, however, characteristic of every one of the 
parties, and Douglas still continued to urge the 
necessity of reuniting the Democrats upon broad 
national lines, designed to maintain the Union. 
Lincoln insisted upon the inviolability of the Con- 
stitution while Breckinridge and Bell adopted the 
same attitude, Breckinridge urging "the Constitu- 


tion and equality of the states" and Bell "the 
maintenance of the Constitution and the Union." 
Buchanan promptly attached himself to Breckin- 
ridge and his personal followers began a bitter 
onslaught upon Douglas. 1 

The disastrous result of the conventions at 
Charleston and Baltimore had for the moment been 
exceedingly discouraging to Douglas. He, however, 
soon rallied. His success in political contests, al- 
most uniform throughout his whole life, had giveu 
him a rare self-confidence and he saw in the division 
of his antagonists into three parties a decided hope 
for himself as the head of a group laying claims to 
national character, boasting many adherents in 
practically every state in the Union, and appealing 
strongly to conservative men everywhere. He fore- 
saw a possibility that the election might be thrown 
into the House of Bepresentatives, and gave orders 
to his followers to cultivate the friendship of the 
Constitutional Union party, while showing no 
quarter to the Breckinridge group. In the East 
and in New England he thought he had ex- 
cellent chances, and in New York the outlook 
seemed hopeful, owing to the friendship of some in- 
fluential newspapers and the power of the Tammany 
organization. Douglas, moreover, understood that 
his campaign would lack something of the support 
and vigor possessed by the Democratic national or- 
ganization in former days and he determined to 

1 Nioolay and Hay, Vol. II, Chap. 16, give a clear account of 
the political situation. 


;ake the stump himself, thus violating precedent, 
)ut arousing the popular enthusiasm which he had 
lsually been able to inspire by his appealing and 
>vermastering personality. He traveled through 
Sew England, speaking at Boston, Cambridge, 
Springfield, Concord and at Troy, N. Y., as well as 
elsewhere. He addressed the crowds sometimes 
without primary reference to politics, but usually 
nanaging to inject some acute comments on the 
lational situation, while at other times he delivered 
mt-and-out political speeches along his own favor- 
te lines. Later he started for the South, passing 
hrough Virginia, 1 North Carolina, and other states, 
md, returning to the West, he spoke in Ohio, 

1 Mr. Henry Adams (Massachusetts Historical Society, Pro- 
eedings, April-June, 1910, p. 665) has given an unfamiliar 
xplanation of this trip which, from one point of view, places 
)ouglas in a very favorable light. Says Mr. Adams: '"A 
ride-spread and intricate conspiracy existed against the govern- 
ment ; so much was undoubted. Mr. Douglas and his friends 
enounced it openly, and traced it up to its source. For many 
ears past, there has been, it is true, a class of men in the 
outhern states as in the Northern who have wished for disun- 
)n as a thing good in itself. But this class was always small 
nd could never have obtained the control of a single state as 
ing as the slave power ruled the country. But according to 
Ir. Douglas, when it became evident at the dissolution of the 
Baltimore Convention in the spring of 1860 that the Democratic 
arty were to lose their omnipotent voice in the affairs of the 
ation, the leading statesmen in the Southern states framed a 
Ian for the dissolution of the Union. ... To defeat this 
anspiracy had been the object of Mr. Douglas's journey to 
Irginia and the South. . . . His object was to break up 
ais Southern combination and to throw the state of Virginia 

. . into the hands of the Southern Whigs. His manoeuvre 
ras only partially successful. . . . Still the main object 
raa gained." 


Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and elsewhere. Still later, 
on the 19th of October, he turned southward again, 
speaking in Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and at 
points en route. 

The j ourney through the South was from the first 
discouraging. He had been interrogated about se- 
cession almost as soon as he stepped upon the soil of 
Virginia. There, however, he had struck a blow 
for the maintenance of the Union, by answering 
one who asked him at Norfolk what the South 
should do in case of the election of Lincoln, that the 
choice of the Eepublicau candidate would not justify 
any attempt at dissolution ; while to a second ques- 
tion, whether in case of secession such action should 
be resisted, he responded that everything should be 
done to maintain the supremacy of the laws. Al- 
though he had been favorably treated at Eichinond, 
as he moved farther South he felt more keenly the 
force of the growing spirit of secession and was less 
and less disposed to look with hope to the future. 
As he turned northward again and westward, there 
was a renewal of the enthusiastic scenes of earlier 
days. At Kalamazoo, Mich., he was met by an im- 
mense crowd ' which escorted him through the prin- 
cipal streets, and in his later speeches in the North- 
west the personal endorsement greeting him was 
very strong. Eeturning to the South as election 
time drew near, he again encountered strong per- 

1 New York Tribune, Oct. 17, 1860. References to local condi- 
tions contained in the preceding pages are chiefly drawn from 
the reports of the Tribune's correspondents. 


sonal hostility, and at times even ran the risk of 
violence. That an effort was made to wreck his 
train was his individual belief. 1 Although the per- 
sonal conduct of his canvass had been objected to 
at the beginning, men became accustomed to it 
after a time and criticism partly ceased. The 
strain, however, was terrific, and Douglas returned 
to the bad habits which had been growing upon him 
for some years. He drank freely, and at a point 
in Indiana through which a train bearing two 
political acquaintances was passing he entered the 
car late at night and sought to have the men join 
him in a bottle of whiskey which he brought with 
him. Upon their refusal he partially consumed it 
alone. It could not be possible that a lack of dig- 
nity so pronounced as this would be favorably re- 
garded even by the somewhat rough and ready con- 
stituency to which Douglas spoke in many of the 
places where he had journeyed. Perhaps the rec- 
ognition which had come to him comparatively 
early in the autumn that Lincoln would certainly 
win, had altered his own view of himself as a prob- 
able President and had led him to the adoption of a 
kind of conduct from which he would otherwise 
have abstained. During the later days of the cam- 
paign, after certain state elections had been carried 
by the Eepublicans, the conviction deepened in 
Douglas's mind that hope was now gone and that 
his only mission in the contest must be that of 
creating sentiment against secession, and so far as 
1 Johnson , Douglas, p. 439. 


possible of neutralizing the dangerous influence of 
Jefferson Davis and his followers. 

The first word of Douglas's conclusive defeat 
reached him while he was in Mississippi. His mind 
had already grown so thoroughly accustomed to the 
idea that the event did not then have the stunning ef- 
fect it would otherwise have had. He started for the 
North almost immediately, speaking at a few places 
en route and urging acquiescence in the verdict at 
the polls. He freely admitted his regret for the 
election of Lincoln and his dislike of Lincoln's anti- 
slavery views. As the returns of the election came 
in, it was possible for him to urge with much force 
that the South had comparatively little to fear after 
all, since the Eepublican party was in the minority 
and Lincoln had simply won by a plurality instead of 
by a majority. He wisely refrained from calling 
much attention to the fact that had Breckinridge and 
the extreme pro-slavery wing supported him instead 
of breaking away from the party, the day might have 
been carried. Douglas was far too sagacious polit- 
ically to try to aggravate the intense feeling of the 
South, for the sake of the cheap satisfaction of es- 
tablishing the accurate character of his own predic- 
tions. Yet in private conversations he admitted 
that he was losing courage, and this discouragement 
deepened as further details of the election came in. 
Douglas had received a total of 1,376,957 in the 
popular vote against Lincoln's 1,866,452, Breckin- 
ridge's 849, 781, and Bell's 588,879. In the electoral 
vote, however, one hundred and eighty went to 


Lincoln, seventy-two to Breckinridge, thirty-nine 
to Bell, and only twelve to Douglas. Douglas had 
obtained nine votes in Missouri, and three in New 
Jersey. The outcome showed his actual position 
exceedingly well. He had represented the general, 
wide-spread opinion of those whose minds revolted 
from warfare, and who would have preserved the 
Union at any cost, even that of a principle. 1 Yet, 
as the returns also showed, these conservatives were 
not sufficiently numerous to control the wild forces 
which were now working toward war, and prac- 
tically at no point throughout the whole country 
were they superior to the combined extremists who 
would rule or ruin. 

It had now become the foremost question with all 
thinking men how they were to shape their courses 
in the fierce battle that was impending. Above all 
else what should be done with reference to the ques- 
tion of secession ? On that point, Douglas had al- 
ready firmly and definitely committed himself. Se- 
cession would not be justified and must not take 
place ; but should it be attempted, it must be put 
down by force. This view the defeated candi- 
date firmly set himself to uphold. He passed rap- 
idly to Washington, where he delivered an address 
in support of Lincoln, the newly-elected Pres- 
ident. Secession had already been begun by the 
taking of preliminary steps in South Carolina. 
These had been so menacing as to alarm the com- 
manders in charge of Federal garrisons, who called 
Stauwood, A History of the Presidency, pp. 296-297, for figures. 


for aid in order that an actual clash might be 
avoided, but who found themselves blocked by the 
treacherous inertness of the reactionary President 
who still occupied the White House. 

The indications of secession were, however, thus 
far no more serious than had been observed in other 
parts of the country at previous crises, and Doug- 
las, in common with many other conservative men, 
still believed that the differences could somehow be 
reconciled. But the opening of Congress showed 
that the difference of opinion had become practi- 
cally hopeless. Davis and others reiterated their 
former views and now plaintively added that seces- 
sion was unavoidable because of their fear of Lin- 
coln and what he might do. Some of the extreme 
Southerners made plain and direct statements that 
their states would leave the Union in the near fu- 
ture, and if obliged to do so would resort to force to 
establish their position. In the hope of a possible 
reconciliation, Douglas now adopted a new role. 
He no longer appeared on the floor in vituperation, 
nor did he engage with his customary pleasure and 
spirit in acrimonious discussion about the constitu- 
tional aspects of slavery. He sought to promote 
peace by asking the Southerners for a detailed state- 
ment specifying the points at which they took ex- 
ception to the existing status, and when some mat- 
ters were tentatively mentioned he joined heartily 
with his former pro-slavery associates in denounc- 
ing the conditions at the North of which they com- 
plained. The more reasonable slavery men an- 


swered to his call, and proposed the appointment of 
thirteen members of the Senate who should suggest 
measures that would be acceptable to all parties, 
and would serve as a basis of a reconciliation. The 
men selected for this committee were chosen in 
the usual fashion — so as to represent all opinions, 
a photograph of the same irreconcilable and con- 
flicting mood of mind in which Congress at the mo- 
ment found itself. 

The committee included five Republicans headed 
by the extreme and self- important Seward, the two 
fire-eaters of the bourbon Southern group, Davis and 
Toombs, and three lay figures from the slavehold- 
ing but still doubtful commonwealths which wished 
to save the Union if they could, while Douglas him- 
self with two satellites stood for the conservative 
Democracy of the North and South. Various reso- 
lutions were submitted to the committee and a con- 
siderable number of constitutional amendments 
came before them. Conspicuous in this program 
were the plans of compromise which had been urged 
by Senator Crittenden of Keutucky, himself now a 
member of the newly appointed committee. An 
integral feature of Crittenden's plan was the rees- 
tablishment and extension of the boundary line 
which had been set in the Missouri Compromise. 
Here, however, the extreme partisans showed that 
compromise was to them but another name for in- 
sistence upon their own views. The Republicans 
voted against the amendments, and these of course 
were equally unsatisfactory to the extreme South- 


erners. Douglas supported the whole of the pro- 
gram of compromise, 1 but without being in the least 
able to impress his views upon his associates. 

The outcome of the committee's work seems to 
have convinced him of one thing about which he had 
previously been uncertain. He fully believed that 
the extreme Republicans of New England were as 
ready for war as were the men of the extreme South. 
So strongly did he hold this view that he was in- 
clined to ascribe the tactics followed by the North- 
ern Republicans to a desire to goad the South into 
secession, in order that they themselves might have 
unquestioned control in the Senate. As a last hope, 
Douglas submitted to the committee a scheme of 
his own for the settlement of the slavery question, 
which he now properly regarded as vital and not as 
an indifferent matter that might be settled by local 
communities as they pleased. In assenting to the 
report of the committee to the effect that no general 
compromise or scheme of reconciliation could be de- 
termined upon, Douglas, however, urged that a 
popular vote be taken with reference to the plan 
of adjustment suggested by Senator Crittenden. In 
speaking on this matter, he reverted to his original 
theory of slavery in its constitutional bearings and 
again asserted views designed to soothe the Southern 
extremists. His advance over former positions was 
seen in his frank recognition that the time had come 
when some disposition should be made of the issue, 

1 The report of this committee may be found in Congressional 
Globe, 2d Sess., 36th Cong., p. 114. 


and that it had become too large and difficult to be 
further used as the basis for partisan struggles. 
The great and controlling problem now was how to 
maintain the United States intact. 1 To this every- 
thing else must be subordinated. 

Yet while beseeching and entreating all to give 
up partisanship, Douglas himself was unable to con- 
trol his own partisan tendencies. He charged the 
Republicans on the compromise committee with 
causing the whole trouble, and attempted to throw 
upon them the responsibility for the conditions 
which obtained as a result of the disagreement, and 
for the impending armed struggle. His arguments 
had no effect either upon the New England men and 
their followers or upon Davis, Toombs, and the 
others. Although secession was very evidently al- 
ready becoming an accomplished fact, Douglas 
hoped against hope, and throughout the session 
sought to regard so far as possible the wishes of the 
Southern clique. Kansas had now once more ap- 
plied for admission to the Union, presenting a con- 
stitution which had been duly framed and which 
would have added the state to the list of non-slavery 
commonwealths. Douglas attempted to secure the 
acceptance of the constitution, but perhaps in order 
to offset the effect of this action to which his former 
position necessarily bound him, he also offered a 
measure intended to amend the Fugitive Slave Law, 
strengthening that enactment at the point where it 
had proved weak. This olive branch was far from 
1 Congressional Globe, 2d Sess., 36th Cong., passim. 


acceptable to the South, and Douglas's efforts ouly 
brought him iuto ridicule. So also wheu it came 
to creating the new territories of Colorado and 
New Mexico, a bill had been offered wherein the 
line had not been sharply drawn between slave and 
free territory and which would have left unsettled 
several doubtful points. It had been carelessly 
drafted, although it was framed upon the lines of a 
previous measure for which Douglas himself had 
been the sponsor. He desired to have accepted in 
place of it a substitute measure wherein practically 
all power was bestowed upou the people of the terri- 
tory and the authority of the Federal government 
was greatly narrowed. Under the conditions the 
proposal was a decided concession to the Southern 
states, and was unquestionably objectionable to the 
Eepublicans. Nothing came of it, for the growing 
power of the Republicans enabled them to press 
their own plans forward to success, while the South- 
erners were less and less interested in the legisla- 
tion of a nation in which they more and more felt 
that they had no part. 1 

Douglas's concern for, and active discussion of, 
the territorial measure, however, was rather a 
reminiscence of former days — the outcome of habits 
long formed, overflowing in a renewal of action of a 

1 Mr. Henry Adams, then a contemporary observer in Wash- 
ington, said : "The New Mexico proposition was defeated by 
Southern union votes. ... It had been proposed and 
adopted merely as a means of crushing the Crittenden meas- 
ures." — Proceedings of Massachusetts Historical Sooiety, April- 
June, 1910, p. 683. 


kind which had already become familiar — thai) 
the result of a healthy interest in contemporary 
politics. As the disastrous Buchanan administra- 
tion drew to a close, Douglas more fully realized 
that the question was now one of genuine war- 
fare and the best way of conducting it. Although 
secession had actually been decreed iu some cases, 
the Southern senators were holding their places in 
Congress as long as possible, partly for reasons of 
their own and partly to give time for their states to 
take further action. Davis and some of his associ- 
ates from the far South had determined not to with- 
draw until they had regular notification of the 
secession of their states, and their formal farewell 
did not come until the 21st of January, 1 when he as 
the leader, finally regretting the step toward which 
he had long been tending and working, made a 
speech in the Senate expressive of his mental suf- 
fering. Various states followed from time to time. 
Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, 
and Texas successively left the Union. 2 The first 
attempt at a Southern Confederacy came early in 
February, and on the 8th of that month Davis 
and Stephens were elected President and Vice-Pres- 
ident of the new government in a congress held at 
Montgomery, Ala. By this time, the Senate had 
been considerably depleted in numbers, and Doug- 
las's fast-fading hopes of peace had been entirely 
disappointed. War seemed to be unavoidable, for 
as early as the 9th of January the Star of the West, 
1 Rhodes, Vol. Ill, p. 271. 2 Ibid., p. 272. 


bearing a relief expedition for Fort Sumter, had 
been driven away by cannon shot, while other 
armed demonstrations had followed. Douglas saw 
that the question of actual war might depend in 
part upon the attitude of the new President and 
that there was at least a theoretical possibility of 
reaching an agreement with the Confederacy with- 
out the shedding of blood. He hoped that Lincoln 
as he took office would inspire confidence, and that 
it might be possible to hold a firm hand upon the 

Thus the Buchanan administration drew to a 
close, Douglas himself placing more and more re- 
liance upon the personality of his former rival and 
antagonist who was shortly to assume the direction 
of national affairs. 



A new, and unhappily the last, phase of Douglas's 
stormy career in national politics had now opened. 
Like every other man in American public life, he 
had still to think of himself, and of himself in re- 
lation to a local constituency. It was this that had 
recalled him at the crucial moment from his pursuit 
of the pro-slavery support which he had hoped to 
use in his presidential aspirations. He was now 
left practically without a party, for, though his 
popular vote had been second only to that of Lin- 
coln, he was unable to secure a following in Con- 
gress and was isolated. His popular vote had been 
based upon general considerations rather than upon 
his advocacy of particular measures, and the test 
which he had made during the last short session of 
the Buchanan administration had convinced him 
that the game he had been playing was no longer pos- 
sible. Moreover, he was now aware that the senti- 
ment of the country would not longer tolerate 
slavery upon the basis it had heretofore occupied, 
and he recognized that Illinois with its own Repub- 
lican President, who had received a materially larger 
vote than himself and the eleven ballots of the state 
in the electoral college, would not be hospitable 


toward a man who would show antagonism to the 
administration. With this personal interest in 
maintaining himself as a national figure, potentially 
at least the leader of the opposition in Congress 
when that opposition should have had time once 
more to draw together its scattered forces, was com- 
bined the appeal of consistency and patriotism. 
Douglas had plainly said during the campaign that 
he thought secession, if attempted, should be put 
down by armed force. Support of the administra- 
tion, therefore, was both the personal and patriotic 
dictate of the moment. If possible, the President 
must be saved from the control of the extreme re- 
form element which would make him a crusader 
against slavery and would commit him firmly to the 
idea that his mission was to correct the moral 
wrongs done by the continued existence of the slave 
system since the founding of the Constitution. As 
an administration Democrat, Douglas would be 
consistent and patriotic, and would further his own 
personal and political ends. It was in this direc- 
tion, therefore, that he now shaped his course. 

The election of Lincoln had been succeeded by the 
usual feeling of doubt concerning a new figure in the 
White House which is most keen between the choice 
of a President and the time of his taking office. 
This familiar hesitancy and question, ordinarily 
characteristic of the period when a nation is making 
its first real acquaintance with the new leader, had 
been deepened in the case of Lincoln by certain un- 
toward facts. His election found him in many 


ways more free from personal influences and pledges 
than Presidents commonly are. One result was an 
unusual gathering of politicians and place-seekers 
at Springfield where they made their clamorous de- 
mands and urged their claims upon the President- 
elect. 1 Lincoln was still a narrow man, untried by 
the exigent demands of great emergency. He was 
still sectional and local, uncertain how to move, 
lacking in personal dignity upon occasion, and to 
those who did not know him and who were unaware 
of his mighty moral power, unimpressive. Yield- 
ing to the advice of detectives, Lincoln quietly 
slipped into Washington incognito, changing a pro- 
gram that had been definitely set in advance and 
thus presumably avoiding the danger of assassina- 
tion. To some observers who met him soon after 
his arrival, he seemed weak, vacillating and uncer- 
tain. Douglas regretted these impressions, and 
thought that another way of reaching Washington 
would have been better. He admitted that Lincoln 
was still local and sectional, but he recognized his 
capacity for growth and believed he would throw off 
the influences of the cliques and groups by which 
he was surrounded. Mrs. Douglas hastened to offer 
the proper social attention to Mrs. Lincoln, while 
Douglas himself as early as possible paid his re- 
spects to the President-elect. Douglas stated to 
Lincoln his own views about the posture of affairs 
in Washington, inveighed against the efforts of ex- 
tremists on both sides to bring on war, urged that the 
1 Oberholtzer, Abraham Lincoln, p. 161 ff. 


Constitution be amended at a national convention 
to be called by the President, and placed himself at 
the disposal of the new administration in a non-par- 
tisan way. 

Lincoln seemed to be uncertain, for the crisis was 
such as to chill the determination of even the most 
resolute man. He refused to accept Douglas's sug- 
gestions, although he appreciated the spirit in 
which they were made, and without definitely re- 
jecting them reserved them for consideration. 
Congress closed in a whirlwind of debate and 
recrimination, in the course of which compromise 
proposals of all kinds were defeated. Douglas did 
not stay throughout the all-night session which pre- 
ceded March 4th, the date falling that year on 
Monday. He discussed with Lincoln up to the last 
moment some of the ideas to be brought forward 
in the inaugural address, stood close to the new 
President while he delivered it, and immediately 
afterward spoke in high terms of its content. He 
emphasized his friendly attitude toward the Presi- 
dent's immediate family, and sought in every way 
to support and defend both the personality of the 
new incumbent of the first office in the land, and 
the ideas by which he was now animated. Lincoln 
was in need of aid. The radical Eepublican sena- 
tors were not altogether pleased with the tone of the 
inaugural address, while the extreme Southerners 
sought for a basis of interpretation that would 
enable them to represent it as a call to war. Doug- 
las thought that the extremes on both sides 


should be avoided and that a middle course should 
be steered. Immediately after the inauguration 
day, he stepped forward as the champion of the 
administration in Congress, though he refrained 
from admitting his own personal approval and 
commendation of what President Lincoln had said. 
His views as a public man with reference to the ad- 
dress were set forth in a speech of March 6th. 

Lincoln's address 1 had been regarded by the 
Southern sympathizers in the Senate as a threat of 
war. The truth was that in its general tone the 
address was probably as friendly and as moderate 
as the conditions of the times demanded or the 
platform upon which Lincoln had been elected 
would have permitted. This is the opinion of Lin- 
coln's latest biographers, 2 who have written in 
cooler temper and with less partisanship than those 
who had early followed the career of the great 
President. Lincoln was, in fact, distinctly con- 
ciliatory in certain respects. His view of the exist- 
ing situation was, from a practical standpoint, now 
singularly close to that of Douglas, notwithstanding 
that nothing had been done to bridge the chasm of 
theory and constitutional doctrine by which the 
two men were separated. They were at one in 
their view that the Union was perpetual and that 
no state upon its own mere motion could break the 
bond. With Douglas, too, Lincoln held that the 
act of secession, if seriously undertaken by any 

1 Messages and Papers, Vol. VI, p. 5. 

*See, for instance, Oberholtzer, Abraham Lincoln, p. 182. 


state or body of states, could not be indifferently 
regarded by the Federal government, and that such 
effort must be put down by force. This harmony 
of belief was not, as some overzealous admirers of 
Douglas have wished to show, the result of Doug- 
las's influence on Lincoln. It was the outcome of a 
state of facts which could lead to but one conclusion 
among those with whom sectionalism was not a con- 
trolling idea or attachment to a peculiar institution 
superior to love of country. It was, too, the result 
of the prevailing opinion of the great Northwest 
and Middle West from which both Lincoln and 
Douglas drew their strength. Both were politicians 
of phenomenal immediate insight, and Lincoln was 
already passing to the level of statesmanship. This 
level Douglas himself had sometimes attained, and 
he was now maintaining his position with what was 
for him an unusual degree of steadiness. There was 
thus a common ground of sympathy between the two 
men. Lincoln, in declaring that there should be no 
violent attack upon any state unless such attack 
could not be avoided by the Federal government, 
did indeed tacitly but clearly indicate that an ap- 
peal to arms would be forthcoming if circumstances 
compelled. In this he took no stronger ground 
than Douglas himself in his speeches in the South- 
ern states, when he had flatly said that secession, 
should it be attempted, must be put down. 

It was not strange, then, that when Douglas rose 
in the Senate on the 6th of March, he should do so 
with the firm intent of defending the inaugural ad 


dress. He properly pointed out that there was no 
ground for regarding the paper as unduly extreme. 
Rather it was conciliatory. ' The President intended, 
it was true, to apply force, if force were demanded. 
Yet the tone of the address, thought Douglas, 
opened a door for peaceful settlement of pending 
controversies along legitimate lines. He even went 
further, and attributed to Lincoln a definite accept- 
ance of the idea of amending the Constitution in the 
way which he himself had urged — a suggestion 
which had, at the utmost, a basis in interpreta- 
tion rather than in fact. It was one of the strong- 
est features of Douglas's endorsement of the inau- 
gural address that he limited it entirely to those 
portions which dealt with the question of pre- 
serving the Union. Frankly and honestly he an- 
nounced that he was still at war with Mr. Lincoln 
upon broad questions of party principle, although 
as to the preservation and continuation of the 
United States upon its original lines, perhaps with 
some amendment of the Constitution, he was in har- 
mony with the new President and expected to sup- 
port him. As to the immediate question of the 
policy to be pursued with reference to the Federal 
garrisons in Southern states, which had now be- 
come acute in the case of Fort Sumter, Douglas did 
not know what to say, and when pressed by seces- 
sionists could only answer that he knew nothing 
about what was to be done. He was in no position, 
therefore, to make suggestions on this subject. 
1 Congressional Globe, 2d Sess., 36th Cong., p. 1438. 


The address was among Douglas's most effective 
efforts, and had a very wholesome influence. Lin- 
coln knew its importance. He had already begun to 
realize the difficulties by which he was beset on all 
sides and was in no mind to throw himself into the 
arms of the zealous reformers represented by the 
New England group in the Senate. As a practical 
politician, he was able to appreciate to the full the 
value of such a supporter as Douglas in the upper 
House of Congress, even though that support were 
limited to the one question which above all others 
would test his administration — the preservation of 
the Union. In consultations with Douglas, he now 
took the leader of the Democratic opposition still 
further into his confidence and sought his advice 
about the points of actual policy which were still 
awaiting a settlement. He particularly asked 
Douglas what the latter would advise with reference 
to the garrisons in South Carolina, and Douglas 
gave him counsel based upon the immediate ex- 
pediencies of the situation. Recognizing that a mis- 
step at the opening of the administration might lead 
to a serious tactical defeat, he was inclined to sug- 
gest that before taking positive action, something 
should be attempted with a view to getting at the 
existing feeling in the Senate. The time was press- 
ing and action could not be longer delayed. He 
determined to bring matters to a crucial test by 
forcing a vote that would not only develop senti- 
ment in the upper House of Congress, but would 
also commit to the support of the President the 


wavering members who would like to equivocate 
and, in case things went wrong, throw the blame 
upon the Executive. Lincoln from the start had 
intended to hold both Sumter and Pickens, 1 and if 
possible to keep general control of the border slave 
states. This was the broad generalization of the 
outsider, who had not yet come face to face with the 
real problem. As soon as he had assumed office, he 
found the question much more difficult and was con- 
fronted by a statement from those in charge of 
Sumter that 20,000 good men would be needed if 
the fort were to be retained. Several advisers sug- 
gested evacuation, and Lincoln himself was dis- 
tressed by the swarms of hungry Eepublican office- 
seekers who, as Stanton said, filled the " grounds, 
halls, stairways, and closets ' ' of the White House 
to such an extent as to make it hard to get out of 
or into the structure. Lincoln, therefore, was very 
glad to leave to Douglas the task of finding out how 
things stood. 

The matter was brought to a head on the floor, 
apropos of a resolution offered by Douglas on the 
13th of March, in which he asked for information 
about the forts, and inquired whether reinforce- 
ments were necessary. 2 This afforded opportunity 
for a discussion. Douglas felt impelled to explain 
why he had offered such a resolution and pointed 
out that the customs duties could not be, and were 
not being, collected in the Southern states. The 

Rhodes, Vol. Ill, p. 325. 
1 Congressional Globe, 2d Seas., 36th Cong., p. 1452. 


question therefore arose whether the President 
could establish a blockade of Charleston, and in 
general what would be the appropriate method of 
enforcing the laws in the states affected by the 
secession movement. 1 Congress had as yet done 
nothing. Why should it seek in this way to 
hamper the President ? Was it not ready to sup- 
port him by bestowing proper authority and giving 
power to do whatever was necessary 1 ? The in- 
quiries were resented by the Eepublicans. They 
disliked to see a Democrat thus rising to the 
occasion and convicting them of indifference or 
lukewarmness while they sat silent, unready to 
take the necessary action and supinely throwing 
upon the President the responsibility for every- 
thing that must be done. The appeal, therefore, was 
of no effect and Lincoln, who had meanwhile, 
on the 15th of March, 2 referred the matter to the 
Cabinet without getting any satisfactory answer, 
felt obliged to make up his mind alone. He sent a 
confidential agent to Charleston with a view to 
finding out whether there was any latent Federal 
feeling in the state, 3 and the reply which he 
received showed that such sentiment was al- 
most entirely dead. The question dragged on for 
some days while Seward was negotiating with 
representatives of the Confederacy and hoping that 
things would work themselves into a better situa- 

1 Congressional Globe, 2d Sess., 36th Cong., p. 1458. 

2 Rhodes, Vol. Ill, p. 327. 

3 Ibid, p. 328. 


tion. Nothing came of the discussion, and on the 
4th of April Lincoln finally resolved to send 
troops to Sumter, notifying Governor Pickens to 
expect an attempt to supply the fort with pro- 
visions. The expedition at last started, arriving at 
Charleston on the morning of April 12th, when it 
was found that au attack upon Sumter had begun. 
The war had thus definitely opened, unless Davis 
and his associates should make some entirely 
unexpected change in their plans. 

Douglas, on the whole, approved of the course 
that was being pursued, although during the dis- 
cussion late in March he had understood that the 
troops were to be withdrawn from Sumter, and had 
publicly stated that he believed this was the better 
course. The subsequent two weeks, however, con- 
vinced him that his own hope of gathering support 
in the doubtful states and waiting for the Con- 
federacy to attack was not based upon fact and that 
Lincoln had probably done about the only thing 
possible under the circumstances. There is no 
evidence that this view was changed by the capitu- 
lation of Sumter two days after the bombardment 
had begun. The logical conclusion of everything 
that he had said within the preceding months could 
be only that all must now unite in holding up the 
President's hands, and in waging a successful war. 

Those who had been doubtful or hesitating, and 
who had embarrassed the President by their lack of 
courage saw at last that Douglas's position since 
the inauguration had been the correct one. They 


hastened to support Lincoln in calling for troops 
and Douglas was not slow to join them with hearty 
concurrence in such measures as the President 
might deem best. He went to the White House on 
the 14th of April and assured Mr. Lincoln that the 
time for action had come. Lincoln read him the 
proclamation which he had drafted 1 and in which 
he asked for 75,000 men. Douglas recommended 
that the number be made 200,000, and when he left 
the White House he told the newspaper corre- 
spondents that the defense of Washington and the 
taking of active measures for the preservation of 
the government even to the extent of war was 
necessary and that he fully supported the admin- 
istration. This position he now continued to 
sustain, laying aside the formal attitude of opposi- 
tion on theoretical questions which he had adopted 
immediately after the inauguration, in the Senate, 
perhaps for the purpose of concealing to some 
extent just how closely he felt allied in sympathy 
to Lincoln. Preparations for war went on more 
vigorously and Douglas aided, in so far as he 
could, with counsel and suggestion, especially 
exerting his power to prevent the development of a 
Southern party in the North which by passive 
opposition to the administration, or perhaps by 
active sympathy with the South, might obstruct 
the successful prosecution of the conflict. 2 In this 
connection his aid was invaluable. Even in the 

1 Nicolay and Hay, Vol. IV, p. 80. 
5 Oberholtzer, Lincoln, p. 194. 


capacity of an administration supporter, however, 
Douglas still sought the conservative side aud 
urged upou the President that in protecting Wash- 
ington he should, so far as possible, avoid measures 
which might bring the oncoming troops into con- 
flict with the disaffected population of Baltimore 
and the adjacent districts. 1 

He did not, however, continue very long in the 
capital, for news from Illinois led him to think that 
he could better serve the Union in the Middle West 
and Southwest where his popularity was great. He 
started for home, therefore, with the idea of visit- 
ing the southwestern section of his state, to investi- 
gate the conditions which existed there. Lincoln 
gave his approbation to the scheme and Douglas 
left him, 2 with the distinct understanding that he 
was henceforward an administration man, likely 
to play an increasingly important part in the de- 
velopment of the war policy of the President. The 
journey to Illinois was slow and gave opportunity 
for some political speaking en route. Douglas did 

1 Johnson, Life, p. 478, also Forney's Anecdotes, Vol. I, p. 

3 Nicolay and Hay, Vol. IV, pp. 82-84. Also Herndon-Weik, 
Lincoln, Vol. II, p. 249 (footnote). Henry C. Whitney wrote 
thus (MS. letter) Nov. 13, 1866 : " Lincoln then told me of his 
last interview with Douglas. ' One day Douglas came rushing 
in,' he related, 'and said he had just got a telegraph dispatch 
from some friends in Illinois urging him to come out and help 
set things right in Egypt, and that he would go, or stay in 
Washington, just where I thought he could do the most good. 
I told him to do as he chose, but that he could probably do best 
in Illinois. Upon that he shook hands with me and hurried 
away to catch the next train. I never saw him again.' " 


his utmost to convert such wavering hearers as he 
could to a belief in the honest purpose of the Presi- 
dent, as well as to faith in and support of the 
Union. 1 He did not arrive at Springfield until near 
the end of the month of April and there he deliv- 
ered a noteworthy address. In this he strongly 
vindicated the policy of the administration and the 
invoking of war, though with due recognition of 
the seriousness of the step and with foreboding ad- 
mission that the struggle could be nothing short of 
a tremendous national calamity. Neither in this 
address nor in that which he shortly after delivered 
in Chicago, before a huge audience which loaded 
him with applause and praise, did he even suggest 
a feeling of vindictiveness or attempt to arouse fac- 
tional passions. He spoke of the war as a terrible 
but unavoidable remedy, which must be applied 
with as much conservatism and as gently as the na- 

1 J. D. Cox, in Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, Vol. I, 
pp. 5-6, says of a speech delivered by Douglas at Columbus : 
" Stephen A. Douglas passed through Coluinbus . . . a few 
days after the surrender of Sumter, and in response to the calls of 
a spontaneous gathering of people, spoke to them from his bed- 
room window in the American House. There had been no 
thought for any of the common surroundings of a public meet- 
ing. There were no torches, no music. A dark crowd of men 
filled full the dim-lit street, and called for Douglas with an 
earnestness of tone wholly different from the enthusiasm of 
common political gatherings. He came half-dressed to his win- 
dow, and without any light near him, spoke solemnly to the 
people upon the terrible crisis which had come upon the nation. 
Men of all parties were there : his own followers to get some 
light as to their duty ; the Breckinridge Democrats ready, most 
of them, repentantly to follow a Northern leader, now that 
their recent candidate was in the rebellion ; the Republicans 
eagerly anxious to know whether so potent an influence was to 


ture of the case would permit. It must be carried 
on with as much self-restraint and humanity as war 
could ever be. Only in denunciation of those who 
had made use of the slavery question as an excuse 
for the dissolution of the Union did the politician, 
always present in Douglas, show himself. He still 
believed that the secession movement was the out- 
come of a conspiracy and that there was no good 
reason for the inauguration of such a movement at 
the present moment. The Southern leaders, he 
thought, had resolved upon it, and against them he 
believed popular feeling should be directed. They 
were in fact traitors against whom only force and 
warlike measures would avail. 

Douglas was agaiu fully reestablished in popular 
affection. His own appeals and injunctions to the 
people had been heeded. They had sunk their per- 
sonal prejudices, their doubts about constitutional 
issues, in the immediate necessity of saving the 

be unreservedly on the side of the country. I remember well 
the serious solicitude with which I listened to his opening sen- 
tences as I leaned against the railing of the State House park, 
trying in vain to get more than a dim outline of the man as he 
stood at the unlighted window. His deep sonorous voice rolled 
down through the darkness from above us, — an earnest, meas- 
ured voice, the more solemn, the more impressive, because we 
could not see the speaker, and it came, too, literally as ' a voice 
in the night,' — the night of our country's unspeakable trial. 
There was no uncertainty in his toue : the Union must be pre 
served and the insurrection must be crushed,— he pledged hia 
hearty support to Mr. Lincoln's administration in doing this. 
Other questions must stand aside till the national authority 
should be everywhere recognized. I do not think we greatly 
cheered him — it was rather a deep amen that went up from the 


Union. There could be no question about Doug- 
las's position on that point. Those who had been 
wavering in Illinois were carried along by the great 
personal force of the man and now at length gave 
their adherence not only to the Union policy, but to 
Douglas's position in reference to it. Those who 
had hated the man himself saw in him one who had 
already rendered signal service to the Union and 
who had proved that he could be trusted. They 
believed that, whatever had been his past offenses, 
it would be wisest to overlook them and to accept 
him for what he was — an earnest upholder of the 
policy of Lincoln with respect to the Confederacy. 
To Douglas himself it must have seemed the open- 
ing of a new era in his political career. For the 
present, probably for the future, his aspirations to 
the presidency must be laid aside. But that con- 
viction had already come to him at the time of the 
election, and he undoubtedly admitted in his own 
mind that if this highest of all political preferments 
were ever to be open to him it must be at some far- 
distant day. For the present he had behind him a 
united state and he was in a position to make his 
j adgments as effective in national politics as almost 
any man except the President himself. 

But Douglas was unable either to perform the 
service to the country by which he might in a 
measure have repaired the evil wrought by his 
earlier ambition or to press forward into the new 
fields of personal achievement that were opening 
before him. The habit of heavy drinking which 


had increased upon hiin had greatly impaired his 
constitution. Contemporaries, generalizing perhaps 
too broadly or hastily, said that he was killing him- 
self with "cheap whiskey." Others assigned the 
serious disorders which now attacked him to the 
overwork of the campaign and the excitement and 
stress of the six months which followed it. Both 
influences doubtless had their part in his undoing. 
Douglas's personal business, moreover, was in con- 
fusion, and to political anxiety was added the 
fear that his own entangled financial affairs could 
not be set straight. He had borrowed very heavily 
upon his land to meet the expenses of the cam- 
paign, and was now faced with the alternative of 
paying what he owed or of selling his property. 
The combination of untoward conditions proved 
too much for him and early in May he was obliged 
to take to his bed. The sickness did not prove im- 
mediately fatal but gradually reduced his strength 
until on the 3d of June the end came. 

The removal of Douglas at this particular junc- 
ture was properly and generally regarded as a seri- 
ous blow to the Lincoln administration. Even 
Greeley spoke of it as a " national calamity," ' and 
others though less positive in their assertions held 
the same view. The Northern Democratic party 
had become little more than a personal conserva- 
tive group led by Douglas and quite generally 
recognizing the necessity of a reconstruction of its 

J New York Tribune, June 1, 1860, quoted by Ehodes. Vol. 
Ill, p. 414. 


principles to suit the altered Federal conditions 
which were near at hand. Entirely apart from 
any share in the conduct of the war, Douglas's 
most conspicuous service to the country would 
probably have been the development of Democratic 
ideas in such a way as to avoid too great a breach 
with the past and their adjustment to the new 
problems which were presenting themselves. Death 
thus left the party without a head, and without a 
controlling mind sufficiently identified with its in- 
ner history, or sufficiently forceful in its grasp of 
measures and its knowledge of men, to compel dis- 
cipline. While Lincoln, therefore, lost a valuable 
coadjutor and the country an important factor in 
the work of sustaining national unity, the Demo- 
cratic organization, thoroughly broken as it was by 
the war, was deprived of the man who above all 
others would have been competent and courageous 
in bringing about its reestablishment. There was 
thus lacking at a crucial moment the check upon 
national legislation which is afforded by a wise and 
well managed minority. It is probable that, had he 
lived, Douglas's career would have been as signifi- 
cant in later American history as it was in the 
critical decade of 1850-1860. 

Yet, in another sense Douglas's end was not too 
early to permit the rounding out of a self-consistent 
and completed career. Douglas was distinctly 
characteristic of the phase of American develop- 
ment and civilization which existed between 1830, 
when President Jackson and his followers came into 


full control of the national power, and 1860, when 
the Civil War at last became inevitable. Both 
periods were revolutionary ; they were not simply 
times of transition. Jackson's incoming marked 
the passing of a generation of statesmen who grew 
out of the Eevolution, and the advent of a crude, 
energetic, self-reliant race, much less cultivated, 
and essentially vulgar, who then took possession of 
the government and inaugurated a regime which 
lasted until 1861. The influence of this new ele- 
ment in American politics was manifest throughout 
the administration of Jackson ; it culminated in the 
acquisition of Texas and the war with Mexico ; and 
developed to a finality in the long anti-slavery 
struggle between 1848 and 1861, leading directly 
to the new revolution, — for it was nothing else, — 
which then broke out. At least four phases of po- 
litical life were represented in that period. One 
was the New England phase, of which Webster, 
Everett, Winthrop, and Charles Sumner were the 
famous exponents. A second was that of New 
York and the Central states, in which Marcy, Bu- 
chanan, and Seward were excellent types, retaining 
strongly, as they did, the habits both of thought 
and action of the earlier post- revolutionary period, 
although distinctly affected by the Jacksonian in- 
road. The old pro-slavery party, of which Calhoun, 
Toombs, Stevens and Jefferson Davis were good 
representatives, constituted a third element. Fi- 
nally, there was the new, frontier, free state North- 
west ingredient, typified by both Douglas and Lin- 


coin, though in materially different ways. The 
Northwestern element, with Douglas for spokes- 
man, sought to gain possession of the administra- 
tion, as Jackson had attempted and succeeded 
before them. They failed in the effort, and then 
came the deluge. It was of this faction that Doug- 
las was probably the best exponent. He was rep- 
resentative of all their virtues and all their vices, — 
their energy, their individuality, their self-asser- 
tion, their coarseness, their semi-education and their 
self confidence. Every one of these elements of 
character was reproduced in Douglas ; — more fully 
exemplified in him than in any other public man 
then thrown to the front. 

The passing of Douglas had been anticipated by 
his friends and should have been expected by the 
country. Although but little past his forty-eighth 
birthday, he was prematurely gray and worn. He 
had sunk rapidly in health since the presidential 
contest, but the country, accustomed to the remark- 
able energy and robustness which he had shown for 
years past, did not note the loss of his old strength. 
Yet it had been with evident effort that he had 
sustained the fatigues and excitements of the win- 
ter, and the restoration of his popularity afforded 
him but a passing exhilaration. The suddenness 
of his decease in what should have been his strong 
prime was almost spectacular. In many minds the 
efforts of the man during the last year of his life 
had amply redeemed the mistakes of the past, and 
the news that he was gone occasioned a general ex- 


pression of sorrow which found its external mani- 
festation in a solemn and elaborate farewell. An 
impressive cortege bore him to his appointed place 
by the shore of Lake Michigan, and the flattery 
that could not "soothe the dull cold ear of death" 
was not withheld. Men of all parties and from all 
portions of the country bore their testimony to the 
power of the departed personality, and to the loss 
that had been suffered in the removal of a potent 
force for the restoration of tolerable conditions 
throughout the Union. There sprang up a Douglas 
myth, — ignoring, like many others, the most salient 
points in the hero's career, — which has survived to 
the present day. It adds nothing to the accuracy 
of popular conceptions of American history that 
the legend has been paralleled by another which 
places Douglas side by side in purpose and in effort 
with the Southern leaders — the pro-slavery states- 
men who had done their utmost to balk his life's 


Adams, John Quincy. Memoirs edited by Charles Francis 
Adams, 1874-1877. 

Benton, Thomas H. Thirty Years' View of the United States 
Senate, 1854-1856. 

Brown, W. G. Stephen Arnold Douglas, 1902. 

Carr, Clark E. Stephen A. Douglas, 1909. 

Congressional Globe, 1840- 1860. 

Cox, J. D. Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, 1900. 

Cutts, J. Madison. Constitutional and Party Questions, 1866. 

Davidson, Alexander and Stuve, Bernard. A complete His- 
tory of Illinois, 1884. 

Dixon, S. B. True History of the Repeal of the Missouri Com- 
promise, 1899. 

Dodd, William E. Jefferson Davis, 1907. 

Ford, Thomas. History of Illinois, 1851. 

Flint, Henry M. Stephen A. Douglas, i860. 

Forney, John W. Anecdotes of Public Men, 1873. 

Gardner, William. Life of Stephen A. Douglas, 1905. 

Garrison, W. P. and F. J. Life of Garrison, 1904. 

Halstead, Murat. Caucuses of i860, i860. 

Herndon, W. H. and Weik, J. W. Abraham Lincoln, 189a. 

Johnson, Allen. Stephen A. Douglas, 1908. 

Linn, W. A. Story of the Mormons, 1902. 

Messages and Papers of the Presidents of the United States. 

Morse, J. T. Abraham Lincoln, 1893. 

Moses, John. Illinois Historical and Statistical, 1889- 1892. 


Nicolay, John G. and John Hay. Abraham Lincoln, A His- 
tory, 1890. 

Oberholtzer, Ellis P. Abraham Lincoln, 1904. 

Ogden, Rollo. Life and Letters of Edwin Lawrence Godkin, 

Political Debates between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. 
Stephen A. Douglas, i860. 

Ray, P. O. Repeal of the Missouri Compromise, 1909. 

Rhodes, James Ford. History of the United States, 1850-1860 
(3 volumes), 1893. 

Russell, William Howard. My Diary North and South, 1863. 

Scammon, F. Young. Illinois Supreme Court Reports, 1840- 

Schurz, Carl. Reminiscences, 1907. 
Senate Documents and Reports, 1840-1860. 
Sheahan, James W. Stephen A. Douglas, i860. 
Sherman, John. Recollections of Forty Years, 1895. 
Spring, Leverett W. Kansas, 1885. 
Stanwood, Edward. History of the Presidency, 1898. 

American Tariff Controversies, 1903. 

Storey, Moorfield. Charles Sumner, 1900. 

Treaties in Force, 1899. 

United States Statues at Large. 

Villard, Henry. Memoirs, 1904. 

Wilson, Henry. Rise and Fall of the Slave Power, 1872-1877. 



Several lives of Douglas have been written, two or more of 
them comparatively recently. Probably the most valuable bi- 
ography is that of Sheahan which was prepared not long before 
Douglas's death for political circulation. The volume is of especial 
use because it contains long extracts from Douglas's more im- 
portant speeches as well as other documents supplied by Mr. Doug- 
las himself, while the facts were undoubtedly obtained, wherever 
necessary, from the same source. 

The most scholarly life of Douglas is that of Allen Johnson 
(published by the Macmillan Company, New York, 1908, about 
503 pages) . This work is a complete survey of Douglas's life upon 
a background of contemporary history and in its preparation most of 
the available sources have been consulted. The scanty papers and 
autobiographical material in unpublished form have also been 
utilized and are referred to by Mr. Johnson, although they do not 
add materially to the facts as known from other sources. 

Clark E. Carr's " Stephen A. Douglas : His Life, Public Serv- 
ices, Speeches and Patriotism " (Chicago, A. C. McClurg & Co., 
1909, about 293 pages) is the latest of the Douglas biographies, 
but is very largely occupied with appendices which give speeches 
and other documentary matter available elsewhere. This work is 
to a great extent a personal appraisal rather than a formal bi- 

Henry Martyn Flint's Life (Derby & Jackson, New York, i860, 
about 187 pages) is a contemporary biography partly composed of 
extracts from speeches but inferior to that of Sheahan. 

William Garrott Brown's " Life of Douglas " is a short biograph- 
ico-critical essay, very friendly to Douglas and interestingly written. 


William Gardner's " Life of Stephen A. Douglas " (Boston, 
Roxburgh Press, 1905, about 239 pages) has some value. 


Much help may be obtained in the study of Douglas's career 
from an examination of contemporary biography. Of such bi- 
ographies those in the American Statesmen Series have distinct 
value, especially the lives of Charles Sumner, Cass, Lincoln and 
others. The American Crisis Biographies (George W. Jacobs & 
Co., Philadelphia) supply material that is not available in the 
American Statesmen Series with reference to various figures con- 
spicuous during the period just before the Civil War. Special use 
has been made in this volume of Oberholtzer's " Abraham Lin- 
coln," William E. Dodd's [" Jefferson Davis," and one or two 
others. Nicolay and Hay's " Abraham Lincoln : A History," 
Volumes I, II and III (New York, The Century Co., 1890), is 
authoritative in tracing the later history of Douglas's life and the 
relations between him and President Lincoln. 

Of the memoirs and autobiographies relating to the period just 
prior to the Civil War, Henry Villard's " Memoirs " (Houghton, 
Mifflin & Co., 1904) furnishes interesting personal observations 
concerning the latter part of Douglas's career, while Carl Schurz's 
" Reminiscences " (The McClure Co., 1907) is valuable in the 
same way. Ogden's " Life and Letters of Godkin " throws some 
light upon passages of Douglas's career in the Senate. Among the 
autobiographical works which are incidentally useful concerning 
portions of Douglas's political life, those of Hoar (" Autobiog- 
raphy"), Benton (" Thirty Years' View of the United States Sen- 
ate "), Sherman (" Recollections "), and a few others are of most 
use. J. Q. Adams' " Memoirs " furnish caustic and interesting com- 
ment upon Douglas's work in the House. William Howard Rus- 
sell's " My Diary North and South " (New York, Harper & 
Brothers, 1863) affords some personal impressions of Douglas and 


a general view of conditions at the opening of the Civil War that 
are of value. 

Rhodes's " History of the United States," Volumes I, II and 
III (New York, Harper & Brothers, 1893), * s °f verv great value 
in placing Douglas in his relation to the public questions of the 
whole period 1850- 1 86 1. Rhodes's work is of special use because 
of the extensive material drawn from contemporary newspapers, 
etc., of which he has availed himself in the preparation of the 
volumes. Schouler's " History of the United States," Vols. IV 
and V, is also of use in connection with the life of Douglas. For 
local historical material referring primarily to conditions in Illinois, 
Ford's " History of Illinois " and Davidson and Stuve's " History 
of Illinois " are the most valuable sources. 

The extensive literature of slavery contains much material bear- 
ing upon Douglas and Douglas's political doctrines, but a great deal 
of it so biased and partisan in statement or method as to render it 
of little use. Among the works that are of some service in con- 
nection with Douglas are Wilson's " Rise and Fall of the Slave 

Cutts's "Constitutional and Party Questions" (New York, 
D. Appleton & Co., 1886) gives the views of Douglas on some of 
the most important public issues in whose discussion he had shared 
as taken down by Mr. J. Madison Cutts in 1859 from Douglas's 
own direct dictation. The book may be accepted as an accurate 
analysis of Douglas's ideas on the issues dealt with. 

The Congressional Globe throughout Douglas's legislative career 
in Congress is of course the ultimate authority for all statements 
about action on the floor, speeches on public questions, etc. The 


House and Senate documents and committee reports also contain 
valuable material — much of it by Douglas's own hand. 

Douglas's debates with Lincoln during the Illinois campaign of 
1858 are given in satisfactory form in " The Political Debates Be- 
tween Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas " 
(Columbus, Follett, Foster & Co., i860). 

Stanwood's " History of the Presidency " (Houghton, Mifflin & 
Co., Cambridge, 1898) furnishes a compact review of the various 
presidential contests in which Douglas shared, including the 
figures for both popular and electoral votes. Halstead's " Cau 
cuses of i860 — A History of the National Political Convention of 
the Current Presidential Campaign" (Columbus, Follett, Foster & 
Co., i860) affords a fairly complete description of the political con- 
ventions in the year i860. 

The files of the New York Tribune and of the Washington 
newspapers are the most useful sources of contemporary material, 
particularly for the decade 1850-1860. The local Illinois news- 
papers frequently referred to only occasionally contain material 
that is of value. 


Abolition, movement in Illi- 
nois, 103 ; growth of senti- 
ment for, 170 ; attacked by 
Douglas, 170 ; methods of 
propaganda, 210. 

Adams, C. F., view of Doug- 
las's maiden speech, 73-74 ; 
criticism of Douglas's speech 
on contested seats, 77-78 ; 
comment on later activities 
of Douglas, 79 ; criticism on 
Douglas's annexation speech, 
83 ; controversy with Doug- 
las about Texas boundary, 


"American" policy, genesis of, 
170 ; tested by Clayton Bul- 
wer question, 182. 

Appeal of Independent Demo- 
crats prepared, 199. 

Arnold, Martha, ancestress of 
Douglas, 13. 

Baltimore, convention of 
1852, 176; Pierce nominated 
at, 177. 

Bates, Edward, encourages 
Douglas in legal study, 17. 

Bell, John, nominated for presi- 
dency, 319. 

Bennett, John C, employed by 
Mormons, 55 ; work for sect, 

Benton, Thomas H., thinks 
Calhoun's secession views 
absurd, 155 ; desires sepa- 
rate treatment of California 
question, 158 ; opposes omni- 
bus measure, 159. 

Bigler, Senator, controversy 
with Douglas on Lecompton 
plan, 248 ; hostile demon- 
stration in Chicago, 250. 

Black, Attorney-General, re- 
plies to Douglas's article in 
Harper's, 303. 

Brandon, Douglas enters acad- 
emy at, 13; early study of 
law at, 16. 

Breckinridge, John C, nomi- 
nated for presidency, 317. 

Breese, Sidney, senatorial am- 
bitions of, 50 ; retired from 
Senate, 104; cold toward 
Illinois Central plan, 1 14 ; 
reports railroad bills, 1 14. 

Broderick, Senator, position in 
California, 303. 

Brooks, Preston S., assault on 
Sumner, 234. 

Brooks, S. S., description of 
Douglas, 21 ; editor Jackson- 
ville News, 21 ; coalition 
with Douglas, 22 ; aids in 
developing convention sys- 
tem, 27 ; aid in congressional 
nomination, 37. 

Brown, Senator, attacks Free- 
port Doctrine, 296. 

Brown, John, early history, 
304 ; attacks Harper's Ferry, 
304 ; raid of, investigated by 
Congress, 305 ; effect of raid, 

Buchanan, James, candidate for 
presidency, 187 ; nominated 
for presidency, 1856, 220 ; 
view of slavery, 221 ; vote 



for, 223 ; sends Lecompton 
constitution to Congress, 25 1 ; 
attacks Douglas in Illinois, 
259 ; anti- Douglas efforts in 
Illinois campaign unfruitful, 
289 ; attacks Douglas in 
national campaign, 320. 

Calhoun, John, in legislature 
with Douglas, 31. 

Calhoun, John C, relation to 
Douglas, 1 29 ; last service 
of, 149 ; answers Clay, 154. 

California, relation of to Oregon 
question, 10 1 ; need for 
action regarding, 148 ; spe- 
cial committee on, 158; ter- 
ritorial question in, 15 1 ; rela- 
tion to Monroe Doctrine, 181. 

Carlin, Governor, issues war- 
rant for arrest of Joseph H. 
Smith, 61. 

Carr, C. E., views on Kansas- 
Nebraska act, 207. 

Cass, Lewis, vote for, 105 ; re- 
lation to Ciayton-Bulwer 
treaty, 182 ; candidate for 
presidency, ^187. 

Catholic Church, attitude of 
Know-Nothings toward, 210. 

Charleston convention, assem- 
bles, 309 ; character of, 310 ; 
work of, 311 ff . ; disinte- 
grates, 313; adjourns, 313. 

Chase, S. P., relation to Douglas, 
129; aids in preparing pro- 
test against Nebraska bill, 
199 ; weak reply to Douglas, 
200 ; seeks to amend Ne- 
braska bill, 201. 

Chicago, real estate bought by 
Douglas, 113; brought into 
railroad scheme, 113; rela- 
tion to proposed lines, 114; 
ovation to Douglas, 118. 

Clay, H., relation to Douglas, 
129; last service of, 149; 
offers territorial compromise, 
153 ; speaks for compromise, 
153 ; answered by Calhoun, 
154; favors "omnibus" 
measure, 159; reports Omni- 
bus Bill, 159; plan on terri- 
tories adopted, 162 ; indebted 
to Douglas, 162. 

Clayton, attacked by Douglas, 
183 ; answers Douglas, 184 ; 
seeks to amend Nebraska 
bill, 202. 

Ciayton-Bulwer treaty, contest 
over, 181. 

Cleveland, Douglas's illness at, 

Cobb, Howell, elected Speaker, 

*5 2 - 

Collamer, makes minority re- 
port on Kansas, 251. 

Colorado, bill to organize, 330. 

Compromise of 1 850, pushed 
forward, 170. 

Constitution, Douglas's injunc- 
tion of obedience to, 12. 

Constitutional Union party, 
nominations of for presidency, 


Convention system, Douglas's 
interest in, 28. 

Cuba, Douglas's plan to ac- 
quire, 173 ; Douglas's visit 
to, 293 ; position of Douglas 
on annexation, 295 ; bill to 
purchase, 295 ; discussion de- 
ferred, 296. 

Gushing, Caleb, chairman of 
Charleston convention, 311 ; 
on Utah question, 161 ; aids 
Douglas on Nebraska bill, 

Davis, Jefferson, attacks 



Douglas on Freeport Doc- 
trine, 298 ; on John Brown 
investigating committee, 305 ; 
in control of reactionary group 
at Charleston convention, 
311 ; resolutions of endorsed, 
312; hampers Douglas in 
Senate, 314; resolutions 
adopted in Senate, 315 ; re- 
grets secession, 326. 

Debates, arranged between 
Lincoln and Douglas, 264 ff. 

Democratic party, attitude on 
Texas, 81 ; relation to slav- 
ery, 85-86 ; platform of on 
Texas question, 91. 

Divorce, question in Illinois 
legislature, 31 ; Douglas's at- 
titude on, 32. 

Dixon, Senator, amends Ne- 
braska bill, 194. 

Douglas, Stephen A., father of 
Stephen Arnold Douglas, 13; 
career, 13. 

Douglas, Stephen Arnold, " last 
words," 11 ; early family his- 
tory, I2ff. ; authorities for 
life of, 12 n. ; birth, 13; 
work at farm labor, 13; de- 
sire for education, 14 ; drift 
to political discussion, 15-16; 
journey westward, 16; ar- 
rival in Illinois, 18 ; stay at 
Jacksonville, 18 ; journey to 
Winchester, 19 ; begins 
teaching, 20 ; studies law, 
20; admitted to bar, 21 ; 
alliance with S. S. Brooks, 
22 ; early political adven- 
tures, 23 ; favorably received, 
24 ; drafts bill for choice of 
states attorneys, 25 ; elected 
states attorney, 25 ; work as 
prosecutor, 26 ; interest in 
convention system, 27 ; de- 

bates with Hardin, 28 ; con- 
solidates convention system, 
28 ; use of whiskey, 29 ; en- 
ters legislature, 30 ; work 
on divorce question, 32 ; ad- 
vocates internal improve- 
ments, 32 ; appointed register 
of Land Office, 34; canvass 
of Illinois, 36; nominated 
for Congress, 37 ; defeated, 
38 ; returns to practice of 
law, 39; controversy with 
Lincoln, 40; attacks Whig 
cause before Supreme Court, 
40; work for Van Buren, 
41 ; appointed Secretary of 
State, 40; member of Supreme 
Court, 42—44 ; assigned to 
fifth district as judge, 45 ; 
work on bench, 46; judicial 
associates, 47 ; relations with 
notable men, 48 ; judicial 
methods of, 49; effort to 
enter United States Senate, 
50; desire for congressional 
nomination, 50 ; nomination, 
51 ; election, 52; experience 
with Mormons, 53; friendly 
to Mormons as judge, 54 ; 
negotiations with J. C. Ben- 
nett, 55 ; cooperates with 
Snyder, 55 ; aids Mormons 
in getting charter, 55-56 ; as- 
signed to Mormon district, 
57 > gives Mormons judicial 
recognition, 58; saves Joseph 
H. Smith, 58; important de- 
cision in Mormon case, 59 ; 
seeks to conciliate Mormons, 
62-64 5 criticized by Ford, 
64 ; moves with militia 
against Mormons, 65 ; goes 
as envoy to Nauvoo, 65 ; 
urges Mormons to leave Illi- 
nois, 66; speaks for Mor- 



mons in Congress, 67 ; turns 
against Mormons, 67 ; po- 
litical treatment of Mormons, 
68-69 ; entry into Congress, 
70-71 ; looks for chance to 
speak, 71 ; supports Jackson, 
72 ; work on committee on 
elections, 76-77 ; drafts ma- 
jority report on contested 
seats, 77 ; recognizes need of 
special local appropriations, 
78-79 ; does party drudgery, 
79 ; attitude toward Polk, 
80 ; convivial habits, 80 ; po- 
sition on Texas, 81 ; accepts 
leadership of Polk, 81 ; urges 
annexation of Texas, 82 ; at- 
tack on New England men, 
83 ; supported by Southern 
men, 84 ; gains no reputation 
in first Texas controversy, 
84 ; attitude toward slavery, 
85-86; practical political in- 
stincts, 86; sees good side of 
slavery, 86 ff. ; three periods 
in relation to slavery, 89 ; in- 
fluence of marriage on, 89 ff. ; 
calls for admission of Texas, 
91; vindicates Polk, 92; 
represents administration, 92 ; 
speech against Mexico, 92— 
94 ; controversy with Adams 
about Texas boundary, 94- 
95 ; draws closer to Polk, 95- 
96 ; enters Senate, 96 ; speaks 
for Ten Regiments Bill, 97 ; 
attacks treaty with Mexico, 
97 ; views on Oregon ques- 
tion, 98 ; attacks England, 
98; opposition to Polk, 99- 
100 ; driven to accept com- 
promise, 101 ; circumstances 
surrounding election to Sen- 
ate, 102-103 ; relation to 
anti-slavery movement, 104 ; 

apologizes to Polk, 104 ; op- 
ponents' attack on, 105 ; vote 
of lack of confidence in, 106 ; 
disregarded by Douglas, 106 ; 
recovery of strength, 107 ; at- 
titude on Federal aid to in- 
ternal improvements, 108- 
109 ; general policy, 1 10 ; 
urges grant of public lands 
for railroad building, 112; 
views on Illinois Central, 
112; buys Chicago real es- 
tate, 113; urges land sub- 
sidy for Illinois Central, 1 14 ; 
his plan defeated, 1 14 ; seeks 
alliance with Mobile railroad, 
115; arranges for votes, 115; 
drafts new bill, 1 16; warns 
Holbrook, 117; traffics for 
railroad votes, 117; forces 
bill through Congress, 118; 
profits from railroad deal, 
119; committed to other 
railroad schemes, 1 19 ; votes 
for such schemes, 120; atti- 
tude on Pacific roads, 121 ; 
speaks in favor of, 121 ; in- 
consistency on railroads, 124 ; 
advocates systematic river 
and harbor policy, 124; pe- 
culiar proposal, 124-125 ; 
strange record on rivers and 
harbors, 1 25- 1 26; ideas on 
reciprocity, 126; favors cut 
in tariff, 126; advanced 
views, 127 ; importance of 
senatorial career, 128 ; char- 
acter of his problems, 129 ; 
attitude toward public ques- 
tions, 130; personal traits, 

131 ; physical appearance, 

132 ; vividness of personality, 
133; lack of training, 134; 
family life, 137 ; views of 
Southerners regarding, 139; 



develops a type of oratory, 
140 ; good relations with col- 
leagues, 141 ; innocent of 
Brooks' attack on Sumner, 
142-143 ; explanation of at- 
tack, 143 ; lack of animosity 
toward politicians, 144 ; pros- 
perous, 145 ; endows Chi- 
cago University, 145 ; free 
from personal corruption, 
146; careless in business, 
146 ; extravagant outlays, 
147 ; on California, 153 ; at- 
tacks Webster, 157 ; on 
slavery in California, 157 ; 
reports territorial bills, 158; 
omitted from select commit- 
tee on California, 158 ; op- 
poses omnibus measure, 159 ; 
aids Clay, 162; credited for 
Omnibus Bill, 163 ; assailed 
in Illinois, 164; regains pres- 
tige in Chicago, 165 ; presi- 
dential ambitions, 166; 
growth in national strength, 
167; habits of, 168; affects 
indifference to presidency, 
169 ; attacks Abolition move- 
ment, 170; embarks on 
"American policy," 171; at- 
tempts to discredit Webster, 
172; relation to Kossuth, 
173 ; advocates annexation 
of Cuba, 174; political 
tactics of, 175 ; defeated at 
Baltimore convention, 177 ; 
accepts defeat gracefully, 
178 ; renews contest for Sen- 
ate, 179; on Clayton-Bulwer 
treaty, 182; attacks Clayton, 
183; visits Europe, 185; 
suspected by South, 188-189; 
frames Nebraska bill, 189; 
attitude to Missouri Compro- 
mise, 1 90; favors Dixon 

amendment, 194 ; accepts 
Dixon amendment, 195 ; gets 
aid of Pierce and Davis, 197 ; 
attacks the " appeal," 199 ; 
amends Nebraska bill, 201 ; 
unpopularity resulting from 
Nebraska bill, 203 ; hooted 
at Chicago meeting, 204 ; 
how affected by Kansas-Ne- 
braska act, 206; tour through 
Illinois, 209 ; attitude toward 
Know-Nothing party, 211; 
contest with Lincoln in 1854, 
213; partial failure in elec- 
tions, 214; fully committed 
to slavery cause, 216; attitude 
toward Republicans, 217 ; 
loses nomination for presi- 
dency, 1856, 220 ; pledges 
himself to Buchanan, 222; 
recognizes real import of 
slavery, 223 ; difficult posi- 
tion in Congress, 225 ; reports 
on Kansas constitution, 230 ; 
theory of popular sovereignty, 
231 ; debate with Seward 
and Sumner, 233; attitude 
toward Dred Scott Decision, 
239; attitude on Lecompton 
convention, 243 ; breach with 
Buchanan, 245 ; attacks Le- 
compton plan, 246; favors 
revival of Toombs bill, 247 ; 
discussion with Mason and 
Bigler, 248 ; speaks against 
Lecompton plan, 252; posi- 
tion in Illinois, 258 ; attacked 
at home by Buchanan, 259 ; 
enters senatorial contest with 
Lincoln, 260 ; maps out Illi- 
nois campaign, 262; accepts 
challenge of Lincoln to de- 
bates, 263 ; debate with Lin- 
coln at Ottawa, 265 ff. ; 
quotes " Springfield resolu- 



tions," 268-269 ; debate at 
Freeport, 27 1 ; views on ad- 
mission of Kansas, 273; on 
Supreme Court, 274 ; Free- 
port Doctrine, 274-275 ; on 
"Spring held resolutions," 
275 ; third debate at Jones- 
boro, 276; interpretation of 
Republican movement, 277 ; 
view of Dred Scott case, 277 ; 
on Republican attitude 
toward slavery, 279 ; fourth 
debate at Charleston, 280 ; 
on Toombs bill, 281 ; attack 
on Trumbull, 281 ; fifth de- 
bate at Galesburgh, 282 ; 
reviews Nebraska bill, 282 ; 
charges Republican sectional- 
ism, 283 ; sixth debate at 
Quincy, 283 ; insists on 
slavery as a local issue, 284 ; 
seventh debate at Alton, 
284 ; constitutional attack 
on Lincoln, 285 ; considers 
slavery secondary issue, 287 ; 
gains advantage of Lincoln, 
288 ; victory inconclusive, 
289; position unsatisfactory, 
291 ; falls back on personal 
following, 292 ; South hostile, 
292 ; visits Cuba, 293 ; ostra- 
cized in Senate, 294 ; deposed 
from committee chairman- 
ship, 294 ; defends Freeport 
Doctrine in Senate, 297-298 ; 
considers Freeport Doctrine 
crucial, 299 ; describes posi- 
tion in Harper's, 300 ; an- 
swered by Lincoln, 301 ; 
views on John Brown raid, 
305 ; logical candidate of 
Democrats in i860, 307 ; 
states slavery position, 307 ; 
supported by North and 
West, 308 ; dominates Union 

Democrats at Charleston con- 
vention, 311 ; defends posi- 
tion at Charleston conven- 
tion, 314 ; recognizes 
strength of Lincoln, 316; 
nominated for presidency, 
317 ; letter of acceptance, 
318 ; instructions of as to 
campaign of i860, 320 ; takes 
stump in person, 321 ; South- 
ern trip, 321 ; repudiates se- 
cession, 322 ; reckless habits 
of, 323 ; views on Lincoln's 
election, 324 ; supports Lin- 
coln, 325 ; new attitude 
toward Southerners, 330 ; at- 
titude on territorial question, 
331 ; isolated, 333; becomes 
administration Democrat, 
334 ; discusses policies with 
Lincoln, 336 ; praises Lin- 
coln's inaugural, 337 ; ap- 
proves Lincoln's policy, 343 ; 
approves call for troops, 344 ; 
supports administration at 
Springfield, 346 ; prestige re- 
established, 347 ; last illness 
and death, 349 ; effect of re- 
moval, 350-353. 

Douglas, Mrs. (Miss Martin), 
characteristics of, 137. 

Douglas, Mrs. (Miss Cutts), 
characteristics of, 137. 

Dred Scott Decision reviewed, 

2 37- 

Duncan, Joseph, governor of 
Illinois, 25 ; calls special ses- 
sion of legislature, 35. 

Dunn bill on Kansas, passed by 
House, 236. 

Elections, committee on, 
Douglas appointed to, 76; 
drafts report of, 77. 



Everett, Senator, nominated for 
vice-presidency, 319. 

Field, superseded as Secretary 
of State by Douglas, 41. 

Fillmore, Millard, nomination 
of weakens Fremont, 222 ; 
vote for, 223. 

Fisk, Sarah, mother of S. A. 
Douglas, 13. 

Ford, Thomas, on Illinois po- 
litical methods, 29 ; criticizes 
Mormon charter, 57 ; esti- 
mate of Mormons, 59; war- 
rant for Smith, 62; elected 
governor of Illinois, 63; 
criticism of Douglas, 64 ; 
thinks Douglas unprincipled, 

Foreign policy — see "American 

Forney, John W., personal 
view of Douglas, 132. 

Freeport Doctrine, elucidated, 
274 ; attacked by Senator 
Brown, 296; criticized by 
Davis, 298; defended by 
Douglas, 297-298. 
Fremont, J. C, nominated by 
Republicans, 222 ; vote for, 
Fugitive Slave Law, passed, 
162 ; feeling in Massachu- 
setts toward, 169. 

Garrison, W. L., burns Con- 
stitution, 210. 

Giddings, Joshua R., aids in 
protest against Nebraska bill, 

Godkin, E. L., on Douglas's 
personality, 135 ; view of 
Douglas's chance of reelec- 
tion as senator, 255. 

Granger, G., connection with 
Douglas, 15. 

Great Britain, attacked by 
Douglas on Oregon question 

Great Lakes, relation to Illi- 
nois Central scheme, 114; 
to be connected with Gulf, 

Greeley, H., relation to Doug- 
las, 144; view of Douglas's 
death, 349. 

Green, Senator, reports Kansas 
bill, 25 1 ; plan for admission 
of Kansas adopted, 253. 

Grimes, J. W., chosen governor 
of Iowa, 215. 

Gwin, Senator, contest with 
Broderick in California, 303. 

Hancock County, Mormons 
in > 53 ff - (see Mormons); 
number of Mormons in, 59. 
Hardin, J. J., defeated by 
Douglas for states attorney- 
ship, 25 ; debates with Doug- 
las, 28 ; elected to legisla- 
ture, 29; before Supreme 
Court, 47 ; commands anti- 
Mormon troops, 65 ; sends 
Douglas as envoy to Mor- 
mons, 65. 
Harper's Monthly, Douglas's 
defense in, 300 ; attracts lit- 
tle popular attention, 301. 
Hoge, James P., Democratic 
candidate for congressman in 
Mormon district, 62; on 
power of Mormon courts, 62 ; 
supported by Mormons, 63 ; 
elected, 63. 
Holbrook, scheme of, for rail- 
roads, in; defeated in 
plans, 116; intrigue with 
Illinois legislature, 116; 



warned by Douglas, 116; 
withdraws from contest, 117. 

Illinois, Douglas's arrival in, 
18; early slavery in, 87; 
politics in transition, 102- 
103 ; growth of anti-slavery 
feeling, 103 ; manipulation 
of congressional districts in, 
104 ; legislature shows want 
of confidence in Douglas, 107 ; 
plan for railroads in, IIO- 


Illinois Central Railroad, plan 
for, 112-114; scheme de- 
feated, 114; provided for in 
new bill, 1 16; relation to 
other roads, 117; bill to aid 
passed, 118; favors to Doug- 
las, 119. 

Internal Improvements, ques- 
tion in Illinois legislature, 
30 ; scheme adopted for Illi- 
nois, 33 ; Douglas's view of 
Federal aid for, 108 ; scheme 
of railroad building, III; de- 
velops into Illinois Central 
plan, 112. 

Jackson, Andrew, Douglas's 
early interest in, 15 ; bill to 
relieve, in Congress, 71 ; 
Douglas's eulogy on, 73 ; 
visited by Douglas, 74 ; en- 
dorses Douglas, 75. 

Jacksonville, Douglas's stay in, 

Jenkins, A. M., lieutenant-gov- 
ernor of Illinois, 25. 

Johnson, nominated to vice- 
presidency, 318. 

Judiciary Committee, Douglas 
appointed to, 81. 

Kane County, convention in, 

and " Springfield resolu- 
tions," 272. 

Kansas, proposal to organize, 
197 ; colonization of, 226 ; 
Reeder named governor, 227 ; 
controlled by Missourians, 
228 ; report by Douglas on, 
230 ; bill to admit passed in 
Senate, 235 ; adopts Le- 
compton constitution, 250. 

Kansas-Nebraska Act (see 
" Nebraska"), effect of, 226; 
Douglas's course on, defended 
in Harper's Monthly, 300. 

Kansas-Nebraska issue, relation 
to Oregon question, 101. 

Keitt, relation to attack on 
Sumner, 143. 

King, nominated for vice-presi- 
dency at Baltimore, 177. 

Know-Nothings, origin of, 209 ; 
later history of, 218. 

Kossuth, issue raised by, 172. 

Lamborn, Josiah, debate with 
Douglas, 24. 

Land Office, Douglas's work in, 

Lane, nominated for vice- 
presidency, 318. 

Lanphier, C. H., responsible 
for " Springfield resolutions," 

2 75- 
Lecompton convention, 241 ; 
constitution adopted by, 242 ; 
effect of on country, 242 ; at- 
tacked by Douglas, 246 ; con- 
stitution of adopted, 250 ; 
constitution sent to Congress, 
25 1 ; plan adopted in Senate, 


Lee, R. E., captures John 
Brown, 304. 

Lincoln, Abraham, in legisla- 
ture with Douglas, 31 ; early 



debate with Douglas, 40 ; 
before Supreme Court, 48 ; 
description of Douglas, 79 ; 
compared with Douglas, 139 ; 
employed to sue Douglas, 
146 ; reentry into politics, 

212 ; speaks against Douglas, 

213 ; style of argument, 214 ; 
accepts nomination for sen- 
atorship against Douglas, 
260 ; debate with Douglas at 
Ottawa, 265 ff. ; attacks 
" Springfield resolutions," 
269 ; debate at Freeport, 
270 ; views on Fugitive Slave 
Law, 271 ; on Kansas, 271 ; 
attacks " Springfield resolu- 
tions," 272 ; third debate at 
Jonesboro, 276; on doctrines 
of slavery, 278 ; fourth debate 
at Charleston, 280 ; repudi- 
ates negro equality, 280 ; on 
Toombs bill, 280 ; opposes 
negro citizenship, 282 ; fifth 
debate at Galesburgh, 282 ; 
repudiates sectionalism, 283; 
sixth debate at Quincy, 283 ; 
positively attacks slavery, 
284 ; seventh debate at 
Alton, 284 ; constitutional 
argument, 286 ; defeated 
by Douglas, 286; contest 
with Douglas in Ohio, 302; 
on John Brown raid, 306 ; 
unanimously nominated for 
presidency, 316; election of, 
324; feared by Southerners, 
326; position after election, 
334 ; reaches Washington 
incognito, 335 ; uncertain as 
to policy, 336; tone of inau- 
gural, 336 ; intent to hold 
Southern forts, 341 ; asks 
Cabinet for advice, 342 ; 
calls for troops, 344 ; ap- 

proves Douglas's trip to Illi- 
nois, 346. 

Linn, view of Mormon charters, 
60; attitude toward Doug- 
las's Mormon decision, 61. 

Little, Senator, relation to Mor- 
mons, 55. 

Marcy, W. L., candidate for 
presidency, 187. 

Martin, Miss Martha Denny, 
marriage to Douglas, 87-88; 
inherits slaves, 88. 

Mason, Senator, on territorial 
issue, 156; controversy with 
Douglas on Lecompton plan, 

McConnell, Murray, aids Doug- 
las in law, 20. 

Mexico, relations with United 
States about Texas, 91 ; war 
with approved by Douglas, 
93-94 ; driven to peace, 97. 

Middlebury, Douglas's work in, 

Middle West — see Northwest. 

Missouri, effort of to control 
Kansas, 227 ; influence in 
Kansas elections, 228. 

Missouri Compromise, Doug- 
las's desire for extension of, 
82; Douglas's view of, 189- 
190; reason for attacking, 
191; proposal to "super- 
sede," 197. 

Monroe Doctrine, becomes an 
issue, 181. 

Mormons, Douglas's experience 
with, 53 ; Douglas sympa- 
thetic with cause of, 54 ; 
settled at Nauvoo, 54 ; early 
political policy, 54 ; at- 
tempt to get charter, 55 ; 
negotiations with Douglas, 
55 ; charter granted, 55-56 ; 



criticized by Ford, 57 ; 
growth of sect, 59-60 ; crimes 
attributed to, 60 ; push views 
before courts, 61 ; political 
policy of, 62-64 ; hostility 
toward, 64 ; growth of sect, 
64-65 ; militia ordered to 
move against, 65 ; urged to 
leave Illinois, 66 ; agree to 
go, 66 ; later relations with 
Douglas, 67-69. 

Morse, view of Douglas, 129 
et seq. 

Mosquito Coast, discussion on, 

Native American s — see 

Nauvoo Legion, established, 56. 

Nebraska, early history of, 
189 ; bill to organize framed, 
189 ; bill popular in South, 
193 ; Dixon amendment to, 
193 ; Sumner amendment to, 
194; Kansas to be separated 
from, 197 ; bill further 
amended, 201 ; bill passed, 
2 °3 > government in, 226. 

New Mexico, relation of to 
Oregon question, 10 1 ; terri- 
torial question in, 187 ; bill 
to organize, 330. 

North, demands of on slavery 
question, 150 ; attitude as to 
California and New Mexico, 
151 ; supports Douglas in 
i860, 308. 

Northwest, relation to Doug- 
las's ambition, 167 ; effort to 
get Douglas votes in, 175 ; 
fails to aid Douglas, 179. 

Oregon, Douglas's view of 
question, 98 ; Douglas's first 
measure regarding, 99 ; 

Polk's view of, 98-99 ; ques- 
tion shelved, 100 ; slavery 
issue, 100 ; compromise pro- 
posal, 10 1. 

Pacific railroads, supported by 
Douglas, 121 ; bill for, 299. 

Peoria, debate between Douglas 
and Lincoln at in 1854, 214. 

Pierce, Franklin, nominated for 
presidency at Baltimore, 176; 
position on Nebraska bill, 
196; in convention of 1856, 
220; messages on Kansas, 

Polk, Judge, discharges Jos. H. 
Smith, 62. 

Polk, President, Douglas's atti- 
tude toward nomination, 80; 
eulogizes nominee, 80 ; atti- 
tude toward Texas, 82; an- 
nounces war with Mexico, 
92 ; overtures to Douglas, 
95 ; gives view of Mexican 
situation, 95-96 ; attacked by 
Douglas, 97 ; proposed settle- 
ment with Oregon, 99 ; pro- 
poses Oregon compromise 
measure, 101 ; apologized to 
by Douglas, 104. 

Presidency, sought by Douglas 
from 1850 on, 166; Douglas's 
affected indifference to, 170 ; 
campaign of Douglas for 
nomination in 1852, 175 ; 
Pierce nominated for, 177 ; 
struggle for in 1854, 187 ; 
nomination of Buchanan for, 
220; Lincoln nominated for 
in i860, 316; Douglas nomi- 
nated for in i860, 317. 

Reciprocity, with Canada 

urged by Douglas, 126. 
Reeder, E., named governor of 



Kansas, 227 ; policy of, 227- 
228 ; returns East, 229. 

Republican party, origin of, 
211; recognized, 217; nomi- 
nates Fremont, 222 ; nomi- 
nates Lincoln, 316; elects 
Lincoln, 324 ; growth of 
power in Congress, 330; in 
Senate displeased at prom- 
inence of Douglas, 342. 

Rivers and Harbors, appropria- 
tion plan suggested by 
Douglas, 125. 

Russell, W. H., on Douglas's 
personality, 136. 

Schurz, Carl, on Douglas's 
personality, 1 34 ; spectator at 
Lincoln-Douglas debate, 265 ; 
view of Lincoln, 267. 

Secession, repudiated by Doug- 
las, 322 ; beginning of, 325 ; 
becomes general, 331. 

Seward, Senator, relation to 
Douglas, 129 ; offers sub- 
stitute bill on Kansas, 230 ; 
debate with Douglas, 233. 

Sheahan, J., biographer of 
Douglas, 12, 13. 

Shields, James, in legislature 
with Douglas, 31 ; aids Doug- 
las in Illinois Central scheme, 


Slavery, question raised by 
Douglas in connection with 
Texas, 82 ft'.; pushed to the 
front by Southerners, 84; 
question of, forced on Doug- 
las, 85 ; Douglas's disposition 
toward, 85-87 ; effect of 
marriage of Douglas on his 
relation to, 88 ; in relation to 
Oregon, 99-100 ; reopened in 
Nebraska bill, 190. 

Slidell, Senator, relation to at- 

tack on Sumner, 143 ; super- 
sedes Douglas, 295. 

Smith, Gerrit, aids in protest 
against Nebraska bill, 199. 

Smith, Joseph H., head of 
Mormons, 57 (see Mormons) ; 
arrested, 59 ; praises Douglas, 
59; surrenders himself, 61 ; 
discharged, 62 ; candidate for 
presidency, 64. 

Soule, territorial plan . of 
adopted, 160. 

South, urgent for slavery dis- 
cussion in connection with 
Texas, 84; demands of in 
slavery question, 150; atti- 
tude as to California and 
New Mexico, 151; suspects 
Douglas, 187; peculiar ec- 
onomic status of, 192; ap- 
proves Nebraska bill, 193. 

Southerners, view of Douglas, 
139; charge North with bad 
faith on Fugitive Slave Law, 

Springfield, Douglas's second 
law practice in, 39 ; debate 
between Douglas and Lincoln 
at, in 1854, 213. 

St. Louis, Douglas's early visit 
to, 17. 

Storey, M., on Brooks-Sumner 
episode, 143-144; view of 
Sumner- Douglas debate, 234. 

Stowe, Mrs., view of Douglas, 

Stuart, John F., contest with 
Douglas, 38. 

Sumner, Charles, relation to 
Douglas, 1 29 ; controversy 
with Douglas, 142; attacked 
by Brooks, 142; seeks to 
amend Nebraska bill, 194 ; 
asks delay on Nebraska bill, 
195 ; prepares protest against 



Nebraska bill, 199 ; debate 
with Douglas, 234. 

Sumter, relief attempted, 332 ; 
Douglas's view on, 339 ; at- 
tacked, 343. 

Supreme Court (State), reorgan- 
ized, 43 ; Douglas's relation 
to, 44 ; Douglas appointed to, 
45 ; assigned to fifth district, 
45 ; composition of, 44-45 ; 
Douglas's decisions as judge 
of, 45-46 ; his life as judge 
of, 47-48 ; modest equipment 
of, 48. 

Supreme Court (Federal), Dred 
Scott decision of, 237. 

Tammany, attitude of toward 
Douglas, 316-317. 

Tariff, Douglas's attitude on, 
126; of 1857 changed by 
Douglas, 126; discussion re- 
tarded by slavery debate, 

Taylor, Zachary, vote for, 105 ; 
relation to territorial question, 

" Ten Regiments Bill," speech 
of Douglas on, 96. 

Territorial question, develop- 
ment of, 148. 

Terry, controversy with Brod- 
erick in California, 303. 

Texas, question of in relation to 
Mexico, 91 ; war concerning 
breaks out, 92 ; right to enter 
Union, Douglas's view of, 93. 

Tonnage tax, for rivers and 
harbors urged by Douglas, 

I2 5- 
Toombs, Robert, offers bill for 

admission of Kansas, 231 ; 

passed by Senate, 235 ; later 

history of, 236. 
Trumbull, Lyman, before Su- 

preme Court, 47 ; hostile to 
Douglas, 212; elected senator, 
215 ; hated by Douglas, 217 ; 
debate with Douglas, 230 ; 
attacked by Douglas, 281. 

Utah, bill to organize passed 
in Senate, 161. 

Van Buren, Douglas's work 
for, 41 ; attitude toward 
Mormons, 54; vote for, 105. 

Villard, H., impressions of Mrs. 
Douglas, 138; spectator at 
Lincoln- Douglas debate, 265 ; 
view of Lincoln, 267. 

Walker, R. J., named Gov- 
ernor of Kansas, 239 ; hostile 
to Lecompton plan, 242. 

Walker, Cyrus, Whig candidate 
in Mormon district, 62 ; on 
power of Mormon court, 62. 

Walters, account of Douglas- 
Jackson interview, 75. 

Webster, Daniel, relation to 
Douglas, 1 29 ; last service of, 
149 ; answers Clay and Cal- 
houn, 154; concedes exist- 
ence of Southern grievance, 
156; accepts Mason's bill, 1 56. 

West, relation to Douglas's am- 
bition, 167 ; favors Clayton- 
Bulwer treaty, 181. 

Winchester, Douglas's school 
in, 20. 

Winthrop, R. C, defeated for 
Speaker, 152. 

Whigs, opposed by Douglas, 23 ; 
attacked by Douglas before 
Supreme Court, 40 ; election 
contest in Congress, 76. 

Young, Douglas's effort to un- 
dermine, 50. 


At 6 ;,