An Analysis Of Stephen Douglas's Argument Of Popular Sovereignty

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Stephen Douglas, an advocate of popular sovereignty, and Abraham Lincoln, a Republican candidate, were both running to represent Illinois in the United States Senate. These two men met in a sequence of seven debates before they battled for office of presidency in the election of 1858. Slavery eventually became the main issue discussed repeatedly in each of the debates, due to the Mexican War adding new territories left to be assessed as free soil or not. During this time, the Compromise of 1850 was a temporary fix to the sectional issues for the states that made the decision to participate in the extension of slavery. However, the Missouri Compromise of 1854 brought the issue back up again. Because of this, Stephen Douglas campaigned for popular sovereignty which he later became known for. Popular…show more content…
Stephen Douglas, a supporter of popular sovereignty, had difficulty trying to answer the question. If he said the people could not exclude slavery, then his famous "popular sovereignty" was a null, void issue and of no effect. If he said yes; then he would be defying the Dred Scott decision. Douglas, astute and creative, answered yes, the people of a territory could exclude slavery from the territory before the state constitution was written. He explained that slavery could only exist if the local legislature passed regulations protecting slave property and could lawfully avoid slavery without actually banning it. Douglas won the Illinois senate seat with his answer that later became known as the Freeport Doctrine. The only drawback was that his answer further alienated the South which led to him being stripped of power in the Senate and also contributed to the division of the Democratic

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