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Stephen Arnold Douglas, Slavery in the Territories (American National Biography)

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Johannsen, Robert W., "Douglas, Stephen Arnold," American National Biography Online, February 2000,  http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00325.html.

Douglas was not proslavery, as many of his opponents charged, but he was aware of the dangers involved in debating the right or wrong of slavery…To Douglas, there was no tribunal on earth that could decide the moral question of slavery to the satisfaction of each side. In the interest of maintaining the Union, slavery must be dealt with as a "political question involving questions of public policy." He was confident that it was poorly adapted to western conditions and that the people of the territories, if left to settle the question for themselves, would decide against it. The growing momentum of the antislavery movement and the rising strength of the proslavery southern political leadership, however, made it increasingly difficult to adhere to this position without being misunderstood.

Douglas's dilemma became clear in 1854 when the issue of slavery in the territories was revived by the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Written and introduced by Douglas, the act organized two new territories out of the old Louisiana Purchase area. Although slavery had been barred from the region by the 1820 Missouri Compromise, Douglas nonetheless provided for popular sovereignty...Southerners, however, pressed him for an explicit repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and Douglas agreed in order to secure the bill's passage, although he predicted it would raise a "hell of a storm." Antislavery opponents denounced the repeal as a "gross violation of a sacred pledge" and a betrayal of freedom made to promote Douglas's ambitions.

How to Cite This Page: "Stephen Arnold Douglas, Slavery in the Territories (American National Biography)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/15952.