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Arguing until DoomsdayStephen Douglas, Jefferson Davis, and the Struggle for American Democracy$
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Michael E. Woods

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469656397

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469656397.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.northcarolina.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of North Carolina Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NCSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Introduction

Introduction

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Arguing until Doomsday
Author(s):

Michael E. Woods

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469656397.003.0001

The introduction demonstrates how Stephen Douglas and Jefferson Davis’s intertwined careers can illuminate the sectionalism that split the antebellum Democratic Party. Both men moved west into the Mississippi River Valley, envisioned that valley as the nucleus of a burgeoning American empire, and regarded Democratic unity as vital to preserving a growing Union. But, pressured by their respective constituencies in Illinois and Mississippi, Douglas and Davis promoted incompatible programs for reconciling African American slavery with white freedom. Douglas championed whites-only majoritarianism and left African Americans’ status up to white voters in each state and territory. Alarmed, Davis sought to use federal power to protect slaveholders’ property rights against potentially hostile majorities. Rooted in a larger tension between property and democracy, this conflict shattered their party in 1860. Though ostensibly united by racism and anti-abolitionism, antebellum Democrats aligned into sectional wings and battled over the nature of American democracy itself.

Keywords:   Antebellum, Union, Slavery, Majoritarianism, Democracy, Property, Racism, Sectionalism

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