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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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Rule or Ruin

Rule or Ruin

(p.177) 6 Rule or Ruin
Arguing until Doomsday

Michael E. Woods

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter focuses on the 1860 presidential election and the final rupture of the antebellum Democratic Party. As Stephen Douglas and Jefferson Davis collided in a series of Senate debates over slavery, self-government, and the western territories, their Democratic Party self-destructed in its national convention held in Charleston, South Carolina. Unwilling to accept Douglas as a candidate or popular sovereignty as party doctrine, southern Democrats bolted the convention, nominated John C. Breckinridge for president, and campaigned on a frankly proslavery and anti-majoritarian platform. Northern Democrats rallied behind Douglas and popular sovereignty, completing the party fracture. The election of Abraham Lincoln and subsequent secession crisis pushed Davis and Douglas’s wings of the Democracy even further apart. Douglas denounced secession and urged compromise, while Davis tentatively pivoted toward Mississippi secessionists.

Keywords:   Abraham Lincoln, Democratic Party, Slavery, Secession, John C. Breckinridge, Popular sovereignty

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