How would have a President Stephen A. Douglas have handled secession differently?

major bill

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#1
What if Stephen a. Douglas has some how won the 1860 election? I am not sure how he would have reacted to secession. There is a possibility that he would have allowed the South to leave without a war. The problem being Douglas probably would have die at about the same time as he did in June of 1861. It does not seem likely that Vice President John C. Breckenridge would have still been Vice President in June of 1861. I am assuming Breckenridge would have resigned before then and cast his lot with the South. I would have no idea who Douglas would have had as a Vice President when Davis died in June of 1861, so it is difficult to know how his successor would have dealt with the Confederacy.
 

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#4
The candidate who ran with Douglas for Vice President was Herschel Johnson, a former governor of Georgia. In 1861, he was a delegate to the state secession convention and voted against secession, however, he became a Confederate congressman after Georgia voted to leave.

That said there would have been no secession if Douglas had won the election. Lincoln's win was a catalyst for states in the deep south to leave. The fire eaters helped to engineer Lincoln's win with the goal to split the union. If another candidate had won cooler heads would have prevailed. The secessionist sought to show that the south was now excluded from the executive branch and ultimately their way of life was threatened.
 

major bill

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Why would the South not have seceded if Douglas had won the election? It would appear that a President Douglas would have been more likely to let the South go without a war. Negotiating the division of things like the disposition of the territories and division of federal assess (US Navy ships, property in Washington DC, and etc.) would have been easier under a President Douglas.

As already said, Douglas was much more sympathetic of the South than Lincoln. I am guessing if the Confederacy played hardball with Douglas to avoid a war, would have given the Confederacy almost anything they asked for.
 

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Hard to say with any certainty. The election of a Democrat rather than a 'black Republican' might have by itself ended talk of secession- at least in 1860/61.
As it was, Douglas tried to find compromise. He went so far as to propose that the Crittenden Compromise ought to be fast-tracked by calling a referendum. He viewed Lincoln's first inaugural address as a clear peace offering. As the Fort Sumter crisis developed, he counselled giving in to rebel demands in order to prevent the upper South from seceding. After the shooting started, he was very supportive of the Lincoln Administration's policy, rallying support for it in the midwest. Notably, he suggested that Lincoln's call for volunteers was not big enough for the task at hand.
 

major bill

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#7
Hard to say with any certainty. The election of a Democrat rather than a 'black Republican' might have by itself ended talk of secession- at least in 1860/61.
As it was, Douglas tried to find compromise. He went so far as to propose that the Crittenden Compromise ought to be fast-tracked by calling a referendum. He viewed Lincoln's first inaugural address as a clear peace offering. As the Fort Sumter crisis developed, he counselled giving in to rebel demands in order to prevent the upper South from seceding. After the shooting started, he was very supportive of the Lincoln Administration's policy, rallying support for it in the midwest. Notably, he suggested that Lincoln's call for volunteers was not big enough for the task at hand.
How far would have Douglas went to giving in to the rebel demands? Let us say the Confederacy demanded all US territories be given to them and demanded the surrender of Washington DC., would have Douglas agreed to their terms?
 

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How far would have Douglas went to giving in to the rebel demands? Let us say the Confederacy demanded all US territories be given to them and demanded the surrender of Washington DC., would have Douglas agreed to their terms?
Thanks for your response.
We can only guess.
My guess is that any demand that the US abandon DC would be rejected regardless of who was president, unless Maryland had also seceded, cutting DC off from the remaining United States.
As for territories, I suppose there could have been some sort of accommodation giving the southwest to the new CSA.
 

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#9
The issue of slavery and admission of only "Free States" since 1850 with California, Minnesota, Oregon and Kansas insured the South's loss of political power and equality with the North. Though West Virginia was a "Slave State" she did not enter the Union till 1863 well after the War started. The election of 1860 was merely the spark that lite the fire regardless of who was elected as no one would be satisfied. Just my humble opinion.
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major bill

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Had Douglas been elected president, I am not sure that at some future point, other states would have joined the United States as free states. Probably by 1890, and almost without a doubt by 1920, more free states would have joined than slave states. The slave states by 1920, would have less political power than the free states. That is unless some compromise on democracy was enacted. No one can fully predict the alternate time line, but the slave states would have had great difficulty maintaining equal political power with the free states at some point in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Slavery may have limped on until the 1960s or 1970s, but the slave states would have had little political power.
 

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#11
Had Douglas been elected president, I am not sure that at some future point, other states would have joined the United States as free states. Probably by 1890, and almost without a doubt by 1920, more free states would have joined than slave states. The slave states by 1920, would have less political power than the free states. That is unless some compromise on democracy was enacted. No one can fully predict the alternate time line, but the slave states would have had great difficulty maintaining equal political power with the free states at some point in the late 1800s or early 1900s. Slavery may have limped on until the 1960s or 1970s, but the slave states would have had little political power.
@major bill, your original question brought to my mind Harry Turtledove and his alternate histories. Let me ask the same type if question regarding support. What if Mary Lincoln had married Stephen Douglas instead, and suppose with her influence had become the sitting First Lady anyway?
Can you see what I am getting at? The door of imagination opens to many different avenues.
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wbull1

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#12
"Popular Sovereignty" seems to us today to be more sympathetic to the South, but it was deemed not sympathetic enough by the South at the time. After Lincoln was elected, from day one Douglas worked tirelessly to support the Lincoln administration and to persuade Democrats to support Lincoln's efforts to preserve the Union. I don't see any reason to think Douglas would have allowed secession to go unchallenged after so many years in service to the United States. It also seems to me that the fire eaters and others were spoiling for war and would have found some way to get one.
 

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"Popular Sovereignty" seems to us today to be more sympathetic to the South, but it was deemed not sympathetic enough by the South at the time. After Lincoln was elected, from day one Douglas worked tirelessly to support the Lincoln administration and to persuade Democrats to support Lincoln's efforts to preserve the Union. I don't see any reason to think Douglas would have allowed secession to go unchallenged after so many years in service to the United States. It also seems to me that the fire eaters and others were spoiling for war and would have found some way to get one.
I agree that war would eventually come, though it may have been preempted by such an election at that time. The south would have been very testy and demanding, and the abolitionists mortified. War was inevitable.
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#14
How far would have Douglas went to giving in to the rebel demands? Let us say the Confederacy demanded all US territories be given to them and demanded the surrender of Washington DC., would have Douglas agreed to their terms?

This is a great thread.......................Douglas may have been sympathetic to the South, but he was not well liked in the South, nor was his "popular Sovereignty". When the shooting started, Douglas went with Lincoln and for Union.

I do not think Douglas would have surrendered Washington D.C., as I stated he was for Union (United States). I do feel he may have wavered some on the territory issue, but can't see Douglas giving the Confederate States of America all the territories. In my opinion, with Douglas being for Union, I can't see him "letting" the Confederate States of America just go, but I do feel that in time the separation between the United States of America and the Confederate States of America would have happened under the Douglas Administration. Douglas, in my opinion was more willing to compromise to a point, than Lincoln was...................Over all I do not think there would have been a war if Douglas is elected.......................But all I have said is just mere speculation on my part.

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archieclement

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#15
Hard to say with any certainty. The election of a Democrat rather than a 'black Republican' might have by itself ended talk of secession- at least in 1860/61.
As it was, Douglas tried to find compromise. He went so far as to propose that the Crittenden Compromise ought to be fast-tracked by calling a referendum. He viewed Lincoln's first inaugural address as a clear peace offering. As the Fort Sumter crisis developed, he counselled giving in to rebel demands in order to prevent the upper South from seceding. After the shooting started, he was very supportive of the Lincoln Administration's policy, rallying support for it in the midwest. Notably, he suggested that Lincoln's call for volunteers was not big enough for the task at hand.
I agree, have a hard time seeing the election of Douglas causing secession in the first place and if it did Douglas probally could have staved it off with a compromise such as Crittenden.

Lincoln had run on basiclally a unconstitutional platform and his election signified there would be no room for compromise with someone not willing to respect the constitution and courts IMO

Talking statehoods going forward seems to be putting the cart before the horse.....what Lincoln had ran on was limiting/stopping the expansion of slavery into the territories, which 3 years earlier had been clearly ruled on by the Supreme Court that congress had no authority to do so.....haven't ever seen it suggested it could have been done solely by the executive.

Therein was the dilemma, the whole point of trying to limit the expansion was to get a 2/3rds majority down the road, because they didn't have it in 1860. Dred Scott had clearly defined slavery was open to the territories however, as it wasnt illegal nationally
 
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James N.

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#18
Why would the South not have seceded if Douglas had won the election? It would appear that a President Douglas would have been more likely to let the South go without a war. Negotiating the division of things like the disposition of the territories and division of federal assess (US Navy ships, property in Washington DC, and etc.) would have been easier under a President Douglas.

As already said, Douglas was much more sympathetic of the South than Lincoln. I am guessing if the Confederacy played hardball with Douglas to avoid a war, would have given the Confederacy almost anything they asked for.
Well Southern Democrats walked out of the Democratic Presidential Convention because they did not like Douglas. Why should I believe they would not secede if he won the presidency?
Simple - Douglas was a Democrat - true, a Northern Democrat, but a Democrat nonetheless, and more importantly one who as the author of Popular Sovereignty did NOT oppose the spread of slavery into the territories. Although the standard-bearer of the Southern Democrats, Breckinridge would've had no reason not to work with Douglas, and his Vice Presidency ended anyway with the election, so he would've had no reason to resign. So why would the Southern states have had any reason whatsoever to leave the Union? (They wouldn't.)

Republican Abraham Lincoln was the sine qua non of secession.
 

wbull1

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#20
I agree, have a hard time seeing the election of Douglas causing secession in the first place and if it did Douglas probally could have staved it off with a compromise such as Crittenden.

Lincoln had run on basiclally a unconstitutional platform and his election signified there would be no room for compromise with someone not willing to respect the constitution and courts IMO

Talking statehoods going forward seems to be putting the cart before the horse.....what Lincoln had ran on was limiting/stopping the expansion of slavery into the territories, which 3 years earlier had been clearly ruled on by the Supreme Court that congress had no authority to do so.....haven't ever seen it suggested it could have been done solely by the executive.

Therein was the dilemma, the whole point of trying to limit the expansion was to get a 2/3rds majority down the road, because they didn't have it in 1860. Dred Scott had clearly defined slavery was open to the territories however, as it wasnt illegal nationally

Please note that "Popular Sovereignty" was just as contrary to the Dred Scott decision as Lincoln's position. PS would have allowed people to vote slavery out of a territory or state. That was completely unacceptable to southerners. What compromise would have satisfied fire eaters and others who itching for a war? What would have satisfied both sides? Stephen A. Douglas wanted to be President his entire political life. I don't believe he would have been willing to become the President under whom the country split. In my opinion, compromise was impossible by that time.
 



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