Restricted If Stephen Douglas had been elected president, would have there been a Civil War?

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major bill

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The first question would be, if Douglas was elected president would the South have seceded? The fact that many Southerners walked out of the Democratic convention in Charleston in 1860, I think the answer is yes. Stephen Douglas was a moderate on slavery and pushed poplar sovereignty for the US territories. I doubt this would have satisfied the fire eaters at all. Letting territories decide on if they wanted to have slavery was probably a non starter.

The next question is how would have a president Douglas have reacted to secession? If he had let the Southern states go, would he have still supported slavery in the US territories? We can assume the once Douglas died in 1861 a Herschel V. Johnson as president would have been pro South. I have some doubts that Herschel Johnson would have become president as he most likely would have resigned as vice president when Georgia seceded.
 

wausaubob

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The secession of Virginia and of Tennessee was a very closely decided question. Any delay might have produced a different result.
Douglas would have tried to patch together another compromise, but his own party was becoming frustrated with continual compromises, none of which held.
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
Too many loose ends to be accounted for, to give any accurate insight to this particular what if.

As noted, Douglas' early death, was one. His election would almost certainly thrown the ranks of the non fire eater secessionists into a quandry and could very likely have thrown the planned process of secession completely(or partially) out of kilter, but to what extend, is almost impossible to discern.

During his debates with Lincoln, Douglas professed to be a strict interpreter of the law, and promised to obey any ruling of the Dred Scott Ruling to the letter. The ruled that slavery could not be restricted in any way in U.S. Territories and fore good measure ruled the 1820 compromise Unconstitutional, which effectively made the Compromise of 1850 a Nullity. Couuld President Douglas accept ythat, under any circumstances?...... and the list could go on and on.
 
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Harms88

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The Civil War I feel was always a matter of when, not if.

As soon as the next Northerner was elected, I feel that you'd have seen secession, especially if they had any opinion on the slavery issue that was even a smidgen off of the Southern viewpoint. As for Civil War, it really remained to be seen how that President would have reacted to secession.

Douglas' death would have led his VP, Herschel Vespasian Johnson to become President. He was a Georgian slaveowner so at the very least, the South would have stayed until the 1864 elections and whomever took office afterward.
 

jackt62

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Interesting question, highly speculative. I tend to come down on the side of saying that there would not have been an immediate secession had Douglas been elected President. The election of Lincoln and the Republican party was absolutely anathema to the southern wing of the Democratic party who rightly feared Lincoln's position on halting the expansion of slavery. But Douglas was still closer towards the position of the southern Democrats when it came to the question of slavery and was well known for his advocacy of "popular sovereignty" in which states and territories decided the fate of slavery within its own borders. I doubt whether a Douglas presidency would have tipped the scales in favor of South Carolina's secession; more likely that state and other slave holding states might have taken a "wait and see" approach to the policies promulgated by Douglas.
 

Joshism

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I think the election of Douglas would have averted secession in 1860-1861, but would not have really smoothed things over with the South. It would have been another 4 years of bitter arguments in Congress.

If secession still goes forward, Douglas opposes it vehemently, as it did IRL. But Herschel Johnson surely resigns when GA secedes so there's no VP, thus the presidency passes to the president pro tempore of the Senate.

Even if secession does not occur in 1861, what happens to the Democrats in 1864? Douglas is out of the way (dead), but the South will insist on another "ultra" Southern candidate and the Northern Democrats may resent the events of 1860 enough to tell them to **** off. Not sure what Northerner they might back though.

The Republicans probably win in 1864 after coming so close in 1860 and with the sectional divide not having improved.
 
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OpnCoronet

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Just one facet to this very complex question. Because of his actions during the debaes over his Kansas-Nebraska Bill, the Southern leaders in general and their leaders in the Democratic Party leadership, had been outraged by his insistance of a fair applicagtion of the Principles of the 'Popular Sovereignty' in achieving statehood for Kansas(they had expected Douglas to follow their lead, obey popular sovereignty principles in he breech).

In the South the Democratic Party's leaders had successfully painted Douglas as worse than a Republican or a Lincoln, who were seen as overt enemies of the the South, while Douglas had revealed himself to to be the worst kind of turncoat; a Traitor. Pretending to be a friend of the South, while willing to sell out the South at the first opportunity for political spoils.

It would have been a bitter pill indeed for southern peoples in general and Southern Democrats and their fire-eaters to elect Douglas under any circumstance, IMO.
 

mobile_96

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It would have been a bitter pill indeed for southern peoples in general and Southern Democrats and their fire-eaters to elect Douglas under any circumstance, IMO.
Have to agree. Although he did receive about 21% of the national vote, he only received 7.14% of the states that seceded (If my number are correct) and about 15.5% of all the slave holding states. He was not very popular in the south.
We also have to consider a couple other things. He was supportive of the war, at least for the time he remained alive, (June 3, '61 of possible typhoid fever). So, not likely he would have considered letting the South go. And, if elected and had died in June, what was the position of his vice-president.
 

archieclement

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mo
Just one facet to this very complex question. Because of his actions during the debaes over his Kansas-Nebraska Bill, the Southern leaders in general and their leaders in the Democratic Party leadership, had been outraged by his insistance of a fair applicagtion of the Principles of the 'Popular Sovereignty' in achieving statehood for Kansas(they had expected Douglas to follow their lead, obey popular sovereignty principles in he breech).

In the South the Democratic Party's leaders had successfully painted Douglas as worse than a Republican or a Lincoln, who were seen as overt enemies of the the South, while Douglas had revealed himself to to be the worst kind of turncoat; a Traitor. Pretending to be a friend of the South, while willing to sell out the South at the first opportunity for political spoils.

It would have been a bitter pill indeed for southern peoples in general and Southern Democrats and their fire-eaters to elect Douglas under any circumstance, IMO.
Yet not aware of any rhetoric that a Douglas, Bell or Breckenridge elected would mean secession as there was with Lincoln.

I tend to agree with Douglas there would have no secession, no need to react to it. It would have at the least postponed it and kicked the can down the road.

Party primaries can indeed be heated and lead to strong rhetoric, but seldom means one finds the other party preferable.
 
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OpnCoronet

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Yet not aware of any rhetoric that a Douglas, Bell or Breckenridge elected would mean secession as there was with Lincoln.
I tend to agree with Douglas there would have no secession, no need to react to it. It would have at the least postponed it and kicked the can down the road.
Party primaries can indeed be heated and lead to strong rhetoric, but seldom means one finds the other party preferable.



True enough, obviously a united Democratic Party would almost surely have elected Douglas, thus, 'The' relevant question then, would be, why, exactly, were Breckenridge or bell Not running on the same ticket as Douglas?(you might want to read the history of the proceedings of the Democratic Party Convention in Charleston, SC, 1860)

Theoretically, the election of Douglas might have stymied immediate secession, but, could he reconcile Northern demands of restricting slavery, and the Courts decision that the Congress could not restrict Slavery in any war and keep his northern constituency, so as not to become the captive of his southern democratic proslavery partisans?

The North and South had both rejected kicking the slavery can down the road during the debates over the Compromise of 1850 and particularly during the debates over Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Both sides wanted the issue of expansion of slavery settld once and for all, i.e., poliitics as usual is the norm, but, every so often the people, as a consensus, come together on some great issue or principle, against which normal plitical tactics are not only unproduction, but actually dangerous; such was the election of 1860.
 

wausaubob

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True enough, obviously a united Democratic Party would almost surely have elected Douglas, thus, 'The' relevant question then, would be, why, exactly, were Breckenridge or bell Not running on the same ticket as Douglas?(you might want to read the history of the proceedings of the Democratic Party Convention in Charleston, SC, 1860)

Theoretically, the election of Douglas might have stymied immediate secession, but, could he reconcile Northern demands of restricting slavery, and the Courts decision that the Congress could not restrict Slavery in any war and keep his northern constituency, so as not to become the captive of his southern democratic proslavery partisans?

The North and South had both rejected kicking the slavery can down the road during the debates over the Compromise of 1850 and particularly during the debates over Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Both sides wanted the issue of expansion of slavery settld once and for all, i.e., poliitics as usual is the norm, but, every so often the people, as a consensus, come together on some great issue or principle, against which normal plitical tactics are not only unproduction, but actually dangerous; such was the election of 1860.
Without the Civil War, a Congressional election based on reapportionment of the 1860 census was going to produce a Republican majority in Congress. The Rs and the free soil Ds were getting tired of the Kansas dispute and were willing to admit Kansas as a paid labor state.
19-15 paid labor to slave labor was the best ratio the slave owners' states were ever going to experience. But the Midwest was recovering from 1857 so quickly, that two years delay would have been enough to prevent Civil War.
Both outgoing Buchanan and incoming Douglas were ready to end US obstruction which was sustaining slave importations from Africa.
I think there would not have been immediate secession, but it would have come up again by the spring of 1863.
 

Carronade

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The secessionists repeated cited the emergence of an anti-slavery party and the election of its candidate to the Presidency as the immediate causes of their action. Absent that, long-simmering issues would not have turned into a crisis, not at that time anyway.
 
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NedBaldwin

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The first question would be, if Douglas was elected president would the South have seceded?
How would Douglas have been elected?

1. He steers pro-slavery in order to hold party together, and win votes of southern states, convinces John Bell to stay out, and somehow wins Illinois and Indiana (?) ... He might just be able to squeek out a victory and avoid secession by the slave states,. but might face secession and war from the more radical part of the north

2. He tries to win enough republican states from Lincoln by taking a harder line on slavery -- then definite secession and war.
 

OpnCoronet

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Feb 23, 2010
Without the Civil War, a Congressional election based on reapportionment of the 1860 census was going to produce a Republican majority in Congress. The Rs and the free soil Ds were getting tired of the Kansas dispute and were willing to admit Kansas as a paid labor state.



I believe it is the party in power in Congress that decides how the apportionment will be effected historically, soon after the the establishment of the Constitution, Gov. Gerry of Massachusetts showed how apportionment worked , i.e., Gerrymandering. So I would not put too much stock in a Southern controlled Democratic Party in Congress, Not being able keeping reapportionment under control. Douglas would not be working against Southern Democrats, he would be working with them to maintain Democcratic control of Congress, if he were President.
 

wausaubob

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Gerrymandering was irrelevant. Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan were going to get additional seats, along with St. Louis and n. Missouri. 19:15 was the best ratio the slave states were going to get in the Senate. A Dem candidate could not win with some success in northern states. And after 1862, it was going to get even harder for any southerner to be taken seriously as a presidential candidate.
 
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uaskme

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Douglas wanted a Western Bloc. He would of had to pacify Southerners in some way Politically, which he had a history of doing. He cared nothing for Abolition or the Slavery Issues except Expansion. Many of his ideas would coincide with the East. TRR, Lake State Harbor Infrastructures, protective Tariffs, which politically he couldn’t support because of objections of Southern Democrats.

So, even tho Southern Disunionist disliked him. He would never of caused an emotional rejection of non slave owners that a Sectional, Anti Southern Republican President did. Secession would not of happened in 1860.
 

major bill

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Douglas wanted a Western Bloc. He would of had to pacify Southerners in some way Politically, which he had a history of doing. He cared nothing for Abolition or the Slavery Issues except Expansion. Many of his ideas would coincide with the East. TRR, Lake State Harbor Infrastructures, protective Tariffs, which politically he couldn’t support because of objections of Southern Democrats.

So, even tho Southern Disunionist disliked him. He would never of caused an emotional rejection of non slave owners that a Sectional, Anti Southern Republican President did. Secession would not of happened in 1860.
I would think when the Southern Democrats walked out of the convention that it could well be a sign that the South would secede if he won the presidency. I am not sure Southerners would accept the concept of allowing territories to decide if the territory would have slavery or not. The Supreme Court had already ruled that slavery was legal in all territories, why would the South accept allowing territories to decide if they wanted slavery in that territory?
 

uaskme

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I would think when the Southern Democrats walked out of the convention that it could well be a sign that the South would secede if he won the presidency. I am not sure Southerners would accept the concept of allowing territories to decide if the territory would have slavery or not. The Supreme Court had already ruled that slavery was legal in all territories, why would the South accept allowing territories to decide if they wanted slavery in that territory?
Think I explained it. Douglas Was a Democrat.Democrat Party was still a National Party. Disunionist wanted the Republican to win.They had said for several election cycles that if a Northern Sectional Party won, they would secede. Show us where they said if a Democrat won, it would mean secession. Douglas never advocated abolition or any feeling for Black Rights. He had about the same position as Lincoln. However the Free Soil movement had become Republicans. All the other abolitionist groups were Republican. Republican Party, by definition was Anti-Southern.

Fire Eaters would not accept Douglas. But it would of been a much harder argument to convince others to follow than with a Republican. Upper South cast votes for Douglas. He was on the ballot all over the South. He was no Republican. Walking out of a Political Convention is much different that starting a new country. Southerners thought the Northern Democrats would help them.
 
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OpnCoronet

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But in fact, Douglas was an anathama to southern Democrats because of their perception that Douglas was a turncoat and traitor to the South AND the principes of the Democratic Party itself.

The South bolted the Democratic Convenion, because Douglas the NW Democrats would not(because they could not, if they wanted to keep their seats in Congress, by their vconstituents) accept the poison pill of an all out support of slavery plamnk proposed by the fire=eaters that they knew was totall unacceptable to the constituents of the Northern Democratic voters. In effect Douglas had been read out of the Southern Wing of the Democratic Party(which to most southerners, was THE only Democratic Party, that matered anyway).
 

John S. Carter

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First,which was disliked the Most,Lincoln who represented a party that was seen by the South as a political party of Abolitionist or Douglas a wimp who the South could not trust to protect their interest in the movement of slaves and a Democratic party which was now while not being against slavery was anti spread into land designed for the White man,the signs would read non caucasians NOT permitted except for minor laborers ,Irish or Free blacks,.IF he was elected the North and West may have succeeded and Lincoln would have been President of a Northern Union stil or maybe a Confederacy , About that for a WHAT IF?
 
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