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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Unpopular Sovereignty: Stephen A. Douglas and the Decline of Popular Sovereignty, 1848-1860
by Kalisik, Frank S., III, M.A., Western Illinois University, 2019, 170; 13878116
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis examines Stephen A. Douglas and the policy of popular sovereignty between 1848 and 1860, focused on the politics of Illinois, Douglas’s adopted home state. Douglas’s political career was defined by this policy and his consistent support for it. As popular sovereignty entered the discussion of national expansion beginning in 1850, Douglas promoted it as a chief Democratic Party policy. Tied to the policy by party and personal creed, Douglas advocated for enforcement of popular sovereignty. By utilizing the policy, he hoped to keep the slavery discussion out of Congress and settle the debate, expand the United States under his vision of Manifest Destiny, and become a nationally renowned politician, striving towards the presidency. Methodologically, this thesis examines the Illinois constituents Douglas represented, from Adams, Cook, LaSalle, Peoria, St. Clair and Stephenson counties, and how, over the course of the 1850s, Douglas alienated himself from his constituents. With the repeal of the Missouri Compromise in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Douglas’s Illinois constituents feared the spread of slavery, suspecting Douglas and popular sovereignty a tool for slavery’s expansion. Antislavery sentiment grew among northern Democrats and free soil advocates in Illinois, who utilized political power by preaching an antislavery platform, ultimately making Democrats the minority party in Illinois by 1858. Douglas remained confident that popular sovereignty would produce true democratic equality, although his constituents increasingly denounced it. Stephen Douglas lost popular support among Illinois Democrats after becoming consumed with the national politics of slavery, failing to realize his own constituents no longer supported his policies.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Roberts, Timothy M.
Commitee: Chamberlin, Ute, Hall, Greg
School: Western Illinois University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: MAI 58/06M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: American history
Keywords: Antebellum democrats, Anti-slavery, Illinois, Popular sovereignty, Stephen A. Douglas
Publication Number: 13878116
ISBN: 978-1-392-23457-0
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