This broadside advertises a large political gathering to be held in Galesburg,
Illinois. At this 1854 event Illinois opponents of Stephen Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska
Act came together to vent their spleen and plot strategies for reversing
a policy they saw as disastrous. Douglas' act reversed the Missouri Compromise
of 1820, which had stipulated that human slavery would not be tolerated
north of Missouri's main southern border. This policy recognized the Union's
effective division into two geographical blocks, one slave and one free.
In its place Douglas inserted a policy that he called popular sovereignty,
which would enable the people of any territory seeking to become a state
to decide for themselves if their new constitution would condone slavery.
While the established Whig Party desperately tried to sidestep the slavery
issue and keep its southern members, antislavery Whigs and irate northern
Democrats came together in their opposition to Douglas' measure. A growing,
if still small, number of white northerners were coming to oppose slavery
on moral grounds. Others looked forward to emigrating to the West and
making it a "white man's country." Still other northerners resented southern
Democrats' seeming ability to turn national policy to their own best interest
again and again. In any case, the Kansas-Nebraska Act threatened to introduce
slavery into the American West, and it mobilized a powerful opposition
that eventually became the Republican Party. This opposition included
the Springfield attorney Abraham Lincoln, called from a brief political
retirement by his ardent opposition to American slavery's expansion.