In 1854 Stephen Douglas was Illinois'
undisputed political leader, and one of the most powerful political
figures in the nation. When Henry Clay and Daniel Webster failed to
secure the measures known as the Compromise of 1850 by proposing them
together, Douglas stepped in to save the day. Separating the several
provisions, including admission of California to the Union as a free
state, a ban on the slave trade in the District of Columbia, the Fugitive
Slave Act, and a promise that the New Mexico and Utah territories would
be open to slavery, Douglas secured their passage. Douglas was a powerful
political orator, both in the Senate and at rallies such as that advertised
here. His rhetoric convinced a majority of his colleagues in the Congress,
as well as many of his followers, that the doctrine of popular sovereignty
could solve the emerging problem of slavery's future in the West by
removing it from national politics. But the doctrine only heightened
sectional tensions and Douglas' once-rising political star came crashing
to earth. In an increasingly polarized political environment his moderate
stance found few supporters.
For more information about politics in the 19th century, please look at Lincoln/Net's Getting the Message Out! National Political Campaign Materials, 1840-1860 Web site.