When Political Parties Implode: The Battle over the Lecompton Constitution and its Relevance Today

This is an amazing post from Padre Steve’s blog that is one of the finest melds of history and current events that I’ve read in quite a while. Steve takes us through the contentious history of the Lecompton Constitution, a slavery controversy in the 1850s, and how it destroyed the Democratic Party–and explains how today’s rapidly progressing implosion of the modern Republican Party resembles it in some ways. I was considering doing an article on my own blog similar to this, and I still may, but in the meantime please check out this fine piece of history and news–it will open your eyes!

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I have been watching the implosion of the Republican Party with some concern, not because I am a Republican or support that party, but because I am a historian and understand that the effects of these kinds of crack ups are not just bad for the party concerned, but often for the country, because they reveal deeper social and political issues. As I watch this I am reminded of the crisis and battle regarding the Lecompton Constitution in 1858. Since the article deals with this in some detail I will cut to the bottom line. In 1858 the Democratic Party held majorities in both houses of Congress and the Presidency. It had been aided by the collapse of the Whig Party and the new republican Party was still in its infancy. But extremists Democrats sought to push through a measure to bring Kansas into the…

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1 Comment

  1. Douglas has gotten a short shrift from history because, unlike Lincoln, he never changed his low opinion of African-Americans nor his willing to accept slavery in a quid – pro – quo with the South. However, on many points he agreed with Lincoln, and would loyally support the North during the Civil War.

    Allen Nevins felt that Douglas (during the campaign) was in many ways braver than Lincoln, because once he saw that the Breckenridge supporters would hold back the South, he gave up his own Presidential hopes to tour the South and try to convince them to have a new, third convention with himself and Breckenridge agreeing not to seek the nomination at all, and then the Democrats united could pick a new candidate. Frequently in this hopeless tour Douglas’ life was in danger (Lincoln in contrast did not seek to approach the southern states, just writing them off). As a result Stephen Douglass was the first major party Presidential candidate to come in third in the electoral college (behind Lincoln and Breckenridge) in the election he ran in (the next one was William Howard Taft, the Republican nominee of 1912, and in his case the incumbent).

    His double disappointment in failing to achieve the Presidency or in preventing the Civil War did much to speed his death in June 1861. Lincoln regretted his old rival’s death – he came to realize how valuable a political ally he would have been.

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