Last modified on 2 December 2014, at 23:06

Stephen A. Douglas

If there is any one principle dearer and more sacred than all others in free governments, it is that which asserts the exclusive right of a free people to form and adopt their own fundamental law, and to manage and regulate their own internal affairs and domestic institutions.

Stephen Arnold Douglas (23 April 18133 June 1861), was as American politician, one of the principal founders of the Illinois Democrat Party, Illinois supreme court judge, and Illinois Senator. He was responsible for the passage of the compromise of 1850, author of the Kansas-Nebraska act. He was famous for his debates against Abraham Lincoln in 1858, which brought them both to greater national prominence.

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  • Abolitionism proposes to destroy the right and extinguish the principle of self-government for which our forefathers waged a seven years' bloody war, and upon which our whole system of free government is founded.
    • Speech in the Senate (3 March 1854)
  • If there is any one principle dearer and more sacred than all others in free governments, it is that which asserts the exclusive right of a free people to form and adopt their own fundamental law, and to manage and regulate their own internal affairs and domestic institutions.
  • The framers of the Constitution well understood that each locality, having separate and distinct interests, required separate and distinct laws, domestic institutions, and police regulations adapted to its own wants and its own condition; and they acted on the presumption, also, that these laws and institutions would be as diversified and as dissimilar as the States would be numerous, and that no two would be precisely alike, because the interests of no two would be precisely the same.
    • Speech in Chicago, Illinois (9 July 1858)
  • Slavery is not the only question which comes up in this controversy. There is a far more important one to you, and that is, What shall be done with the free negro? We have settled the slavery question as far as we are concerned; we have prohibited it in Illinois forever; and in doing so, I think we have done wisely, and there is no man in the State who would be more strenuous in his opposition to the introduction of slavery than I would; but when we settled it for ourselves, we exhausted all our power over that subject. We have done our whole duty, and can do no more. We must leave each and every other State to decide for itself the same question. In relation to the policy to be pursued toward the free negroes, we have said that they shall not vote; whilst Maine, on the other hand, has said that they shall vote. Maine is a sovereign State, and has the power to regulate the qualifications of voters within her limits. I would never consent to confer the right of voting and of citizenship upon a negro; but still I am not going to quarrel with Maine for differing from me in opinion. Let Maine take care of her own negroes and fix the qualifications of her own voters to suit herself, without interfering with Illinois, and Illinois will not interfere with Maine.
  • There are only two sides to this question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war; only patriots and traitors.
    • Last public speech before his death, Chicago, Illinois (1 May 1861)

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