Stephen A. Douglas, Western Man

The Early Years in Congress, 1844-1850

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About the Book

It didn’t take long for freshman Congressman Stephen A. Douglas to see the truth of Senator Thomas Hart Benton’s warning: slavery attached itself to every measure that came before the U.S. Congress. Douglas wanted to expand the nation into an ocean-bound republic. Yet slavery and the violent conflicts it stirred always interfered, as it did in 1844 with his first bill to organize Nebraska.

In 1848, when America acquired 550,000 square miles after the Mexican War, the fight began over whether the territory would be free or slave. Henry Clay, a slave owner who favored gradual emancipation, packaged territorial bills from Douglas’s committee with four others. But Clay’s “Omnibus Bill” failed. Exhausted, he left the Senate, leaving Douglas in control.

Within two weeks, Douglas won passage of all eight bills, and President Millard Fillmore signed the Compromise of 1850. It was Douglas’s greatest legislative achievement. This book chronicles how his popular sovereignty doctrine moved the issue of slavery from Congress to the ballot box.

About the Author(s)

Reg Ankrom is a frequent writer and speaker about pre–Civil War Illinois and is working on two additional books on Stephen A. Douglas. He lives in Quincy, Illinois.

Bibliographic Details

Reg Ankrom
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Bibliographic Info: ca. 10 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2021
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7376-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4228-4
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

• “In this second volume, gifted biographer Reg Ankrom chronicles the rise of the able, ambitious Douglas, who arrived in Washington at the age of thirty-one and quickly gained fame as an eloquent critic of the free soil movement and became one of the key architects of the Compromise of 1850. Elegantly written and deeply researched, Ankrom’s meticulously textured volumes will long stand as the definitive life of Douglas.”—Douglas R. Egerton, author of Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election That Brought on the Civil War

• “An engrossing biography of one of the central actors in the drama of antebellum politics. Paints a vivid portrait that faithfully chronicles the strengths and flaws of this nineteenth century titan and nemesis of Abraham Lincoln. This volume enriches and deepens our understanding of the man and his times with lush details and terse prose. It is at once a concise history and biography that begins with Douglas’s founding of the Democratic Party in Illinois and culminates with the Compromise of 1850, a pivotal moment that marked the end of the Great Triumvirate of Webster, Clay, and Calhoun and the emergence of the next generation of leaders who would fight the Civil War.”—Joseph R. Fornieri, author of Abraham Lincoln, Philosopher Statesman and director of the Center of Statesmanship, Law and Liberty at the Rochester Institute of Technology

• “Reg Ankrom has thought long and deeply about Stephen Douglas, that supremely talented and sometimes maddeningly complex man. Ankrom’s study offers a richly contextualized, thorough examination of Douglas’ early years as an ambitious western man-on-the-make, and his meteoric rise to prominence in Illinois and national politics. Well-written, impressively researched and carefully rooted in Ankrom’s deep knowledge of the era, this book is a must-have for any serious student of American antebellum politics.”—Brian Dirck, Anderson University, author of The Black Heavens: Abraham Lincoln and Death