TURMOIL WITHIN THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY PITTED THOSE WHO BACKED the Lecompton Constitution against its detractors. The internal conflict split the party into sectional factions. The Republican Party benefited from the rift, gaining control of the government in 1860.
Two divergent views emerged as to the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. In the South, the future Confederate president, Sen. Jefferson Davis, popularized the view that the Declaration created a statecentered polity. Its statement of rights applied only to members of the polity, none of whom were blacks. Northerners, in the meantime, began taking the lead of Republicans, who spoke of the Declaration as a document containing governmentally recognized protections for civil rights.
Republicans’ signature issues were prohibition of slavery in U.S. territories and protection of workers’ right to be economically independent through free labor. These commitments were tied through the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln, like many of his fellow Republicans, thought that slavery engendered inequality and degraded free labor. Opposition to the Mexican-American War and the KansasNebraska Acts had fueled his passion for politics. By 1854, when he was a lawyer in Illinois and soon to be a state legislator, Lincoln formulated a political philosophy that relied on the Declaration of Independence as the