THE foregoing is an explanation of the general principles governing Douglas's approach to the "vexed question." We believe that it exonerates Douglas from any charge of shallow opportunism or moral obtuseness. Certainly no one has the right to denounce his "moral perceptions" who has not shown, first, that it was wrong to subordinate the slavery issue, upon which North and South could not agree, to an aim and purpose upon which they could agree; and, second, that the aim upon which sectional agreement and subordination of slavery was pitched was itself immoral. The emergence of the Republican party foreshadowed the possibility that there might be a constitutional majority formed without the necessity of a single vote from a slave state, a majority which might thus be able to dispense with those restraints which such a necessity would have imposed. In the developing crisis of the fifties, Douglas's was the only powerful voice faithful to the idea that national political platforms must be framed to satisfy the moral and constitutional sentiments recognized by majority opinion North and South.1 The least that can be said for the platform upon which he stood was that it represented the highest common denominator of sectional agreement. If at last such agreement proved too slight to preserve the Union without war, it does not follow that Douglas was at fault for not abandoning it.
The historian has the duty to say those things in behalf of Douglas's policy which he himself could not say without endangering whatever chances it possessed. When, therefore, the "Don't care" statements and the "dollars and cents" arguments of the later fifties are repeated, it is right also to go back to such