Did the Republicans Abandon Lincoln's Principles after the Election of 1860?
OF ALL the distortions concerning the significance of the Lincoln- Douglas debates circulated by revisionists, none is more damning to the reputation of the Republican party led by Lincoln than the charge that the main plank in the campaigns of 1858 and 1860 was abandoned after Lincoln's election. A concise statement of this charge may be found in Hofstadter's essay on Lincoln: "But the supreme irony [of the Lincoln-Douglas debates] can be found in the fact that early in 1861 the Republicans in Congress gave their votes to measures organizing the territories of Colorado, Nevada, and Dakotawithout prohibiting slavery. After beating Douglas in 1860, they organized the territories along the pattern of his policy, not Lincoln's."1Hofstadter has clearly taken this theme from Randall, but it is so important for an appreciation both of history and of historians that we trouble the reader with the parallel passage in Randall's work:
...any serious student of the subject should turn to the proceedings in Congress early in 1861. If Lincoln had been elected senator, and if in that period he had voted as did the great majority of Republicans in Congress on bills organizing the territories of Colorado, Nevada, and Dakota, he would actually have been taking the Douglas position, for these territories were organized by Republican votes without prohibition of slavery...This seems to suggest that... in a broader analysis, the "issue" of abolition in the territories