Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates

By Harry V. Jaffa | Go to book overview

Chapter XX
The End of Manifest Destiny

HAVING just noted Lincoln's iron refusal, in the midst of the secession crisis of the winter of 1860-61, to concede any right to slavery south, of 36′30″ latitude, we can understand why he would never have viewed with approval any of the devices by which Douglas attempted in the years 1848, 1849, or 1850 to secure any division of the nation's territory by extending the Missouri line. For Lincoln was perfectly convinced that any such division, however superficially unfavorable it might appear to be to the interests of slavery, involved a wrongful concession of principle. It would have been wrongful in itself, and it would have been utterly unreliable. Lincoln knew that the vast acquisitions of the Mexican War were only a foretaste of what Douglas himself believed to be in store if he ever gained control of the nation's foreign policy. Only a national commitment to confine slavery, Lincoln believed, would put an end to the drive for foreign conquest and domination. Many historians have doubted that there was any considerable support in the South for filibustering. And, of course, there is widespread disbelief that Douglas was interested in extending slavery. What they have failed to take into account, however, was the dynamism in the coincidence of the ambitions of Douglas and the slave power. It was this coincidence that repealed the Missouri Compromise. For, say what one will as to the precipitating force of the Appeal of the Independent Democrats, Douglasdid strike a bargain with the Southerners, and there was nothing in his policy or principles which inhibited him from indulging any requirement of slavery. That Douglas

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