Illinois politician Stephen A. Douglas thought the solution to the sectional divide in 1860 was finding compromise with Republicans through amendments to the Constitution. Douglas’s Senate speech in early 1861 listed three eventualities he saw ahead, and knew the last would end the union – as Alexander Hamilton presciently observed many years earlier. Formerly a man of compromise, after Fort Sumter, Douglas implored Lincoln to raise “thrice as many” volunteers, despite his witnessing the subjugation of Americans and the end of the Union.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
Stephen Douglas on the Alternatives
“In a speech in the Senate, March 15, 1861, Mr. Douglas had reduced the situation to the following three alternative points:
- The Restoration and Preservation of the Union by such Amendments to the Constitution as will insure domestic tranquility, safety and equality of all the States, and thus restore peace, unity and fraternity to the whole country.
- A Peaceful Dissolution of the Union by recognizing the Independence of such States as refuse to remain in the Union without such Constitutional Amendments, and the establishment of a liberal system of commercial and social intercourse with them by treaties of commerce and amity.
- War, with a view to the subjugation and military occupation of those States which have Seceded or may Secede from the Union.”
As a thorough Union man, he could never have agreed to “A Peaceful Dissolution of the Union.” On the other hand he was equally averse to War, because he held that “War is Disunion. War is final, eternal separation.” Hence all his energies and talents were given to carrying out his first-stated line of policy.”
(The Great Conspiracy, John A. Logan, A.R. Hart & Company, 1886, excerpt, pg. 271)