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Chapter 6:

  • Agitation continued
  • -- political parties: their origin, changes, and modifications -- some account of the “popular sovereignty,” or “non-intervention,” theory -- rupture of the Democratic party -- the John Brown raid -- resolutions introduced by the author into the Senate on the relations of the States, the Federal Government, and the Territories: their discussion and adoption.

The strife in Kansas and the agitation of the territorial question in Congress and throughout the country continued during nearly the whole of Buchanan's administration, finally culminating in a disruption of the Union. Meantime the changes or modifications which had occurred or were occurring in the great political parties were such as may require a word of explanation to the reader not already familiar with their history.

The names adopted by political parties in the United States have not always been strictly significant of their principles. The old Federal party inclined to nationalism or consolidation, rather than federalization of the states. On the other hand, the party originally known as Republican, and afterward as Democratic, can scarcely claim to have been distinctively or exclusively such in the primary sense of these terms, inasmuch as no party has ever avowed opposition to the general principles of government by the people. The fundamental idea of the Democratic party was that of the sovereignty of the states and the federal, or confederate, character of the Union. Other elements have entered into its organization at different periods, but this has been the vital, cardinal, and abiding principle on which its existence has been perpetuated. The Whig, which succeeded the old Federal party, though by no means identical with it, was in the main favorable to a strong central government, therein antagonizing the transatlantic traditions connected with its name. The “Know-nothing,” or “American” party, which sprang into existence on the decadence of the Whig organization, based upon opposition to the alleged overgrowth of the political influence of naturalized foreigners and of the Roman Catholic Church, had but a brief duration, and after the presidential election of 1856 declined as rapidly as it had risen.

At the period to which this narrative has advanced, the “Free-soil,” which had now assumed the title of “Republican” party, had grown to a magnitude which threatened speedily to obtain entire control of the

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