Conservative to the Last Degree: The Emerging Illinois Republican Party and the Election of 1856

Iverson, Ian, History - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Varon, Elizabeth, History, University of Virginia

Far from united at the outset, the mostly conservative opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act drew together only reluctantly, as a defensive measure against the perceived aggressions of the Slave Power and endorsed a political program of restoration. Capturing the contingencies of this moment, this thesis argues that mainstream Illinois Republicans sought to capitalize on their state’s antislavery consensus while maintaining an authentically conservative defense of the Union. The moderation of this state Republican platform compelled Illinois Democrats, led by Stephen A. Douglas, to moderate their position on slavery to appeal to anti-extensionist voters, a decision which fostered sectional cohesion in the North at the expense of the national Democratic party. This race to the ideological center, begun in the summer of 1856, would continue through the presidential contest of 1860.

MA (Master of Arts)
Republican Party, American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, Stephen Douglas, Lyman Trumbull, Orville H. Browning
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