Freeport Doctrine

Ayoung Jo and Ankit Pradhan

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Freeport Doctrine - Stephen Douglas

  • In their pursuit of the seat of Illinois Senate in 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas confronted each other in a series of seven debates, known as the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The debates usually involved such highly disputed issues as slavery and popular sovereignty. During the second debate, Abraham Lincoln started off by answering some of the questions that had been asked to him during the previous debate, and also asking Stephen Douglass some of his own questions. In response to Lincoln’s interrogation, Douglas stated what became known as the Freeport Doctrine, which argued for “popular sovereignty”. His argument was directly counter to Lincoln’s House-divided Speech that he had given earlier. He believed that the decisions of the Supreme Court did not hold as much importance as the citizens of a state or a territory. If the states (and territorial) legislatures decided that they did not want slavery, then no ruling from the Supreme Court would be able to force them to permit slavery. Although this would later come back to him at a disadvantage, especially in the presidential election of 1860. However for the time being, Douglas was able to retain his Senate seat by securing the votes of Illinois voters.


  • Douglas’ argument for popular sovereignty to which Lincoln argued back with his belief of “The house must stand together (ideas from his house-divided speech)” was more than just two people arguing for the senate seat. They were debating important controversial issues that directly concerned the future of America. Tens of thousands of citizens attended each of the debates. Douglas’ Freeport Doctrine had rather a significant effect on the election of 1860 - Even though it helped him keep his position as a Senator, it made the Southerners feel betrayed. It ultimately split the Democratic Party and caused Douglas to lose what he had of the little support from the Southerners during the presidential election.

Works Cited

  • "Freeport Doctrine." Dictionary of American History. 2003. "Freeport Doctrine." HighBeam Research, 01 Jan. 2003. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

  • "Freeport Doctrine” Education-portal. Http://, n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

  • "The Lincoln-Douglas Debates." Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2014.