Kersch reviews Quitt, "Stephen A. Douglas and Antebellum Democracy"
Last November, Cambridge University Press released a "thematic biography" of Stephen Douglas, by Martin H. Quitt (University of Massachusetts, Boston). Stephen A. Douglas and Antebellum Democracy is now the subject of a new review, by political scientist Ken I. Kersch (Boston College). Here's the first paragraph:
“Judge” and Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas (the former his proudly
preferred title) was a major player in the constitutional debates
leading up to the Civil War, though ever since he has dwelt, in
historian Martin Quitt’s description, “in Lincoln’s shadow” (p.169).
This, Quitt reminds us, was a stunning reversal. From his mid-twenties
on, it was Douglas, not Lincoln, who was considered the political star,
destined ultimately for the White House. It was a coup for the
relatively obscure Lincoln – a one-term Whig Congressman – to get the
famed Judge Douglas to join him for a series of debates during their
1858 contest for the U.S. Senate seat from Illinois which, electorally,
Douglas won, and Lincoln lost. Those brilliant debates – critical texts
of American constitutional theory – marked the beginning of the reversal
of the friendly antagonists’ political (and constitutional) fortunes.
From Appomattox Courthouse on, we have lived in Lincoln’s world, not
Douglas’s. While there’s no suggestion that Quitt would want it
otherwise, he plainly feels that something has been lost in Douglas’s
historical eclipse. In that sense, at least, he seeks to redeem
Douglas’s political and constitutional thought – as well as Douglas’s
Read the full review here, at the Law & Politics Book Review. An excerpt of the book is available here, at the CUP website.