“Stephen Douglas’s Enlightenment: Democracy, Race, and Rights in Civil War-Era Political Thought”
By Joshua A. Lynn
In a different assessment of how conservatism mattered to Northern politics, this article brings the recent insights of political historians into a dialog with scholarship on political theory that treats conservatism as a content-based system of ideas, which by definition required either allegiance or rejection and was therefore less available to all political actors. When Stephen Douglas claimed that his version of popular sovereignty, which gave great power to local majorities, was simultaneously the one true conservative means for saving the Union and an extension of political liberty, Southern conservatives ripped into him for denying the conservative values of order and hierarchy and Northern liberals, led by Frederick Douglass, excoriated his betrayal of universalism and liberty. Although political traditions were malleable, Douglas pushed them to their breaking point.
Joshua A. Lynn is an Assistant Professor in the Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies at Eastern Kentucky University and has previously taught at Yale University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He studies nineteenth-century politics, culture, and political thought in the United States. His research focuses on the intersection of political culture with constructions of race, gender, and sexuality. Professor Lynn is also an historian of American conservatism. He is currently working on his second book, The Black Douglass and the White Douglas: Embodying Race, Manhood, and Democracy in Civil War America. It will examine the long-running feud between Frederick Douglass and Stephen A. Douglas and their competing conceptions of race, gender, and democracy.
Professor Lynn is a JMC fellow.
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