The Crisis of the Union


The crisis of the Union that culminated in the Civil War had its roots in a fundamental disagreement over the meaning of the Declaration of Independence. Some prominent politicians, including Stephen Douglas, argued that the Declaration’s principles applied only to white men, and the solution to the slavery problem was popular sovereignty. Abraham Lincoln, by contrast, believed as the Founders did that those principles are universal and timeless, and that they pointed toward slavery’s eventual abolition.


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Paul Moreno is the William and Berniece Grewcock Professor in Constitutional History at Hillsdale College. He received his B.A. from the State University of New York and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park.