A Little Giant and a Big Debate
Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois is known as the "Little Giant." He is just over five feet tall, but so full of energy he is called a ''steam engine in breeches.'' He has made his fortune in land speculation and in that new enterprise: railroads. He can see that railroads are the future and that they will someday stretch from coast to coast. If the dreamed-of transcontinental railroad takes the route from Chicago to San Francisco, through the Indian territory west of Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota, Douglas's property will become even more valuable. And there is a way he can have his railroad. He can write a bill for Congress that will do away with the Missouri Compromise and open the Indian territory to slavery. Then he will have the South's votes and his railroad, too.
Douglas's bill divides the western territory into two regions: Kansas and Nebraska (they are much bigger than today's states) . The Missouri Compromise of 1820 is repealed; the ban on slavery is ended. Instead it is left up to the free residents of each territory to decide whether or not to introduce slavery . It is called "popular sovereignty," but not all are pleased by it . This is what an Illinois lawyer and politician, renowned for his honesty, has to say : "It is wrong, wrong in its effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska-and wrong in principle, allowing it to spread to every other part of the world, where men can be found inclined to take it ."