The Lecompton Constitution & Democratic Dissent

The Buchanan administration's heavy-handed efforts to impose the proslavery Lecompton Constitution on the territory set off a backlash among Democrats who were offended by this violation of popular sovereignty. A mass meeting of Democratic opponents was held in Philadelphia on February 8 to protest the imposition of the Lecompton Constitution and in favor of a free state constitution drafted by another Kansas convention. Of particular importance was Stephen A. Douglas's break with the administration, presaging the division of the Democrats into competing factions in the 1860 election. Many Republicans were heartened by Douglas's opposition and favored abandoning their new party in a fusion with Douglas Democrats.