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What is the Freeport Doctrine?

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Quick Answer

The Freeport Doctrine was a famous oral reply by Stephen Douglas to Abraham Lincoln during their 1858 debates. Douglas stated in the reply that regardless of how the Supreme Court ruled, the law was powerless to stop citizens of a territory who refused to comply.

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Douglas' stance was in defense of states' rights when it came to the question of slavery. He stated that if a territory refused slavery, then the Supreme Court could not force them to accept slavery. This stance angered many southern Democrats and doomed Douglas' 1860 presidential hopes. His debate opponent, Abraham Lincoln, won the election.

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