Was there a significant difference in the leadership of Old Guard senators such as Clay, Webster, and Calhoun and that of the Young Guard of Douglas and Seward?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many differences between the leadership styles of these politicians, but I'm not sure that they boil down to generational differences. Among the "Young Guard," Douglas and Seward could not have been more different. Douglas was a consummate pragmatist, flexible on the core issue of slavery, while Seward was an outspoken opponent of slavery, whose abolitionist leanings basically cost him the Republican Party nomination in 1860. Both Clay and Webster tended toward nationalist policies around midcentury, while Calhoun's actions were decidedly sectional, attempting to protect and advance the interests of the slaveholding South, which he believed were under threat. Douglas and Clay were perhaps closest in political beliefs, and in fact it was Douglas who pushed through Clay's compromise proposals in 1850. But Clay, though a slaveholder himself, was far more committed to halting the spread of slavery to the territories than Douglas. In short, it is difficult to characterize the actions of these men as those of one generation of politicians or another.