Stephen A. Douglas


Stephen A. Douglas

Stephen Douglas was just over five feet tall. He had a long torso and short legs, an odd physique that earned him the name the "Little Giant." During these debates, just imagine the contrast between the short, stout Douglas and the lanky Lincoln, who stretched above six feet tall. One man who observed the debates noted that Douglas spoke in a strong, rapid, and vigorous voice while Lincoln often reverted to an "unnatural pitch."

Stephen Douglas was born in 1813 in Vermont. He taught school, became an attorney, a very successful businessman, and a leader of the Democratic party in Illinois. He served as both a congressman and a senator. During his 1858 senatorial campaign, he debated Abraham Lincoln seven times in different parts of the state of Illinois. Each debate lasted for three hours. The debates focused on the Missouri Compromise, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and the issues of slavery, popular sovereignty, and states' rights. Douglas won the Senate seat, but Lincoln eventually won the presidency.

Douglas didn't like slavery, but he introduced a law that extended its reach. The Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and opened the territories to slavery. This bill made many Northerners angry and pushed the nation closer to civil war. Douglas later regretted his part in this bill, and lived to see the issues of slavery and states' rights tear the nation apart. He died in Chicago only two months after the assault on Fort Sumter in 1861. He was only forty-eight years of age.



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