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Stephen Arnold Douglas

By John T. Marck

Known as the "Little Giant," Stephen Douglas was born in Brandon, Vermont on April 23, 1813. He was a lawyer, like his longtime political adversary Abraham Lincoln, as well as became the most well-known Northern Democrat before the Civil War. Serving as a senator between the years of 1847 and 1861, he found himself at the center of the slavery issue.

During the Compromise of 1850, Douglas gained national prominence when Henry Clay called upon him to push this measure through Congress. Douglas said that people needed to decide for themselves whether slavery should exist in their territory. This policy lead to the Kansas-Nebraska Act that failed, resulting in Bleeding Kansas. This only further divided the North and the South. Douglas took total responsibility for the mess in Kansas, and continued working to accomplish slave and free-state harmony.

Stephen Douglas is probably best remembered for his debates with Abraham Lincoln. In these debates, Lincoln cleverly asked Douglas questions about sovereignty, that Douglas could not answer without distancing Southern voters as well as those from his own state. This antagonization was the main cause of his defeat at the Democratic Convention in 1860. Because the Democratic Party was split, it assured Lincoln the presidential election, as well as started events that lead to states succession and the Civil War.

When the Civil War began, Douglas joined Lincoln by working tirelessly for the Union, defending Lincoln and his war measures. Through Douglas's hard work it took a hard toll on him, and he unfortunately did not live to see peace.

Stephen Douglas died on June 2, 1861 at his home in Springfield, Illinois. His activities during his short life during the Civil War did set standards that Lincoln's administration's as well as War Democrats would continue to follow throughout the war.

Copyright 1993-2022 by John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying pictures, photographs, and line art, may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission from the author.