Abraham Lincoln's arch-rival, Stephen A. Douglas, was born in Brandon, Vermont 195 years ago today.
Douglas eventually settled in Illinos, where he went on to become one of the most well-known political figures of the nineteenth century. Illinois elected him to the state legislature and eventually elevated him to the position of Illinois Secretary of State. By age 27, Douglas becamae an associate justice of the Illinois Supreme Court.
But Douglas had national ambitions. He served two terms in the United States House of Representatives and three terms in the U. S. Senate, where he helped pass the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Lincoln and Douglas were opposites in nearly every respect. They were members of opposing political parties, held different views on slavery, economics, and the territories. Their differences continued down through their personal attributes as well; despite being just 5’4” and weighing around 100 lbs., Douglas had a deep baritone voice, while Lincoln was 6’4”, but his voice was high-pitched.
Of course, they opposed one another in 1858 in their famous race for the U. S. Senate and, just two years later, they ran against one another again, but this time for the presidency.
Though Douglas beat Lincoln in 1858, he was not so fortunate in 1860. To Douglas’ credit, he handled defeat gracefully. Not only did he attend Lincoln’s inaugural, but he held his long-time rival’s hat while he spoke.
Finally, in the days leading up to the Civil War, Douglas toured the country and delivered a speech commonly known as the “Save the Flag” speech. Douglas pleaded with his fellow countrymen to put party aside and rally around the cause of preserving the Union.
Unfortunately, the speaking tour wore Douglas down and he died prematurely, at the age of 48.
CLICK HERE to visit the Stephen A. Douglas Association.