Allen C. Guelzo: The Douglas Debate--No Lincoln This Time





[Allen C. Guelzo, a prominent Lincoln scholar, is William Garwood Visiting Professor of Politics at Princeton.]

What's in a name? A great deal, if it happens to be Stephen A. Douglas.

A hundred and fifty years ago, Stephen Arnold Douglas was the most powerful politician in America. He had begun his political career as a hyper-loyal Andrew Jackson Democrat, snatched up one of Illinois' U.S. Senate seats in 1846, and rose from there to the heights of Congressional stardom by helping the great Henry Clay cobble together the Compromise of 1850 - which effectively averted civil war over the expansion of slavery into the West for another decade. No man was a more obvious presidential candidate than Douglas, and in 1860, he won his party's nomination to the presidency.

That, unhappily for Douglas, was when the cheering stopped.

Still, Douglas's name was revered by Illinois Democrats for a generation afterward....

Douglas Hall, a 200-bed residence hall built in the 1950s [at Eastern Illinois University], may have been the most innocuous of all the memorializations of Stephen A. Douglas. But not after November 9th....


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