(16.) STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS (1813-1861)
“The Little Giant”
Democrat Douglas/Herschel Johnson
Defeated by Republican Abraham Lincoln/Hannibal Hamlin, 1860
When elected a representative from Illinois at age 30, Douglas already had a background of eight years in state offices. After four years he became a senator and remained in the Senate until he died. He was a brilliant orator and was especially famous for his public debates with Abraham Lincoln.
Douglas saw no moral issue in slavery, only a vehicle in which he could drive to the White House. He didn’t care to practice law. He wanted to practice politics, and each job or office he took was to further that ambition.
His party was “always right.” If not, he sought to prove the other side wrong. He was not pleased with a comparatively peaceful situation in Congress and he worked with Henry Clay to bring about the Compromise of 1850, which aroused animosities. Using slavery as a whipping post was his error and despite a striking personality, better education, and splendid oratory, his debates with homespun Abe Lincoln met stony response and he lost the election. It was said, “If there had been no Lincoln, Douglas might have been president.”