First Lincoln-Douglas Debate
This marker replaces an older marker located on the same site. It is located in Ottawa on the west side of IL. Rt. 23, (Columbus Street) between Jackson and Lafayette Streets, in the Washington Square Park.
LaSalle County Historical Society and The Illinois State Historical Society
On August 21, 1858, the first of seven debates between Abraham Lincoln and US Senator Stephen A. Douglas took place in this park. Approximately 10,000 people gathered to hear the two candidates discuss the question of slavery in America. Candidate Lincoln rebuffed attempts to portray him as an abolitionist, one advocating the immediate emancipation of all slaves in the US. Although Lincoln said he personally believed slavery was morally wrong, he maintained that the institution was protected by the Constitution. Senator Douglas, however, refused to address the morality of slavery. He insisted that the people in the individual states should be allowed to decide the question for themselves. Lincoln lost the election, but two years later he and Douglas were rivals again in the Presidential race. Two other Democratic candidates who favored slavery, John Bell and John C. Breckenridge, entered the race and took votes that probably would have gone to Douglas. His opposition fractured, Lincoln won a majority in the Electoral College with a minority of the popular vote and became our 16th President.
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