Stephen Arnold Douglas
This marker is located in the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Park on the southeast corner of Main Street and Morton Avenue, near the Chamber's offices on the grounds of the old State Mental Institution.
Illinois Department of Transportation and The Illinois State Historical Society
Stephen A. Douglas was born in Brandon, Vermont, in 1813. He attended schools there and in New York State. In 1833 he settled in Winchester, Illinois, five miles southwest, where he taught school. In 1834 he moved to Jacksonville, eight miles northeast of here, and began to practice law. He soon became a leader of the Democratic Party in Illinois. He was elected Representative to the State Legislature in 1836, appointed Illinois Secretary of State in 1840, and elected Judge of the State Supreme Court in 1841.
After moving to Quincy, Douglas served as a representative in Congress from 1843 to 1847. He changed his residence to Chicago in 1847 and served in the United States Senate from 1847 until his death in 1861.
As an expansionist, Douglas favored acquisition of Oregon to 54 40' north latitude, annexation of Texas, and Federal grants for constructing a transcontinental railroad. The annexation of Texas led to the Mexican War and American acquisition of new western lands. The bills to organize this area into territories were included in the Compromise of 1850. Embodied in these bills and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which Douglas introduced in 1854, was the doctrine of "Popular Sovereignty" -the idea that the people in each territory could decide the issue of slavery for themselves.
In the debates of the 1858 Senatorial campaign, Abraham Lincoln asked Douglas to reconcile "Popular Sovereignty" and the Supreme Court decision that slavery could not be barred from the territories. In reply Douglas advanced the Freeport Doctrine: That slavery could be excluded by local legislation. Douglas kept the Senate seat but lost southern support for his presidential candidacy in 1860.
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