Second Joint Appearance of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas
Image Courtesy of Cindy Reinhardt
The marker is located east of Freeport on the west side of the parking lot for the Freeport/Stephenson County Convention and Visitors Bureau at 4596 US 20 East, Freeport, IL.
The Lincoln-Douglas Society, The Freeport/Stephenson County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Illinois State Historical Society.
The second round in a seven-round bout between political giants Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln was held in Freeport on August 27, 1858. In what has become a legendary struggle, Lincoln and Douglas contested for a seat in the United States Senate, but the soul of the nation was at stake – not just a Senate seat.
Douglas was the incumbent. However, the election was a hurdle in his dream of becoming President of the United States in 1860. Lincoln was a relatively unknown Springfield attorney seeking to unseat a powerful politician.
While the topic of the Freeport debate, like all the other debates, was slavery, the underlying subject was an issue of morality. Douglas argued that in a democracy, the majority could do as it pleased. Lincoln argued that even in a democracy there were moral limitations that even the majority could not exceed.
A town of some 5,000 in 1858, Freeport was inundated with a crowd estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000 on that cold, windy day. What the throng heard from the two men included what has become known as the “Freeport Doctrine.” Pronounced by Douglas in response to a question from Lincoln, the Freeport Doctrine was a restatement of Douglas’ popular sovereignty stance – that a people could vote for or against slavery as they saw fit.
The site of the Freeport debate is located at 114 East Douglas Street, downtown Freeport.
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