Winchester, Illinois - Lincoln's First Challenge of Douglas and Destiny
Image Courtesy of Karen Kruse
Central Park, Winchester, Illinois
Citizens of Winchester and Scott County, Hardt Pioneer Farms, Inc., Ivan and Doris Hardt, and The Illinois State Historical Society
Abraham Lincoln first publicly challenged U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas's "Nebraska Bill" during a Whig county convention August 26, 1854, in the Scott County courtroom located at this site. Because the bill allowed for the expansion of slavery, Lincoln was so "aroused" that he re-entered politics to challenge it after five years of political retirement. Drafted by Senator Douglas and coined "Popular Sovereignty," the Kansas/Nebraska Act gave new territories and emerging states the right to choose by popular ballot if slavery was to be permitted or banned. The bill effectively canceled the Missouri Compromise, which during the previous 34 years had allowed limited expansion of slavery in the nation. Lincoln's anti-Nebraska speeches and historic 1858 debates with Douglas gained him national political recognition. Although he failed twice to become U.S. Senator, first as a Whig and second as a Republican, Lincoln was elected the 16th President of the United States in 1860.
Civil War came to the nation in 1861. After the Confederate defeat at Antietam, Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, freeing all slaves in rebellious states. He signed the 13th Amendment, February 1, 1865. When ratified on December 6, 1865, the law freed 4 million African-American slaves, made the Kansas/Nebraska Act moot, and forever banned slavery. Lincoln concluded his "masterly effort" that day in Winchester with a profound prediction about the Union, one that he repeated later in Peoria. "We shall have so saved it (from slavery), that the millions of free happy people, the world over, shall rise up, and call us blessed to the latest generation."
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