STEPHEN ARNOLD DOUGLAS, -One of the most prominent figures in political circles during the intensely exciting
days that proceded the war, and a leader of the Union branch of the Democratic party was the gentleman whose name
heads this sketch.
He was born at Brandon, Rutland county, Vermont, April 23, 1813, of poor but respectable parentage. His father,
a practicing physician, died while our subject was but an infant, and his mother, with two small children and but
small means, could give him but the rudiments of an education. At the age of fifteen young Douglas engaged at work
in the cabinet making business to raise funds to carry him through college. After a few years of labor he was enabled
to pursue an academical course, first at Brandon, and later at Canandaigua, New York. In the latter place he remained
until 1833, taking up the study of law, Before he was twenty, however, his funds running low, he abandoned all
further attempts at education, determining to enter at once the battle of life. After some wanderings through the
western states he took up his residence at Jacksonville, Illinois, where, after teaching school for three months,
he was admitted to the bar, and opened an office in 1834. Within a year from that time, so rapidly had he risen
in his profession. he was chosen attorney general of the state, and warmly espoused the principles of the Domocratic
party. He soon became one of the most popular orators in Illinois. It was at this time he gained the name of the
"Little Giant." In 1835 he resigned the position of attorney general having been elected to the legislature.
In 1841 he was chosen judge of the supreme court of Illinois which he resigned two years later to take a seat in
congress. It was during this period of his life, while a member of the lower house, that he established his reputation
and took the side of those who contended that congress had no ccnstitutional right to restrict the extension of
slavery further than the agreement between the states made in 1820. This, in spite of his being opposed to slavery,
and only on grounds which he believed to be right, favored what was called the Missouri compromise. In 1847 Mr.
Douglas was chosen United States senator for six years, and greatly distinguished himself. In 1852 he was re-eiected
to the same office. During this latter term, under his leadership. the "Kansas Nebraska bill" was carried
in the senate. In 1858, nothwithstanding the fierce contest made by his able competitor for the position, Abraham
Lincoln, and with the administration of Buchanan arrayed against him, Mr. Douglas was re-elected senator. After
the trouble in the Charleston convention, when by the withdrawal of several state delegates without a nomination,
the Union Democrats, in con vention at Baltimore, in 1860, nominated Mr. Douglas as their candidate for presidency.
The results of this election are well known and the great events of 1861 coming on, Mr. Douglas was spared their
full development, dying at Chicago, Illinois, June 3, 1861, after a short illness. His last words to his children
were, "to obey the laws and support the constitution of the United States."
A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.
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