United States Senator
from Illinois In office
March 4, 1847 – June 3, 1861 Preceded by James Semple Succeeded by Orville H. Browning Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois 's 5th district In office
March 4, 1843 – March 3, 1847 Preceded by None Succeeded by William A. Richardson Personal details Born April 23, 1813
Brandon , Vermont Died June 3, 1861 (1861-06-03 ) (aged 48)
Chicago , Illinois Political party Democratic Spouse(s) Martha Martin
Adele Cutts Signature
Stephen Arnold Douglas (April 23, 1813 – June 3, 1861) was an American politician from the western state of Illinois , and was the Northern Democratic Party nominee for President in 1860 . He lost to the Republican Party 's candidate, Abraham Lincoln , whom he had defeated two years earlier in a Senate contest following a famed series of debates . He was nicknamed the "Little Giant" because he was short of stature but was considered by many a "giant" in politics. Douglas was well-known as a resourceful party leader, and an adroit, ready, skillful tactician in debate and passage of legislation. He was a leading proponent of democracy--and believed that the majority of citizens should decide, through the principle of Popular Sovereignty , contentious issues such as slavery and territorial expansion.As chairman of the Committee on Territories, Douglas dominated the Senate in the 1850s. He was largely responsible for the Compromise of 1850 that apparently settled slavery issues. However, in 1854 he reopened the slavery question by the highly controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act , that allowed the people of the new territories to decide for themselves whether or not to have slavery (which is known as " popular sovereignty "). The protest movement against this became the Republican Party . Douglas supported the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision of 1857, and denied that it was part of a Southern plot to introduce slavery in the Northern states; but also argued it could not be effective when the people of a territory declined to pass laws supporting it. [1 ] When President James Buchanan and his Southern allies attempted to pass a Federal slave code, to support slavery even against the wishes of the people of Kansas , he battled and defeated this movement as undemocratic. This caused the split in the Democratic Party in 1860, as Douglas won the nomination but a breakaway southern faction nominated their own candidate, Vice President John C. Breckinridge . Douglas deeply believed in democracy , arguing the will of the people should always be decisive. [2 ] When civil war came in April 1861, he rallied his supporters to the Union with all his energies, but he died a few weeks later.
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