Stephen Douglas, 1831-1861

Mathew Brady Studio
Albumen silver print,
(carte de visite),1860
National Portrait Gallery,
Smithsonian Institution,
Washington, DC


Stephen A. Douglas became a leader of the Illinois Democratic Party while still in his twenties. In 1843 he was elected to the House of Representatives, where his small stature and powerful rhetoric earned him the nickname "The Little Giant." In 1847, when he entered the Senate, Douglas became chairman of the Committee on Territories. He had a national following and was an acknowledged contender for the presidency throughout the 1850s, even after he condemned President Buchanan and the controversial, proslavery Lecompton Constitution in Kansas in 1857. During the 1858 Senate race in Illinois, Republican Abraham Lincoln enhanced his reputation when he challenged Douglas to a series of debates. The men were opponents again in the presidential election of 1860. Following his defeat, Douglas supported Lincoln, speaking as his emissary in the West and in the border states. Brady photographed Douglas several times in Washington between 1858 and 1861.



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