Douglas, Stephen A.

Douglas, Stephen A. (Arnold)

(1813–61) U.S. representative/senator; born in Brandon, Vt. Admitted to the Illinois bar in 1834, after a distinguished career in state politics Douglas was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (Dem., Ill.; 1843–47) and to the U.S. Senate (1847–61). Known as the "Little Giant" to his followers (because he was short and dynamic) he supported sectional compromise to avoid the threat of disunion in the 1850s. In the 1858 senatorial campaign, he debated Republican politician Abraham Lincoln seven times in what became known as the "Lincoln-Douglas debates." Although he won reelection to the Senate, his increasingly inconsistent positions on the slavery issue would cost him the support of many Democrats. In 1860, as the Northern Democrats' candidate for president, he was defeated by Lincoln. He at once called for support of Lincoln in his efforts to preserve the union, but, exhausted by his speaking tour, he died of typhoid fever less than two months after the Civil War began.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.