Douglas, Stephen Arnold, statesman, United States senator from Illinois at the time the Territory of Kansas was organized in 1854, was born at Brandon, Vt., April 23, 1813. His father, a physician, died in June, 1813, and he lived with his mother on a farm near Brandon until he was fifteen years of age. He then went to Middlebury, Vt., to learn the trade of cabinetmaker, but after eighteen months his health became impaired and he gave up the occupation. After attending the academy at Brandon for one year, he removed with his mother to New York state. In Dec., 1832, he began the study of law. The following year he visited the cities of Cleveland and Cincinnati, Ohio; Louisville, KY.; St. Louis, Mo., and Jacksonville, Ill., in quest of remunerative employment, and in March, 1834, he began the practice of law at Jacksonville. Two weeks later he made his first political speech, in which he defended the administration of President Jackson. This was the turning point in his career. His courageous support of the president aided him to build up a clientage among Jackson's friends, and when the legislature met he was elected attorney-general, although not yet twenty-two years old. This office he resigned in Dec., 1835, having been elected to the lower branch of the Illinois legislature, in which he was the youngest member. Below the medium height, with a slight physical frame at that time, but ready in debate, he acquired the sobriquet of the "Little Giant." In 1837 he was appointed register of the United States land office at Springfield, Ill.; was defeated for Congress in 1840; became one of the justices of the Illinois supreme court in Feb., 1841; was elected to Congress in 1842 and was twice reëlected; and on March 4, 1847, he became a member of the United States senate, where he served until his death. In 1852 and again in 1856 he received support in the Democratic national conventions for the presidency, and was nominated for that office by the convention in 1860, but a split in the party caused his defeat and the election of Abraham Lincoln. While a member of the national house of representatives, he was for two years chairman of the committee on territories, at that time a position of great importance on account of the agitation of the slavery question, and after entering the senate he was for eleven years chairman of the same committee in that body. During this period he reported bills for the organization of the territories of Minnesota, Oregon, New Mexico, Utah, Washington, Kansas and Nebraska (see Kansas-Nebraska Bill), and for the admission of the states of Iowa, California, Minnesota and Oregon. He opposed the Wilmot proviso and supported the compromise measures of 1850, for which he was denounced as a traitor by the Chicago city council on Oct. 22, 1850. The next evening (Oct. 23) Douglas spoke in the same hall in defense of his attitude, and on that occasion promulgated the dogma that later became so widely known as the doctrine of "Squatter Sovereignty" (q. v.). In the session of 1857-58 he opposed the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton constitution, denouncing that instrument on the ground that "it is not the act of the people of Kansas, and does not embody their will." In the session of 1860-61 he was a member of the "committee of thirteen," and did all he could in an honorable way to avert civil war, and up to the time of his death gave an unequivocal support to President Lincoln's administration. Mr. Douglas died at Chicago, Ill., June 3, 1861.Pages 540-541 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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