Sunday, June 15, 2008

Stephen A. Douglas Tomb in Chicago

Chicago has many historical sites, probably one of the least visited of them is the Stephen A. Douglas Tomb on Chicago's South Side. The Marathon Pundit family visited the final resting place of "The Little Giant" after the White Sox game ended.

With the bicentennial celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birth already underway, what has been overlooked is the this is the sesquicentennial of the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Vermont-born Douglas was the preeminent Senate Democrat in the 1850s, and his opponent in the 1858 election was Republican Abraham Lincoln, the pair met in seven debates--which are still studied today. Douglas won the election, but Lincoln, thanks to the debates, became a national figure which led to his becoming the Republican presidential candidate two years later. Douglas represented the northern faction of the Democrats in that election, the southerners, as I explained a couple of days ago, ran a candidate that they felt more closely matched their views.

Which is ironic, because Douglas' sponsorship of the Kansas-Nebraska Act drew the ire of anti-slavery forces, as did his support of the Dred Scott decision. But by 1860, events overtook him, and Lincoln easily won the presidency.

The easy summation of Douglas' life is that because he was on the wrong side of history--he was one of our nation's bad guys. Not so fast. It's not clear if Douglas, who was a firm believer in democracy, personally supported slavery--he married into a slave-owning family, but so did Ulysses S. Grant.

After Lincoln's victory, the nation began its drift to Civil War, and few men worked as hard as Douglas to keep the nation together. His toils wore him down, and Douglas died of typhoid fever at the age of 48 in Chicago in 1861, two months after the Confederates seized Fort Sumter and dark clouds covered America.

The 96 foot high tomb is on the property where his home, Oakenwald, once stood, on top is at 10 foot high statue of The Little Giant. Douglas' remains rest in the sarcophagus on the left, engraved below are the words "Tell my children to obey the Laws and uphold the Constitution."

The Stephen A. Douglas Tomb is located at 636 E. 35th Street; it's visible from Lake Shore Drive and the adjacent running path. Admission is free.

Related post:

Southern Illinois town honors its Lincoln--Douglas Debate

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