“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Ottawa in La Salle County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Washington Square

Site of First Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Washington Square Marker image. Click for full size.
May 11, 2013
1. Washington Square Marker
Inscription. On August 21, 1858, the first of the famous debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas was held in Washington Square. Here ten thousand heard the two candidates debate for a seat in the United States Senate.

Principally, the great debates revolved around a single sentence in the Declaration of Independence. The phrase "all men are created equal" was central to Lincoln's argument, his primary evidence for the antislavery intentions of the Founding Fathers. Lincoln eloquently dwelled on the original premise of the Declaration of Independence, and declares "...there is no reason in the world why the Negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enumerated in the Declaration of Independence, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the white man." Douglas, however, refused to address the morality of slavery. He insisted that the people in individual states should be left to decide the question, a concept he endorsed as "popular sovereignty".

Lincoln came to Ottawa several times throughout his life. In May of 1832 Captain Lincoln was mustered out of the service in the Black Hawk War at the mouth of the Fox River. Lincoln practiced law before the Supreme Court of Illinois at sessions held in the old LaSalle County Courthouse, and many times before
Boulder marking the spot of the debate image. Click for full size.
May 11, 2013
2. Boulder marking the spot of the debate
the LaSalle County courts in downtown Ottawa. Lincoln served here as a claims commissioner for the Illinois & Michigan Canal in December of 1852. In October of 1856, he appeared in Ottawa as a speaker for John C. Fremont, who sought election, as the first Republican presidential candidate.

Washington Square was platted as part of the original town plan of Ottawa in 1831 by the Illinois and Michigan Canal Commission.
Erected 1996 by City of Ottawa and the Illinois Department of Transportation.
Location. 41° 20.944′ N, 88° 50.483′ W. Marker is in Ottawa, Illinois, in La Salle County. Marker is at the intersection of Columbus Street (Illinois Route 71) and Jackson Street, on the right when traveling south on Columbus Street. Click for map. Located in Washington Park. Marker is at or near this postal address: 101 E Lafayette St, Ottawa IL 61350, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 5 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. The First Lincoln-Douglas Debate (within shouting distance of this marker); Lincoln and Douglas Debate (within shouting distance of this marker); a different marker also named First Lincoln-Douglas Debate (about 300
Washington Park image. Click for full size.
May 11, 2013
3. Washington Park
feet away, measured in a direct line); Lincoln the Litigator (approx. 0.2 miles away); William D. Boyce (approx. 1.4 miles away).
More about this marker. An identical sign is found at the northwest corner of the park at Lafeyette & La Salle Streets.
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRAfrican AmericansCivil RightsPolitics
Credits. This page originally submitted on . This page has been viewed 391 times since then and 79 times this year. Last updated on . Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on . • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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