Alton in Madison County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
Lincoln's Rise to Prominence
For a decade, the Illinois U.S. Senate seat was held by Stephen A. Douglas, one of the most famous politicians of his time. That is, until a little-known country lawyer named Abraham Lincoln challenged him to a series of debates.
The seventh and final took place in front of Alton's old city hall on October 15, 1858. The Alton debate drew national attention and about 6,000 visitors from across Illinois and neighboring states. It summarized the arguments that began four months before.
Douglas spoke first, repeating his belief in the doctrine of Popular Sovereignty, the right of each state to do as it pleased about slavery and other issues. Lincoln asserted that it was the struggle between two eternal principles—right and wrong.
"A house divided
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free."
into Free and Slave States as
our fathers made it."
—Stephen A. Douglas
Who Won the Debate?
Douglas won the senate seat, but the debates launched Lincoln into the national spotlight. Just two years later, Lincoln beat Douglas in the 1860 presidential election.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Abolition & Underground RR • Government & Politics. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists. A significant historical date for this entry is October 15, 1858.
Location. 38° 53.393′ N, 90° 11.139′ W. Marker is in Alton, Illinois, in Madison County. Marker is on Market Street south of West Broadway, on the left when traveling north. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 100 Market Street, Alton IL 62002, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Discover History All Around Alton (here, next to this marker); Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Alton (within shouting distance of this marker); Ryder Building (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); St. Paul's Episcopal Church (about 500 feet away); Miles Davis (about 600 feet away); Setting the Stage for the Great Debate (approx. 0.2 miles Alton & Sangamon Railroad (approx. 0.2 miles away); The First Illinois State Penitentiary (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Alton.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 17, 2019. It was originally submitted on May 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 222 times since then and 19 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on May 2, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.