“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”

Jonesboro in Union County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Background of the Debates

Looking for Lincoln


— 1858 —

Background of the Debates Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, November 26, 2020
1. Background of the Debates Marker
Inscription.  Young Abraham Lincoln "lost his taste" for politics and was content with his thriving law practice after having served four terms in the Illinois Legislature in the 1830's and a term in Congress in the 1840's. However, several national events stirred his moral conscience and spurred him into action. U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Act stated that the choice of slavery was up to the citizens of the each new state - or "popular sovereignty." The Dred Scott decision in 1857 claimed that slaves are property, and the book Uncle Tom's Cabin caused abolitionists to pressure Congress to outlaw slavery. Lincoln didn't promote abolishing existing slavery, but he followed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which allowed for an equal number of slave and free states in new territories. He challenged incumbent Douglas to debate him and allowed Douglas to debate him and allowed Douglas to select the sites of Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy, and Alton. At the Jonesboro debate Douglas stated, "…the negro is not and never ought to be a citizen of the United States."

Karl Kelpe painted
Background of the Debates Marker image. Click for full size.
By Jason Voigt, November 26, 2020
2. Background of the Debates Marker
Marker is near the Lincoln-Douglas Debate statues at the Lincoln Memorial Picnic Grounds.
this mural in 1940 as an
employee of the Federal Art Project. This and other Kelpe murals originally originally hung in the Wheeler Library, Southern Illinois (Normal) University, Carbondale. They were removed around 1960. The University Museum acquired them in the early 1970's. The Lincoln-Douglas Debate is the only restored mural. Oral histories report that Kelpe painted himself into the mural as the figure in the lower left, holding a rolled object. Original dimensions are: 107" high by 106" wide.

Jonesboro was a sleepy town, and the city of Anna was only four years old in 1858. Douglas chose Union County for the site of this debate because of strong Southern sympathies here, hoping Lincoln would express abolitionist views. Douglas had said he wanted to "trot Lincoln down to Egypt," a common name for Southern Illinois. Douglas believed this strongly Democratic county, under the leadership of John S. Hacker, would support him. The party was split, however, with one group of Democrats calling themselves "Danites." They were led by John Daugherty (later to be Lt. Gov. of Illinois). David L. Phillips, a friend of Lincoln who was campaigning against John A. Logan for a seat in Congress, encouraged Lincoln to come to Jonesboro and stay at his home in Anna, which is still standing today.
Erected 2008 by Looking
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for Lincoln Heritage Coalition and the Jonesboro Lincoln-Douglas Debate Sesquicentennial Committee.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Government & Politics. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #16 Abraham Lincoln, and the Looking for Lincoln series lists.
Location. 37° 27.444′ N, 89° 16.119′ W. Marker is in Jonesboro, Illinois, in Union County. Marker can be reached from North Main Street north of Whitlock Street. Marker is located in Lincoln Memorial Picnic Grounds. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 521 N Main St, Jonesboro IL 62952, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Lincoln-Douglas Debates (a few steps from this marker); Where Lincoln Walked (approx. 0.4 miles away); Lincoln-Douglas Debate (approx. 0.4 miles away); Jonesboro Station, Anna (approx. 1.2 miles away); Anna-Jonesboro (approx. 3.2 miles away); Lewis and Clark in Illinois (approx. 7 miles away); Scientific Mission (approx. 7 miles away); King Neptune (approx. 7˝ miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Jonesboro.
Credits. This page was last revised on November 29, 2020. It was originally submitted on November 29, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 49 times since then and 2 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on November 29, 2020, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.
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Mar. 7, 2021