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Ottawa in LaSalle 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
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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 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. Freemont, 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.
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Abolition & Underground RRAfrican AmericansCivil RightsGovernment & Politics. A significant historical month for this entry is May 1832.
 
Location. 41° 20.944′ N, 88° 50.483′ W. Marker is in Ottawa, Illinois, in LaSalle County. Marker is at the intersection of Columbus Street (Illinois Route 71) and Jackson Street, on the right when traveling south on Columbus Street. Located in Washington Park. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 101 E Lafayette St, Ottawa IL 61350, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker
Boulder marking the spot of the debate image. Click for full size.
May 11, 2013
2. Boulder marking the spot of the debate
. The First Lincoln-Douglas Debate (within shouting distance of this marker); Lincoln and Douglas Debate (within shouting distance of this marker); LaSalle County Civil War Soldiers Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); 100 W. Jefferson St. (within shouting distance of this marker); Christ Episcopal Church (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Here Abraham Lincoln was entertained (about 300 feet away); a different marker also named First Lincoln-Douglas Debate (about 300 feet away); Veterans Memorial (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Ottawa.
 
More about this marker. An identical sign is found at the northwest corner of the park at Lafayette & La Salle Streets.

The marker incorrectly spells John C. Frémont as Freemont.
 
Washington Park image. Click for full size.
May 11, 2013
3. Washington Park
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 7, 2020. It was originally submitted on May 13, 2013. This page has been viewed 742 times since then and 9 times this year. Last updated on May 14, 2013. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on May 13, 2013. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.

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Feb. 28, 2024