Ottawa in La Salle County, Illinois — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
First Lincoln-Douglas Debate
Looking for Lincoln
First Lincoln-Douglas Debate
Abraham Lincoln's first heated exchanged with Stephen A. Douglas on Aug 21, 1858 in Ottawa was received coolly by his advisors. They insisted Lincoln had treated Douglas entirely too "tenderly." Lincoln, however, wrote a friend: "The fire flew some and I am glad to know I am yet still alive." The population of this canal town, industrial center, and county seat more than doubled as 14,000 people poured into Washington Square to watch the U.S. Senate campaign's first formal joint appearance. Onlookers crowded the imposing steps of the just-completed Reddick Mansion across Lafayette Street for a dramatic view of the shadeless square. Fifty years later, witnesses recalled how difference the contenders looked even more than what they had said. Douglas was "short, broad and red-faced ... [and] had a deep bass voice," recalled Charles Dickey, then sixteen, and Lincoln was a "lanky six feet five inches [with a] high tenor voice." Hannah Patterson of Ottawa remembered how the crow'd "holiday air ... seemed out of placce. Those were serious questions that Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas were debating."
In the mid-nineteenth century, you could tell a man's political leanings by what newspaper he carried under his arm. The Weekly Free Trader was unabashedly a Democratic organ and chronicled Stephen Douglas's movements, but for news of Abraham Lincoln, readers had to turn to the Weekly Republican. The two papers boisterously sniped at one another. As the record of Douglas's appearances shows, neither candidate limited his speaking engagements to the seven joint appearances. Each man also spent countless hours stumping in nearby communities.
When necessity trumpeted, George Fuchs dropped his cornet and "shouldered" the crisis. As Abraham Lincoln stepped from the speaker's platform after the historic debate, local supporters gathered to carry him off in triumph. Lincoln's lanky frame didn't fold easily for transport. The bull-like Herman Meyers "got between Lincoln's legs so as to take Lincoln on his shoulders, but he was unable to straighten up." Fuchs threw his instrument under the stand and grabbed Lincoln by the hips and lifted him..." Lincoln held "frantically onto the heads of his supporters" while his legs dangled and "his pantaloons pulled up so as to expose his underwear almost to his knees," one reporter recalled. Lincoln managed to free himself, shook his bearers' hands, and continued to the home of Mayor J.O. Glover, where he spent the night.
Erected 2008 by Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition.
Marker series. This marker is included in the Looking for Lincoln marker series.
Location. 41° 20.944′ N, 88° 50.547′ W. Marker is in Ottawa, Illinois, in La Salle County. Marker is at the intersection of La Salle Street (Illinois Route 23) and Jackson Street, on the right when traveling north on La Salle Street. Touch 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. Lincoln and Douglas Debate (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Washington Square (about 300 feet away); a different marker also named The First Lincoln-Douglas Debate (about 300 feet away); Lincoln the Litigator (approx. 0.2 miles away); William D. Boyce (approx. 1.4 miles away).
Categories. • Abolition & Underground RR • African Americans • Civil Rights • Politics •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 13, 2013. This page has been viewed 482 times since then. Photo 1. submitted on May 13, 2013. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.