Fourth Lincoln-Douglas Debate site marker, statues, museum - Charleston, IL
Posted by: adgorn
N 39° 29.809 W 088° 11.230
16S E 397923 N 4372583
Quick Description: Location of the fourth Lincoln-Douglas Debate, memorialized by statues of Lincoln & Douglas, a descriptive marker and a very nice museum offering the history of the debates.
Location: Illinois, United States
Date Posted: 8/21/2010 1:28:35 PM
Waymark Code: WM9H40
Twelve thousand people heard the two candidates for the United States Senatorship discuss the question of slavery in American politics near this location. The site continues today as the Coles County Fairgrounds, in use during my visit as a rollicking amusement park.
Inscription at base of statue:
"A House Divided September 2001
This sculptural composition borrows the house divided metaphor from Lincoln's speeches. A chasm or rift represents the division. Two great Americans study the chasm caused by the split in the country over slavery and its extension. Both men love the union and want to hold it together. They differ mainly in their solutions.
John McClarey" (the sculptor, from Decatur, IL, who specializes in Lincoln)
Numerous benefactors and donors are also listed.
"The Lincoln-Douglas Debate at Charleston
On September 18, 1858, Springfield attorney and former US Congressman Abraham Lincoln debated US Senator Stephen A. Douglas at the Coles County Fairgrounds during the senatorial campaign of that year. The Charleston debate was the fourth of seven debates held between Lincoln and Douglas from August to October. A reported 12,000 to 15,000 people were in attendance at the Charleston debate, with many spectators traveling to Charleston by train and wagon from Indiana.
The campaign centered on the issue of slavery in the federal territories. Was the institution to be extended into the territories and new slaves states created or not? Lincoln as the Republican candidate opposed the extension of slavery while Douglas as the Democratic incumbent defended his doctrine of "popular sovereignty," which held that the residents of the territories should decide the slavery issue for themselves. It was during the Charleston debate that Lincoln denied Douglas' charge that he favored social and political equality for African-Americans. He opposed slavery but took the position that whites should maintain "a superior position" - a statement that has qualified his legacy as the Great Emancipator.
Lincoln won the popular vote but lost the election since the Democrats controlled the Illinois senate, and state legislatures at that time elected United States Senators. Although Douglas was reelected the debates positioned Lincoln to win the Presidency two years later.
Sponsored by the
Coles County Historical Society
and the Illinois State Historical Society
The museum is very interesting. It contains much information about the debates, including a model of what the Charleston debate may have looked like. See their website for more information:
The full text of Lincoln's speech at Charleston is available here:
I found this location serendipitously while looking for a caboose to waymark, which I never did locate. So my trip here ended up being very fruitful!