Notes regarding Stephen A. Douglas, [December 1856]1
Twentytwo years ago Judge Douglas and I first became acquainted–2 We were both young then; he, a trifle younger than I. Even then, we were both ambitious; I, perhaps, quite as much so as he– With me, the race of ambition has been a failure— a flat failure;3 with him, it has been one of splendid success– His name fills the nation; and extends ^is not unknown^, even, to in foreign lands– I affect no contempt for the high eminence he has reached– So reached, that the oppressed of my species, might have shared with me in the elevation, I would rather stand on that eminence, than wear the richest crown that ever pressed a monarch's brow–
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1Abraham Lincoln wrote this document. The exact date of the document is unknown. However, in the summer of 1860 Lincoln made a note in the margins of page forty-one of Samuel C. Parks’ personal copy of William D. Howells’ Lives and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin, noting, “I first saw Douglas at Vandalia, Dec. 1834–” Therefore, the editors date this document at approximately December 1856.
Lives and Speeches of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin (Columbus, OH: Follett, Foster, 1860), inside cover, 41, Lincoln Collection, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, Springfield, IL.
2Throughout December 1834, Lincoln was in Vandalia, Illinois serving in the Illinois House of Representatives. Vandalia was, at that time, the capital of Illinois and the site where legislative sessions were held. Stephen A. Douglas traveled to Vandalia in late-1834 at the request of Illinois representative John Wyatt, a freshly re-elected fellow Democrat for whom Douglas had written a bill designed to take the power to appoint state’s attorneys away from the governor of Illinois (then Joseph Duncan) and give the power to elect state’s attorneys to the Illinois General Assembly. Douglas also lobbied in Vandalia for himself for state’s attorney, and it was during this canvassing that Lincoln first became acquainted with Douglas, famously describing him at that time as “the least man I ever saw.” In February 1835, the Illinois General Assembly passed the bill Douglas wrote and, soon after, also elected Douglas state’s attorney.
The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, December 1834, http://thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarMonth&year=1834&month=12; Louis L. Emmerson, ed., Blue Book of the State of Illinois, 1919-1920 (Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1919), 528-29; Webster’s New Geographical Dictionary (Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, 1988), 1284; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:92; Frank E. Stevens, “Life of Stephen Arnold Douglas,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 16 (Oct. 1923 - Jan. 1924), 288-90; Governors of Illinois: 1818-1918 (Springfield: Illinois Centennial Commission, 1917), 13; An Act to Amend an Act, Entitled “An Act Relating to the Attorney General and State’s Attorneys”.
3Lincoln is most likely referring primarily in his failure to join Douglas in the U.S. Senate. In the aftermath of the 1854 Federal Election, Lincoln ran as a candidate for the U.S. Senate. Ultimately, the Illinois General Assembly selected Lyman Trumbull over Lincoln as the replacement for incumbent Illinois senator James Shields. See the 1854 Federal Election.
Biographical Directory of the American Congress 1774-1949 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1950), 1099; Illinois Senate Journal. 1855. 19th G. A., 242-55.
Autograph Document Unsigned, 2 page(s), Andre De Coppet Collection, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ).