The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln's Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America

The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln's Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America

Language: English

Pages: 272

ISBN: 0060852097

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this compelling narrative, renowned historian Roy Morris, Jr., expertly offers a new angle on two of America's most towering politicians and the intense personal rivalry that transformed both them and the nation they sought to lead in the dark days leading up to the Civil War.

For the better part of two decades, Stephen Douglas was the most famous and controversial politician in the United States, a veritable "steam engine in britches." Abraham Lincoln was merely Douglas's most persistent rival within their adopted home state of Illinois, known mainly for his droll sense of humor, bad jokes, and slightly nutty wife.

But from the time they first set foot in the Prairie State in the early 1830s, Lincoln and Douglas were fated to be political competitors. The Long Pursuit tells the dramatic story of how these two radically different individuals rose to the top rung of American politics, and how their personal rivalry shaped and altered the future of the nation during its most convulsive era. Indeed, had it not been for Douglas, who served as Lincoln's personal goad, pace horse, and measuring stick, there would have been no Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, no Lincoln presidency in 1860, and perhaps no Civil War six months later. For both men—and for the nation itself—the stakes were that high.

Not merely a detailed political study, The Long Pursuit is also a compelling look at the personal side of politics on the rough-and-tumble western frontier. It shows us a more human Lincoln, a bare-knuckles politician who was not above trading on his wildly inaccurate image as a humble "rail-splitter," when he was, in fact, one of the nation's most successful railroad attorneys. And as the first extensive biographical study of Stephen Douglas in more than three decades, the book presents a long-overdue reassessment of one of the nineteenth century's more compelling and ultimately tragic figures, the one-time "Little Giant" of American politics.

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preferred Henry Clay, but as he explained to Herndon, “Mr. Clay’s chance for an election is just no chance at all.” Instead, he would work for Taylor as he had worked for Harrison, from a strictly partisan political stance. “I am in favor of Gen. Taylor,” he told party activist Thomas Flournoy, “because I am satisfied we can elect him, that he would give us a Whig administration, and that we cannot elect any other Whig. Our only chance is with Taylor.”39 Whether or not he truly believed that to

east, jockeying for space with news of Sumner’s miraculous recovery and sudden relapse. Back in Kansas, John Brown made his first sanguinary appearance on the national scene. Together with four of his sons and two other supporters, Brown set out on the night of May 24 for the proslavery settlement on Pottawatomie Creek. Barging into various unguarded cabins, the party dragged out five unarmed settlers and, in full view of their families, hacked them to death with razor-sharp broadswords.

in the report.” His supporters would not have withdrawn him, at any rate. “Douglas or nobody,” Illinois backer Charles Lanphier reported. “His friends will never yield.”42 While the national convention slowly ground to a halt, the southern bolters met at Military Hall and agreed to reconvene in Baltimore on the second Monday in June. When the New York delegation announced that it would withdraw its support of Douglas if he was not nominated by the sixtieth ballot, Richardson finally accepted the

headed downriver to Memphis, where two years earlier he had given a well-received, racist speech comparing blacks to crocodiles. Times had changed. The Memphis Appeal marked Douglas’s arrival on southern soil with an editorial denouncing his visit as “the most impudent, the most disgraceful, the most indefensible of his acts during the campaign.” Another Memphis newspaper mocked his “bloated visage” and called him “an itinerant peddler of Yankee notions.” Undeterred, Douglas spoke for three hours

help. In his annual message to Congress, the lame-duck president went out of his way to blame Republicans for “the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question,” which he said had “produced its malign influence on the slaves and inspired them with vague notions of freedom,” causing “many a matron throughout the South [to] retire at night in dread of what may befall herself and her children before morning.” He called on northerners to stop criticizing slavery, obey the Fugitive Slave

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