Lincoln-Douglas Debate in Quincy, Illinois

Going Back in Time

Recently, I shared photos of the monument we found in Tolono, Illinois, where Abraham Lincoln gave his last address to the people of Illinois. Finding that monument reminded me of another interesting site that we found on another Illinois trip. For whatever reason, I never had shared these photos before. So let’s take a trip back in time, all the way back to July 2006!

Just like with our recent trip, Laura, Jaylin, and I had gone to Illinois to attend a wedding in the city of Quincy. I knew from all of the reading I had done over the years that Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas had participated in one of their famed Lincoln-Douglas debates in Quincy in 1858. The two men were running for United States Senate. Douglas was the Democratic incumbent, Lincoln was the somewhat-unknown Republican challenger. Spoiler alert: Lincoln lost the election. But the debates helped him to gain fame, and not just in his home state. That fame then helped him win the presidential election two years later.

I knew we would have a little downtime in Quincy, so I said, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we could find where the Lincoln-Douglas debate was held?” But I did not quite know how to find it once we got there. There were no iPhones back then, after all. And I had not looked it up sufficiently on the internet before we left home.

Finding the Debate Site

We had some time on the morning of the wedding, and we decided to go for a walk in the area around our hotel. We went outside and down a street a short way, coming to a park. And there in the park was this monument:

Lincoln-Douglas debate monument in Quincy, Illinois

Just a few short steps from our hotel was the site where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas had debated on October 13, 1858. I was glad I had my camera with me. My flip phone at the time would not have taken very good photos.

Lincoln-Douglas debate monument in Quincy, Illinois

As you can see in the carving, Lincoln is standing up to give his portion of the debate, while Douglas is sitting nearby, waiting his turn. Other people sit and listen attentively. Except maybe for that guy at the far right, who looks like he is ready for it all to end. Or maybe he just has his hand to his ear to hear what Lincoln is saying.

Lincoln-Douglas debate monument in Quincy, Illinois

On the back of the monument (assuming this carved side is meant to be the front) are quotes of the debate from both Lincoln and Douglas:

“We have in this nation this element of domestic slavery. We think it as a wrong not confining itself merely to the persons or the States where it exists, but that it is a wrong in its tendency, to say the least, that extends itself to the existence of the whole nation.

Abraham Lincoln at Quincy, Illinois, October 13, 1858

I hold that the people of the slaveholding States are civilized men as well as ourselves; that they bear consciences as well as we, and that they are accountable to God and their posterity, and not to us. It is for them to decide, therefore, the moral and religious right of the slavery question for themselves within their own limits.

Stephen Douglas at Quincy, Illinois, October 13, 1858

Of course, there were many more words in the debate than those, and you can find them online at several different sites. But it was interesting to me to read the words that were selected for the monument.

In the Park

Park at the site of the Lincoln-Douglas debate in Quincy, Illinois

The park there was beautiful. There were lots of trees and lots of places to sit and enjoy the cool shade and the breeze from the nearby Mississippi River. There was even a bandstand nearby, which you can partially see behind the trees at the left of the above photo. And there were lanterns for lighting the park at night, but I am certain those were not there at the time of the debate.

Even with the modern conveniences, it is pretty easy to imagine a crowd gathered to hear two noted speakers face off against each other as they campaigned for office. And it was a nice place for us to spend a little time in the morning that morning, just wandering around and enjoying the trees. And the monument, because that was what we were looking for.

Lincoln-Douglas debate monument in Quincy, Illinois

Those two people taking in the monument are Laura and Jaylin. Yes, Jaylin was actually that young once. In some ways, that seems like a long time ago. In other ways, it seems like only a short while.

Laura and Jaylin in the park

Kids do seem to grow up quickly, don’t they? That kid who was just a few days away from his fourth birthday in these photos is now in college. Where does the time go? Attention, parents! Before you know it, your kids will be grown and gone! Don’t say you have not been warned.

Other Things

As we were walking down the short street from the hotel to the park, I knew we were in the right place when I saw a couple of signs:

Lincoln-Douglas apartments

The first sign I saw was for the Lincoln-Douglas apartments. I said to Laura, “I have a feeling we are getting close!” Why else would they name apartments Lincoln-Douglas unless they were close to the debate site?

Lincoln-Douglas styling salon

And then we passed the Lincoln-Douglas Styling Salon, too. Wouldn’t it be interesting if the candidates had stopped there to get their hair touched up before the debate? Somehow, I don’t think they did. But once again, I knew we were on the right path!

So that is our trip back in time for another Abraham Lincoln site that we found. If we know of anyone else getting married in Illinois, I am sure we can find another Lincoln site to visit, too!

He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good. - Titus 2:14

About the Photos

These photos were from back in the old days before I got my first digital SLR camera. This was more of a point-and-shoot camera, although it did have a good zoom feature. And at that time, I had no idea what Raw mode was. These photos would have benefitted from that. I was still a few years away from knowing what that was. It is nice to think that I have learned some things along the way!

Photo: Each photo is a single JPG exposure, processed in GIMP. Read more about photography tips, photo software, camera gear, and more at Steve’s Photography Tips.
Camera: Olympus C-765UZ
Date: July 9, 2006
Location: Quincy, Illinois

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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.