Stephen A. Douglas (1913–1861) was the Democratic Illinois senator best known for his debates against Abraham Lincoln during the 1858 Senate race. Elected to the US House of Representatives in 1843 and to the US Senate in 1846, Douglas was a national expansionist who supported the annexation of Texas in 1845 and the subsequent Mexican-American War. Following that war, Douglas helped pass the Compromise of 1850. Supporting popular sovereignty, Douglas was also a key figure in the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. In 1858, Douglas was challenged by Republican Abraham Lincoln for his Senate seat. The two men faced off on slavery issues in a series of debates across Illinois. Douglas defeated Lincoln in the election, but the highly publicized debates made Lincoln a nationally known figure. The debates were also key in helping Lincoln secure the Republican nomination in the presidential election of 1860; Douglas was the Northern Democratic candidate. After Lincoln won the election, Douglas supported the Republican president in denouncing secession and trying to prevent disunion.

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