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Introduction Illinois — a large state with a small population in the s — produced an unusual collection of men they were virtually all men who shaped the future of the country.
Abraham Lincoln was one.
Their mutual friend and colleague, John Calhoun, was a third. Calhoun has appeared in the biographies of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas primarily as a walk-on character.
They were the two poles of the political thought of their time, as Hamilton and Jefferson had been in the days of the fathers. Douglas, as an audacious and ready debater, has never been surpassed in either branch of congress. He had a personal magnetism which made him a popular idol and a born leader of men.
He was self-confident and even arrogant, and was withal a dangerous antagonist.
The political ambitions of Douglas, Lincoln, and Calhoun were often in conflict and would intersect in in a way that would lead to the Civil War.
Through the intervention of a mutual friend, then Sangamon County surveyor Calhoun agreed to give Lincoln a much-needed job. It was typical of the closely intertwined Springfield scene in those days that the man Lincoln replaced as trustee, Samuel H. Treat, became the judge of the Eighth Judicial Circuit on which he practiced, would later become a State Supreme Court Justice before whom Lincoln practiced, and still later become a U.
District Court judge before whom Lincoln practiced. It was Treat who made the underemployed Calhoun the clerk of his court for several years in the s. Such was the small pond of Springfield in which many future big fish swam.
Sometimes, these fish took decades to emerge as congressman, generals, governors, and senators, but in the stormy seas of the Civil War, they did emerge.
After Stuart, Lincoln, Douglas and their colleagues ended their spring swing around the Eighth Judicial District, Stuart and Douglas embarked on a series of joint appearances across the vast, county congressional district in northern Illinois.
Palmer — future state legislator, general, and Illinois governor and U. The proprietor of the tavern indicated that Douglas and Stuart would have to share the beds with Palmer and his friend. Douglas demanded of the pedlars to divulge were their politics. When Douglas found that Palmer was a Democrat and his colleague a Whig, Douglas decided the sleeping arrangements: Before the campaign even began, Lincoln, writing under pseudonym, accused Douglas engaging in a deal to get a federal job and then being persuaded of another deal to give up his federal job to run for Congress.
On the evening of the publication of these charges, Lincoln made a speech which, while seemingly allegorical, can be interpreted as suggesting that Douglas was a dangerous reincarnation of Napoleon. Douglas was incensed by the anonymous newspaper accusation and demanded that the writer of these accusations reveal himself.
I also desire to drag my accusers from their hiding places, to strip off the mask that conceals their names from the public eye, give them an opportunity of maintaining their assertions, or let them cover themselves with infamy, which is the certain reward of the midnight assassin, and foul mouthed slanderer.
In those exchanges, Douglas would accuse Lincoln of making a deal for the Republican nomination with Lyman Trumbull, who had been elected senator over Lincoln in Charges and denials of deals seem to have been built into the Lincoln-Douglas relationship from its inception. When in late four Democrats and four Whigs were chosen to debate national economic issues in Springfield, they included three future U.
Douglas is a very little, little giant by the side of my tall Kentuckian, and intellectually my husband towers above Douglas just as he does physically. And unlike Douglas, who made his political base in Jacksonville, then Quincy, and later Chicago, Calhoun lived and labored in Sangamon County, one of the few areas that Whigs dominated in the s and s.
John Calhoun had the makings of one of the big fish who never quite made it. He was brilliant, but deficient in practical application. As historian Robert W.
He held more appointive positions than he did elective offices; he was honored more by his party organization than he was by the electorate. They repeated these appearances the presidential contest of Thereafter, Calhoun endured a decade of personal and political decline although he managed to win three terms as mayor of Springfield.
In early Decemberthe Albany Atlas and Argus published a short article that attempted to establish political pedigree of the Massachusetts-born politician: Calhoun of Springfield, Mass.
Calhoun, another brother of John, was Clerk of the Senate of Massachusetts some fourteen or fifteen years; was also held in high esteem in his State for talents and unblemished character. Calhoun, another brother, has for many years been absent in the Missionary service, and is now in Abish, on Mount Lebanon, in Syria.
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