The Long Pursuit: Abraham Lincoln's Thirty-Year Struggle with Stephen Douglas for the Heart and Soul of America
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.
down by Lincoln and…felt himself overthrown.” Emboldened by Lincoln’s address, local antislavery radicals Ichabod Codding and Owen Lovejoy announced plans to hold a meeting in Springfield that very night to organize a new Republican party in the state. (Lincoln did not attend.) The next day, veteran Democratic politician Lyman Trumbull, who was married to Mary Lincoln’s best friend, Julia Jayne, publicly denounced Douglas and declared himself a candidate for Congress on the anti-Nebraska ticket.
At the urging of other Whigs, Lincoln continued to press Douglas, trailing him across the state for the next two weeks and giving, in essence, the same speech he gave at Springfield. Having been proved right, yet again, in his analysis of Lincoln’s effectiveness on the stump, Douglas did not repeat the mistake of sharing the same stage with his rival, even going so far as pleading laryngitis at one point to avoid answering Lincoln’s challenge.49 In the end, the political firestorm that Douglas
and Michigan Canal. Ottawa’s entire population was less than 9,000 people, but the town tripled in size by the time of the debate. It quickly took on the trappings of a giant religious revival. Men, women, and children poured into town on foot, on horseback, in wagons and carriages, by special trains, even aboard canal boats blazing with political banners. Hundreds of tents spread out in the fields outside of town, and by nightfall a spangle of campfires twinkled in the darkness like the picketed
all but 12 of the majority votes coming from northern states. A last-minute move by Richardson to placate the South by dropping the resolution pledging the party to abide by future Supreme Court decisions failed miserably, with angry northerners voting against their own proposal when it became obvious that the southern delegates had no intention of voting at all. Halstead caught Yancey’s eye, and observed that the Alabaman was now smiling like a bridegroom. One by one, the chairmen of the
much to the dissatisfaction of the ultras. “If he has a fault as a statesman,” Mississippi senator Albert Gallatin Brown observed, “it is in being too cautious. Prudence is a virtue, but too much is a fault.” The widow of his longtime political opponent, Linn Boyd, scathingly pronounced Breckinridge “all ruffles and no shirt.” Moving into the Phoenix Hotel in Lexington, the vice president maintained an uneasy silence that reflected the untenable position in which he found himself. “To those who