Brandon native took on Honest Abe

BRANDON-There's a small monument in downtown Brandon, Vt., that honors a native son who helped plunge a young America into civil war-Stephen Arnold Douglas.

Douglas, known as the Little Giant, was born in Brandon in 1813. The fiery Democrat became attorney-general of Illinois in 1834, member of the legislature in 1835, secretary of state in 1840, and judge of the supreme court in 1841 and member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1847.

In 1854 Douglas introduced his Kansas-Nebraska bill to the Senate. These states could now enter the Union with or without slavery. The freed slave Frederick Douglass warned that the bill was "an open invitation to a fierce and bitter strife." It is ignored today, but Democratic Party leaders mostly upheld the institution of slavery while Republicans fiercely opposed it.

The result of this legislation was to open the territory to organised migrations of pro-slave and anti-slave groups. Southerners now entered the area with their slaves while active members of the Anti-Slavery Society also arrived. Henry Ward Beecher, condemned the bill from his pulpit and helped to raise funds to supply weapons to those willing to oppose slavery in these territories. These rifles became known as Beecher's Bibles. John Brown and five of his sons, were some of the volunteers who headed for Kansas.

In 1858 Abraham Lincoln challenged Douglas for his seat in the Senate. He was opposed to Douglas's proposal that the people living in the Louisiana Purchase (Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas, Montana, and parts of Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming) should be allowed to own slaves. Lincoln argued that the territories must be kept free for "poor people to go and better their condition." The two men took part in a series of seven public debates on the issue of slavery.

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