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First Debate • Ottawa, August 21

Ten thousand or more onlookers turned out for the first debate.  The crowd was so raucous that the debate started a half-hour late.  Douglas used Lincoln’s words from his House Divided Speech of June 16, 1858, to accuse Lincoln and the Republican Party of “trying to array all the Northern States in one body against the South, to excite a sectional war.”  Lincoln responded that slavery has “always failed to be a bond of union ... and an element of division” between the states.  Douglas challenged Lincoln to respond to seven questions, which Lincoln took up a few days later in Freeport.   

Ottawa Today
Nestled under the shade of many majestic trees and enhanced by annual and perennial flower beds, Washington Square Park commemorates Ottawa’s Lincoln Douglas Debate.  The focal point of the park is two heroic-sized statues of the debating duo reflected in a beautiful fountain.  On the north side of the park is the magnificent Reddick Mansion, which is the only building standing that dates back to the time of the debate.  On the south side a huge mural, created by Don Gray, depicts the day of the debate in graphic detail.  The debate site also includes two Looking for Lincoln wayside exhibits which provide details of the debates.

© Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition • #1 Old State Capitol Plaza • Springfield, IL 62701 • 217.782.6817