Stephen A. Douglas was born in Brandon, VT, in 1813 and, after a brief apprenticeship as a cabinetmaker, struck out for the west to seek his fortune in 1833. His journey concluded when he boarded a steamboat bound for Quincy, IL.
In the crude society of frontier Illinois, he obtained a law license, established a practice in Jacksonville and began to involve himself in politics, espousing the doctrines of Andrew Jackson. This short and stocky gentleman debated vociferously and came upon the nickname of the "Little Giant." Despite his growing popularity, Douglas lost two early campaigns before eventually winning a seat in the House in 1843. Three years later he won a place in the U.S. Senate.
Douglas gained eternal notoriety in 1858 when he and Abraham Lincoln staged a series of eight Senatorial debates centering primarily on the "slave issue." He won the election that year but two years later watched his opponent ascend to the Presidency of the United States.