Lincoln Memorial Park is the site of the third of seven debates between
Abraham Lincoln and Steven A. Douglas for the 1858 Illinois U.S. Senate
seat. There are two historical markers in the park. The oldest consists
of a plaque set in stone between statues of Lincoln and Douglas. The
newer interpretive marker was placed as part of the “Looking for
Lincoln” campaign maintained by the Looking for Lincoln Heritage
Coalition and reads:
Background of the Debates
Young Abraham Lincoln "Lost His Taste" for politics and was content with
his thriving law practice after having served four terms in the Illinois
Legislature in the 1830's and a term in Congress i the 1840's.
However, several national events stirred his moral conscience and
spurred him into action. U.S.
Senator Stephen A. Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Act state that the choice of
slavery was up to the citizens of each new state--or "popular
sovereignty." The Dred Scott
decision in 1857 claimed that slaves are property, and the book Uncle
Tom's Cabin caused abolitionists to pressure Congress to outlaw slaver.
Lincoln didn't promote abolishing existing slavery, but he
followed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which allowed for equal number
of slave and free states in new territories.
He challenged incumbent Douglas to debate him and allow Douglas
to select the sites of Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston,
Galesburg, Quincy and Alton. At
the Jonesboro debate Douglas stated, "...the negro is not and never out
to be a citizen of the United States."
Jonesboro was a sleepy town, and the city of Anna was only four years
old in 1858. Douglas chose Union
County for the site of this debate because of strong Southern sympathies
here, hoping Lincoln would express abolitionist views.
Douglas had said he wanted to "trot Lincoln down to Egypt," a
common name for Southern Illinois.
Douglas believed this strongly Democratic country, under the
leadership of John S. Hacker, would support him.
The party was split, however, with one group of Democrats calling
themselves "Danites." They were
led by John Daugherty (later to be Lt. Gov. of Illinois).
David L. Phillips, a friend of Lincoln who was campaigning
against John A. Logan for a seat in Congress, encouraged Lincoln to come
to Jonesboro and stay at his home in Anna, which is still standing
To mark the 150th anniversary celebration of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Jonesboro, dedicated life-sized bronze statues of Lincoln and Douglas in
what is now called Lincoln Memorial Park. Located next to the Shawnee
National Forest Ranger Station the site is maintained by the U.S. Forest
Service and features picnic facilities and interpretive exhibits. The
area offers three walking loops of less than 1/2 mile. The walking paths
are on paved surface and surrounded with various plant and tree species.
The Lincoln Memorial pond provides great scenery for walkers and a great
habitat for turtles.