Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003

Man vs. Man

The Slavery Question: Who Decides?

Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
Lincoln Douglas exhibit section
Artifacts and images on loan from many sources, including:
~ Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project, Northern Illinois University Libraries. Original documents
and portraits in the collection of the Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis MO.
~ Abraham Lincoln Museum, Harrogate TN
~ The Lincoln Museum, Fort Wayne IN

The Dred Scott Decision

Dred Scott was the slave of an army surgeon who served at forts on Rock Island and in Minnesota, both in free territories. After returning to St. Louis in 1846, Scott sued for his freedom because of the widespread custom that slaves who resided in free states became freed men.

But custom was not law. It took 11 years for the case to reach all the way to the Supreme Court. On March 6, 1857, the Court decided that slaves were not citizens and should not expect protection under the law. This landmark decision also stated that Congress had no authority to ban slavery in federal territories. Outrage over the decision contributed to the looming Civil War.

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Did you know … ?
Legal scholars consider the Dred Scott Decision to be the worst decision ever handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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The Lincoln Douglas Debates

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."
- Abraham Lincoln, 1858

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas presented the image of a decidedly odd couple on stage. Lincoln was a tall, slim, angular man raised on the frontier, who spoke in a slow monotonous drawl. In sharp contrast, Douglas was a short, rotund urban fellow who was very skilled at public speaking. These men debated slavery in seven locations in the summer of 1858 - three in river towns along the Mississippi River. History has dubbed these appearances "The Lincoln Douglas Debates."

Political rivals for the U.S. Senate, Douglas was the Democratic incumbent facing Lincoln, the Republican challenger. As the champion of popular sovereignty (majority rule), Douglas debated Lincoln's argument that the federal government must decide the matter of slavery.

Intending to educate voters in each of Illinois' congressional districts, the debates swelled to attract national interest. Douglas won the election but Lincoln won the attention of the country. Two years later in 1860 after Lincoln was propelled into the White House, the South seceded from the Union.

This section "Man vs. Man" has the following related pages:
The Slavery Question

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2 men in a canoe
Early Exploration and Development
River Days
view of Bellview, Iowa
Riverfront Property
You are here!Civil War enenactors
Man vs. Man
Bald eagle and conservation officer
Man vs. Nature
jazz musician
The Arts Along the River
New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
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