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The purification of politics is an iridescent dream.

Stephen Douglas is generally given the short straw, if not the dirty end of the stick, by historians so bedazzled by Honest Abe that they can not understand how anyone could challenge him. The facts are considerably different and until the presidential election of 1860 every time Douglas challenged Lincoln in Illinois he came out on top including winning the famous Lincoln/Douglas debates and retaining his seat in the Senate by doing so. Perhaps his great and shining moment came in 1854 when his Kansas-Nebraska Act enshrined that revolutionary notion of “popular sovereignty” by allowing the people of the territories to vote on the great issues to determine how they would join the union.

Unfortunately Douglas was not a strong enough advocate of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution – and especially of those in the Tenth amendment thereto – and in the 1860 presidential election could muster only 30% of the popular vote but by denying the other viable candidates those votes he allowed Lincoln to become a minority president with the support of only 40% of the electorate. He was by no means dedicated to the Southern Cause but he would have certainly been the lesser of two evils and his defeat should teach true believers the dangers of burning their boats before the have a secure beach head.

The long pursuit : Abraham Lincoln’s thirty-year struggle with Stephen Douglas for the heart and soul of America Roy Morris, Jr. Lincoln Abraham 1809-1865 Adversaries  Douglas Stephen A. (Stephen Arnold) 1813-1861 [Washington, D.C.] : Smithsonian Books ; New York : Collins, c 2008 Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xiv, 254 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [237]-241) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In this compelling narrative, renowned historian Roy Morris, Jr., expertly offers a new angle on two of America’s most towering politicians and the intense personal rivalry that transformed both them and the nation they sought to lead in the dark days leading up to the Civil War.

For the better part of two decades, Stephen Douglas was the most famous and controversial politician in the United States, a veritable “steam engine in britches.” Abraham Lincoln was merely Douglas’s most persistent rival within their adopted home state of Illinois, known mainly for his droll sense of humor, bad jokes, and slightly nutty wife.

But from the time they first set foot in the Prairie State in the early 1830s, Lincoln and Douglas were fated to be political competitors. The Long Pursuit tells the dramatic story of how these two radically different individuals rose to the top rung of American politics, and how their personal rivalry shaped and altered the future of the nation during its most convulsive era. Indeed, had it not been for Douglas, who served as Lincoln’s personal goad, pace horse, and measuring stick, there would have been no Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858, no Lincoln presidency in 1860, and perhaps no Civil War six months later. For both men — and for the nation itself — the stakes were that high.

Not merely a detailed political study, The Long Pursuit is also a compelling look at the personal side of politics on the rough-and-tumble western frontier. It shows us Lincoln, a bare-knuckles politician who was not above trading on his wildly inaccurate image as a humble “rail-splitter,” when he was, in fact, one of the nation’s most successful railroad attorneys. And as the first extensive biographical study of Stephen Douglas in more than three decades, the book presents a long-overdue reassessment of one of the nineteenth century’s more compelling  figures, the one-time “Little Giant” of American politics.

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