THE ENIGMA OF STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS
He had all the traits of a prize fighter. More than anything else, he loved a good political brawl, the give and take of floor battles, and pugnacious oratory. In 1834, in Jacksonville, Illinois, he gave a roaring defense of Andrew Jackson, after which a cheering crowd swept him triumphantly out of the meetinghouse. From then on he was known as the Little Giant. Few had his capacity to intimidate, to outrage. John Quincy Adams was utterly astonished when the five-feet, four-inch Illinoisian, in one of his first speeches in the national House of Representatives, ripped off his cravat, unbuttoned his waistcoat, and with contorted face and wild gestures "lashed himself into such a heat that if his body had been made of combustible matter, it would have burnt out."
Stephen A. Douglas was a man of the political arena, an improviser and tough little pragmatist who never had the time or the inclination for deep reflection. From the age of twenty-one until he died, he sought political power with headlong impetuosity and unrelenting ambition. He always worked too hard, drank too much, and smoked too many cigars. Political defeat often left him sick and miserably depressed, but he drove himself on nevertheless. Above all, he was a man of contradiction and paradox. A nationalist who detested abolitionists and secessionists with equal passion, he was a confirmed party man, convinced that America was safe only in Democratic hands. By turns, he was an Anglophobe, a foe of the Know-Nothings, a defender of alien rights, and a friend of the Mormons. Like most white Americans of his generation, he thought Negroes repugnant and inferior. Yet