1 page, 4to., ruled paper." />
9 June 2004
DOUGLAS, Stephen A. (1813-1861), Senator. Autograph letter signed ("S. A. Douglas") to New York mayor Fernando Wood, Everett House, New York, 22 March 1859. 1 page, 4to., ruled paper.
STEPHEN A. DOUGLAS ANSWERS A DEATH BED SUMMONS FROM HIS ELDEST SON
A dramatic letter in which Douglas begs the indulgence of New York City mayor Fernando Wood after receiving some horrifying personal news: "I left Washington a few days ago to arrange some business in Philadelphia and in this city, and arrived here tonight with the view of seeing you tomorrow and adjust the ballance between us, but on my arrival tonight I found two Telegraphic Dispatches informing me that my oldest son (Robert) is at the point of death & requesting my immediate return to Washington. I leave in the early train tomorrow morning. I scarcely hope to find him alive. I will return to this city and arrange our affairs as soon as circumstances will permit." For Douglas the 1850s were filled with personal tragedy and disastrous political failure. His first wife died in 1852. He remarried and lost not just his eldest but a second son as well. Meanwhile his effort to tear up the Missouri Compromise and allow new western states to decide for themselves whether they wanted to permit slavery (his "Freeport Doctrine" of popular sovereignty), succeeded only in breaking Douglas's Democratic party in two between its Northern and Southern wings. Having done so much to radicalize opposing political camps, Douglas spent his own final months before his death in June 1861, tirelessly, passionately denouncing secession and pledging all his support to his former opponent, Abraham Lincoln.
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