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Lincoln in Kansas - Part 1

The Back Story

Portrait of Stephen DouglasThe Lincoln Douglas Debates

One year before Abraham Lincoln's visit to Kansas, in 1858, the Republican Party nominated him to run for U.S. Senator from Illinois against Stephen Douglas (right). Just completing his first Senate term, Douglas advocated deciding for or against slavery by popular vote. This concept is known as popular sovereignty.

Four years earlier, Douglas had authored the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which formed Kansas Territory and incorporated popular sovereignty. Lincoln had opposed the act because it opened up the possibility of slavery in Kansas:

"It is wrong; wrong in its direct effect, letting slavery into Kansas and Nebraska . . . allowing it to spread to every other part of the wide world, where men can be found inclined to take it."
-- Abraham Lincoln, Oct. 16, 1854

Lombard bannerThe candidates agreed to engage in a series of public debates at various locations around Illinois. Seven debates were scheduled for the summer and fall of 1858. The fifth of these took place in Galesburg, where students at Lombard University decided to honor the candidates by making banners for them. The Republican student delegation met Lincoln as he arrived in town and presented him with this banner (center, left), which then headed a procession to the site of the debate.

Lincoln's campaign debates with Douglas did not win him the Senate seat, but they gained him national attention and respect.  This was pivotal in Lincoln's defeat of Douglas in the presidential election two years later.

Portrait of Mark  DelahayKansas Connection:  The Delahays

Lincoln gave the Galesburg banner to Mark Delahay for use in the 1860 presidential campaign in Kansas.

Mark and Louisiana Delahay hosted Lincoln while he was at Leavenworth. Mrs. Delahay’s maiden name was Hanks, and it is believed she was related to Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks.

This portrait of Mark Delahay (right) shows him aboard a steamboat around 1840. His friendship with Lincoln gained him advantages, including Lincoln's appointment of Delahay as a district judge.


Lincoln in Kansas is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.

  1. The Back Story - The Lincoln Douglas debates
  2. I Think I Would Go to Kansas - Lincoln's 1859 Kansas trip
  3. Rail Splitter of the West - Presidential campaigns
  4. The War President - Civil War years
  5. He Is In Glory - The assassination and its aftermath
  6. How Well Do You Know Abraham Lincoln? - Take our fun quiz