By Dave Dahl
SPRINGFIELD – The “Little Giant” has a big cheerleader who wants the Stephen Douglas statue returned to the Capitol lawn.
Reg Ankrom of Quincy is two thirds of the way through writing a trilogy biography of Douglas and has a spirited defense at the ready: “Douglas did not own slaves.”
Ankrom notes then-House Speaker Mike Madigan’s desire to remove Douglas’ statue “based on his reading of Lincoln scholar Sidney Blumenthal’s claim that Douglas owned a Mississippi plantation and slaves. Blumenthal provided no source or citation for the statement. The speaker also condemned, however, Douglas’ abhorrent words toward people of color.”
Ankrom said the language, while racist and distasteful, was reflective of the times.
Of Blumenthal, Ankrom said, “Even historians can make mistakes.”
Douglas, said Ankrom, was a true architect of the West. “Within six weeks of the fall of 1850, he accomplished what Sen. Henry Clay of Kentucky was unable to do in seven months. Douglas passed all eight bills of the Compromise of 1850, which ended a constitutional crisis over slavery and led to the acquisition of 550,000 square miles after the Mexican War. As Douglas had predicted, it would enter the Union free.”
Any decision would be up to the Capitol architect board, which in 2020 also booted Pierre Menard off the lawn.
Dave Dahl can be reached at email@example.com