Friday, October 30, 2009

"The Rivalry"

This morning I want to great credit to UMass Lowell for its presentation of the play “The Rivalry” yesterday at the university’s Inn & Conference Center (the former Doubletree Hotel). “The Rivalry” is a re-enactment of the 1858 debates between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln in connection with that year’s U.S. Senate race. The Democrat Douglas was seeking re-election and was being challenged by the Republican Lincoln. Because Senators were elected by state legislatures and not directly by the people back then, Douglas and Lincoln were actually campaigning for members of their respective parties who were running for state senator and state representative.

Because the central issue being slavery, these six debates attracted nationwide coverage which caused Lincoln to become a national figure who was elected president in the 1860 election. In essence, Douglas advocated “popular sovereignty” for new states by which he meant the people of that state should decide whether it would be free or slave (which he saw as the only way to prevent the disintegration of the country into civil war). Lincoln said that slavery was an abomination and, while he did not advocate the forced elimination of it in places where it already existed, it should not be allowed to spread any further.

While I have attended many events at “the hotel” over the past twenty years, this was my first visit since its makeover as the UML ICC. This event - free to the public - was a great example of the potential that this facility has for enlivening life here in Lowell. The play was also a reminder that 2011 will be the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, an anniversary we’re sure to hear more about in the coming months.

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