Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Lincoln–Douglas Debates of 1858 were a series of seven debates between Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate for the Senate in Illinois, and Senator Stephen Douglas, the Democratic Party candidate.

At the time, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures; thus Lincoln and Douglas were trying for their respective parties to win control of the Illinois legislature.

Before the debates, Lincoln said that Douglas was encouraging fears of amalgamation of the races with enough success to drive thousands of people away from the Republican Party.

Douglas tried to convince, especially the Democrats that Lincoln was an abolitionist for saying that the American Declaration of Independence did apply to blacks as well as whites.

In some schools, high school Speech & Debate is a for-credit class. Inter-school tournaments are held on weekends, but they are supplemental to the class and training for them is often curricular.

In other areas, debate may be a school-sponsored team similar to football or basketball which has practice after school, rather than being part of the curriculum; or debate teams may be organized as a club activity with little formal involvement on the part of the school.

Some dedicated debaters attend tournaments without any school support at all, though this is only an option if there is an active local or regional debate circuit or the debater has enough money to attend national tournaments.

Douglas rejected Lincoln’s notion of an irrepressible conflict and disagreed with his analysis of the intentions of the Founding Fathers, pointing out that many of them were slaveholders who believed that each community should decide the question for itself.

A devoted Jacksonian, he insisted that power should reside at the local level and should reflect the wishes of the people.

He was convinced, however, that slavery would be effectively restricted for economic, geographic, and demographic reasons and that the territories, if allowed to decide, would choose to be free.

In an important statement at Freeport, he held that the people could keep slavery out of their territories, in spite of the Dred Scott decision, simply by withholding the protection of the local law.

Douglas was disturbed by Lincoln’s effort to resolve a controversial moral question by political means, warning that it could lead to civil war.

Finally, Douglas placed his disagreement with Lincoln on the level of republican ideology, arguing that the contest was between consolidation and confederation, or as he put it, “one consolidated empire” as proposed by Lincoln versus a “confederacy of sovereign and equal states” as he proposed.

From August 21 until October 15, Stephen Douglas battled Abraham Lincoln in face to face debates around the state.

The prize they sought was a seat in the Senate. Lincoln challenged Douglas to a war of ideas. Douglas took the challenge.

Neither Abraham Lincoln nor Stephen Douglas won a popular election that fall.

Under rules governing Senate elections, voters cast their ballots for local legislators, who then choose a Senator.

The Democrats won a majority of district contests and returned Douglas to Washington.

But the nation saw a rising star in the defeated Lincoln.