Lincoln Douglas Debates

Lincoln Douglas Debates

William Wineland Civil War and Reconstruction Dr Edwards September 16, 2011 The Lincoln Douglas Debates In 1858 Abraham Lincoln and Stephen a Douglas embarked on a series of debates and effort to win a seat in the Senate. This time Lincoln was not very well known in the political arena in contrast to Douglas who was a lifelong political player. However, after the debates Lincoln vaulted into the national spotlight continuing on to eventually win the Presidential election of 1860.

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Lincoln had originally proposed that he and Douglas engage in these debates, and discuss in depth the issues of the day including the issue of slavery as it related to the new territories of Kansas, Nebraska, Utah, Texas, California and New Mexico. During the last debate, which was held in Alton Illinois on October 16, 1858 where some 6000 people gathered for the event in front of the city hall building, Lincoln continued to campaign on his anti-slavery platform while Douglas maintained that it was a states rights issue.

Lincoln’s position was that the United States could not survive as a nation of half free and half slave states while Douglas maintained that Lincoln’s beliefs was a “slander upon the mortal framers of our Constitution”. Additionally Douglas believed that the government could exist with these divided values and it was the right of each state to determine whether or not they wished to allow slavery, and that they could regulate themselves accordingly however, the events in Kansas displayed some evidence to the contrary.

Douglas continually attacked Lincoln claiming that he opposed Dred Scott decision because it deprived blacks of their right of citizenship and accused Lincoln of desiring to bypass state laws that excluded blacks from free states. Lincoln and maintained that the Scott decision could allow slavery to spread into the free states and that Douglas ignored the basic humanity and rights of blacks.

Although Lincoln was opposed to slavery because he believed that all men were created equal and that the framers of the Declaration of Independence intended to include all men regardless of the color of their skin or their social standing, he also realized that at that particular time that the complete abolition of slavery was impossible. Additionally, Lincoln believed that the expansion of slavery ould put the union in jeopardy as he highlighted the controversies caused by it in Missouri in 1820 in Mexico in 1850 as well as the current unrest in Kansas. Lincoln believed that slavery needed to be treated as a decision of right and wrong otherwise it would continue to grow and infect the nation and become counterproductive to the original intent of the founding fathers in regards to freedom.

Finally this particular document does hold some validity because during this time the new technology of stenography was being put into practice and individuals from reporting agencies were present during the time of these debates. They were able to record the candidates’ speeches verbatim, and send them via telegraph another new technology for the time to their respective reporting agencies for dissemination to the general public.


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