The Lincoln Douglas Debates Essay

1376 words - 6 pages

The 1858 Election for US Senator of Illinois was a series of 7 debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas. The campaign covered seven of the nine major districts of Illinois. They included: Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy, and Alton. Of the many issues addressed, a major controversy throughout the entire affair, was the expansion of slavery. The debates attracted tremendous crowds from all over the nation and became known as the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.

The Lincoln-Douglas debates were the result of the Illinois Senatorial election of 1858. At the time, their were two rival political parties: The Republicans and the Democrats. These opposing parties would nominate someone to go up against the other in an election. The Republicans had chosen Abraham Lincoln, a politician from Springfield, as their challenger to the current Democratic Senator. It was in his acceptance speech to represent the Republicans that Lincoln delivered his infamous line, "A house divided against itself, cannot stand." The Democrats, meanwhile, had also made their decision to nominate the current senator of Illinois, Judge Stephen A. Douglas of Chicago, as their candidate for re-election. 

In the first debate at Ottawa, Illinois on August 21, thousands of people arrived from all over the country. Throughout the entire debate, spectators stood in the dry heat as Lincoln and Douglas disputed. Douglas accused Lincoln of attempting to eradicate the Whig and Democratic Party. In addition to these allegations, Douglas also named Lincoln as a supporter of the American opposition in the Mexican War. Lincoln promptly disavowed those allegations, stating that Douglas’ accounts were based solely on one mans opinion and that no proof had been brought forward.

The second debate took place in Freeport, Illinois on August 27 where an estimate of 15,000 spectators was reported to have attended. In this next series of speeches, Lincoln answered the seven questions that had been posted by Douglas in the previous face-off. He also inquired his own set of questions:

If the people of Kanse shall, by means entirely unobjectionable in all other respects, adopt a State Constitution, and ask admission into the Union under it, before they have the requisite number of inhabitants according to the English bill - some ninety-three thousand - will you vote to admit them?
Can the people of the United States Territory, in any lawful way, against the wish of any cities of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a State Constitution?
If the Supreme Court of the United States shall decide that States cannot exclude slavery from their limits, are you in favor of acquiescing in, adopting, and following such decision as a rule of political action?
Are you in favor of acquiring additional territory, in disregard of how such acquisition may affect the nation on the slavery question?

Douglas’ reply to these became known as the...

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