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The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The Lincoln Studies Center Edition

Rodney O. Davis
Douglas L. Wilson
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
    Book Description:

    While the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas are undoubtedly the most celebrated in American history, they may also be the most consequential as well. The issues so fiercely debated in 1858 were about various interrelated aspects of one momentous, nation-threatening issue: slavery. Argued with skill and passion and varied as Lincoln and Douglas became more familiar with what the other would say, this series of debates is of enduring interest as an illuminating instance of the ever-recurring dilemma of American democracy: what happens when the deeply held attachments to regional traditions and notions of personal property confront a principled stand against a "moral, social, and political evil"? Both Lincoln and Douglas foresaw what the answer might be and it came: civil war. Important as they are, the Lincoln-Douglas debates have long since ceased to be self-explanatory. This edition is the first to provide a text founded on all known records, rather than following one or another of the partisan and sometimes widely varying newspaper accounts. Meticulously edited and annotated, it provides numerous aids to help the modern reader understand the debates, including extensive introductory material, commentary, and a glossary. The fullest and most dependable edition of the Lincoln-Douglas debates ever prepared, this edition brings readers as close as possible to the original words of these two remarkable men.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09695-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xxvi)

    The Lincoln-Douglas debates have been models for interactive political discourse in this country for nearly half a century, since the Kennedy-Nixon campaign of 1960. For a century longer than that they have been known as constituting one of the great events in American political history. They now exist as veritable icons of our democratic political culture, venerated and emulated especially at election times, but the significance of the debates is far more substantial than their mere iconic status would suggest. At their 150th anniversary, it is especially appropriate to consider the debates as prime documents of a former political era...

    (pp. xxvii-xlvi)

    After his senatorial campaign against Stephen A. Douglas in 1858, Abraham Lincoln compiled a scrapbook of the principal speeches of the contest, the highlight of which was the series of seven “joint debates.” For his own speeches, he included the texts printed in theChicago Press and Tribune;for Douglas’s speeches, the texts published in theChicago Times.¹ “This,” he explained to a prospective publisher, “would represent each of us, as reported by his own friends, and thus be mutual, and fair.”² The first few proposals to publish the contents of his scrapbook came to naught, but Lincoln’s wish to...


    • OTTAWA, AUGUST 21, 1858
      (pp. 1-42)

      Senator Douglas selected as sites for the Lincoln-Douglas Debates “one prominent point in each congressional district in the state,” save in those districts surrounding Chicago and Springfield, where each candidate had already given major speeches. He designated Ottawa, in the Third Congressional District, to be the location of his first meeting with Lincoln, on August 21.

      Ottawa, Illinois, located eighty miles southwest of Chicago at the junction of the Fox and Illinois rivers, was in 1858 a town of about seven thousand citizens. Situated also on the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad, the town...

    • FREEPORT, AUGUST 27, 1858
      (pp. 43-82)

      “What I am saying here I suppose I say to a vast audience as strongly tending to abolitionism as any audience in the State of Illinois,” said Abraham Lincoln in his opening speech at Freeport on August 27, 1858. Certainly Lincoln’s Freeport audience tended very strongly toward enthusiastic Republicanism, if not necessarily toward abolitionism. The First Congressional District of Illinois, in which Freeport was located, delivered Republican majorities of 70 percent and greater in 1856 and 1858. The voting behavior of Freeport’s Stephenson County echoed that of the district; the county and its seat were firmly in the Republican camp....

      (pp. 83-126)

      Almost three weeks, more than four hundred miles, and profound local political and ideological differences separated the scene of the Freeport debate on August 27, 1858, from that of the third meeting in the series at Jonesboro on September 15. During the interim, both candidates campaigned across central Illinois, where it seemed certain that the contest would be decided. Douglas traveled farther into the heavily Democratic southern part of the state, undertaking to mobilize the faithful there, but for Lincoln such a foray would have been expensive and profitless. His Jonesboro speech was the only one Lincoln made south of...

      (pp. 127-172)

      Abraham Lincoln was on familiar ground during his fourth meeting with Stephen Douglas at Charleston, Illinois, on September 18, 1858, just three days after the Jonesboro debate. Lincoln’s father was buried nearby; his stepmother still lived in a log cabin in the area; and several stepsiblings and cousins resided in Charleston or in surrounding Coles County. Lincoln had occasionally practiced law in the local courthouse, and he was on close terms with a number of area lawyers and politicians. Charleston was the first debate site to be located in the central region of the state where, after the collapse of...

    • GALESBURG, OCTOBER 7, 1858
      (pp. 173-210)

      After almost three weeks of practically nonstop campaigning by Lincoln and Douglas across Illinois’s central counties following the Charleston debate, the final three joint meetings between the two contestants took place over a nine-day period in October 1858. The two candidates confronted each other in the first of these encounters on October 7 at Galesburg in west-central Illinois, a town called by a St. Louis reporter “the chief seat of the abolitionists of this State.”¹ Galesburg and Knox College were founded together twenty years earlier as a colony supporting a college by settlers from New York and New England. Since...

    • QUINCY, OCTOBER 13, 1858
      (pp. 211-250)

      With a population of thirteen thousand, Quincy, Illinois, site of the sixth Lincoln-Douglas debate on October 13, 1858, was the metropolis of western Illinois and the largest town of any of the debate locations. Senator Douglas had once claimed the town as his residence, and he represented the surrounding Fifth Congressional District during his three terms in the House of Representatives in the 1840s. As both railroad terminus and Mississippi River port, Quincy had business and travel connections with the East through Chicago, and with St. Louis and New Orleans to the south. The Great River, a highway to the...

    • ALTON, OCTOBER 15, 1858
      (pp. 251-294)

      After their sixth debate, Lincoln and Douglas both booked passage on the steamboatCity of Louisianaand traveled downriver from Quincy to the final debate site at Alton, Illinois, making the 115–mile trip on the Mississippi on the night of October 14–15, 1858. They reached a town of six thousand population which, like Quincy, was both a railroad terminal and a Mississippi River port. The proximity of slaveholding Missouri to Alton was noted by both Lincoln and Douglas in their speeches on October 15—St. Louis was only twenty miles downriver and furnished two steamboat loads of listeners...

    (pp. 295-296)
    (pp. 297-318)
    (pp. 319-334)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 335-341)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 342-344)