What Are the Lincoln-Douglas Debates?
During the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in a series of debates regarding the subject of slavery in the United States. These debates were crucial in shaping the future condition of slavery across the country at a time when it was already declining in popularity. These two men, as well, were competing for a singular position in the US Senate as the representative of Illinois, and these debates would largely impact the result of that election.
The debates took place in seven parts around the state of Illinois between the dates August 21st and October 15th.
What Did Lincoln Argue?
Abraham Lincoln ran on the philosophical premise that the government “cannot endure permanently half slave and half free” and that the entire country must be united on this issue in order to function. He attacked slavery by calling it a gross moral injustice and attacking the popular sovereignty for its shattering results in Kansas.
What Did Douglas Argue?
Douglas, on the other side of this debate, countered Lincoln by branding him as dangerously radical, thus disrupting the Union. He said that Lincoln was trying to destabilize the Union, and supported nationalizing slavery and racial inequality.
What Was the Outcome?
The immediate outcome of these debates resulted in Douglas’ victory and the victory of his party. The Democrats won 40 seats in the state house of Representatives, while the Republican party only attained 35. Stephen Douglas was also re-elected by the legislature in a 54-46 vote, even though Lincoln’s Republicans won 50.6% of the popular vote.
Years later, however, Lincoln went on to defeat Douglass in the 1860 Presidential election, attributed in part to the attention he received from the Lincoln-Douglas Debates.