Abraham Lincoln
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Abraham Lincoln. Stephen Douglas. Objective: To examine the importance of the Lincoln – Douglas debates. Lincoln – Douglas Debates. In 1858, Abraham Lincoln challenged incumbent Stephen Douglas for his seat in the Senate. ( Incumbent – the holder of an office or position).

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Abraham Lincoln

Stephen Douglas

Objective: To examine the importance of the Lincoln – Douglas debates.


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Lincoln – Douglas Debates

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln challenged incumbent Stephen Douglas for his seat in the Senate.

(Incumbent – the holder of an office or position)

Abraham Lincoln (left) and Stephen Douglas (right)


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Lincoln – Douglas Debates

• A series of 7 face-to-face debates held throughout Illinois.

• Douglas & Lincoln gave 200 additional speeches to towns and cities across the state

• Debates followed familiar themes – Douglas defended slavery while Lincoln opposed it

Thousands gathered to watch - bands, parades & fireworks & scenes like this were common


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Lincoln – Douglas Debates

Debates were as much about the men as it was about slavery.

“Honest Abe”

“The Little Giant”

“He was gawky, unkempt, and unassuming. He traveled alone, a forlorn figure with a tattered carpetbag on his lap, lost in silent contemplation.”

Refined, passionate speaker

Traveled in high style in a private rail car, surrounded by advisers & his beautiful wife


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Resume – STEPHEN DOUGLAS

• Chairman of the Committee on Territories

• Crafted the Compromise of 1850

  • • Associate Justice of Illinois Supreme Court, elected twice to Congress, and three times in the Senate.

  • Married into wealth – wife inherited a Mississippi plantation


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Resume – ABRAHAM LINCOLN

• Self-taught lawyer

• Elected to the Illinois State Legislature

  • • Ran unsuccessfully twice for US Senate but served in House

  • Outspoken critic of the Mexican War

  • First Republican Party candidate – originally sided with the Whig Party, which dissolved in 1856


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Lincoln – Douglas Debates

Stephen Douglas:

• Lincoln was wrong for wanting to end slavery.

• If Lincoln tried to end slavery, the U.S. could face a civil war.

• Douglas believed that each territory should be able to decide on its’ own whether or not to allow slavery by using popular sovereignty.


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Lincoln – Douglas Debates

Abraham Lincoln:

  • • Lincoln believed that slavery was a “moral wrong" and should be kept out of new territories.

  • He did not believe in ending slavery where it already existed, but nevertheless believed that African Americans were guaranteed “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as stated in the Declaration of Independence.


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Lincoln Gains the Advantage

  • • Argued that it was the national government’s role to prevent the expansion of slavery.

  • Douglas was conflicted re: popular sovereignty because the Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to take away slaveholder’s property. In saying so, he left an opening for Lincoln to win the debate.

  • When asked by Lincoln if he thought P.S. could overrule the Supreme Court, Douglas said:

  • “The people have the lawful means to introduce it or exclude it as they please.”


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Excerpts from Lincoln – Douglas Debates

  • “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.”

  • “I agree with Judge Douglas he is not my equal in many respects---certainly not in color, perhaps not in moral or intellectual endowment. But in the right to eat the bread, without leave of anybody else, which his own hand earns, he is my equal and the equal of Judge Douglas, and the equal of every living man.”


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Lincoln – Douglas Debates - RESULTS

• Douglas won the election by a slim margin – at that time, the state legislature chose their senators, not the people.

  • • However, Lincoln became well known throughout the nation.

  • More than 30,000 copies of the transcripts of the debates were sold in the West and North.

  • Douglas failed in his presidential campaign to even get nominated, while Lincoln’s won the support of the new Republican Party (leftovers from the Whigs and Free Soil), and eventually won the presidency in 1860.


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