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Lincoln Douglas Debates

March Blog

Ryan Pottle

on 19 March 2011

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Transcript of Lincoln Douglas Debates

Lincoln-Douglas Deabtes Before the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, many acts and compromises were made in an attempt to keep peace between the North and South. These included the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas Nebraska Act. Popular sovereignty, the idea that the people of a territory could decide if they did or did not want slavery, was first itroduced in the Compromise of 1850, and it was also used in the Kansas-Nebraska Act. These acts and copromises brought up discussion of the spread of slavery into the territories, and this became the main topic in the Lincoln-Dougals Debates. Lincoln's political party, the Rebuplicans had also just formed and were viewed as abolitionists by many southern Democrats. The senatorial debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas brought the topic of the expansion of slavery to national attention; this affected the Republican and Democratic Parties, the Presidential Election of 1860, and led to the formation of the Confederate States of America and the Civil War. The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 were dominated by the topic of slavery. When Lincoln was chosen as the Republican nominee for the Illinois' Senate seat, he gave his famous "House Divided" Speech where he expressed many of his beliefs about slavery. This speech, along with his campaign for the senate seat, led to Lincoln's confrontation with Douglas. Lincoln thought that slavery was morally wrong, and that the rights declared in the Declaration of Independence also apply to African Americans. However, Lincoln was still not in favor of giving African Americans full equality. He thought that the government had no right to force the Southern states to giving up slavery. Lincoln wanted to stop slavery's expansion westward and put it back on the "course of ultimate extinction." He thought that slavery should be confined in the South where it would eventually die out. Douglas was a strong supporter of popular sovereignty and believed that it was the right of the people to choose if they wanted slavery in their state. Douglas thought that the federal government had no right to involve themselves in the expansion of slavery into the territories. He also believed that the Declaration of Independence did not apply to African Americans and that the Constitution only guarantees equality for white citizens. Furthermore, Douglas said that the country cannot endure half free and half slave and accused Lincoln of promoting the abolition of slavery. During the Freeport Debates, Lincoln asked Douglas a question regarding his policy of popular sovereignty. In his answer, Douglas stood by his belief of popular sovereignty. " Douglas's answer became known as the Freeport Doctrine and greatly affected his political career, along with the Democratic Party. Even though Lincoln was a strong challenger, Douglas still managed to get re-elected to the Illinois Senate seat. Because of the debates, Lincoln gained nation-wide fame. This widespread fame and national attention made Lincoln a possible Republican candidate for the 1860 presidential election. After disagreement between various parts of the Republican Party, Lincoln was chosen as the Republican candidate because he was the only one that could be agreed upon. Lincoln, after beating his main competitor, Stephen Douglas, won the presidential election. This happened for various reasons. For one, Lincoln's widespread fame and beliefs about slavery allowed him to win over the majority of the Northern States. Also, a major split in the Democratic Party weakened the chances of Stephen Douglas becoming president.
Douglas's support of popular soverignty greatly hurt his chances at becoming president. It made the Republicans reconsider asking him to switch parties and angered many Southern Democrats. These Southern Democrats refused to nominate Douglas for President and choose their own candidate. This resulted in three candidates for the 1860 election: Abraham Lincoln for the Republicans, Stephen Douglas for the Northern Democrats, and John C. Breckinridge for the Southern Democrats. This split in the Democratic Party helped Lincoln beat out Douglas and win the Presidential Election. However, Douglas warned that the election of a Republican president would fuel the secession of many southern states from the Union, and he turned out to be correct.
When Lincoln was elected as a Republican president, many people viewed him as an abolitionist. However, Lincoln had no plans to abolish slavery. He held the same views as the majority of the people in his party and stayed by his original statement that he thought slavery was immoral and hoped to end it someday, but promised not to disturb it where it already existed.

However, southern Democrats were still afraid that slavery was going to be abolished and many southern states started to secede from the Union, South Carolina being the first. In total, eleven states seceded from the Union formed their own country, called the Confederate States of America. Confederate forces then attacked the Federal Military Base, Fort Sumter. This attack forced Lincoln to send troops to take back the base and ignite a Civil War.
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