On the Ground with the Great Debates: Lincoln and Douglas Come to Galesburg
Klumpp, James F., Argumentation and Advocacy
"Now he belongs to the ages," famously memorialized Secretary of War Edwin Stanton over the just deceased Abraham Lincoln in the back parlor of Petersen's boarding house on April 15, 1865. The prophetic aphorism began the process that took Abraham Lincoln into American memory as one of a small group of national saints. As always in this process, beatification lifted Lincoln from among the conflicts, the complicated connections to others, the mix of character traits that formed the texture of his life. The abstract savior of the nation fogs the sharp vision of complex history. Historians since have struggled to reembody Lincoln in the face of this public iconology.
Public understanding of the Lincoln-Douglas debates has shared in this process. On the one hand, the debates exist most familiarly as a democratic imaginative, a free exchange of ideas attended to by the voters of Illinois, and then by a nation beyond, and through which the nation located its ultimate response to slavery. When presidential campaign debates were created in 1960, the standard against which they entered the public imaginary was this idealized view of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. On the other hand, when historians place the debates of the summer and fall of 1858 into their significance and place in history, it is as part of the greater story of the history of the United States coming to terms with the institution of slavery that soiled its birth and remained its moral cancer. In this iconology, the historical reality of citizens of Illinois gathering in towns throughout …
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Publication information: Article title: On the Ground with the Great Debates: Lincoln and Douglas Come to Galesburg. Contributors: Klumpp, James F. - Author. Journal title: Argumentation and Advocacy. Volume: 46. Issue: 3 Publication date: Winter 2010. Page number: 127+. © 2008 American Forensic Association. COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale Group.
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