MORE THAN FORTY EDITIONS of the Lincoln-Douglas debates have been published since 1860. But in a sense, this is the first.
The idea—and the need—for this book arose from the effort to put an earlier book to bed. In the course of editing final page proofs for the 1990 volume Lincoln on Democracy, an anthology of speeches and writings collected under the direction of Governor Mario Cuomo, I began wondering about the fidelity of some of the texts that for so long had engaged the governor, our team of scholars, and me—not to mention the generations of historians who labored in the Lincoln vineyards before us.
Nagging doubts lingered for good reason: none of the original manuscripts of Abraham Lincoln’s pre-presidential speeches has survived. Before entering the White House, Lincoln simply did not think it important to preserve them. Neither, apparently, did anyone else. Thus there is no surviving autograph version of his Lyceum speech, Cooper Union address, or House Divided speech, among other early triumphs.