Oct 15 1858: Last Lincoln V. Douglas Debate

By Cavendish, Richard | History Today, October 2008 | Go to article overview

Oct 15 1858: Last Lincoln V. Douglas Debate


Cavendish, Richard, History Today


The seven debates between the Democrat US senator for Illinois, Stephen A. Douglas, and his Republican rival for the senate seat, Abraham Lincoln, turned on slavery. Douglas had written the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed the inhabitants of new states to decide whether slavery should be legal in them. In 1857 the US Supreme Court's decision in the Dred Scott case, which declared the Missouri Compromise of 1820 banning slavery north of latitude 36[degrees] 20' N to be unconstitutional, sharpened tensions on the issue.

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Douglas still believed that the citizens of new states should be allowed to vote on whether to permit slavery. Lincoln argued for no further expansion of slavery anywhere, in the hope of its ultimate extinction throughout the United Stares.

The two of them agreed to take it in turn to open each debate and speak for an hour, followed by the other for an hour and a half, followed by the opener for the last half hour. …

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