Debates Began with Lincoln, Douglas
Two men, one tall and lanky with brooding eyes, a man awkward in movement, draped in ill-fitting clothes, a man with a high voice that carried well, came face-to-face with a short man, a man with the head of a lion and roaring voice who didnt quite fit his dimensions. They crossed swords for three hours on the most important issues of the day: slavery and the Kansas- Nebraska Act.
The short man set the terms of the debate, the fourth in a series scattered the length of Illinois. Sen. Stephen Douglas, the Little Giant, Democrat, idolized and damned, hadnt wanted debates. He correctly judged them to benefit his rival, a man called Lincoln, a man born in poverty, now a lawyer. But Douglas, under pressure, branded a "coward" by at least one publication, had agreed to debate Abraham Lincoln.
Some 12,000 people, estimates at the time, poured into the small southern-rooted town of Charleston to witness the strange spectacle of two so different men setting their marks on the most important issues of the time. They came from farms and small towns; they came in wagons, on horses; they walked, children tagging along, mothers carrying their babies. The contenders entered Charleston on Sept. …