The Lincoln Seminar – The Lincoln Douglas Debates
The Lincoln–Douglas debates (also known as The Great Debates of 1858) were a series of seven debates between Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Illinois, and incumbent Senator Stephen Douglas, the Democratic Party candidate. At the time, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures; thus Lincoln and Douglas were trying for their respective parties to win control of the Illinois General Assembly. The debates previewed the issues that Lincoln would face in the aftermath of his victory in the 1860 presidential election. Although Illinois was a free state, the main issue discussed in all seven debates was slavery in the United States.
In agreeing to the official debates, Lincoln and Douglas decided to hold one debate in each of the nine congressional districts in Illinois. Because both had already spoken in two—Springfield and Chicago—within a day of each other, they decided that their “joint appearances” would be held in the remaining seven districts.
Steve Rogstad will take us through the debates in an informative and entertaining manner. This is a four-part series. Tuesday nights October, 1, 8, 22, 29.
The 1858 senatorial Lincoln-Douglas debates have been held up as the quintessential example of American public debate style. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas were political adversaries for nearly 30 years in Illinois and argued the issue of American slavery in the crucible of public debate. This course closely examines the political context for the debates, identify who the Illinois voters were, discuss the various topics both candidates introduced in the debates, and study the rhetorical ploys utilized by both candidates to further their political positions. Many persons maintain that the ideas expressed by Lincoln before and during the debates foreshadowed the American Civil War and threatened American social order.