1. Journal of American History
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  5. Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858

Houses Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858


Introduction

This Teaching the JAH segment was created by Allen C. Guelzo.

The Lincoln-Douglas debates are often portrayed as a tale of delayed gratification: Abraham Lincoln lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in 1858, only to find the notoriety garnered from the debates hurling him toward election as the sixteenth president in 1860. In telling, the ferocity and dynamics of the 1858 state election become subordinate to the national contest of 1860, while the connections between local and national politics in the antebellum period are lost altogether. Based on examinations of state vote ledgers, untapped newspaper accounts, and archival collections, Allen C. Guelzo re-creates those connections at multiple levels, offering new conclusions concerning who organized, who participated and who “won” in 1858.