Lincoln, Douglas, and the Fate of a Nation

Lecture Description

In the summer and fall of 1858 Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in seven debates across Illinois in their rivalry for the U.S. Senate. Though only a statewide race, the debates captured widespread attention in a nation increasingly polarized over slavery. Lincoln lost the race, but the debates catapulted him onto the national stage, primarily due to his audacious claim that slavery was at odds with the country’s mission, and therefore could not be permitted to extend into the west. Today the debates continue to capture our attention not only as skilled oratory, but because they hinged on problems that remain central to American politics, especially the meaning and purpose of democracy.


Lincoln Politics

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