The Political Debates between Abraham Lincoln and Steven Douglas

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“It was indeed the whole American people that listened to those debates,” remembered Carl Schurz, future Senator and Minister to Spain. He recounted how the “spectacle reminded him of…ancient times… of two armies…standing still to see their two principal champions fight out the contested cause between the lines in single combat.” It was observed that “no more striking contrast could have been imagined than that between those two men as they appeared upon the platform”, while those that gathered listened with “all the devoted attention that many later Americans would reserve for athletic contests.”

These nine debates, taking place during the late summer and early fall of 1858, would mark a reversal in fortunes, both for the men on the platform, and for the destiny of millions. While Senator Douglas would keep his office, the debates—and the thoughts and ideas manifested through them—would travel far and wide. The Lincoln-Douglas debates would go onto shape public opinion concerning whether America, as a nation, truly believed in a “common right of humanity”, or, whether we, the People, believed in the same principles that held lofty “the divine right of kings”.

Most of all, this book highlights the wide gulf between the liberalism before Kennedy’s assassination and the version that emerged afterwards.

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