Abraham Lincoln to Stephen A. Douglas, 24 July 18581
Hon. S. A. DouglasMy Dear Sir:—
Will it be agreeable to you to make an arrangement for you and myself to divide time, and address the same audiences2 the present canvass?3 Mr. Judd, who will hand you this, is authorized to receive your answer; and, if agreeable to you, to enter into the terms of such arrangement.4
Your obedient servant,A. Lincoln.
1This printed transcription appears on page 73 of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates Scrapbook. The source of this clipping was the Daily Illinois State Journal. A copy of the letter written by Norman B. Judd is also extant. The original letter in Abraham Lincoln's hand has not been located.
Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield), 29 July 1858, 2:2.
2In Judd’s copy of this letter, the word “during” appears here.
3In June 1858, the Illinois Republican Convention nominated Abraham Lincoln to challenge Stephen A. Douglas for the U.S. Senate. With this invitation, Lincoln set the stage for what would become one of the most famous local political contests in U.S. history and a precursor to the 1860 presidential election. Prior to the seven debates between Lincoln and Douglas, Lincoln had already made sixty-three speeches in 1858, and Douglas claimed to have made one-hundred and thirty. Douglas, the incumbent, was more widely known than Lincoln and had the numeric advantage of the Democrats in the General Assembly, which selected U.S. senators in those days. He also represented a divided party and faced a growing population in northern Illinois that was hostile to slavery. Lincoln, on the other hand, had the advantage of a united Republican party, a growing antipathy toward slavery in the state, and a reputation for integrity. Nevertheless, his views on racial issues were unpopular, as was his stand on the Mexican War. The debates would highlight the fundamental differences in the men’s characters and focus on the main issues of the day, the expansion of slavery and racial equality. While the immediate effect of the debates was the re-election of Douglas, the long-term results were the opposite. Lincoln was catapulted to national prominence, allowing him to run for president in 1860, and Douglas’s campaign against Lincoln diminished his chances of future success. See 1858 Federal Election; Lincoln-Douglas Debates.
David M. Potter and Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), 332-33; Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 1:486-87, 556-57; Allen C. Guelzo, “House Divided: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Political Landscape of 1858,” The Journal of American History 94 (September 2007), 392; George Fort Milton, "Lincoln-Douglas Debates," Dictionary of American History , rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 4:155-56.
4Judd’s copy included a note, in Judd's hand, confirming that Judd delivered the original note to Douglas on July 24.
Judd served as the head of the Illinois Republican State Central Committee at this time. Some party members blamed Lincoln’s senatorial defeat on Judd’s mismanagement.
Douglas responded to Lincoln on the same day, July 24, and proposed debates at “one prominent point" in seven of the nine congressional districts in the state, excluding the second (Chicago) and sixth districts (Springfield), where the two had already effectively debated, with Douglas speaking at Chicago on July 9 and Lincoln answering on July 10, and with Douglas speaking at Springfield on July 17 and Lincoln answering the same day. Lincoln accepted Douglas's terms on July 29.
Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life, 1:467-72, 473-74; 484, 553; Stephen A. Douglas to Abraham Lincoln; Stephen A. Douglas to Abraham Lincoln; Abraham Lincoln to Stephen A. Douglas ; Abraham Lincoln to Stephen A. Douglas ; Abraham Lincoln to Stephen A. Douglas The Lincoln Log: A Daily Chronology of the Life of Abraham Lincoln, 9 July 1858, https://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1858-07-09; 10 July 1858, https://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1858-07-10; 17 July 1858, https://www.thelincolnlog.org/Results.aspx?type=CalendarDay&day=1858-07-17.

Printed Transcription, 1 page(s), Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana, Library of Congress (Washington, DC).