Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Date: From 1858-08-21 to 1858-10-15

Place: Illinois

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates were seven debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas during the 1858 senatorial campaign. Nominated by the Republican Party to challenge Douglas, the Democratic incumbent, for a place in the U.S. Senate, Lincoln launched his campaign with his famous House Divided Speech at the Republican State Convention in June 1858. Douglas's success in countering Lincoln's arguments convinced Lincoln and his campaign managers to challenge Douglas to a series of debates. Douglas agreed to debate Lincoln in each of the seven congressional districts in Illinois. The first debate occurred at Ottawa on August 21, followed by debates in Freeport on August 27, Jonesboro on September 15, Charleston on September 18, Galesburg on October 7, Quincy on October 13, and Alton on October 15. The debates at Ottawa and Freeport set the tone for the remainder, with Lincoln attacking Douglas for his apparent disinterest in the moral dimensions of slavery and its expansion, and Douglas castigating Lincoln and the Republicans as a sectional party bent on abolition at the expense of the federal union. Douglas retained his seat, but the debates made Lincoln a national political figure, helping catapult him to the Republican nomination for president in 1860.

George Fort Milton, "Lincoln-Douglas Debates," Dictionary of American History , rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 4:155-56; Paul M. Angle, ed., The Complete Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1958).