Significance of the Lincoln Douglas Debates

In 1858, Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln faced each other in a series of seven debates that focused on slavery and its influence on American politics and society as they vied for the Illinois Senate seat. The debates were dubbed the Lincoln-Douglas debates and a true representation of grassroots democracy. The debates stifled Douglas’ political career while simultaneously propelling Lincoln’s career into the national spotlight.

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Douglas triumphed over Lincoln in the race for the Illinois Senate seat. The congressional districts represented in the Illinois legislature at the time favored the Democrats and, as such, returned Douglas to the Senate. However, whereas he might have won the battle, in the long-run Lincoln won the war. The popularity of the Lincoln-Douglas debates propelled him into the national spotlight (Voss-Hubbard, 2010). Lincoln’s eloquent and bold statement regarding his party’s position on slavery propelled him to become a figure of national importance. The Republicans appreciated Lincoln’s articulation and stellar performance during the debates. Consequently, this enabled Lincoln’s nomination for president in 1860. Lincoln won the elections to become the 16th president of the US. On the hand, by reaffirming his support for popular sovereignty. Douglas became further alienated from the Democratic Party (Wells, 2021).

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Thus, the most significant aspect of the Lincoln-Douglas debate is that they propelled one statesman to national politics while prompting the downfall of the other. The debates reinvigorated Lincoln’s political career while simultaneously alienating Douglas from the Democratic Party. The debates set the stage for the Election of 1860 which saw Lincoln elected as the 16th US president.

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