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Paper Topic:


The significance of the Lincoln-Douglas debates for the political history of America is hard to overestimate . Therefore , careful analysis of these debates can be extremely educational and enlightening . This will focus on three main aspects of the analysis , namely the causes of the debates , the content of the debates , and the results of the debates

The Lincoln-Douglas debates were a series of seven debates during the Illinois senatorial race of 1858 between Republican Abraham Lincoln and the Democratic incumbent , Stephen A . Douglas . The candidates were sharply divided on the issue of

slavery . Before Lincoln announced a formal challenge , the candidates spoke in turn in the cities of Chicago and Springfield . Thus , Lincoln suggested speaking to the same audiences at one time by writing the following to Douglas

`Will it be agreeable to you .to make an arrangement for you and myself to divide time , and address the same audiences during the present canvass (Encarta , 2007 , para . 3

Scrutinizing the social and political circumstances at the time of the election campaign , it is necessary to note the Kansas-Nebraska Act sponsored by Douglas , allowing slavery in the U .S . territories north of latitude 36 ?30 ' if there citizens agreed to it , and the U .S . Supreme Court Dred Scott decision of 1857 , allowing masters to bring slaves into free territory without any alterations in the legal status of a slave Therefore , the Supreme Court Dred Scott decision entered into a contradiction with the Kansas-Nebraska Act (Encarta , 2007

As for the content of the debate , Lincoln 's main focus was the human rights issue implicitly present in the debate on slavery . He told the audience that slavery violated the Declaration of Independence and was firmly determined to portray the practice of slavery as evil and immoral . For his part , Douglas paid considerable attention to legal technicalities , such as the principle of `popular sovereignty ' under which inhabitants were able to decide whether they would accept slavery in their territory (Encarta , 2007

However , this principle `with its self-proclaimed neutrality toward whether slavery was voted up or voted down , was a sheer absurdity on its face , according to Lincoln (Jaffa , 1999 ,

. 31

Lincoln employed all his rhetorical skills to prove the moral and ethical unacceptability of slavery . He also perceived the sharp division over the issue of slavery as a threat to national unity . When accepting his nomination , he said the following phrase

`A house divided against itself cannot stand . I believe this Government cannot endure permanently half-slave and half-free (University of Houston , 2008 , para . 4

He also argued that the Kansas-Nebraska Act and the Supreme Court 's Dred Scott decision were a part of conspiracy aimed at legalizing slavery in the entire territory of the United States

Douglas , in turn , focused on the right to self-government , which he saw as being of preeminent importance . However , as the debates progressed Douglas started to clash Lincoln 's position directly and accused him of favoring black Americans over whites . He ended up picturing his opponent as...

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