What are the Lincoln-Douglas Debates?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Lincoln-Douglas debates in 1858 were several debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas as they ran for the Unites States Senate seat for the state of Illinois. The main part of these debates dealt with the issue of slavery. Douglas believed in popular sovereignty. He wanted to let the people of an area decide if slavery should or shouldn’t exist. He indicated that while he was against slavery, he felt the people should decide. He went on to say that states could pass laws that were unfriendly to slave owners. This was called the Freeport Doctrine. This statement angered southerners who now knew they couldn’t vote for Douglas if he ever ran for president.

Lincoln stated that he was against slavery. He believed slavery was wrong and that it certainly should not spread. While Lincoln lost this election to Douglas, he did gain a national reputation that helped him in 1860 when he ran for President.

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