The Lincoln-Douglas debates were born out of recriminations over political decisions such as the Dred Scott case and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. These examples—the former dealing with a landmark Supreme Court decision not to include blacks under the list of citizens granted protection by the Constitution and the latter having repealed the Missouri Compromise, granting individual territories the right to determine their own laws regarding slavery rather than prohibiting it in the northern states outright—were symptomatic of a larger public dispute concerning the immorality of human slavery.
The contrasting political philosophies of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas essentially represented the age-old dispute as to whether decisions of national significance should be left to individual states or should be absorbed in the purview of the federal government. Senator Douglas, a Democrat, represented the former view, Republican Abraham Lincoln, the latter.
Douglass specifically advocated for...
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