The Kansas-Nebraska Crisis

Start Free Trial

Assess the statement: "The Lincoln-Douglas Debates were a verbal rehearsal for the disputes leading to the Civil War."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think that the statement is not entirely valid.  The first point would be that main arguments were presented in the Lincoln- Douglas debates regarding the role of slavery in the nation's future. However, the debates were very nuanced regarding the political logistics of slavery.  Issues such as popular sovereignty, Constitutional intent, and the idea of how to appropriate reality in the face of the Dred Scott decision were freely debated.  There was little absolutist discussion of Southern secession nor was there articulation that really spoke to the South.  The issue of slavery and its future were discussed and debated in nuanced and politically logistic terms, language that was far removed from the Southern claims of secession and absolute rejection of the Union.

Another challenging area that the statement yields lies in the foretelling of the Civil War.  Lincoln and Douglas disagreed, but their disagreements were verbal in nature and always revisited through discourse.  Putting aside the violence in the Civil War, the fundamental rift between North and South could not be resolved through any reasonable notion.  The North held the conviction that slavery was wrong or that the Union should remain intact.  The South held the conviction that secession was the only answer to preserve cultural identity.  In both convictions, there can be no debate or discussion.  There was no room for nuanced discussion.  The Lincoln- Douglas debates featured policy discussion and intricate analysis of legislative logistics.  This was not the timbre or force of the Civil War disagreements that kept North and South on the different sides of the battlefield.  

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial