The Kansas-Nebraska Crisis

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What were Lincoln and Douglas's positions on slavery expansion during the 1858 Illinois senatorial debates?

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During the series of debates during the summer of 1858, both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were faced with the tricky prospect of articulating positions on the issue that was quickly catapulting the United States toward a war against itself, that of slavery and whether it would expand with the United States.  Both men leveled plenty of accusations at each other, among them, Lincoln claiming that Douglas was a "puppet" for the pro-slavery folks, and Douglas claiming that Lincoln was an abolitionist.  Douglas believed that the nation could and would survive indefinitely even if it were partially with, and partially without, slavery.  For his part, Lincoln, who believed that African-Americans were basically inferior to those of the white, European lineage, acknowledged that he didn't really know what the best answer was, but that he was sure that one human enslaving another did not line up with the democratic ideals on which America was founded.  On another occasion, Lincoln had mentioned the impossibility of the slavery situation, admitting that he did not expect the Union to divide, but he did expect that it would eventually be all one thing or all the other in regard to the slavery issue, stating that "a house divided against itself cannot stand". 

Douglas's insistence on the constitutionality of popular sovereignty gave him a short term political gain in the form of the Senate seat, but Lincoln, far from going home and tending his farm, would take his moderate views straight to the White House two years later when he became president of the soon to be at war United States in the election of 1860.    

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