Stephen Douglas – Political opponent of Abraham lincoln

Stephen Douglas plays an important role in American politics as Abraham Lincoln’s political opponent. Born in Brandon, Vermont on 23 April in 1823, Douglas grew up on his Uncle’s farm, he majored in law before leaving northeast in 1833, he shifted his living to Jacksonville Illinois. Douglas involved himself with state and local politics before entering as an elected representative in 1842, he served as a congressman for two terms then joined the senate in 1847, a position he held till his passing of 1861.

Douglas served the Congress, he had the distinction of being called with the nickname; little giant, this was because of his short stature, heavyset, and quick temper, despite this he was an excellent orator. Douglas was greatly influenced by President Andrew Jackson, he was a member of young Americans politically ambitious group under democrats trying to revitalize the party with the spirit of aggression, trying to expand its national power.

Douglas faced a challenge from President Abraham Lincoln in the 1858 Illinois senatorial race. Abraham Lincoln was a lesser-known member of the emerging Republican Party, whereas Douglas was a far more famous politician in the west, despite his popular victory in this election required head-to-head campaigning debates which Douglas achieved in a series of public debates. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln appeared in public debates between August and October 1858, they debated throughout the state with seven appearances touching some of the most controversial topics of the time which includes Slavery, popular Sovereignty, and Douglas’s role as slave power bleeding Kansas of the republican party race equality.

Newspapers and press published all the transcripts of these debates which lead Abraham Lincoln to gain National recognition as a Republican with an articulate Anti-slavery Leadership.

Despite Abraham Lincoln’s excellent performance in these debates against Douglas, the democrats got to win majority seats in the Illinois legislature.

Finally, Douglas got re-elected to the Senate for another term. Douglas worked hard to consolidate his position with the northern democrats trying to position himself as the 1860 Presidential candidate. However, his break with the Southern democrats had an adverse effect and fell short of his plan as a Presidential Candidate.

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debate

The Lincoln – Douglas debates though occurred in 1858 still popular and regarded as a very important political movement with the present historians. Abraham Lincoln’s famous “House Divided speech in which he says “I believe this Government cannot endure permanently Half Slave and Half free”, these debates began the launch of Abraham lincoln’s political career. The issues of slavery and state rights influenced all political dispose at a national level.

National-level issues (Abolition of Slavery)

In 1858, the United States government was on the brink of dissolution, two politicians were running for the Illinois senate seat, Stephen Douglas – Democrat candidate, Abraham Lincoln – Republican candidate. Their debates were held throughout Illinois, Douglas was running for his third term, he was a prominent politician with the democrats, due to his stature with the American public his debates and campaign received a lot of national attention.

 Dred Scott and Kansas Nebraska Act

The two major issues in the debates were racial, tensions, created by the Dred Scott and Kansas Nebraska Act and the idea of popular sovereignty. The 1857 Supreme court decision that slaves are property of the owner so the slaves are not considered as the citizens of the United States. Kansas Nebraska Act left the decision to the people in the territories to decide whether or not slavery will be allowed.

All these debates inspired the crowd of Douglas accusing Abraham Lincoln of being an Abolitionist. While Abraham Lincoln accused Douglas of wanting to continue with slavery. These main topics were reflective of major issues the country was facing at the national level, both were battling for what they considered would better the union. These debates gathered thousands of spectators and the press from all over Illinois.  The audience would participate in the debate throwing questions and applauding the participants. 

On the Views of Historians

Historians regarded the lincoln-Douglas debates as the model overlooking Abraham Lincoln’s passive stand and Stephen Douglas’s charity in the Presidential debates. Author Gill Troy described the debates, Stephen Douglas’s words were hostile while Abraham Lincoln took a passive stand leaving no offense to others.

The American Press published these debates all over the country; each paper took a partition stand benefitting the candidate the publisher backed up. Most of the party-controlled newspapers demonstrated uncivil extreme partisanship and the superficial nature of the campaign giving a false picture that it is a recent phenomenon. The democrat’s ticket won the majority of the districts Douglas won the seat, however, neither Douglas nor Lincoln won the popular election that falls.

Common grounds for Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas

Both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were self-made, they worked up from backgrounds that involved a great deal of hard work. They were influenced by reading many of the same works including the Bible, Aesop’s fables, and the Columbian Orator, their love for literature paid off, it helped both to develop and have a mastery over the English Language.

Abraham Lincoln and Douglas were victor antagonists for 25 years, but in the end good friends too, Douglas was a native of Vermont, Abraham Lincoln lacked formal education, he was self-taught through books, friends, and neighbors.

The Great Debates of 1858

Lincoln – Douglas was called the Great debates of 1858, it is a series of seven debates, the 17th-century amendments of the United States was ratified in 1913, senators were elected by respective state legislature, so Lincoln and Douglas were trying to win control of the Illinois general assemblies, these debates were centered around this general assembly, Abraham Lincoln had an opportunity to build a national profile in the rapidly growing Republican party. Stephen Douglas fought to defend his record, especially the role he played in the doctrine of “Popular of Sovereignty, and the inclusion Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854, the candidate spoke in nine congressional districts of Illinois. They decided on a joint appearance in the seven districts of Illinois. The debate lasted for 60 minutes each and finally 30 minutes rejoined by the first candidate, Dougal spoke the first four debates, it was an outdoor event with vast crowds.

These debates were on slavery on its allowance in the new states to ve formed, Douglas helped the decision should be made by the residents of the new state, Abraham Lincoln was against the expansion of slavery in any form. Yet he was not advocating abolition where it already existed. 

History Turn Back – New and Powerful arguments by Abraham lincoln

American history had never witnessed such an urge surge of press and newspaper coverage, both the candidates were addressing the entire nation, new technology available with the press publication. The papers published the speeches in full, some newspapers backed up their choice of candidate with minor corrections reporting the audience with positive reactions. The Associated Press of America sent messages to newspapers all over the country and the debate became a national event. The debates were held in August and October 1858, the newspaper reported the number of audiences gathered as listeners at various points, there were crowds traveling from one point to view the debate held at various parts. This popular address paved the way for Abraham Lincoln for the Presidency in 1860.

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