The Lincoln-Douglas Debates Essay

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In 1858, Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln Engage in Debates over Slavery

In 1858, Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln engaged in a number of discussions about the issue of slavery and its spread throughout the country. Both were running for the Illinois Senate position. Douglas belonged to the Democratic Party, while Lincoln belonged to the Republican Party. The two disagreed on whether enslavement should still be practiced in the United States. Douglas backed slavery, whereas Lincoln was against it. Lincoln stated that he wanted to see the union stay intact and not split along racial lines. (Foner 490). He favored the abolition of slavery in America and opposed its spread. According to Lincoln, slavery was a morally wrong and inhuman act. Lincoln argued that it was important to let the slaves free and allow them to enjoy their stay in America. He wanted them to enjoy their resources gained from hard labor freely.

Douglas Opposes Lincoln's Argument and Campaigns for the Protection of Slavery

However, Douglas opposed Lincoln's argument and campaigned for the protection of the institution of slavery. He did not base his debate on the question of whether slavery is morally right or wrong. Douglas argued that the forefathers of the states talked about freedom for the Americans and not for the slaves (Lincoln and Douglas 1856). Therefore, each state had the right to do as it pleased; whether to keep slavery or end it. He said that there was no reason for uniformity in the union since it had remained half-slavery and half-slave free nation for a long time. His ambition was to see a country whereby the states were free to practice what worked for them although Illinois his state had ended slavery. He believed that those who wanted to continue with slavery in the United States had the right to uphold it without intimidation. According to Douglas, the issue about slavery remained a matter of choice, between two options, to end slavery or to sustain it.

Debate Over the Equality of African Americans

Equality for African Americans was another critical issue debated by Lincoln and Douglas. They had different arguments though they still held that the whites were superior to the blacks. Lincoln claimed that he did not intend to abolish slavery in the slaveholding state as he did not have any lawful right to do so. He said that he was not fighting for equality between the Americans and Africans, and he understood the superiority of the white man (Foner 491). His argument was a response to Douglas who had branded him as an activist for equality in the United States. Lincoln expressed his pride and respect for being an American. He said that the blacks and the whites were not equal in aspects such as color and intellectual capacities. However, the difference did not mean that the blacks were not supposed to enjoy universal rights to humanity. Human rights such as the right to eat, live, and pursue happiness were necessary to the blacks according to Lincoln. He believed that the signed Declaration of Independence was for all people in America including the Africans, and not for the whites alone.

Douglas' Belief in States' Right to Decide on Equality

Douglas held that the signed Declaration of Independence on equality did not cater for the Negros equality but only for the white man. He said that that government was meant for the white man alone and not to any other race. His stand was that the blacks would never be their equals, but this did not allude to the fact that they were supposed to be slaves in America (Lincoln and Douglas 1857). He believed that the rights, social amenities should be availed to the black people and all the other races in the United States. He held that it was for every state to decide for itself on the matter of equality. For them in Illinois, they had abolished slavery and that the decision that was better and favorable to them. Douglas position in these debates revolved around the freedom of the states to choose what was best for them without intimidation.

Significance of the Debate and the Aftermath

The debate was of great significance in America's history in the fight against slavery. Although Douglas won the senatorial seat, the southern Democrats lost their trust in him because of his stance on the issue of slavery (Lincoln and Douglas 1859). The results of the debate were not favorable to Steven Douglas, and as a result, his power in the Senate became weak. During the discussions, he had argued that slavery in the territories could be debarred by the local initiative "popular sovereignty." The argument became undesirable among the national Democrats and helped divide the party which eventually made him lose the presidential seat to Lincoln. Through the debates, Abraham Lincoln's fame grew amongst the people of America. He became a significant figure in the United States which motivated him to vie for the presidency. He later became the president of the United States in 1860. After his election, Lincoln then took his position to fight slavery and strengthen the Union. He now had the power for the fight than during the time of the debates. Lincoln's election fueled the American civil war which led to the end of slavery in the United States.

Works Cited

Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty! An American History: Seagull Fourth Edition. Vol. 1. WW Norton & Company, 2013.

Lincoln, Abraham, and Stephen Douglas. "Fourth Joint Debate at Charleston." sept 18.1858 (2015): 1854-1861.

July 07, 2023

Government History

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