Lincoln-Douglas Debates – Background, Summary & Significance

From August to October 1858, Abraham Lincoln, Illinois Republican candidate for the United States Senate, faced outgoing Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas in a series of seven debates. Thousands of spectators and journalists from across the country watched the two fight over the main issue facing the nation then: slavery and the battle for its expansion into new territories.

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Context and context of the debates

As the architect of the Kansas-Nebraska law, Douglas was one of the country’s foremost politicians and considered a future presidential candidate. The controversial law of 1854 repealed the Missouri Compromise and established the doctrine of popular sovereignty, whereby each new territory joining the Union would decide for itself whether it would become a free state or a slave state.

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