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Lincoln Douglas Debates

Lincoln Douglas Debates

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Storyboard Description

1850s America - Lincoln Douglas Debates - The T-Chart storyboard above allows students to compare and contrast the major arguments set forth by two extremely influential candidates of the time, that being Abraham Lincoln and Stephan Douglas. In their race for Illinois Senator, both Lincoln and Douglas presented strong arguments for how they believed the course of future America should run. With Douglas strongly supporting the idea of popular sovereignty, and Lincoln standing behind the idea that slavery should cease to spread or eventually exist, both candidates debated fiercely. Over the course of seven debates between August-October of 1858, Lincoln and Douglas masterfully presented their arguments in front of thousands. Ultimately, Stephan Douglas will emerge as victorious, but not without helping Lincoln emerge as a strong up and comer. Furthermore, these debates will help set the stage for the presidential Election of 1860 and the eventual outbreak of the Civil War. The StoryboardThat T-Chart will then help students organize the many ideas and ideologies presented by both candidates, helping them further comprehend the political stage that preceded the American Civil War.

Storyboard Text

  • Lincoln emerged in the Illinois senatorial debates as a young, bold politician. Hailing from Kentucky, Lincoln began his legal practices as a traveling lawyer. Lincoln took a staunch anti-slave position, in particular, its expansion into newly acquired territories of the west. Soon, he was an instrumental figure in the recently formed Republican Party, which primarily held this perspective.
  • Stephan Douglas, commonly referred to as the "Little Giant" for his short stature but strong positions and speaking abilities, also served as a Senator for Illinois. A member of the Democratic Party, Douglas strongly advocated for ideas of popular sovereignty, where the people chose whether or not their states would lawfully allow slavery. This would be his notable attempt at solving the "slave question".
  • I come from humble beginnings
  • Slavery should be a choice!
  • Abraham Lincoln's position as a Northern Republican was anti-slave. Lincoln was adamantly against the expansion or continuation of slavery as an institution. Lincoln saw the resolution of the slave question as imperative to preventing the dissolution of the Union. Furthermore, Lincoln believed slaves fell under the words and ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence, i.e. "all men are created equal".
  • All men are created EQUAL!
  • Stephan Douglas held a strong position as an advocate of "popular sovereignty". This belief was connected to the idea that the citizens of a territory or state should have the ultimate power to decide any laws that apply to their state. Unlike Lincoln, he did not believe slaves fell under the words of the Declaration, as they were considered property, not citizens.
  • Slavery is the will of the people and society!
  • Lincoln's main arguments were that slavery should not expand as the nation did, and if it were allowed to do so, the slave power would soon overrun the Union in all regards. In addition, he believed that slavery should be held to where it currently existed in the hopes that it would ultimately cease. Therefore, he argued, the nation could not exist half free and half slave.
  • Douglas's main arguments adhered to the idea that the people's will, and democratic vote, should decide the slave question. Falling back on principles of choice and power, the people, he argued, were to have the ultimate say. In addition, Douglas believed this idea was an extension of not only individual rights, but states rights as well.
  • A House divided will surely fall
  • The law of the land is the WILL of the PEOPLE!
  • Throughout the several debates that constituted the Lincoln-Douglas series, Lincoln often referred to what has become known as his "A House Divided" speech. In it, Lincoln argues that the Union could, and would not, survive as a half free, half slave nation. "It will become all one thing, or all the other", Lincoln remarked, going on to say that "its advocates will push [slavery] forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South".
  • Douglas rebutted Lincoln's arguments in what would become known as his "Freeport Doctrine", named after the Illinois town in which he delivered his words. In it, Douglas remarked that "the people have the lawful means to introduce [slavery] or exclude it as they please, for the reason that slavery cannot exist a day or an hour anywhere, unless it is supported by local police regulations". He also added that "those police regulations can only be established by the local legislature".
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