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Lincoln-Douglas Debates, Overview (Huston, 2007)


James L. Huston, Stephen A. Douglas and the Dilemmas of Democratic Equality (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2007), 142.

At the end of July, Lincoln and Douglas agreed to a series of seven debates. Lincoln and the Republicans originally wanted the two to debate throughout the state; Douglas suggested only seven times, and the Republicans accepted. The seven debates were to be held at Ottawa (August 21), Freeport (August 27), Jonesboro (September 15), Charleston (September 18), Galesburg (October 7), Quincy (October 13), and Alton (October 15. They were only part of a massive speaking tour undertaken by both candidates. Lincoln traveled four thousand miles and gave sixty-three major addresses; Douglas journeyed nearly five thousand miles and gave fifty-nine speeches. The joint debates, however, attracted national attention and earned Lincoln a national reputation.

First-time readers of the debates are often surprised at the extent of repetition in them – indeed, at the amount of repetition in all political activity. Candidates repeated themselves for a particular reason: they could not assume that the different audiences they addressed knew the issues, the logic of the politician’s stand, or the defects in their opponents’. Not everyone read the papers or conversed constantly about politics. The only safe route was endless repetition. Except for a few interesting deviations, the seven debates illustrated this facet of American electioneering.

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