Trump Impeachment Recalls Lincoln-Douglas Debates

In my last post, I quoted Abraham Lincoln in his famous 1858 debates during the contest for the U.S. Senate in Illinois with incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas. “Historian Matthew Pinsker explains the series of debates that would eventually help Abraham Lincoln become a stronger national candidate for president.”

Professor Eric Foner of Columbia University counts the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 as one of the high points in the history of American politics.

Patrick Reed: “Here are excerpts from a 1940 dramatization of Lincoln’s debates with Stephen A. Douglas. They capture well the atmosphere as well as the substance of the arguments, which were transcribed by the press and published nationwide during a campaign that captured the country’s attention and made Lincoln a national figure. Early in Lincoln’s rebuttal to Douglas here, you will hear him assert that, “in some respects,” a Black “is certainly not my equal.” In fact, Lincoln elaborated on this view, especially in the debates in southern Illinois, a region populated by many whites who had left the South not because they opposed slavery, but because they hated Blacks and did not want to live in their vicinity. These statements remind us that Lincoln was a political animal and could tailor his message for its audience. But a careful reading of Lincoln’s words shows that even before the most conservative crowds, he consistently asserted that “there is no reason in the world why the Negro is not entitled to all the natural rights enunciated in the Declaration of Independence: the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I hold that he is as much entitled to these as the White man.” Probably because of such statements, Lincoln lost the election. Even so, he had cleared a road on which he was already moving toward the White House and, from there, to Gettysburg. Source: Abe Lincoln of Illinois (1940); the quote is from Garry Wills’ Lincoln at Gettysburg (1992), p. 100.

“Lincoln speaks on differences between the Democrats and Republicans concerning slavery. Michael Krebs portrays Abraham Lincoln in reenactment at the lone surviving Lincoln-Douglas Debate site. More information about this debate is available at…​.”


Drill Deeper:

Lincoln-Douglas Debates (

How Lincoln Bested Douglas in the 1858 Debates (

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