Join for a Free Newsela Account

It's free to read Newsela. Join and get unlimited access to read every article at every reading level.

U.S. HISTORY
 
Composite image of portrait photographs of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 (left) and Stephen Douglas in 1859.
Composite image of portrait photographs of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 (left) and Stephen Douglas in 1859. Wikipedia

Time Machine (1858): The Lincoln–Douglas debate at Freeport, Illinois

Editor's Note: The Lincoln–Douglas debates took place in 1858. They were a series of seven talks during the Illinois Senate election. Abraham Lincoln was running for the Senate as a Republican. He was running against the current senator, Stephen Douglas, a Democrat.

Although Illinois was a free state, the main thing the two men discussed was slavery in the United States. Lincoln believed slavery was wrong. Still, he was not yet an abolitionist, or someone who wanted to free all slaves so they could be equal members of society. During the debates, he spoke of trying to make sure slavery did not spread to territories that had not become states yet.

Lincoln lost this race, but the debates made him well-known and helped him develop his views on slavery. He faced these same topics again when he became president in 1860. In 1863, President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation freed 3 million slaves.

Lincoln Leads Off With Answers

The debate in Freeport, Illinois, took place on August 27, 1858. It was attended by 20,000 people. Crowded trains arrived from all over the state.

Douglas arrived the night before and was welcomed by a procession of 75 torches. Lincoln arrived on the Illinois Central train. He was saluted by the cannon and received by thousands of Republicans.

At 2 p.m., the debate began. Lincoln led off by replying to the questions asked by Douglas at a previous debate in Ottawa, Illinois. 

Question 1: I desire to know whether Lincoln, today, stands as he did in 1854, in favor of an unconditional ban of the fugitive slave law. (This law states that slaves who escape from one state to another can be captured and returned.)

Answer: I do not now, nor ever did, stand in favor of an unconditional ban of the fugitive slave law.

Question 2: I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged today, as he did in 1854, against the admission of any more slave states into the Union, even if the people want them.

Answer: I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any more slave states into the Union.

Question 3: I want to know whether he stands pledged against the admission of a new state into the Union with such a constitution as the people of that state may see fit to make.

Answer: I do not stand pledged against the admission of a new state into the Union, with such a constitution as the people of that state may see fit to make.

Question 4: I want to know whether he stands, today, pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

Answer: I do not stand, today, pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

Question 5: I desire him to answer whether he stands pledged to ban the slave trade between the different states.

Answer: I do not stand pledged to ban the slave trade between the different states.

Question 6: I desire to know whether he stands pledged to prohibit slavery in all the territories of the United States, south as well as north of the Missouri Compromise line.

Answer: I believe in the right and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States territories.

Question 7: I desire him to answer whether he is opposed to gaining any new territory unless slavery is first prohibited therein.

Answer: I am not generally opposed to honest gaining of territory; and, in any given case, I may or may not oppose such action. It depends if I think such action would or would not disturb the slavery question among our eyes. ... Now, my friends, it will be perceived upon an examination of these questions and answers, that so far, I have only answered that I am not committed to this, that or the other. Douglas has not framed his questions to ask me anything more than this, and I have answered in strict accordance with them.

Lincoln Offers Details On Views

Lincoln then proceeded to give his views upon the several points presented. He would keep slavery out of the territories, and thus never be called to vote upon the reception of a slave state; but, if after a territory had been kept free, it should present a pro-slavery constitution (a moral impossibility), he would vote for its admission.

He would be in favor of exercising the power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and in the language of Henry Clay, "Sweep from the capital that foul blot upon our nation."

After this, he asked Douglas the following questions:

1. If the people of Kansas (a free state) shall adopt a state constitution and ask admission into the Union under it, will you vote to admit them?

2. Can the people of a United States territory exclude, or ban, slavery, previous to the formation of a state constitution?

3. If the Supreme Court of the United States shall decide that the states cannot exclude slavery, are you in favor of accepting such decision as a rule of political action?

4. Are you in favor of acquiring additional territory no matter how it may affect the nation on the slavery question? 

Douglas replied: 

1. He would admit Kansas with her present population.

2. People of any territory could ban slavery before becoming a state.

3. He would resist the decision of the Supreme Court should it decide that a state cannot ban slavery.

4. He was in favor of acquiring territory without regard to slavery.

Douglas Inconsistent On Response

In his answer to the third question, Douglas contradicted what he said in Chicago. On July 9, he had declared that he would respect the decision of the Supreme Court in regards to slavery. 

Lincoln pointed out that Douglas was inconsistent. Lincoln's supporters continued meeting while Douglas' supporters were not heard from for the rest of the day.

Join for a free account to read the full article.
Related Articles
Related Text Sets

Quiz

1050L

You must be a registered user

to submit quizzes.

1
Anchor 6: Point of View/Purpose

What is the purpose of this statement from the section "Lincoln Offers Details On Views"?

He would be in favor of exercising the power to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, and in the language of Henry Clay, "Sweep from the capital that foul blot upon our nation."

A

It shows that Lincoln felt that people in Washington, D.C. should be neutral toward slavery.

B

It shows that Lincoln believed slavery was wrong and should be removed from Washington, D.C.

C

It shows that Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery only in the northern states.

D

It shows that Lincoln would not want to move to the nation's capital if elected.

2
Anchor 1: What the Text Says

Read the section "Lincoln Leads Off With Answers." Which of the following selections supports the idea that Lincoln was anti-slavery?

A

I do not now, nor ever did, stand pledged against the admission of any more slave states into the Union.

B

I do not stand, today, pledged to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia.

C

I do not stand pledged to ban the slave trade between the different states.

D

I believe in the right and duty of Congress to prohibit slavery in all the United States territories.

3
Anchor 1: What the Text Says

Which sentence from the section "Douglas Inconsistent On Response" suggests that Lincoln won the debate against Douglas?

A

In his answer to the third question, Douglas contradicted what he said in Chicago.

B

On July 9, he had declared that he would respect the decision of the Supreme Court in regards to slavery.

C

Lincoln pointed out that Douglas was inconsistent.

D

Lincoln's supporters continued meeting while Douglas' supporters were not heard from for the rest of the day.

4
Anchor 6: Point of View/Purpose

How does the author convey the importance of the issue of slavery in the debate?

A

by showing that most of the men's statements addressed slavery

B

by showing that both men said they wanted to abolish slavery

C

by showing that the crowd asked many questions about slavery

D

by showing that neither man was willing to talk about slavery

Write

1050L
{{ answers_for_review[0].student.user.first_name }} {{ answers_for_review[0].student.user.last_name }}
Write Preview

Write is a feature that allows students to answer open-ended questions. Teachers are able to customize which questions they want to ask their students.


Sample Prompt

Write a short paragraph that explains the central idea of the article. Use at least two details from the article to support your response.

Escriba un párrafo corto que explique la idea central del artículo. Use al menos dos detalles del artículo para apoyar su respuesta.

Select a class for your response
{{classroom.name}} / {{teacher.user.last_name}},
Edit Prompt
Your Prompt
Default

Note: Some of your students have already responded to the default prompt. You are editing a prompt that students have already written against. Editing the prompt now may affect the meaning of existing student work.


Recommended Annotation Visible only to you
     
Annotate

Unable to save at this time.