What a fascinating and insightful book on the Lincoln-Douglas debates that occured in 1858. Allen Guelzo details, and I mean details, the players, the strategies, the routes, and even keeps score of the historic matches between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln as they campaigned for the Illinois senate seat. And actually, Douglas not only had Lincoln as an opponent, but President James Buchanan who used the levers of power to humble the Little Giant.
It’s difficult to imagine the essence of the debate — whether a black person has natural rights to self-determination or is property to be used as his master sees fit — could even be a question. Douglas sought to avoid the issue, resting on his “popular soverignty” solution to the slave question, that is, let states and territories decide for themselves whether to allow or disallow slavery. Whereas Lincoln insisted that the Declaration of Independence included blacks as much as whites and that no man should work while another man takes his earnings for himself.
Douglas would win the election, but the debates raised Lincoln’s profile to the national level. When the two sparred again in 1860, Lincoln would win and Douglas would hold the hat of the first Republican sworn in as president of the United States.
Have you read the book?