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The Lincoln-Douglas Debates:

The First Complete, Unexpurgated Text

Harold Holzer

Publication Year: 2004

The seven debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held during the Illinois senatorial race of 1858 are among the most important statements in American political history, dramatic struggles over the issues that would tear apart the nation in the Civil War: the virtues of a republic and the evils of slavery. In this acclaimed book, Holzer brings us as close as possible to what Lincoln and Douglas actually said, Using transcripts of Lincoln's speeches as recorded by the pro-Douglas newspaper, and vice-versa, he offers the most reliable, unedited record available of the debates. Also included are background on the sites, crowd comments, and a new introduction.A vivid, boisterous picture of politics during our most divisive period.This fresh, fascinating examination.. deserves a place in all American history collection.-Library Journal

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-8


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pp. ix-x

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Preface to the Fordham University Press Edition

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pp. xi-xviii

Ten years ago, the initial appearance of this book unexpectedly set course, it was nothing like the mammoth explosion of interest that greeted the original Lincoln-Douglas debates. Back in 1858, the debates not only riveted the eyewitnesses who packed town squares and fairgrounds to hear them in Illinois, but also captured the at ...

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pp. xix-xxii

More than forty editions of the Lincoln-Douglas debates have been The idea-and the need-for this book arose from the effort to put an earlier book to bed. In the course of editing final page proofs for the 1990 volume Lincoln on Democracy, an anthology of speeches and writings wondering about the fidelity of some of the texts that for so long had ...

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pp. xxiii-xxv

This project could never have been undertaken, much less realized, without the invaluable help of a number of people whose efforts deserve more gratitude than I can possibly acknowledge adequately here. Collection at the Illinois State Historical Library in Springfield, helped facilitate the research by providing the original Illinois newspaper rec ...

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pp. 1-33

"The praries are on fire," reported a New York newspaper in 1858, gazing west to take the temperature of the most heated election contest in the nation.1
In the summer of that turbulent year, as America slid perilously closer to the brink of disunion, two Illinois politicians seized center stage...

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A Word on the Texts

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pp. 34-39

The texts published here for the first time since 1858 are the unedited transcripts recorded on the spot during each Lincoln-Douglas debate by the opposition press. Previous anthologies presented only the much improved, suspiciously seamless versions supposedly recorded simultaneously by each debater's friendly newspaper...

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The First Joint Debate at Ottawa, August 21, 1858

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pp. 40-85

The first Lincoln-Douglas debate began late. No one was prepared for the crush of humanity that poured into the overwhelmingly Republican village of Ottawa on that searingly hot day, and no one made adequate provisions to control the crowd. The result bordered on chaos, and Lincoln later confided of the...

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The Second Joint Debate at Freeport, August 27, 1858

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pp. 86-135

Stephen A. Douglas arrived in Freeport the night before the second great debate to be greeted by "a vast multitude," "a turn-out of torches," and "a salvo of artillery" as enthusiastic as any welcome ever afforded "Napoleon or Victoria." At least, that is how the Democratic press described the reception afforded him there. As a...

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The Third Joint Debate at Jonesboro, September 15, 1858

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pp. 136-184

They called the region Egypt-perhaps because the throat of land here that jutted into the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers looked so much like the Nile Delta; possibly because its old Indian mounds resembled pyramids; or maybe only because its best-known town was named Cairo. No one knows for sure. What...

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The Fourth Joint Debate at Charleston, September 18, 1858

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pp. 185-233

For Abraham Lincoln, the fourth debate at Charleston was in many ways a homecoming. Thirty years earlier, as a nineteen-year-old pioneer boy, he had migrated to this region with his family, negotiating a huge oxcart brimming with their crude belongings. Here his aged stepmother still lived in a primitive cabin...

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The Fifth Joint Debate at Galesburg, October 7, 1858

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pp. 234-276

The "immense" audience that massed on the campus of Knox College in Galesburg for the fifth Lincoln-Douglas meeting was by some accounts the largest of the debates. It might have been even larger had not the perils of nineteenth-century rail travel conspired with the extremes of autumn prairie weather to inhibit attendance...

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The Sixth Joint Debate at Quincy, October 13, 1858

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pp. 277-320

Located at the far western edge of central Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from the state of Missouri, Quincy was moderate in political sentiment, with a slight edge in support for the Democrats. In short, it was typical of the regions in which both candidates needed to broaden their appeal in order to win the...

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The Seventh Joint Debate at Alton, October 15, 1858

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pp. 321-370

In terms of pure drama, the Lincoln-Douglas encounter at Alton paled before the memory of the violent confrontation that had made the river village infamous twenty-one years before. Back in 1837, abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy had been murdered here by a violent pro-slavery mob while trying to protect his printing press...

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Appendix-Lincoln vs. Douglas: How the State Voted

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pp. 371-372

Neither Abraham Lincoln nor Stephen A. Douglas "won" a popular election for the Senate in 1858. Neither of their names appeared on the ballot, and thus, citizens could not vote for either candidate directly. Under the rules governing Senate elections in nineteenth-century America, voters cast their ballots for local legislative nominees who in...

The 1858 Popular Vote-Debate Countries

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pp. 373-374


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pp. 375-382


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pp. 383-394


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pp. 423-430

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247004
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823223428
Print-ISBN-10: 0823223426

Page Count: 394
Publication Year: 2004