• Inside the Lincoln Sitting Room

    Lincoln Home

    National Historic Site Illinois

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858

The Lincoln-Douglas debates were a series of formal political debates between the challenger, Abraham Lincoln, and the incumbent, Stephen A. Douglas, in a campaign for one of Illinois' two United States Senate seats. Although Lincoln lost the election, these debates launched him into national prominence which eventually led to his election as President of the United States.

Lincoln and Douglas agreed to debate in seven of the nine Illinois Congressional Districts; the seven where Douglas had not already spoken. In each debate either Douglas or Lincoln would open with an hour address. The other would then speak for an hour and a half. The first then had 30 minutes of rebuttal. In the seven debates, Douglas, as the incumbent, was allowed to go first four times.

We are deeply indebted to the work of the Abraham Lincoln Association in collecting Lincoln's writings and publishing them as The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. It was from this monumental work that these selections were taken. The copyright to The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln is owned by the Abraham Lincoln Association, and any further copying or use of these debate transcripts must be with their permission.

 
Map of Illinois showing 1858 Lincoln-Douglas Debate Sites

First Debate Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858

Second Debate Freeport, Illinois, August 27, 1858

Third Debate Jonesboro, Illinois, September 15, 1858

Fourth Debate Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858

Fifth Debate Galesburg, Illinois, October 7, 1858

Sixth Debate Quincy, Illinois, October 13, 1858

Seventh Debate Alton, Illinois, October 15, 1858

Did You Know?

Potrait of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass said Lincoln was "the first great man that I talked with in the United States freely, who in no single instance reminded me of the difference between himself and myself, of the difference of color." Lincoln Home National Historic Site, Illinois