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.
First Debate Ottawa, Illinois, August 21, 1858
Last updated: February 16, 2017