Lincoln-Douglas Alton Debate
Oct 15, 1994
Follow Similar Programs
Stephen A. Douglas, the incumbent senator, and Abraham Lincoln, a former congressman and current attorney, met for the last in a series of seven debates for the right to represent Illinois in the Senate. They debated the .. Read More
Stephen A. Douglas, the incumbent senator, and Abraham Lincoln, a former congressman and current attorney, met for the last in a series of seven debates for the right to represent Illinois in the Senate. They debated the issues of the day before an outdoor crowd in Alton, Illinois. Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Douglas examined their own and each other’s positions on several issues, including states' rights and the institution of slavery. They also argued over whether the essence of their debates and the national discourse at the time was the extension of slavery or the preservation of states' rights. This seventh and last debate was significant for several reasons. It provides a good summary of the various issues since it was the last chance for both men to espouse their views in joint session. The two men also used different methods in this last debate. Abraham Lincoln tried to use the lack of constitutional references to slavery to show that the framers intended it to ultimately die out. He also argued a contradiction between popular sovereignty (if the people of a territory did not want slavery) and the supposed constitutional right to hold slaves in the Dred Scott decision. On the other hand, Stephen A. Douglas stood by his emphasis on the importance of states' rights and obeying the constitution as he interpreted it. Finally, this last debate seems more philosophical and less personal than the Quincy debate just two days earlier because their ideas had crystallized over the six previous encounters and because both men seem to have sensed the importance of stating their case to posterity as well as to the Alton crowd. This was the last of seven re-enactments of the Lincoln-Douglas senatorial debates in 1858. This debate occurred on October 15, 1858 from 2:00 pm to to 5:00 pm. Mr. Douglas spoke for an hour, Mr. Lincoln for an hour and a half, and Mr. Douglas replied for another half hour. Approximately 5,000 people witnessed the event. In the 1994 re-enactment, the following people portrayed the characters: Mayor Towse (Mayor Metcalf), Steven Potter (H.W. Billings), Donald Lowery (Stephen A. Douglas), Scott Mandrell (Abraham Lincoln).