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Lincoln vs. Douglas: Debate over Slavery Abolishment. Essay on American History.

4 pages
926 words
Wesleyan University
Type of paper: 
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The issue of slavery was a discussion that involved great personalities in the American history after the civil war period. While some people supported the idea of retaining slaves, others like Lincoln saw that there was no need to continue enslaving others. It is from such great discussions and debates that led to the changes in the policy that discontinued slavery in the territory after the state constitution was drafted. The battle of ideologies and policies between Lincoln and Douglas created a basis for the future policymaking. This paper examines the significance of Douglas and Lincolns debate in which I highlight the major ideologies and opinions of each individual in the discussion.

From the debates between Lincoln and Douglas, it is clear that a hero requires a worthy opponent; this is what existed between Douglas and Abraham Lincoln between the period of 1854 and 1861 (Jaffa, 2012). The struggle between the two Illinois leaders involved critical issues that would later affect the country in the future. The character and personality traits greatly influenced their perception towards how they responded to issues. Growing in the same area or environment does not mean that everyone goes through the same experiences. However, personal experiences shape the way we come to think and behave in adulthood. Historical studies show that even though Lincoln and Douglas lived in the same state, they had totally different ways of approaching issues. This could be seen through the divisive political issue regarding slavery during the Mexico war.

In his Freeport doctrine speech, Douglas claimed that the issue of slavery should be decided by the local or regional governments (Robert, 1989). In his fear for disunity in the country, he emphasized the right to own a slave should be territorial with the hope that he could save the union. Of course, his ideas were relevant but the opposition that he received from the antislavery proponents later affected his political ambitions and hopes for the country when he lost the nomination for the presidency in 1837. However, despite the fact that his ambitions for uniting the country suffered great setbacks but his contributions can be felt up to date. For instance, as a chairman of the House and Senate Committees on Territories, he made various proposals that were later incorporated in the construction of Pacific railroad and organization of territorial governments. Lincoln, a philosopher, and idealist were opposed to the slavery issue that brought divisive America in the middle of 1800s. Historians have argued that his opposition to the slavery was not genuine. In fact, he only needed a way to distinctively identify his ideas from those of Douglas. However, he tried to deal with the challenges after being elected in 1854 including the divided House of Representatives (Jaffa, 2012). In his speech regarding the divided house, Lincoln said that a house divided against itself cannot stand, implying that government could not carry out its operations and functions successfully without every stakeholder involved (Robert, 1989).

Even though slavery became the critical political issue at the time but most of the changes that were made to the laws including the drafting the anti-slavery laws that ended the slavery in the south changed the face of American history to date. A government cares about everyone including those that did not support ones bid for the top seat in the country. It is in this regard that Lincolns strategy to end slavery did not only serve his interests in propelling him to realize his political ambitions but also saved the country from languishing in the further division than it was already. Again, this does not mean that Douglas ideas were wrong or bad; they were right to some extent because they carried some validity. For instance, claiming that the decision to end slavery or continue with the trade is a sovereign right of the individual state involved was aimed at realizing independence by the state governments. However, as long as they were all held under the same umbrella called the United States of America, everyone was supposed to reflect and follow the same direction. Ending slavery tried to put an end to the racism that already dominated America with some section of people feeling more entitled to the advantages and freedom and others feeling infringed and discriminated, yet everyone participated either indirectly or directly to the freedom and independence. When elections are held everyone is expected to vote and the all the votes are counted to determine who has won the election. Lincoln won the election in 1854 not because he was popular but because he was a good strategist (Jaffa, 2012).

In conclusion, America has been divided for many years along the racial and political lines that have continued to present state where the democrats and republicans engage in a battle of ideas and opinion towards policymaking. Even though such battles are important in a political field, but we should understand our political history. In this paper, I have discussed the relevance of Lincolns and Douglas ideas regarding the political state of American in the middle of 1800s. Some of the key important issues I have highlighted and discussed in the paper include the abolishment of the slavery how each side of the political divide understood it. Lincoln on the side of Republicans supported the abolishment while Douglas on the democrat side claimed that slavery should be a sovereign issue.



Jaffa, H. V. (2012). Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. University of Chicago Press.

Robert, W.J. (1989). The frontier, the union, and Stephen A. Douglas. University of Illinois Press.

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