The Lincoln-Douglas Debate, popularly abbreviated as LD, refers to the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas held during the campaigns in 1858, to win the Senate seat in Illinois. The Lincoln-Douglas debates received great attention from the whole nation. The events were recorded in detail by newspapers and the debates were later published in major newspapers. Though Lincoln lost the Senate seat in 1858, he overtakes Douglas in the US Presidency race in 1860.
The main contestants of the debate were Abraham Lincoln, a Republican for the Senate in Illinois and Stephen A. Douglas, the incumbent Democrat. The debates took place from August 21 to October 15, 1858. The format of the Lincoln-Douglas Debate consisted of sixty minutes of speaking time for one candidate and ninety minutes for the second candidate. The first candidate had to then respond for the additional thirty minutes. There were seven debates in all each being held in seven Congressional Districts. The main issue of slavery was discussed in all the seven debates.
Many issues were tackled in the debates but the major topic of discussion was on slavery. Douglas was in favor of the Dred Scott decision which considered the slaves as property. Douglas’ contention was that Lincoln wanted to abolish slavery completely which could be a dangerous move and could result in the blacks taking up the jobs from the whites in case they were freed. Lincoln argued that he was not vouching for the rights of he blacks but wanted to stop slavery from spreading to the US territories. Further, Lincoln forced Douglas to explain his stand on popular sovereignty which he did so in the Freeport Doctrine.
Douglas succeeded in the race for the Senate in 1858. U.S. senators, during this time were selected by the state legislatures and Democrats were declared victorious. However, Lincoln beat Douglas two years later in the 1860 Presidential race. Lincoln got the debates published in the form of a book and garnered a lot of attention nation-wide. The national attention brought him in the limelight of the Republican Party, securing a nomination for the presidential run in 1860.Lincoln succeeded in beating his rivals including Stephen Douglas and won the US Presidency race in 1860.
Lincoln-Douglas Debate today refers to a kind of organizational pattern rather than a particular type of debate. A typical Lincoln Douglas debate would involve two speakers, representing the two sides of the resolution and last for about 45 minutes. While the LD debate in high school focuses on value propositions, at the college level the LD debate is occupied with policy propositions. Critics feel that the format of a Lincoln- Douglas debate is more suitable for competitions rather than professional politics where solutions have to be realistic and cannot be judged purely on the well laid out logical arguments.