In 1858, there was a great struggle within the state of Illinois for a seat in the Senate. The well know Stephen A.
Douglas, the favored candidate, was excepted to win. Abraham Lincoln was not a well known candidate. In a struggle for the possible position, Lincoln proposed that he and Douglas organize a series of debates, so that both men might divide time, and address the same audiences during the same canvass. Douglas accepted, and he feared that he had everything to lose from a joint appearance, and yet to decline the challenge would have seemed unmanly in the West of the mid nineteenth century. Douglas then purposed dates and places; Lincoln complained that Douglas would have four opening and closings speeches whereas he would have only three, he wrote I accede, and thus close the arrangement.
The first of seven debates was on Saturday, August 21, 1858 at Ottawa, which started an important part of the history of the United States of America, the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The Ottawa debate set the format for the remaining six debates. Lincoln and Douglas agreed that the first speaker would speak for an hour, the second speaker for an hour and a half, and the first speaker again for half an hour. On August 21, excitement was in the air.
The towns population of over 7,000 doubled overnight. At 2:30 p. m. Douglas began speaking and the battle was on!The Little Giant, Douglas, displayed the art that marked him as the master stump-speaker of his day. He first criticized Lincolns background and political history. He talked about Black inferiority, and the social as well as political dangers of freeing Blacks.
The highlight of his speech was the surprising argument he threw at Lincoln in the form of the Springfield Resolutions of 1854. Douglas quoted the radical Codding and declared that Lincoln joined with abolitionists Giddings, Chase, Fred Douglass, and Parson Lovejoy had constructed this platform for the new Black Republican Party of Illinois. Douglas became so engrossed in the speech he had to be reminded of his time limit. When Lincoln replied, he had no choice but to defend himself against the accusations.
As Lincoln continued to debate, he displayed his ability as a rough-and-tumble debater, which had caused Douglas to say that he would have his hands full with Old Abe. He refuted Douglas accusations that he favored social and political equality with the Negro. Lincoln also attacked Douglas sensitive past history as a judge. Lincoln finished well within his time. Douglas quickly went on attack. Once again, he brought up the Black Republican Party and Lincolns connection to it.
He argued that Lincoln did not deny being a part of that party. He talked of the Springfield convention and reminded Lincoln of his whereabouts on that day. Now I want to remind Mr. Lincoln that he was at Springfield when that Convention was held and those resolutions adopted. The point I am going to remind Mr.
Lincoln of is this: that after I had made my speech in 1854, during the fair, he gave me notice that he was going to reply to me the next day. I was sick at the time, but I staid over in Springfield to hear his reply and to reply to him. On that day this very Convention, the resolutions adopted by which I have read, was to meet in the Senate chamber. He spoke in the hall of the House and when he got through his speechmy recollection is distinct, and I shall never forget itMr. Codding walked in as I took the stand to reply, and gave notice that the Republican State Convention would meet instantly in the Senate chamber, and called upon the Republicans to retire there and go into this very convention, instead of remaining and listening to me.
He finished his attack with this comment:The Black Republican party stands pledgedbut he cannot devise his answer; he has not made up his mind, whether he will or not. He talked about everything else he could think to occupy his hour and a half, and when he could not think of anything more to say, without an