Some of the most famous political debates in the United States, oddly enough, took place hundred of years ago. During the year of 1858, United States Senate candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas participated in a number of debates. Thousands of people attended these high profile debates.
The seven debates were billed as The Little Giant versus Honest Abe. Abraham Lincoln had been raised in poverty and then began his political career when he was age 25. He was elected at that time as the Whig candidate to the Illinois State Legislature. By 1836, he had been admitted to the Illinois bar and was able to practice law in Springfield, Illinois. He was a straight shooter and always honest, hence the name Honest Abe. His humble beginnings impacted him for his entire life and he was always looking out for the little people. He was strongly opposed to any type of slavery, but being driven to please everyone, he often stayed in the middle of the issue, not strongly leaning publically or at least vocally to either side of slavery.
While serving in the US House of Representatives, Abraham Lincoln supported allowing California to obtain statehood as a free state. Stephen A. Douglas was against this act. Lincoln was strongly opposed to the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which had been promoted and introduced by rival Illinois lawmaker, and Illinois politician, Stephen A. Douglas. They always seemed to be rivals.
The two men were very much opposites in every way. Douglas was short in stature, a bit plumb, and very energetic. He had a loud voice and had endless amounts of energy. Douglas was from the South and his wife had inherited slaves though he did not own any slaves, and he was in favor of slavery. He was also a proponent of the annexation of Texas and also supported popular sovereignty as the cure to tensions in different regions, the North and the South. He was wealthy with railroad stakes in several different and prosperous companies.
Lincoln was tall and lanky. He was very conscious of his clothing and would place his speeches and pants’ pocket contents in his tall hats, as to not mess with the line of his trousers. When he was ready to speak, he would remove his hat and then take out his speech. He always put his hat back on. He was slow moving and quite slow at speaking.
Douglas needed the support of the north and Lincoln the support of the south. While the election was for a position in Illinois, the country as a whole paid attention to the proceedings as much as possible. Douglas won by a slight margin, but Lincoln could not be called a loser. He gained national attention and support that would one day propel him into the White House as the 16th President of the United States. Honest Abe with his fine suits, lanky body, and honest opinions would have many years of politics, and yes, struggles, ahead of him.