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The Lincoln-Douglas Debates (The Knox College Lincoln Studies Center series) Hardcover – August 22, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0252033551 ISBN-10: 0252033558 Edition: The Lincoln Studies Center ed

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Editorial Reviews


"Though based on the same basic transcripts that Lincoln and most subsequent scholars have used, Davis and Wilson have corrected the irregular paragraphing, arbitrary punctuation, and occasionally garbled transcriptions in the originals. The result is a definitive new edition that is far more readable and almost certainly more reliable."--The New York Review of Books

"One of the highlight Lincoln publications. . . . The first critical edition, parsing what the candidates actually said, regardless of the source, and clarifying and extending the speakers' words by correcting the originals' irregular paragraphing, arbitrary punctuation, and occasionally confused transcriptions."--American Heritage

"[Davis and Wilson] bring to light a multitude of linguistic, rhetorical, and contextual factors that influenced the formation of an authoritative printed text."--Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association
“This edition of the Abraham Lincoln—Stephen Douglas debates surpasses all previous editions and establishes the standard text for the foreseeable future. . . . Davis and Wilson’s edition is accessible and user-friendly.”--The Journal of American History

“Davis and Wilson have crafted a clear, unadulterated presentation on the debates by offering them in their entirety. . . . Recommended.”--Choice
"The words spoken over the course of these debates deserve every ounce of the critical attention that Davis and Wilson have lavished on them. . . . The most reliable text of the debates now available."--The Journal of Southern History

Book Description

While the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas are undoubtedly the most celebrated in American history, they may also be the most consequential as well. For the issues so fiercely debated in 1858 were about various interrelated aspects of one momentous, nation-threatening issue: slavery. The contest between Lincoln and Douglas became a testing ground for the viability of conflicting ideals in a nation deeply divided. One of the most colorful and engaging episodes in American history, this series of debates is of enduring interest as an illuminating instance of the ever-recurring dilemma of self-government: what happens when the guiding principle of democracy, "popular sovereignty," confronts a principled stand against a "moral, social, and political evil"? The tragic answer in this case came three years later: civil war.

Important as they are, the Lincoln-Douglas debates have long since ceased to be self-explanatory. This edition is the first to provide a text founded on all known records, rather than following one or another of the partisan and sometimes widely-varying newspaper accounts. Meticulously edited and annotated, it provides numerous aids to help the modern reader understand the debates, including extensive introductory material, commentary, and a glossary. The fullest and most dependable edition of the Lincoln-Douglas debates ever prepared, this edition brings readers as close as possible to the original words of these two remarkable men.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; The Lincoln Studies Center ed edition (August 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252033558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252033551
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,044,453 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By DaLaoHu on June 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When I first picked up this book, I expected about half of it to be dry and boring, and the other half informative. I couldn't have been more wrong. Informative it certainly was, but rarely was it dry and boring. Occasionally Lincoln and Douglas do get to repeating the same charges against each other over and over, but for the most part they are charges with a point, and with historical hindsight we can see that these debates really did define the entire slavery issue as it was viewed just prior to the Civil War. For my part, I can honestly say that, much to my surprise, I found these debates to be easily readable and engaging from begining to end.

With one caveat: before you plunge in you should make yourself familiar with some of the background events that lead up to these debates. At the very least, you should be familiar with the Dred Scott decision and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Two excellent texts in this regard are The Impending Crisis by David Potter and Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates Thst Defined America by Allen Guelzo.

My take after reading this is that Douglas was the better debater but that Lincoln had the better argument. It seems to me that in private Lincoln and Douglas might not have been that far apart, but that politically Douglas had painted himself into a corner. He needed a bill to organize the Kansas and Nebraska territories in order to secure a northern route (serving his constituency in Illinois) for the building of a transcontinental railroad. But the price he had to pay to secure southern support for that bill was the option of allowing slavery into those territories. Under his doctrine of popular sovereignty he probably figured that slavery would be voted down.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By overlord on November 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Lincoln-Douglas Debates discuss 3 main issues. 1. Are African Americans included in the Constitutions clause that all men are created equal. 2. Should slavery be allowed in the new territories. 3. Is the policy of popular sovereignty what the framers of the Constitution intended knowing that it would spread slavery across the nation.
After reading the Lincoln-Douglas Debates and remembering my hisory, Lincoln was right when he said that the framers of the Constitution intended for the ultimate extinction of slavery.
Douglas argues that only white people were included in the Constitutions freedoms clause.

This is the crux of the argument and Lincoln and Douglas attack each other and each others parties policies. Douglas sticks to the script, while Lincoln improvises, which keeps it interesting.
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