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The Lincoln-Douglas Debates: The First Complete, Unexpurgated Text 1st Edition

4.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0060168100
ISBN-10: 0060168102
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Those who have read the debates between Lincoln and Douglas that took place during the 1858 Senate race in Illinois may not have read what was actually said. The authenticity of the texts has always been in dispute, with the political presses of the day polishing the prose of their candidate and Lincoln himself publishing a sanitized version two years later. The editor of this volume (coeditor, with Mario Cuomo, of Lincoln on Democracy , LJ 10/15/90), claims to present the first authentic texts of the seven confrontations. Interspersed are shouted comments from the crowds, background on the sites, and renditions of how the debates may have appeared. What emerges is a vivid, boisterous picture of politics during our most divisive period: the dull ineloquence of Lincoln and his interplay with hecklers, the blatant bigotry and slashing humor of Douglas, and the small degree to which campaigning has changed in 135 years. This fresh, fascinating examination of a significant step in our march toward the Civil War deserves a place in all American history collections. For public, school, and academic libraries.
- James Moffet, Baldwin P.L., Birmingham, Mich.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.


“A vivid, boisterous picture of politics during our most divisive period. . . . This fresh, fascinating examination . . . deserves a place in all American history collections.”

- Library Journal

--This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Harpercollins; 1st edition (February 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060168102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060168100
  • Product Dimensions: 1.4 x 6.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #485,482 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Lawrance Bernabo HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on February 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
The series of debates in Illinois between Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln during the 1858 campaign for the U.S. Senate are one of those legendary political encounters of which everyone has heard but few have gone back and actually read. However, since Lincoln never kept any of his papers prior to winning the Presidency, we do not have autograph copies of his Cooper Union or House Divided speeches, let alone his handwritten notes of the great debates. The claim made by Harold Holzer for his edition is that this is the first complete, unexpurgated text of the debates to be published. Holzer notes that what we have relied upon previously for debate transcripts were copies taken down by stenographers for intensely partisan newspapers. Holzer's hypothesis is that the editors and transcribers for these newspapers would improve the remarks by their own candidates while leaving those of his opponent alone. Supporting his idea are the unedited texts of the debate he uncovered. Of course, Holzer provides his own useful additions to the texts of the seven debates in the form of extensive notes (often covering the audience reactions as detailed by various papers). As a two-time winner of the Lincoln/Barondess Award of the Lincoln Round Table and the first Award of Achievement given by the Abraham Lincoln Association for his hundreds of articles and books on Lincoln, Holzer is certainly in a position to make such judgments.
You should be warned that reading these debates will both exhilarate and depress you. These debates lasted three hours and forced the candidates to develop comprehensive proposals and to respond in detail to the attacks of their opponent.
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Format: Paperback
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates have justly been celebrated in American history as one of the milestones in Abraham Lincoln's rise to the presidency. However, Lincoln's own well-meaning assembling of the received text of these debates used only transcripts from papers friendly to either candidate--transcripts which, Harold Holzer argues, were smoothed over and revised by reporters eager to make "their" candidate look good. Holzer insists that we must go to the transcripts of Lincoln's speeches by the pro-Douglas paper, and vice-versa, to get a true sense of what was said off the cuff by the debaters. His edition portrays vividly not only the high-sounding rhetoric of Douglas and the noble ideals of Lincoln, but also the hesitations and mis-speakings of both men. In this way, the reader gets a better sense of what it was like to be in the crowd listening as history was being made
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In 1858, Abraham Lincoln attempted to persaude the Illinois' State Assembly to select him to the United States Senate over the incumbent and powerful Steven A. Douglas by engaging Douglas in seven open air debates. The fact that Douglas agreed to these debates is somewhat of a mystery since he was already well-known and well-admired in Illinois. Giving Lincoln a forum in which was on the same stage a Douglas would likely enhance Lincoln's political stature but would not necessarily benefit Douglas. Nonetheless, Douglas agreed to seven debates and each was dramatic. The theme central to all seven was the issue of slavery and whether the Federal government should ban it, limit it or stay out of the issue and let the states themselves decide. Neither pursauded the other but Douglas, a pro-slavery advocate, apparently did enough to get elected by the Illinois State Assembly (US Senators at that time were still elected by their respective State Legislators). Lincoln, however, made the case, repeatedly for Man's inalienable, God given right to be free. Lincoln's message, as history demonstrated, eventually carried the day with his Party and the American electorate. His message rings true today.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Purchased this book as I was preparing to portray Senator Douglas in a debate re-enactment. I found it fascinating and very useful. Using the versions of each debate that were likely the least 'doctored' greatly increased the historical accuracy. I also found the background information that was presented with each debate to be well written and entertaining as well as informative. I have other versions of the Lincoln - Douglas debates but this is by far the best. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Terrific though difficult read - took a long time to get through.

I read this to reinforce an audio dramatization of the debates. The text from the two mediums varied slightly. The lessons from the debates were profound.

Lincoln's arguments should have won the debates but that did not matter to the Illinois legislature or people - Douglas got the senatorial appointment. Douglas' arguments that slavery was the law and must be upheld along with his support of the Dred Scott decision subverted his own doctrine of popular sovereignty - a fact that he seemed oblivious to. If as the supreme court decided slaves were property and congress could not restrict property in the territories then slavery could not be restricted in the territories. Douglas neither refuted nor addressed Lincoln's assertion that regardless of the law slavery was just plain wrong. Douglas did not seem to understand the concept.

The tone of the debates (although not the language) was positively modern. The sniping back and forth regarding who said what was silly, and the diversion tactics and innuendo (particularly by Douglas against Lincoln) were the equivalent of a negative TV ad.

Douglas was an expert politician who probably could have won the 1860 election had the Democratic party not self-destructed (his power base was sectional, though). Douglas' views are politically incorrect today but were he alive now adapting to current political realities he would be formidable. Douglas' endless streams of accusations against Lincoln's character (inconsistency, name-calling, suggestions of a collusion between Lincoln and Trumbull for a senate seat in 1856) undermined the validity of his arguments.

Lincoln was not perfect. His views can be and have been considered racist.
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