Students will examine the transcripts of the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas
debates and create a platform for each candidate in the 1858 Senate
Students will utilize the candidates' arguments to explore
the historical and political impact of the following:
should have at least a working knowledge of these terms prior to this
- popular sovereignty
- compromise of 1850
- fugitive slave law
- Dred Scott case
- Kansas-Nebraska Act
- Lecompton constitution
- Missouri Compromise
Think about the elections of government officials such
as senators, governors, and the president. What are some key issues
that voters are concerned about today? (Ex: abortion, stem cell research,
campaign finance reform, taxes, education, etc.) Very often newspapers
or private groups will publish a chart of each candidate's stand on
key issues, their platform, prior to a major election. (May want to
show the class an example from a recent election).
Imagine you are a citizen in the state of Illinois
during the Senate race of 1858. (Remember: at this time, representatives
to Congress were not chosen by a direct popular election the way they
are today. Eligible voters elected representatives to the Illinois
state legislature. The state legislature in turn, voted to elect Illinois'
representatives to Congress). There are two major candidates running
to represent Illinois in the U.S. Senate, Republican Abraham Lincoln and Democrat Stephen
A. Douglas. Based on what you have been learning about the events
leading up to the Civil War, what are some of the key issues that
you as an Illinois citizen in 1858 might be concerned about? As a
class, create a list of these issues. Encourage students to be specific. Examples:
On the board, create a chart with the
issues in the rows, and columns for "Lincoln" and "Douglas".
- Does the candidate support the Dred Scott decision?
- Should African-Americans have the same rights as whites?
- Does the candidate support the idea of popular sovereignty?
Now that we have our list of key issues, we need to
discover the candidates' position on each issue. In 1858, Abraham
Lincoln and Stephen Douglas met for debates in the towns of Ottawa,
Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy, and Alton. These
meetings became known as "The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858."
Divide the class into groups of 4-6. Each group will
receive a transcript of one of the 1858 debates. The students will
examine the transcripts for evidence of each candidate's positions
on the class's list of key issues. Have half of the group work on
Lincoln, half on Douglas.
Each group will present its findings to the class,
filling in the chart as the findings indicate to create a platform
for each candidate.
Illinois State Standards addressed: 14.D.5
Interpret a variety of public policies and issues from the perspectives
of different individuals and groups. 16.A.5a Analyze historical
and contemporary developments using methods of historical inquiry (pose
questions, collect and analyze data, make and support inferences with
evidence, report findings). 16.B.4 (US) Identify political ideas
that have dominated United States historical eras (e.g., Federalist,
Jacksonian, Progressivist, New Deal, New Conservative).
Notes for the Instructor:
Time required for this lesson will be about two days
if the school runs on 40-50 minute class periods, or one day if the
school runs on block scheduling.
The debates held at Ottawa,
are the best sources, with the majority of the discussion focused on
platform issues, rather than mudslinging or party accusations.
Candidates cover Dred Scott case, Nebraska bill, existence
of the Union as half slave and half free, equality of the white and
Covers fugitive slave law, admission of slave states,
slavery in the territories and District of Columbia, interstate slave
trade. Best passages are pp. 271-279 for Lincoln, and 294-305 for
Covers states' right to choose, slavery in territories,
existence of the Union as half slave and half free. Best passages
are pp. 18-30, 73-76, 83-88 for Douglas, 31-41 for Lincoln.
Candidates give clear positions on equality of whites
and Africans, spend most of the debate arguing over a speech by Judge
Covers Kansas-Nebraska bill, states' rights, Dred Scott
case, equality of white and African races, slavery vs the Constitution
and Declaration of Independence.
Continues with topics from Galesburg debates, further
comments on Dred Scott case, slavery in the territories.
Same topics as Galesburg and Quincy debates, Kansas,