The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858: Interactive Map Activity
Worksheet
by Jennifer Erbach

The 1858 race to elect the U.S. Senator from Illinois pitted Abraham Lincoln from the Republican party against popular incumbent Stephen Douglas from the Democratic party. In addition to the famous "Lincoln-Douglas Debates" the candidates also made speeches and visited other areas throughout the state.

In any campaign, money is always a factor, and even the wealthiest candidates are limited by time. In this exercise you will be using an interactive map of Illinois in 1858 to consider how other factors besides time and money can affect campaign strategies.

Where did they campaign?

At the opening screen, click off all of the boxes on the right hand side of the screen under the legend. Click "Refresh Map" at the bottom of the window. Your map window should now be blank.

Now click on the boxes next to "Lincoln Speeches" and "ILL background." Hit "Refresh Map." The red dots indicate cities and towns where Lincoln made speeches. Click off the box next to "Lincoln Speeches" and click on the box next to "Douglas Speeches." Hit "Refresh Map." The blue squares indicate the cities and towns where Douglas made speeches.

Q1) Where did Lincoln spend most of his time campaigning? What areas did he ignore or spend very little time in? Where did Douglas spend the most/least time?






Q2) What do you notice that is similar or different about where Lincoln and Douglas chose to campaign?






Now that we know where Lincoln and Douglas chose to campaign, lets explore some factors that might have affected where they focused their efforts.

Transportation

Click on the boxes next to "ILL background" and "Cities and Towns" and hit "Refresh Map." Can you figure out where the railroads are? Click on the box next to "ILL Railroads" to add them in. Hit "Refresh Map."

Q3) How would using the railroads be advantageous to a candidate in 1858? Would there be any disadvantages (i.e. why might a candidate chose not to use the railroads)?






Click off the box next to "Cities and Towns" and click on the box next to "Lincoln Speeches." Hit "Refresh Map." Click off the box next to "Lincoln Speeches" and click on the box next to "Douglas Speeches." Hit "Refresh Map." (It may be helpful to use the "zoom in" feature on this question.)

Q4) Did Lincoln use the railroads in his campaign? To what extent? To what extent did Douglas use the railroads in his campaign?






Population

Click off all of the boxes. Now click on the box next to "ILL Pop Density 1860" and hit "Refresh Map."
Q5) If you were a candidate for senator and had only a limited time to campaign, what areas of the state would you want to focus your time and energy on?






Now click on the box next to "Lincoln Speeches" and hit "Refresh Map." Click off the box next to "Lincoln Speeches" and click on the box next to "Douglas Speeches." Hit "Refresh Map."

Q6) Does population appear to have played a part in Lincoln's campaign strategy? In Douglas's? To what extent?






Party Strongholds

Click off all of the boxes. Now click on the box next to "State Senate Vote" and hit "Refresh Map." The green areas indicate which state senators (and therefore their districts) voted for Lincoln (Republican), the tan areas indicate votes for Douglas (Democrat). Click off the box next to "State Senate Vote" and click on the box next to "State House Vote" to see how the State House of Representatives Voted.

Q7) Which area(s) appear most strongly supportive of the Democratic Party? The Republican Party? Which area(s) look as though they could have been equally likely to vote Democrat or Republican?






Now look again at where Lincoln and Douglas made speeches.

Q8) Do these election results give any indication of why Lincoln campaigned where he did? Why Douglas campaigned where he did?






With the information that you have gathered write a 1 page essay discussing how population, transportation, and party strongholds can affect campaign strategies. How important were these factors in influencing where a candidate campaigned in the mid-19th century? Are these factors still influential today? Why or why not? Besides making speeches, how else would Lincoln and Douglas have been able to present their platforms to voters?

©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project