The Campaign in Illinois. The Last Joint Debate. Douglas and Lincoln at Alton, 1858

Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Lincoln and incumbent Stephen A. Douglas debated seven times during the 1858 race for the U.S. Senate. In the final debate, held in Alton, Illinois, on October 15, Lincoln again contrasted the candidates’ positions on slavery. Lincoln insisted that the “vast portion” of Americans viewed slavery as a “moral evil” and he argued that slavery needed to be contained, rather than allowed to spread into the western territories.

In January 1859, the Democratic majority in the Illinois House of Representatives reelected Douglas to the Senate for a six-year term. Although he lost this contest, Lincoln had established a national reputation as a Republican leader.

Read the full text of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.