Read Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America by Allen C. Guelzo Online


In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was known as a successful Illinois lawyer who had achieved some prominence in state politics as a leader in the new Republican Party. Two years later, he was elected president and was on his way to becoming the greatest chief executive in American history. What carried this one-term congressman from obscurity to fame was the campaign he mounted forIn 1858, Abraham Lincoln was known as a successful Illinois lawyer who had achieved some prominence in state politics as a leader in the new Republican Party. Two years later, he was elected president and was on his way to becoming the greatest chief executive in American history. What carried this one-term congressman from obscurity to fame was the campaign he mounted for the United States Senate against the country's most formidable politician, Stephen A. Douglas, in the summer and fall of 1858. Lincoln challenged Douglas directly in one of his greatest speeches -- "A house divided against itself cannot stand" -- and confronted Douglas on the questions of slavery and the inviolability of the Union in seven fierce debates. As this brilliant narrative by the prize-winning Lincoln scholar Allen Guelzo dramatizes, Lincoln would emerge a predominant national figure, the leader of his party, the man who would bear the burden of the national confrontation.Of course, the great issue between Lincoln and Douglas was slavery. Douglas was the champion of "popular sovereignty," of letting states and territories decide for themselves whether to legalize slavery. Lincoln drew a moral line, arguing that slavery was a violation both of natural law and of the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence. No majority could ever make slavery right, he argued.Lincoln lost that Senate race to Douglas, though he came close to toppling the "Little Giant," whom almost everyone thought was unbeatable. Guelzo's Lincoln and Douglas brings alive their debates and this whole year of campaigns and underscores their centrality in the greatest conflict in American history.The encounters between Lincoln and Douglas engage a key question in American political life: What is democracy's purpose? Is it to satisfy the desires of the majority? Or is it to achieve a just and moral public order? These were the real questions in 1858 that led to the Civil War. They remain questions for Americans today....

Title : Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America
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ISBN : 9780743273206
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 383 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America Reviews

  • Aaron Million
    2018-11-19 00:22

    Lincoln scholar Guelzo undertakes an in-depth analysis of the now-classic 1858 debates between the future president, and Illinois Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas. Guelzo begins with brief, helpful biography of Douglas (he being the lesser-known of the two; of course, pretty much anyone next to Lincoln would be lesser-known). He examines Douglas' positions throughout his time in Congress, specifically his collaboration with Henry Clay on the Compromise of 1850 and then the ill-fated Kansas-Nebraska Act, which helped accelerate the pace towards Civil War. Next, he discusses the current state of Illinois politics and also of the beginning of the disintegration of the Democratic party into sectional factions: North and South. Throughout the book, Guelzo describes the balancing act that Douglas had to try to attempt in order to appease both sides. Ultimately, while not detrimental to his re-appointment as Senator (Senators were then chosen by the state legislatures; so, whichever party controlled the legislature in effect chose the next Senator), he was unable to reconcile the two sides as the Southern Democrats were 100% for slavery, while the Northern Democrats just wanted to leave it alone and rely on Douglas' frequently offered reasoning of popular sovereignty to keep the issue from exploding. It's difficult to believe now, but at the time Lincoln was considered a loser: a one-term Congressman, defeated in his pursuit of the Senate in 1855, a successful enough lawyer but politically he appeared to be finished. He had his share of backers, but really struggled to drum up support for his campaign. Almost in a desperation move, he challenged Douglas to a series of debates. Against his advisers' better judgment, Douglas accepted. He had much more to lose than Lincoln; by agreeing to the debates, he in effect elevated Lincoln's status significantly. Guelzo then traces the candidate's respective paths leading up to and in between each debate. Maps of their travels across Illinois are helpfully interspersed throughout this part of the book. The seven debate sites were all chosen by Douglas. The two switched places each debate re: who went first. The format was each candidate spoke for an hour, with the one leading off getting a final half-hour for rebuttal. While neither technically "won" the debates, on the whole, Lincoln clearly had the better of Douglas. Lincoln, obviously, had the stronger argument and was able to present it in terms that people could understand. Douglas, still trying to ride the fence between the competing factions of the Democratic Party, became angry at Lincoln's refusal to go away. Douglas did not help himself by drinking heavily. This, coupled with him contracting bronchitis, definitely hindered his latter performances. While the Republicans did not gain control of the legislature, they did make some inroads in the elections that year - enough so that Lincoln's profile began to be enhanced. This continued straight into 1860. So, while he was not appointed Senator, these debates really served as a springboard towards his eventual victory in 1860. Guelzo concludes with a nice chapter about the above-mentioned boon for Lincoln, and also about Douglas' decline, struggles, and then early death in 1861. This is a great piece of scholarship on an important event in America's past, and Guelzo makes it interesting and exciting to read. Grade: A

  • Chelsea
    2018-11-17 00:31

    This book is an excellent one. Dr. Guelzo certainly knows his stuff.Rather than focusing the book primarily on the seven debates between Lincoln and Douglas, Guelzo expands the picture and examines in detail the entire political campaigns of 1858 in order to give the debates context. "Lincoln and Douglas" taught me much I didn't know about Lincoln as a man and as a politician (sometimes we forget that in addition to being one of the greatest U.S. presidents in history, he also had to maneuver the political scene of his day - and boy, could he maneuver).One star off for a lot of political jargon (which, being quite young in the world of elections and voting, I didn't quite understand) and for not printing the full texts of the debates in the book. Still, I recommend it highly. On a side note, I had the privilege of listening to Dr. Guelzo speak at my college last week, and he is a wonderfully knowledgable historian and the most eloquent speaker I've ever listened to. If you ever have a chance to hear him present on CIvil War topics, go with a notebook, pen, and high expectations.

  • Donna
    2018-10-23 00:18

    I put this book on the history shelf, but it might as well be in current events. The great debates of Lincoln and Douglas point out either how far we've come, how far we've fallen, or that the dirt and meanness of contemporary politics are nothing new. This book puts the 1858 debates in the context of the entire senate campaign. Did you know that if we had direct election of senators at that time, Lincoln would have won?In the end, the author puts the central conflict of American democracy between Douglas' fundamental premise that politics is not about leading "the good life" but to ensure "fair play, toleration, and personal autonomy" and Lincoln's conviction that a "liberal democracy had a high purpose, which was the realization of a morally right political order." And whether you agree with the current state of world affairs, that might be exactly the American debate going on now about Iraq, in the elections in Palestine and Lebanon, and in all circumstances where the majority of the electorate chooses the "wrong" (morally corrupt) politician.

  • Nathan Albright
    2018-11-18 18:25

    Although this is a very excellent book written by a notable Lincoln Prize-winning author, there are at least a couple of issues with the title. For one, the author states that one of the deliberate aims of this book (and a successful one) is to expand the focus beyond the debates to the comparative campaign histories of both Lincoln and Douglas in 1858, placed in a series of larger contexts, of course, relating to the history of both men and the importance of both men in contemporary political philosophy. For another, in a strict sense, as the author reminds the reader several times, Lincoln and Douglas did not strictly engage in debates, but in serial speeches in which the speakers could choose to answer the comments of the other speaker or not. Neither were the debates scored on points, although the author does his best to use a chart form to categorize the claims and counterclaims and rebuttals in all seven of the debates, and does his own admittedly personal scoring of the debates to give Lincoln a slight 3-2-2 edge among the seven debates, but coming out considerably stronger in the end as a result of the widespread expectation that Douglas would be a far stronger debater given his much higher political profile. This is a worthy and technical history, combining rhetorical analysis with a deft handling of the tactical and strategic elements of the campaign on both Lincoln’s and Douglas’ side, which ought to satisfy any political junkie who happens to be interested in the slavery issue and its relevance to the start of the Civil War, and also the relevance of Lincoln and Douglas to our contemporary societal and civilization-wide malaise.In terms of its organization, the book is straightforward and chronological. The book introduces its subject (and finishes the book) by bracketing the main story in the context of how Lincoln and Douglas and their debates have been viewed by different generations, most notably in the 1960 presidential debates between Nixon and Kennedy, and noting that despite the fact that they have been mined for worthwhile political philosophy by able men such as Professor Jaffa [1], the Illinois Senate campaign of 1858 has rarely been examined as a whole. The author then spends over 300 pages doing just this, with vivid detail about dirty tricks, evenhanded commentary on the use of pretty girls to send a political message, the alcoholism of Douglas, Lincoln’s sordid but sadly necessary task of pandering to the prejudices of the decisive Whig belt in the center of the state, and the bungling errors of Buchanan to attempt to defeat Douglas that ended up leaving Douglas shaken but still in the Senate after the long campaign. The author also comments on how two little-recognized elements dramatically shaped the campaign and its aftermath, first, how Douglas used a letter from Kentucky Whig Crittenden (most famous in history as the author of the doomed Crittenden Compromise after the 1860 Presidential Election) endorsing him over Lincoln to win critical support among the Whigs of Central Illinois, and the second, how little support Lincoln got from some important Republicans and former Whigs within Illinois. This book presents the debates not in isolation, but in part of a larger context, a larger context both in terms of the presidential aspirations of both Lincoln and Douglas, and how the debates themselves became best remembered because of their value as good print material for a voracious reading audience, and also how Lincoln and Douglas addressed matters at the core of the Western republican/democratic political order.It is these larger questions that are of the most relevance to contemporary readers. To praise Lincoln accurately means to believe that the survival of our Republic, and others, depends on a people being in possession of republican virtue, understanding that no one has a right to do what is wrong, no matter what the majority of the people or the courts. In this case, votes are a means to an end, namely the end of the good life, a life as free of moral and political corruption as possible. For those who praise Douglas, though, there is no higher thought beyond individual rights, no moral compass, no core principles on which our society depends, no moral chest to resist the pull of corruption and decadence. Often, Lincoln’s moral stature is admired but not emulated by the political culture of our time, for it is easier to praise virtue than to practice it by far. Douglas, for all of his obvious moral trimming and inconsistency, is a man clearly more of our times, with his boozing and womanizing and his focus only on the present campaign without a larger political philosophy to guide him. Lincoln sits carved in marble, but Douglas makes on us fewer demands, and so we practice politics as he does, focused on the present, rather than thinking about what sort of society it is that we want to encourage and build up. This book performs a notable and worthwhile task in putting the debates in their proper place and in tying them to a greater context, in such a way as to satisfy both the political junkie and the moral philosopher among its reading audience.[1] See, for example:https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...Share this:

  • Brandon Claycomb
    2018-10-28 18:26

    Guelzo's recent book on Gettysburg led me to this work, which impressed me equally. For such a careful historian Guelzo is a remarkably gripping author. He shouldn't be able to make Lincoln's seven debates with Douglas so dramatically compelling but he does, while also connecting their campaign elegantly to the other political developments leading the country to civil war. This is as fun and edifying as history gets. Highly recommended.

  • Jason
    2018-11-18 01:31

    The headline is, this is kind of a journeyman-quality narrative. It is both thorough and complete, but rarely embellished with a catching turn of a phrase or the sort of literary flourish that can make prose truly memorable. Yet as a reference, it is truly handy. First, the narrative is broader than most earlier works on the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. Most of the other books written on the subject look only at the debates themselves. This is very easy as they were transcribed in both Democratic and Republican papers, and thus have kind of a built-in bias detector on the transcription. What they don't do is provide much of the political context to the debates. After all, these were not just preludes to the election of 1960, these were debates about a Senate seat. The "debaters" were talking to an audience and that audience had prejudices and local concerns just like in every other speech made on a campaign trail. So Mr. Guelzo ably puts the debates in their proper context. Secondarily, at the end of every debate, he provides what we used to call a "flow" in competitive debate. By that I mean a summary of points made by each debater, and notations on whether or not a debate point was repeated and/or rebutted. Thus, at the end of a narrative, you can quickly asses what Lincoln and Douglas were emphasizing, and what they were avoiding. Though the text itself was not too riveting, I learned quite a bit from this book. I lived in Illinois for many years, and even worked at the legislature in Springfield. I always found it odd that outside the capitol building, there were two large statutes -- one of Lincoln and the other of Douglas. If anything, the "Little Giant's" (as the diminutive, but rotund Douglas was known) statute was larger. I had also been to a couple of the debate sites -- Jonesboro and Alton. But, other than that, my knowledge was limited. Here I learned quite a bit about the origins of the Republican party -- how it was built on the remains of the Whigs and the anti-slavery Democrats. There were great insights on Douglas' relationship with Buchanan and the national Democratic party. I also did not know that this was Lincoln's second "run" for the Senate. He had narrowly lost in 1856. Of course, one bit of context I was aware of was that in 1858, no one elected senators. They were chosen by the state legislature. So consider this, the most famous debates between two candidates in American history, did not involve an election. So, the debates really set two precedents. First, these were really the first public debates for federal office in American history. It would set a precedent for all levels of government that would be followed up to the present day. Secondly, for the first time ever, candidates would run for Senate. In this case, they were running indirectly. They had been "chosen" by their parties through resolutions at the party conventions. Then, effectively, they were campaigning for their respective parties to elect the most delegates to the state legislature. Northern Illinois was locked up for Lincoln. Southern Illinois was locked up for Douglas. Central Illinois was known as the Whig belt. The remnants of the Whig party were still there, and they would basically decide the election. The Whigs were the party of Henry Clay. They believed in the "American System" meaning a strong central government that contributed to economic growth through national infrastructure projects. They also liked tariffs to promote domestic manufactures. They opposed the Mexican American War, however, and Lincoln as a former Whig provided Douglas with some fodder on this front. In general they sat right in the middle on the great question of the day. The Whigs did not, as a whole, like slavery. However, they also were terrified of the prospect of Civil War. So abolition was a dirty word in Whig quarters. As you can imagine, the debates then, focused on persuading these voters. Interestingly, and again a revelation I only received from this book, the House Divided speech was a political disaster that almost cost Lincoln the election right from the start. Douglas would hit on it again and again. Basically, for Whig voters, the House Divided speech sounded a lot like a promise of Civil War. Also interestingly, I have heard for years about Lincoln's own racism and view's reflective of the times. I now believe that this is a serious misjudgment of Lincoln. I believe that he was truly an advocate of full equality of the races. While he hedged a bit by implying that the declaration promised freedom to the slaves, and not social equality, it is also clear that he would not rule that out either. It is also true that as a result of his broader statements of equality of the races, he was forced by political circumstance to step away from his words a bit. Some of this is sadly ugly. But, he never stayed there, and by the end of the campaign, he seems to have returned to his soaring rhetoric about equality. Of course, the other odd fact about the Lincoln-Douglas debates is that he loses. Two years later, by-in-large thanks to the telegraph and the coverage of the election throughout the nation, Lincoln would be elected President. There is no doubt that the seed for Douglas' demise and the splintering of the Democratic party was planted during this campaign. There is also little doubt that the seed for Lincoln's greatness also found root here. He might have gone on like so many other politicians -- a one term Congressman who failed to reach the Senate twice. That's usually a recipe for retirement. But in Lincoln's case, the power of his argument and his words would allow him to be a dark horse candidate in 1860, and the rest, as they say, is history. For me, this was a fine follow-up to Team of Rivals. It filled in a lot of blank pages in my knowledge of Lincoln. For true Lincolnologists, there may not be that much new here, but for the budding devotee, it was a valuable read.

  • Steve
    2018-11-07 22:25

    It was 150 years ago that Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglassquared off in a political battle for the U.S. Senate. Not only wasthis hotly contested series of debates garnering great attention inthe state of Illinois, they were also the focal point of thecountry as a whole. Slavery, and its spread into new territoriesand states as the Union expanded, was the pressing issue of the dayand a growing concern for everyone as the nation slowly ground itsway toward war.Allen C. Guelzo approaches the debates in a way that few have everdone. Rather than an outline of the political conflict with somediscussion of key talking points, he digs deeply into the veryheart of each campaign and lays some outstanding groundwork. Tounderstand the fiery rhetoric and passion within the debates, oneneeds to understand the tumultuous times, and the decisions behindthem, that led to this match-up to begin with. Guelzo cuts to theheart of the slave state/free state issue, explaining the troublesin Kansas and Nebraska, the troublesome decision in the Dred ScottCase and Douglas's firm belief in “popular sovereignty”as the most democratic method by which states would determine theirfutures.Detailed within is also the birth of the Republican Party, whichwas truly no more than a group of disillusioned Democrats fromNebraska, and Whigs, all who shared one supremely strong passion: acomplete loathing of Stephen A. Douglas. And it is interesting tosee within this framing and explanation that the genteel and iconicLincoln was, in fact, deeply opposed and outspoken against Douglas.As such, seeing Lincoln and his fire to defeat Douglas and operatewithin the political machine presents him as much more than theregal presidential figure we have come to idolize and more of ascheming and, ultimately, human figure. Guelzo also shows us thatLincoln did win the popular vote for the Senate but that thedistricting system in place in Illinois gave the election toDouglas. However, the groundwork had already been laid for Lincolnand his road to the White House.More than just political issues of the day, the Lincoln-Douglasdebates were about the idea of democracy. Each candidate had theirown very strong view of the purpose and nature of the democraticprocess and what it was meant to provide. Guelzo details each viewand highlights the benefits and the pitfalls of each, andillustrates how some of those very conflicts are raging even in ourmodern times. The debates were also the starting point for thefuture of political conflict --- the creation of the face-to-facesystem by which competitors would vie for votes from the same stage,a format that Lincoln did not approve of.The depth to which Guelzo goes into the debates and the campaignsis tremendous, but in mining so deeply, he does not simply resortto a dry delivery of historical footnotes. His passion for thesubject is evident in the text, and he presents it in a whollyengaging and smooth reading manner. A two-time winner of theLincoln Prize, Guelzo will no doubt draw more attention andaccolades for this exceptional work, and deservedly so, for he hastaken an historical moment hidden behind the haze of reverence andbroken it down to its very core elements. In doing so, he hasilluminated the event and made it all the more impressive.

  • SeaShore
    2018-10-19 18:18

    Dr Allen Carl Guelzo, Historian is a noted Civil War era Scholar.It is 1858. He lays the background- Open air debates consisted of a sequence of speeches. About 161 newspapers in Illinois were the mouthpieces for the Political Parties and other current events. There were Democratic-swayed newspapers and Republican-swayed newspapers. No neutral newspapers! The people of the State were actually voting for Republican and Democratic State Representatives; and also State Senators. They were not voting directly for Lincoln nor Douglas. United States Senators were not directly elected by the people of the State until 1912. Some of the author's comments that intrigued me:Douglas' big baritone voice that wears out pretty quickly and Lincoln who was concerned about looking normal, whatever normal was; looked like a tall scarecrow, (known as Long Abe) according to author Guelzo, with a high pitched and penetrating voice that could be heard by very large crowds across very large distances and he did it with little effort.Abraham Lincoln, born 1809 and assassinated 1865, 16th U. S. President 1861-1865, was a deeply committed Whig; Stephen A Douglas, Father of Popular Sovreignty, drank heavily during his campaign and he was a racist, bombastic, fierce and a fervent Jacksonian democrat. (Andrew Jackson was the 7th president, 1829-1837. Born 1767, Died 1845) Remember this is 1858. They attacked each other for 'the most ridiculous things'. The debates were focused on weakening the opponent through diversionary tactics. Very familiar tactics."Douglas is the least man I ever saw." said Lincoln.Douglas: Yes I know Abraham Lincoln. He used to sell liquor.Lincoln: Yes, I ran a grocery store and if I sold liquor, Douglas would have been my best customer.Taking a human being and deciding whether that person deserved the Right to Life; Right to Liberty; Right to Happiness is wrong said Lincoln in response to Douglas' position on slavery.The Spirit of Liberty!Guelzo says that after 150 years since the debates of 1858, all of us are invited to come up on the platform and join Lincoln and Douglas in an ongoing debate.One of my references was Harold Holzer, editor of another book, The Lincoln-Douglas debates, written in 1993.

  • Sean Wylie
    2018-11-13 22:05

    Absolutely must read for anyone interested in American History or Political History. In these 7 debates Abraham Lincoln (a no name 1 term former congressman) challenged the 3-time elected Stephen Douglas for his Senate seat of Illinois. Judge Douglas was the leading political man of the age known as 'The Little Giant'. These debates are considered the birth of the modern politics and were the first set of debates captured word-for-word by journalists and published nation-wide. The debates would vault Lincoln on to the national stage. And while he would lose the Senate battle to Judge Douglas, he would ultimately have the final word when he defeated Judge Douglas for President of the United States. His victory would launch the Civil War and the rest is history with Lincoln becoming our greatest president. We may think our politics of today are the most divided of all time. That is not true. Today's political debates are simply the most VISIBLE because of the horror of the 24-hour news cycle. Our most vicious debates in Congress today revolve around the percentage of taxes we pay and the whether certain medical procedures should be legal. In these debates between Lincoln and Douglas the candidates are debating whether the black population were closer to cows or fellow human beings. Now that is a true 'house divided which cannot stand'. As many of you know I am an audiobook fanatic. This is a great opportunity for you to try out an audiobook for the first time. These were speeches and the whole perception is different when you hear it spoken. Plus they star David Strathairn as Abraham Lincoln and Richard Dreyfuss as Stephen Douglas, which is wonderful casting.

  • Ted
    2018-11-12 19:31

    Political opponents with presidential aspirations square off. A vote against war resurfaces as a campaign issue. The candidates take the low road to appeal to their audiences’ baser instincts. The candidates’ physical appearance becomes the subject of idle chatter. Campaigns poll potential voters. Charges of election fraud, dirty tricks and backroom deals are hurled. Citizens are polarized on a central issue. The heart and soul of the nation is on the line.The presidential campaign of 2008? No, the Illinois senatorial campaign of 1858 as described by award-winning author Allen C. Guelzo. Guelzo follows the campaigns of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen L. Douglas with a novelist’s eye for color and detail. He analyzes the ever-changing political calculus surrounding the campaign, providing context to the seven historic debates. Guelzo leaves the impression that the politics of today is not all that different from the way it used to be.The fundamental difference was the widespread interest in the race. Throngs in the thousands, or even tens of thousands, turned out for campaign stops and most of the open-air debates. “Audience participation” was routine. And the speechifying would continue long after the main event had ended. Politics passed for entertainment in many small towns on the frontier. But as Guelzo describes it, the shopkeepers, teachers, preachers and farmers of the prairie were eager to get involved in what they understood would be a turning point in the decades-long struggle over the defining issue of the age.Lincoln and Douglas is a comprehensive, thoroughly researched and skillfully written account of a campaign Guelzo aptly describes as “an overture to a violent opera.”(This review first appeared in Kentucky Monthly magazine.)

  • Patrick
    2018-11-17 21:24

    Fabulous book! I have never read the text of the Lincoln/Douglas debates, and I likely never will, but I think this is better if you're not some serious history professor. A hundred pages or more pass before they even get close to debating, and that sets up all of what is happening in the different political parties and the nation so you can make sense of the speeches. I wouldn't have understood a lot of the references to the infighting among the Democrats, the whigs, Henry Clay, and various votes and amendments without the context from the book. And this is where you began to see Lincoln's nobility as he usually refuses to be too moderate (for the time) and denounces slavery as inherently wrong. You also see his negative attitudes about black people in context and when he said a couple negative quotes I had read before. I just highly, highly recommend this to give a lot of life and meaning to the bare fact we learned in high school that Lincoln had some important debates. It was especially good after reading The Case of Abraham Lincoln: A Story of Adultery, Murder, and the Making of a Great President and seeing some of the politics over the course of a couple years.

  • Chet
    2018-11-12 23:14

    An enlightening description of the background and environment of the debates. I had tried reading the debates themselves, earlier, but could not really make sense of them and so gave up. With the historical background given by this book leading up to the debates, by the time I got to and read the first debate, I then understood what they were talking about. There are a lot of ways to compare the issues with things that are going on today, such as the morality of something (slavery) vs "states rights". Such as race baiting. Such as attacking the speaker instead of addressing the issues. Then as now, "states rights" means you can't tell me what to do, but I can tell you what to do. ;-) It looks like the political parties have flipped, though. The Republicans today are acting like the Democrats did back then. This book reveals a lot about the situation leading up the Civil War, and afterwards. The book does not contain transcripts of the debates, just summaries, but the transcripts are readily available online.

  • Sjo
    2018-10-27 22:34

    This is a great read about the famous Lincoln Douglas debates for the 1858 Illinois election. The book follows the path of both candidates and their debates. There is so much background, behind the scenes issues from this campaign that come to light. Lincoln's feud with George McClellan dated back to the fact that McCellan ran the Illinois Rail Road and always gave Douglas (a fellow Democrat) the best rail cars/routes. Three years later Lincoln is President and McClellan is running the Union army--the grudge remained. Lincoln lost to Douglas, but set the stage to win the Presidency two years later. It's hard to see this happening, but the book does a great job presenting that Lincoln was on the right side of the issues ultimately, and he was a bit too early to the party in 1858. The Freeport question, and the role of the constitution and slavery lived on, even after the debates.

  • Matt Mishkoff
    2018-10-27 22:17

    At the heart of the Lincoln/Douglas debates was a question that we are still arguing today: what is the role of the federal government in securing and safeguarding the rights of minorities? Douglas looked on the issue of slavery with dispassion and argued that it was a matter for the states to decide for themselves by majority vote. Lincoln argued that there are some rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution that can not be taken away by a vote of the majority. Lincoln lost the battle, as he was defeated by Douglas in the Illinois Senate race that the debates lead up to, but he ultimately won the argument - for a time, anyway. Guelzo does a good job at keeping the material engaging and provides the crucial context necessary to really understand not just the content of the debates, but the reasoning behind the arguments presented and what their impact was. Highly recommended.

  • Mark Bruce
    2018-11-16 22:13

    Excellent examination of the debates up close and personal. The historian tries to put himself in the times to explain why Lincoln didn't come out with a rousing denunciation of racism. Actually, for his time, Lincoln was quite bold in saying that blacks had natural rights, including the right to freedom. This book also gives you the details of the debates themselves instead of glossing over them. And tells you of the Senatorial election that followed, breaking it down into the numbers. Excellent.

  • Justin Reeder
    2018-10-19 22:25

    The Lincoln-Douglas debates were very important and Guelzo does a good job portraying the lead up to and the impacts of the debates. I just had a tough time with his writing style personally. Substance was great -- too much minute details which don't pertain to the overall narrative included. I understand the delicate balance with detailing the historical fact and the scope of the book but I don't think the specific numbers of the congressional seats available in the Illinois senate is necessarily pertinent or germain to the main point of the impact of the debates.

  • Bob Cardenas
    2018-11-17 20:23

    Back in the days when Americans still named their children, Icabod, and other historical nuances pepper this account of the country's significant soul-searching over the slavery's future in an expanding nation. If you really want to know what the "Dredd Scott decision" and other compelling aspects of America's challenges to keep from being "a house divided" were, it will be an easier read than your high school paragraph on the same.

  • Rob Katz
    2018-11-02 19:25

    The October Surprise was John Crittenden's (he, like Lincoln, a former Whig) endorsement of Douglas.All the nasty things Lincoln is quoted as saying about black people he says in this campaign, largely in response to Douglas's race baiting. Is this like Obama saying he wanted to reevaluate NAFTA?

  • René
    2018-11-18 19:26

    Maybe a little bit too many details regarding campaign organizations which are normally appreciated by political science afficionados, but a captivating overview of a turning point in history. Great conclusion, although the one regarding the US as the only true democracy where there are no ruling classes is highly questionable and far removed from the objective truth.

  • John E
    2018-11-18 00:10

    A somewhat dry and repetative read. Each of the debates was presented in some detail even though they were pretty much the same. The author's thesis that the debates set the tone of all American political dialogue since 1858 is somewhat of a stretch. It's always hard to decide what is a "moral" question (here it was slavery) and what is merely political belief.

  • Dan
    2018-11-15 00:27

    One of the better Lincoln books I've read. I've never read a Lincoln book where the author so clearly absorbed the realities of the day: Guelzo fully comprehends the political geography of 1850s Illinois, and it shows.

  • Jenny
    2018-10-30 23:29

    This is a great overview of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858. The author does a skillful job of breaking the debate points down into an easy-to-read format. I know it sounds like a boring textbook, but it really had a lot of fresh insight.

  • Ryan
    2018-11-18 18:19

    The last four pages bumped this book from good to great. Everything one could possibly want to know about the debates is in this easily digestible tome. As I said, those last four pages of final analysis seal this as a great one.

  • Carrie
    2018-11-12 19:31

    I haven't really read much about this part of Lincoln's life/career, so this was somewhat an educational endeavor. My only complaint, really, is that the book didn't have a very good narrative flow which at times made it more of a chore to read. But overall, good.

  • Mike
    2018-10-27 17:23

    Very interesting to see the impact seven small town debates had on the shape of the nation, and the emergence of the Republican party. Douglas was a larger than life 19th century politician who helped define the shape of Ilinois' Democratic party and the machine that it is today.

  • Ann
    2018-11-06 23:08

    An interesting read that places the famous lincoln-douglas debates within the context of running for office and local illinois politics...Not that informative in terms of learning anything new about Lincoln, but nice to hear more about Douglas than I had previously.

  • Chris
    2018-11-08 23:14

    This was excellent. The basic difference Guelzo points out is that Douglas was a champion of the importance process in a free government, and Lincoln was a champion of morality. (And Galesburg gets high marks for improvisation.)

  • Karen
    2018-11-15 20:13

    * Understanding Oppression: African American Rights (Then and Now)Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library) by Allen C. Guelzo #civilwar

  • Robert Quinlan
    2018-11-15 18:12

    An epic text with a phenomenal Epilogue!

  • Jeff
    2018-11-01 18:25

    I learned that campaigning hasn't changed much in 151 years and that US Senators were elected by the state legislatures until the early 1900's.