The Saturday Evening Post History Minute: 4 Things You Didn’t Know About the Lincoln-Douglas Debates

The Lincoln-Douglas debates that took place 160 years ago were in many ways unprecedented. Here are a few things facts about them that might surprise you.

Post archivist Jeff Nilsson in the Illinois state capitol
(The Saturday Evening Post)

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Here are 4 interesting facts you might not know about these nation-defining debates from 160 years ago.

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  1. Interesting history minute. I think many people don’t know that Senators were elected by the state legislature and not by popular vote for most of the 19th century. I wonder if these debates helped bring about the push for popular elections?

  2. Thank you for the fascinating, historical Lincoln-Douglas debate details. Informative and appreciated. There are three generations of state qualifying debaters in our family.

  3. Well, these debates certainly set the tone for the 1860 election in regard to slavery which was the most crucial problem of the day that had to be be resolved one way or another, preferably sooner than later. It’s so horrible that a Civil War had to follow Lincoln’s election to end slavery, but at that time, under those circumstances, it was tragically unavoidable.

    I was also impressed at how quickly and efficiently the debates were recorded, and how (on the trains) they were being readied to go to press for the next morning’s newspapers. This was huge for the time. So was the telegraph, the telephone in the 1870’s, the beginnings of photography, improvements in paper and printing resolution, electricity and many other new factors that set the stage for the wildly accelerated changes throughout the coming 20th century.


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