Learning Lincoln On-line


The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Join the Debate and Decide Who You Think Wins!

Debating Tasks and Resources


          Each debater in these "First of a Kind" 1858 Political Debates was given a total of 90 minutes to present his solution to problems.  Lincoln and Douglas had been following each other around for weeks, to all kinds of Illinois places to present their platforms.  Lincoln suggested to Douglas that they should come together in a joint "debate" at places where they had not been yet.  Douglas was the incumbent and was not in a big hurry to plan something not advantageous for him, but he agreed to Lincoln to have seven debates in cities and places around the state.

          At each debate one of the men would get to talk for the first 60 minutes.  The second man would then talk for 90 minutes.  The first 30 minutes for the second man would be to respond to the first speakers comments, and the last 60 minutes would be to introduce new details of how the "problem" should be solved.  The first speaker would then get to talk for 30 minutes to respond to what the second speaker had to say.  At each debate location Lincoln and Douglas would alternate who would be first.

           To really know about the debates, why things were said, and so forth, you need to know about each debate "in order," as they occurred  You can read the actual text of each debate at the Abraham Lincoln Digitization Project web siteThis is serious reading and rather long.

          This activity will use short sample excerpts from each of the seven debate  locations to demonstrate the main points as Lincoln and Douglas spoke.  You will then make a decision as to who you would vote for (if you would have been a voter in 1858).  Remember in 1858 only white males were allowed to vote.  That's what the whole Debate Theme was about:  Racial Equality and curtailment of slavery.

Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858 Learning Activity
The Whys and Where's of the Great Debates

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

Learn about issues leading up to the Great Debates, and how each debater responded to each issue

Stephen Douglas
 About Debating

Task One               Task Two


Abraham Lincoln


CSPAN has a Re-inactment Video of the Charleston Debates
Check out Northern Illinois University Lincoln/Net for great educational and historical resources about the Debates

For other topics go to this activity topic list.

Slavery and the Making of America,   

Debate Highlights, including a summary, facts and details the PBS documentary and website

16th President Topic Index

Learning On-Line Home Page