Lincoln-douglas debate essay examples

General Purpose: To inform

Specific purpose: To inform my audience on the Lincoln-Douglas debate.
Time: 5-7 minutes


A. Attention Material: “ A house divided against itself cannot stand“. These are the famous words from Abraham Lincoln during the campaign of the Illinois senate seat (Jaffa 2009).

B. Tie to the audience: I am sure that all of us at some point have heard of the Lincoln-Douglas debates as they are very famous in the American history. The great part about the two, Lincoln and Douglas is that, they used to speak on the same podiums while engaging in these debates yet they were political rivals.

C. Credibility material: The Lincoln-Douglas debates is a debate between two people Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, the two were campaigning for the Illinois senate seat. Guelzo (2008) explains that even though Lincoln lost in this race, the debates brought him national eminence that gave him a go through into being elected the president of the United States of America. I have done a lot of research on this topic and I strongly believe that at the end of my speech, you will have known what triggered this debates and the aftermath

D. Preview

1. I will discuss what brought up the debates
2. I will explain the debates between Lincoln and Douglas during the Illinois senate race campaign
3. Finally, I will discuss the outcome of the debate.

Transition: We will start by looking at the main issues that brought about these debates

A. The Lincoln-Douglas debates were launched on 21st August, 1958 in a wooden platform in Ottawa.
Lincoln was nominated to run for the senate seat on the Republican Party against the serving Illinois senator Stephen from the Democratic Party. Douglas held the Illinois senate seat for the last ten years. They began a series of seven debates in seven towns in the Illinois state during their campaign. These debates drew many people’s attention and were reported all over in newspapers in the entire nation.

B. The first and main issue was slavery and its extension to the south

Lincoln hated slavery and wanted it to be completely eradicated in America. In his statements “ I contemplate slavery as a moral social and political evil” he wanted all the people to be free from slavery (Zarefsky 1990). In contrary, Douglas dodged the issue of slavery by arguing that the decision on slavery should be left for the people to make their own decisions. In his statement, “ if each state will only agree to mind its own business and let its neighbors alone “, he never cared of the effects of slavery on the people.
Lincoln and the Republicans desires were to stop slavery and its expansion while Douglas never took slavery as an important issue. Douglas argued that slavery would only stop existing if favorable legislatures stopped supporting it.

C. The second issue was on racial discrimination

Lincoln had a deep dedication on humanitarian principles of equality and the dignity of the entire human race whether black or white. Comparably, during the debates, Douglas argued against race mixing and made racial insults all over the state.

D. The results after the debates.

Douglas ended up defeating Lincoln in the senate by winning the Illinois senate seat. He won because the Illinois legislature was mainly controlled by the democrats. Lincoln never considered himself a loser instead, he built his public profile which later made him a viable candidate for nominations as a republican presidential candidate. Good (2007) wrote that Lincoln’s fight against slavery made him very popular during the debates and people loved listening to him. Even thou Douglas was a skillful politician, the free port doctrine by Lincoln weakened him. He was always in favor of slavery while Lincoln fought for the end and spreading of slavery to the territories (McPherson 2001).

Brake light: Now that all of us are aware of what happened during the debates, let us go over what I explained today. Let us review the details once again


A. Final Review: Today, I have explained to us what was the main issue in the Lincoln-Douglas debates

1. The main issue was slavery and its expansion
2. Racial discrimination
3. Who ended up winning the Illinois senate race and Lincoln’s presidency

B. Tie back to the audience: The Lincoln-Douglas debates made Lincoln prominent which helped him into becoming the president of the United States of America.

C. Concluding remarks: The debates main topic was slavery and how it was to be eradicated so that every individual will be free. Lincoln steadily fought for its end even though he lost the Senate seat. Through his speeches, Lincoln gained prominence and later this favored him into being elected as the U. S. President where he defeated Douglas and the other contestants. I hope the speech has enlightened all of us about the Lincoln-Douglas debates.


Zarefsky, D. (1990). Lincoln-Douglas and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Guelzo, A., C. (2008). Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that defined America. New York: Simon and Schuster.
McPherson, J., M. (2001). Ordeal by Fire: The Civil war and Reconstruction, 3rd Ed. New York: McGraw Hill.
Good, T., S. (2007). The Lincoln–Douglas Debates and the Making of a President. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland Press.
Jaffa, H., V. (2009). Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln–Douglas Debates, 50th Anniversary Edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.