Class Notes

In 1858 the upstart Abraham Lincoln ran against incumbent Stephen Douglas for senator of Illinois. Both were champion orators and the two held a series of debates across the nation. The most important debate was held in Freeport, IL. At Freeport, Lincoln asked Douglas how he could support the idea of popular sovereignty (the idea that states could choose whether to be free or slave) when the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision said no states could outlaw slavery. While Douglas wanted to pacify the South (he knew he would run for president in 1860), he also needed to say what his state wanted to hear, to keep his seat. Douglas’s answer was basically there were loopholes in the Dred Scott case that allowed states to outlaw slavery. His answer worked and he was reelected. However, two years later when he ran for president the South remembered his answer and refused to support him.

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