The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

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The Lincoln-Douglas debates were centered on the issue of slavery in the territories, and the legislative processes involved with this issue. Abraham Lincoln was against allowing Territories decide if they wanted to allow slavery or not, and was in favor of repealing the Dred Scott decision to allow the Territories to be slave free. Douglas believed that each state and territory should be able to make their own decision regarding slavery, and was against repealing the Dred Scott decision because he felt that slave owners were entitled to the protection of their property. The following synopsis of the debates shows in greater depth the ideas and arguments on both sides of these issues.

One of the questions Lincoln asked Douglas in the debates was if the people of a territory could exclude slavery from their limits prior to the formation of the state constitution in any lawful manner. Douglas states that they can on the grounds that the people have the lawful means to introduce or exclude slavery in their state constitution regardless of the Supreme Court's decision on weather or not slavery may go into a territory under the Constitution.

He felt that slavery could not exist anywhere without the support of local police regulations, which can only be established by the local legislature, and if the people were opposed to slavery they would pass unfriendly legislation to prevent it.

Lincoln replies that the Supreme Court has already decided that any prohibition of slavery in the territories is unconstitutional, and asks how it is possible for any power to exclude slavery from the territory without violating that decision. He also questions Douglas on his claim that slavery cannot enter a new country without police regulations. To make his point, Lincoln brings up the Dred Scott decision, and asks how...