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Lincoln Versus Douglas Debate: Analytical Essay on Justice of Dred Scott Decision

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The Lincoln Douglas Debate was a very short two months of debating. Although this debate was very short a lot of factors have been mentioned in this debate from the past and have made it quite interesting for historians to argue about. This has been a debate in the books for a very long time and it’s all clear that Stephen Douglas, who actually won the debate, is the real winner in the debate and everything that he said from popular sovereignty being the main factor was correct and something that a lot of people followed.

Lincoln believed there was a slave power conspiracy and there were too many “coincidences” in favor of slavery (example: Scott vs Sanford’s outcome, President Buchanan saying whatever the outcome everyone should support it). This is a madman that believes in nothing in rumors and conspiracy. No one can argue with the verdict of the Dred Scott vs Sanford because it is the law, and no one can argue with the law. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States. There is no arguing with the outcome of a case. This was a big point that Douglas attacked Lincoln with during the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, “Mr. Lincoln goes for a warfare upon the Supreme Court of the United States, because of their judicial decision in the Dred Scott case. I yield obedience to the decisions in that court–to the final determination of the highest judicial tribunal known to our constitution.” This quote shows to be as a very tough piece of information used against Lincoln and was used against him because Democrats looked to portray Republicans as anti-Constitutional since they declined to totally submit to the choice of the Supreme Court, despite the fact that the Court’s choice, as indicated by the Democrats, had been completely inside their ward as characterized in the Constitution. Stephen Douglas particularly utilized this method to criticize Abraham Lincoln during their discussions in Illinois in 1858.

Another main problem that led to Douglas getting the perfect chance to attack Lincoln was that Lincoln believes “that a house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free” This is a very strong point that Douglas brings to the table to put Lincoln into a very tight space. Just when people thought Douglas was done he came and supported his argument with many questions and gave a big conclusion to what he believes. He said “Why can it not exist divided into free and slave States? Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Jay, and the great men of that day, made this Government divided into free States and slave States, and left each State perfectly free to do as it pleased on the subject of slavery. Why can it not exist on the same principles on which our fathers made it?” His continuation on these questions is basically him answering them and showing why Lincoln is wronged. He said, “They knew when they framed the Constitution that in a country as wide and broad as this, with such a variety of climate, production and interest, the people necessarily required different laws and institutions in different localities. They knew that the laws and regulations which would suit the granite hills of New Hampshire would be unsuited to the rice plantations of South Carolina, and they, therefore, provided that each State should retain its own Legislature and its own sovereignty, with the full and complete power to do as it pleased within its own limits, in all that was local and not national.” That is why we are the United States of America. We are united as one nation, yes, but each state is different from the other. Stephen A. Douglas argues that ‘The great principle of self government is at stake, and surely the people of this country are never going to decide that the principle upon which our whole republican system rests is vicious and wrong.’ Self-government within the states should be the utmost priority of the people. Popular Sovereignty is the only answer because every state will never come to an agreement on whether the US should have slaves or abolish it. Douglas again brings up a huge statement to help his argument and show the reason on why popular sovereignty should be the clearest thing to do.

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An argument that is usually brought up many times and a argument that Lincoln supporters try to make seem right is “Slavery violates self-government, slavery is despotism.” That was a very rough piece of information brought up during the debate and it simply made Lincoln look bad because Lincoln could not simply just stick to one side. To the supporters of Lincoln, this is a major point to be brought up and I believe this should be reiterated on how Lincoln does not have the greater good of the black people in mind. If you recall during the 4th debate, when asked about whether he was in favor of producing equality between the black people and white people, this is what he had to say. “I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.” This still shows how Lincoln really did not care for the blacks and simply did not want the equality between them and the white people. He does not only say that he also goes on saying that the black people are not allowed to do work that white people do and work that usually deals with the government and also mentions how it is forbidden for black and white people to live together because the white people tend to be more superior then the black people in his eyes. He also said how the white race tends to have more superiority than the black race which is something that triggered Douglas into bringing up this point and using it as a perfect way to counter the argument and put the judges to his side. “The day after Douglas introduced his Kansas-Nebraska bill in the Senate, a group of abolitionist lawmakers released a statement condemning Douglas’s proposal as “a gross violation of a sacred pledge; a criminal betrayal of precious rights; part and parcel of an atrocious plot to exclude from a vast unoccupied region immigrants from the Old World and free laborers from our own states, and convert it into a dreary region of despotism inhabited by masters and slaves.” Douglas, they said, was hatching a monstrous plot to spread “the blight of slavery” across the land and “subjugate the whole country to the yoke of slaveholding despotism.” Douglas responded that he was merely attempting to ensure the survival of “a great principle of self-government,”8 to “allow the people to legislate for themselves upon the subject of slavery.”8 This is another major point in the argument because it is Lincoln just simply telling lies and thinking about Douglas’s ideas in a completely different way and that’s something that confused Lincoln and got him in thinking the wrong thing and eventually it led him to saying the wrong thing. Then after Douglas answered with a counter argument and made it clear what he really was trying to do in the States and show Lincoln what he was trying to do was to better the society and indeed not make worse.

Lincoln did have his time and the right to say whatever he wanted about the blacks. Douglas also got the chance to talk about them and how they should be free. Douglas said, “I hold that this Government was made on the white basis, by white men, for the benefit of white men and their posterity forever, and should be administered by white men and none others. I do not believe that the Almighty made the negro capable of self-government.” He is first emphasizing how he does not agree with the negro capable self-government which was a major thing back then. He goes on saying “Mr. Lincoln is very much in the habit of reading that part of the Declaration of Independence to prove that the negro was endowed by the Almighty with the inalienable right of equality with white men. Now, I say to you, my fellow-citizens, that in my opinion, the signers of the Declaration had no reference to the negro whatever, when they declared all men to be created equal. They desired to express by that phrase white men, men of European birth and European descent, and had no reference either to the negro, the savage Indians, the Fejee, the Malay, or any other inferior and degraded race, when they spoke of the equality of men. One great evidence that such was their understanding, is to be found in the fact that at that time every one of the thirteen colonies was a slaveholding colony, every signer of the Declaration represented a slaveholding constituency, and we know that no one of them emancipated his slaves, much less offered citizenship to them when they signed the Declaration.” This is another thing that Douglas did bring up to prove his point on why the blacks did deserve to be free as the other races did. This really did trigger Lincoln because it went against his argument big time but this point just shows how Douglas made the right point in order to seal the case and for the other people sitting around him to think about this as a logical thing and agreeing on his point. That is one thing that Douglas was excellent in, being able to obtain the audience and getting them in agreeing with his points.

A main point that is seemed to counter the case was the act of despotism. Many say that slavery is indeed an act of despotism. Saying slavery is despotism is simply untrue. The literal definition of despotism is that a single entity rules with absolute power, such as a tyrant or dictator. This isn’t the case in slavery there is not one single ruler with absolute power. Some may argue that a slave master is a single ruler with absolute power. Well, there is not one single master in all of the United States, there are multiple masters so that already goes against the definition of despotism where it emphasizes that there is one single ruler. Furthermore, the slave master does not have absolute power; the government sets guidelines and rules to restrict their power and authority. Chief Justice Roger Taney began with a statement of what he saw as the core issue in the case: The question is simply this: “Can a negro, whose ancestors were imported into this country, and sold as slaves, become a member of the political community formed and brought into existence by the Constitution of the United States, and as such become entitled to all of the rights, and privileges, and immunities, guarantied by that instrument to the citizen?” It will be seen that the request applies to that class of people just whose precursors were negroes of the African race, and brought into this nation and sold and held as slaves. The main issue in issue under the steady gaze of the court, in this way, is, regardless of whether the relatives of such slaves, when they will be liberated, or who are conceived of guardians who had gotten free before their introduction to the world, are residents of a State in the sense in which ‘resident’ is utilized in the Constitution of the United States. Furthermore, this being the main issue in contest on the pleadings, the court must be comprehended as talking in this assessment of that class just, that is, of those people who are the relatives of Africans who were brought into this nation and sold as slaves.

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Lincoln Versus Douglas Debate: Analytical Essay on Justice of Dred Scott Decision. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from
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