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The Lincoln-Douglas Debates—A True First Edition
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[ABRAHAM LINCOLN]. Book. Political Debates Between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, in the Celebrated Campaign of 1858, in Illinois, Columbus, Ohio, Follett, Foster, and Co., 1860. “Sam Bradley 1860” in ink on free front endpaper. First edition, first issue, 268 pp., 6½ x 9½ in.

Inventory #22074       ON HOLD

Historical Background

Lincoln’s debates with incumbent Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas catapulted him to national prominence. Slavery was the pressing national issue, especially regarding its expansion into the western territories, and Douglas had authored the Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) which effectively repealed the free-slave dividing line set by the Missouri Compromise (1820) at 36° 30’ North latitude. Instead of allowing slavery south of the line and banning it above, any new states would decide on slavery’s status within their borders by “popular sovereignty.” Douglas’s bill appeared to offer the nation a middle path on the contentious issue of slavery.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was only one of a long list of compromises in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Despite these attempts, the slavery debate only became more heated throughout the 1850s. Northerners, seeing the hypocrisy of “states rights” advocates, chafed when a new Fugitive Slave Act (1850) required the use of federal marshals to return escaped slaves. An unintended consequence of Douglas’s bill resulted in fraudulent elections and violence in Kansas in 1855 and 1856. South Carolina Representative Preston Brooks bludgeoned Massachusetts anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor after an 1856 speech. In 1857, the Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott decision, which decreed that African Americans could not be citizens and, based on one’s right to bring property across state lines, effectively erased the division between free and slave states. Slavery, unspoken but protected in the Constitution and mitigated by antebellum compromisers, was a tinderbox about to roar to fire.

Lincoln recognized the problems slavery presented for the nation, and his debates with Douglas focused attention on the nationalization of slavery in both the West and North. After he was nominated as the Republican candidate for the Senate, he spoke to the convention, famously asserting that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” The House Divided speech, delivered at Springfield, Illinois, on June 17, 1858, is the opening piece of this book. Though he would lose the Senate race, the rest of the book details Lincoln’s intellectual combat with Douglas over slavery.

This copy is a true first edition, identified by the lack of a line over publisher’s imprint on the back of the title page, as well as the numeral “2” at bottom of page 17 (later issues have the “2” on page 13).


Terra cotta boards, blind stamped in great detail, gilt lettering on spine fading. Light foxing in first and last leaves, scattered foxing in text. Small piece (1/4 inch) missing from spine. Minor shelf wear. Tight. Howes L338. Monaghan 69. HBS 65543.

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