The Lincoln-Douglas Debates

The Lincoln Studies Center Edition
Author: Edited by Rodney O. Davis and Douglas L. Wilson
The most complete record of the landmark Lincoln-Douglas debates
Cloth – $39
Paper – $20
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 08/11/2014
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About the Book

While the debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas are undoubtedly the most celebrated in American history, they may also be the most consequential as well. The issues so fiercely debated in 1858 were about various interrelated aspects of one momentous, nation-threatening issue: slavery. Argued with skill and passion and varied as Lincoln and Douglas became more familiar with what the other would say, this series of debates is of enduring interest as an illuminating instance of the ever-recurring dilemma of American democracy: what happens when the deeply held attachments to regional traditions and notions of personal property confront a principled stand against a "moral, social, and political evil"? Both Lincoln and Douglas foresaw what the answer might be and it came: civil war.

Important as they are, the Lincoln-Douglas debates have long since ceased to be self-explanatory. This edition is the first to provide a text founded on all known records, rather than following one or another of the partisan and sometimes widely varying newspaper accounts. Meticulously edited and annotated, it provides numerous aids to help the modern reader understand the debates, including extensive introductory material, commentary, and a glossary.

The fullest and most dependable edition of the Lincoln-Douglas debates ever prepared, this edition brings readers as close as possible to the original words of these two remarkable men.

About the Author

Douglas L. Wilson>/b> is the director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois. Rodney O. Davis (d. 2019) was co-director of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College. They are coeditors of Lincoln's Confidant: The Life of Noah Brooks; Herndon's Informants: Letters, Interviews, and Statements about Abraham Lincoln; Herndon on Lincoln: Letters; and Herndon's Lincoln.

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"Though based on the same basic transcripts that Lincoln and most subsequent scholars have used, Davis and Wilson have corrected the irregular paragraphing, arbitrary punctuation, and occasionally garbled transcriptions in the originals. The result is a definitive new edition that is far more readable and almost certainly more reliable."--New York Review of Books

“This edition of the Abraham Lincoln—Stephen Douglas debates surpasses all previous editions and establishes the standard text for the foreseeable future. . . . Davis and Wilson’s edition is accessible and user-friendly.”--Journal of American History

“Davis and Wilson have crafted a clear, unadulterated presentation on the debates by offering them in their entirety. . . . Recommended.”--Choice

"The words spoken over the course of these debates deserve every ounce of the critical attention that Davis and Wilson have lavished on them. . . . The most reliable text of the debates now available."--Journal of Southern History

"[Davis and Wilson] bring to light a multitude of linguistic, rhetorical, and contextual factors that influenced the formation of an authoritative printed text."--Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association

"One of the highlight Lincoln publications. . . . The first critical edition, parsing what the candidates actually said, regardless of the source, and clarifying and extending the speakers' words by correcting the originals' irregular paragraphing, arbitrary punctuation, and occasionally confused transcriptions."--American Heritage

"Davis and Wilson have given us an enduring work of scholarship, allowing these political speeches from a time long passed to be read as a work of literature or history."--Journal of Illinois History

"The editors deserve high praise for producing an edition of the debates that is not only interesting but useful."--Fides et historia


"This is an outstanding achievement of meticulous scholarship, one of supreme importance. This edition will serve as the standard reference work on the debates as well as the most accessible text for students and others encountering the debates for the first time."--David Zarefsky, author of Lincoln, Douglas, and Slavery: In the Crucible of Public Debate

"This edition of the Lincoln-Douglas debates must certainly become the urtext of those great debates. Along with the useful introductions offered for each of the seven debates, Davis and Wilson have created a fuller version of the debaters' words--even down to the heckling of the crowds--than has ever been available before. No Lincoln library can afford to be without it; no one with even a passing interest in the history of American politics can afford not to read it."--Allen C. Guelzo, author of Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates That Defined America