One refers to the Lincoln-Douglas debates as to the series of the representative political speeches between the Republican candidates for the post of the US President Abraham Lincoln and between the Democratic candidate Stephen Douglas. In the speech, delivered on July 17, 1858 Abraham Lincoln reflected on such aspects as racial policy, understanding of equality and his understanding of the citizen’s rights in the United States. While deconstructing the speech these days, one may clearly call Abraham Lincoln as someone who opposed racism: ‘Still, in the right to put into his mouth the bread that his own hands have earned, he is the equal of every other man, white or black.’ (Lincoln, 1858).
The major theme of the speech discloses the understanding of equality in the 19th century of the United States. It is clearly shown that despite the proclamation of equality in the Declaration of Independence of the United States, some groups of citizens were not equal. Being aware of the potential social tensions because of such exposure of inequality, Lincoln did not state the necessity to protect African part of the population. Instead, he stated that it is worth leaving them alone. Most probably, Stephen Douglas would question those ideas and appeal to the electoral rights that were given to the white male part of the population.
At the same time, Lincoln admitted other potential features that distinguish the African American population from the rest of the US citizens. In particular, Abraham Lincoln stated ‘Certainly the negro is not our equal in color, perhaps not in many other respects’. Perhaps, his views on the racial equality were in the process of shaping, as he was unable to state his full support towards the population suffering racial inequality. At the same, his political statement for the respect of the African American population demonstrates his very progressive views towards the issue of equality in the 19th century political discourse.
The debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas represents how the concept of equality was perceived by the two leading politicians of the 19th century.