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The Lincoln Douglas monuments
October 7, 2007 8:40 AM   Subscribe

During the 1858 senatorial campaign, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas faced each other in a series of seven official political debates. The first debate took place in this north-central Illinois town on August 21.

Lincoln-Douglas debate monuments are a cottage industry, providing work for sculptors famous (scroll down) and unsung.

Some of them are harder to find than others, buried between the little league field and the local VFW hall. Others are tourist attractions aimed to bring life to Illinois historic towns.
posted by nax (12 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
In the book Amusing Ourselves To Death, there's a great story about these debates. People for miles around crowded in to see and hear the debates which lasted for hours. When it was time for dinner, there was a break for everyone to leave and eat, and then they came back for more hours of debate.

The two to five minute responses from each candidate that somehow, insanely, passes for an equivalent today is horribly depressing.
posted by odinsdream at 8:52 AM on October 7, 2007


I'm about 6 blocks from the Lincoln-Douglas monument in Alton, IL.

Another interesting Lincoln connection to Alton is when the great emancipator very nearly opened up a can of whoop-ass on the Illinois State Auditor.
posted by _aa_ at 9:15 AM on October 7, 2007


There is also the high school activity Lincoln-Douglas debate, which is not quite as depressing as the political debating we see on TV.
posted by danb at 9:28 AM on October 7, 2007


odinsdream: that passage from Amusing Ourselves To Death always comes to mind when I watch the debates. Its a good book.
posted by Sailormom at 9:32 AM on October 7, 2007


One reason you'll not see Lincoln-Douglas debates in the general public is that it requires that those debating actually know what they're talking about. Presidential debates tend to be addressed to the "viewer" and never to one-another, and instead they are nothing but the near non-sequitur regurgitation of talking points that often have absolutely nothing to do with the talking points of anyone else.

It's depressing, but LD doesn't fit a multi-party debate either. It would be a fascinating thing to institute with the final competitors, but wouldn't work before then, and even then, it would be troubling to see. I simply don't think Americans have an attention span for the 32 minutes for a standard construct in HS/college debate.
posted by petrilli at 9:35 AM on October 7, 2007


Another interesting Lincoln connection to Alton is when the great emancipator very nearly opened up a can of whoop-ass on the Illinois State Auditor.

Broadswords in a pit!
posted by homunculus at 9:40 AM on October 7, 2007


There is also the high school activity Lincoln-Douglas debate, which is not quite as depressing as the political debating we see on TV.

but occasionally nearly as masturbatory.

Also, there's L/D on the college level as well, although it bears no resemblance to high-school L/D or their historical antecedent.
posted by dismas at 10:00 AM on October 7, 2007


I'd definitely vote for the tall guy.
posted by MtDewd at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2007


Stephen A. Douglas was a great debater,
but Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipator


(at about 2:00, care of Sufjan Stevens)
posted by lumensimus at 12:16 PM on October 7, 2007


Screw LD, I'd like to see the candidates and their proposed VPs go a few rounds of CX; then we'll see who can flow.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 12:39 PM on October 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


What I've always found fascinating about the Lincoln-Douglas debates is that Lincoln was the metaphorical equivalent of the contender. He was essentially the young upstart and Douglas was the long-standing crowd favorite. Over a century later, Lincoln has his own holiday (shared with George but still), his face on the penny, some kids still have to memorize his Gettysburg address for extra credit in junior high, and he's got a bedroom in the white house named after him which has its own mysterious history. Douglas is only remembered for being 'the other guy' that Lincoln debated. If you went back in time to those crowds and interviewed those people, they'd swear to you that Douglas will be remembered in history, and Lincoln will be forgotten.

Though he lost to Douglas in the debates, Lincoln won out in the end. Strange how that worked out. It's a shame Sarah Vowell isn't a regular here in The Blue. Would be interesting to hear her take on the FPP link
posted by ZachsMind at 1:18 PM on October 7, 2007


What no youtube links? My attention span has left the room.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:27 PM on October 7, 2007


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