New records of the 1854 debate
In 2007 I rediscovered long-forgotten newspaper records of a famous debate between Abraham Lincoln and Sen. Stephen A. Douglas. The occasion for the debate was Congress' passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in May of 1854, which Douglas had sponsored. Sustained largely by southern votes, the act permitted slavery's ingress into national territories promised to freedom by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Lincoln and many other northerners reviled the act, which they considered a betrayal of northern interests and national principles. As part of a broader antislavery protest aimed at repealing the law, Lincoln urged the election of anti-Nebraska congressmen in the 1854 elections. To do so, Lincoln developed a great speech, known today as the Peoria Address, which marked the beginning of his remarkable antislavery career. The newspaper records I found provided coverage of the famous debate that fall between Lincoln and Douglas in Springfield, and demonstrate that Lincoln developed the Peoria Address while making a series of earlier addresses throughout central Illinois, including the one at Springfield.