August 29, 2008
A new television program on the Lincoln-Douglas Debates features interviews with leading historians, including scholars from the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College.
The program "Lincoln and Douglas at Galesburg?The Great Debate," a co-production of Knox College and WTVP, premieres at 8:10 p.m., Thursday, September 11, on WTVP-47, the Public Broadcasting System affiliate in Peoria.
The hour-long program includes interviews with Rodney Davis and Douglas Wilson, co-directors of the Lincoln Studies Center at Knox College and co-editors of a new book on the debates. Other historians featured in the program are James McPherson, Bryon Anderson, and Michael Burlingame.
The program is the inaugural event in WTVP's Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration. The station is planning a variety of additional local and national specials about Lincoln for 2008, which is the 150th anniversary of the debates; and 2009, the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.
The program focuses on the contrasting positions of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on the issues of slavery and popular sovereignty, in the 1858 campaign for U.S. Senate from Illinois. Between August and October 1858, Lincoln and Douglas debated in Ottawa, Freeport, Jonesboro, Charleston, Galesburg, Quincy and Alton. The Galesburg debate, the fifth in the series, was held October 7, 1858, outside Knox College's Old Main, which is the only original building that remains from the debates.
In the debates, Douglas argued that slavery was an issue to be decided by the voters in each new state and territory, while Lincoln argued that the majority did not have the right to deprive a minority of their fundamental rights. While Douglas won re-election to his seat in the U.S. Senate in 1858, the debates projected Lincoln onto the national political stage. In the 1860 presidential election, Lincoln won a four-way race against Douglas and two other candidates.