On this day in 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held the first of seven debates in their campaign for the U.S. Senate. Each debate lasted three hours and addressed only one question. Somehow the two men carried on without an interrogating panel of reporters or pundits. It evidently was a more primitive time. Here is how a modern debate would have been….
Reporter: Mr. Lincoln, you are quoted as saying that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” What is the basis of your harsh criticism of the American construction industry?
Lincoln: You misunderstand me. It is a quotation from the Bible which I used as metaphor reflecting the divisive issue of slavery.
Douglas: I refuse to believe that the Bible is critical of the American construction industry. May God forgive you, Mr. Lincoln!
Pundit: Mr. Douglas, you were known to have courted Mary Todd before she married Mr. Lincoln. Do you believe that she is too promiscuous to be a senator’s wife?
Douglas: Let me assure the public that I will never be the first to exhibit daguerreotypes of the naked Mrs. Lincoln for political purposes. And I invite Mr. Lincoln to make the same pledge.
Commentator: Mr. Lincoln, during your one term in Congress, you opposed the Mexican War. Do you hate our soldiers or do you just prefer Mexicans?
Lincoln: I oppose unnecessary wars.
Douglas: While I would not question the patriotism of my craven, timorous opponent, I have always been a full-throated supporter of victory–and I am adamantly opposed to defeat.
Psychologist: Mr. Douglas, you are a proponent of popular sovereignty. Yet, being an embarrassingly short man with a pompous personality, you certainly are not as popular as the affable Mr. Lincoln. What in your miserable childhood led you into politics?
Douglas: My dedication to public service and the opportunity for revenge.
Lincoln: Do you really have naked daguerreotypes of my wife?