Lincoln and Douglas: The Debates that Defined America, Allen C. Guelzo, Simon & Schuster, 416 pp, $26.00.
Picture right: Gettysburg College's Civil War Era Studies Professor Allen Guelzo recently appeared on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart. Source: Evening Sun, February 28, 2007.
http://www.eveningsun.com/localnews/ci_8394812 has a link to Comedy Central's news show, hosted by Jon Stewart, which features a seven minute interview with Allen Guelzo, professor of Lincoln studies at Gettysburg College.
Description from Publisher: In 1858, Abraham Lincoln was known as a successful Illinois lawyer who had achieved some prominence in state politics as a leader in the new Republican Party. Two years later, he was elected president and was on his way to becoming the greatest chief executive in American history.
What carried this one-term congressman from obscurity to fame was the campaign he mounted for the United States Senate against the country's most formidable politician, Stephen A. Douglas, in the summer and fall of 1858. Lincoln challenged Douglas directly in one of his greatest speeches -- "A house divided against itself cannot stand" -- and confronted Douglas on the questions of slavery and the inviolability of the Union in seven fierce debates. As this brilliant narrative by the prize-winning Lincoln scholar Allen Guelzo dramatizes, Lincoln would emerge a predominant national figure, the leader of his party, the man who would bear the burden of the national confrontation.
Of course, the great issue between Lincoln and Douglas was slavery. Douglas was the champion of "popular sovereignty," of letting states and territories decide for themselves whether to legalize slavery. Lincoln drew a moral line, arguing that slavery was a violation both of natural law and of the principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence. No majority could ever make slavery right, he argued.
Lincoln lost that Senate race to Douglas, though he came close to toppling the "Little Giant," whom almost everyone thought was unbeatable. Guelzo's Lincoln and Douglas brings alive their debates and this whole year of campaigns and underscores their centrality in the greatest conflict in American history.
Book Review by Publishers Weekly/Reed Business Services: Guelzo (Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America) gives us an astute, gracefully written account of the celebrated Lincoln–Douglas debates of 1858. These seven debates between two powerful attorneys and statesmen, Abraham Lincoln and Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, starkly defined the stakes between sharply different positions on slavery and union on the eve of civil war and offered examples of serious, deeply reasoned exchanges of views rarely seen in American politics. As Guelzo wisely shows, the debates did not stand alone but were part of a larger Illinois senatorial campaign. Douglas won re-election that year, but Lincoln gained national recognition despite losing and then defeated Douglas three years later for the presidency. Perhaps more important, the views that Lincoln enunciated in 1858—that the government, heeding the majority's will, should halt slavery's further spread—laid the foundation for emancipation and a new era in the nation's history. Guelzo's smoothly narrated history of this segment of Lincoln's career, packed full of illustrative quotes from primary sources, will become a standard.
CWL--- Guelzo usually has a strong presence at conferences or panels and his appearance on The Jon Stewart Show is now except. Stewart handled the scholar well and the scholar handled the comedian well. Both are quick, witty and well-informed.