While you could write books and books about this topic, and many have, the main aspect I wanted to get into was the view of Africans, including both free blacks in the North and enslaved people, that Lincoln and Douglas had.
While reading the transcripts of these debates, I noticed that Senator Douglas had an almost comical dislike of the African race. It's one thing to say that interracial marriage and association is wrong; most white people, even in a free state like Illinois, would agree in the 1850s. While today we would say that is racist, during the time period, it was a normal view.
The problem is, he doesn't stop there. He claims that blacks are not included in the Declaration of Independence's claims that it is a "self-evident truth" that all men are entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." This especially strikes me as odd, because many of the very men who participated in the Revolution said that this applied also to blacks. They didn't say that blacks should necessarily be voters, but they said that they deserved to have freedom from slavery. Even the slave-owners of the time period admitted that slavery was evil and that black people deserved to be freed. Washington freed all of his slaves in his will, as did other prominent men in Virginia.
He even said that the African was not his brother, nor any kin to him at all. This went directly against the spirit of the Enlightenment period, in which many people started to acknowledge that the slaves were "men and brothers", as in the famous English anti-slavery poster of the chained slave begging for freedom.
Lincoln's view, for it's time, is actually rather sympathetic to the African Americans. He says that he never claimed that blacks and whites should intermarry, nor did he support black voting. However, he said that blacks has an inherent right to be free, and that slavery was obviously evil and should be stopped. He also said that blacks have a right to the bread that they earn by their own hand, and that they are equal to "every living man" in that regard. Finally, he said that he did not want to see free blacks "dominated" by whites, but he admitted that most white people would not want blacks to be equals in society. He said that this was something that needed to be looked into in the future.
Was this vile hatred by Douglas an attempt at populist rhetoric, or even demagoguery? Also, I noticed in the transcript that the crowd responded very well when Lincoln was saying blacks had to right to the bread that they earned by working. That seemed to be a large applause line.
Do you all think that the people of Illinois at the time were closer to Douglas's view, or Lincoln's? Did they think blacks were equal in "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", or like Douglas, did they consider blacks to be completely inferior?