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Seventh Debate • Alton, October 15

The candidates traveled down to Alton from Quincy on the same steamboat to conclude their debates.  They met in front of 5,000 gathered in front of the new city hall.  Douglas declared that the founders knew that the country had sectional differences and that they had deliberately left open the question of slavery for the states to decide: “If they want slavery let them have it; if they do not want it, allow them to refuse to encourage it.” Lincoln repeated that his “wish is that the further spread of it may be arrested, and that it may be placed where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction.”  A pro-Lincoln newspaper declared that Lincoln “has shown himself Senator Douglas’ superior in soundness of reasoning, in intellectual resources, and in statesmanlike dignity.”

Alton today
In the heart of Downtown Alton, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, forever in bronze, can still be seen in heated debate.  In October 1858, more than 6,000 people gathered at a temporary platform in front of city hall to listen to the three hour senatorial debate.  Though the Alton city hall burned in 1923 and no longer stands, life-size statues of Lincoln and Douglas remain frozen in time on a platform at the site in commemoration of the last of the great debates.  The site also marks the beginning of the Lincoln & Civil War Legacy Trail.  Visitors can take a trip along the trail and experience Alton’s lasting legacies that shaped the history of America as they visit nine other Lincoln and Civil War sites in Alton.  

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