At the time, US Senators were selected by state legislatures and both candidates were campaigning for their own political party to win control over the Illinois legislature. The main topic of all seven debates was slavery, and large crowds gathered as the issue of slavery was important to people all across the country.
Douglas went on to win the Senate contest, but transcripts of all the debates were widely published, giving both candidates a bit of national notoriety. The widespread news coverage of the debate and the popularity of published transcripts led to Lincoln's eventual nomination for president by the 1860 Republican National Convention. In the 1860 presidential election, Lincoln defeated Douglas to become the country's 16th president. The rest of the story is history...
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