The debates took place in seven districts of Illinois. The original idea was to have a debate in each of Illinois’ nine districts. But, because Lincoln and Douglas had separately appeared in two of them already, only seven events were staged in the end. The two districts that lost out on this historic political happening were Chicago and Springfield.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the debates weren’t quite as tightly scheduled as the explosive election head-to-heads that we’re used to seeing on TV today. Little interruption took place, either – except for when the time limit expired. In each debate, one of the two men would first speak, with a limit of one hour. Then the other would have 90 minutes to put forward his views. Finally, the first speaker would get a second bite at the cherry, with a further 30 minutes of speaking time. You might think that this arrangement wasn’t entirely fair on the second speaker, though.
Lincoln and Douglas hence took turns as the first speaker, with Douglas being allowed to start four times due to the fact that he was the incumbent. And since the speeches lasted a total of three hours, one can only imagine that people of that era had longer attention spans than today’s public. But before we get into the details of the debates, let’s first get to know the two opponents a little better.