LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES, seven joint debates between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas during the 1858 senatorial election campaign in Illinois. The debates marked the culmination of a political rivalry that had its origin twenty-five years before, when both were aspiring politicians in the Illinois legislature. Their careers had followed divergent tracks in the political culture of nineteenth-century America—Lincoln, the Henry Clay Whig espousing a broad program of national centralization and authority and distrustful of the new mass democracy, and Douglas, the Andrew Jackson Democrat standing for local self-government and states' rights, with an abiding faith in the popular will. By 1858, both had become deeply involved in the sectional conflict between the slave and free states over the status of slavery in the creation of western territories and the admission of new states. Douglas, seeking reelection to a third term in the U.S. Senate, had fifteen years of national experience and notoriety behind him and was widely known for his role in the passage of the Compromise of 1850 and his authorship of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Lincoln, a spokesman for the new antislavery Republican Party, whose experience save for one term in the House of Representatives had been limited to several terms in the Illinois legislature, was virtually unknown outside the boundaries of the state.