On the morning of September 18, 1858, the roads of southeastern Illinois were choked with wagons and dust as an estimated 15 000 people crowded into the small town of Charleston. The occasion was the fourth in a series of seven debates on slavery between Stephen A. Douglas, the powerful senator from Illinois, and Abraham Lincoln, a former US congressman. Though most Illinoisans wanted slavery kept out of their own state, popular opinion was split on the issue of whether the federal government should be able to restrict slavery elsewhere.
Cole TB. Abraham Lincoln and Stephen A. Douglas—Debate at Charleston, Illinois, September 18, 1858. JAMA. 2009;301(6):578. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.58