Presidential candidates Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held this debate on April 16, 1858 at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
CHARLIE GIBSON, ABC NEWS
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS
MR. GIBSON: So we're going to begin with opening statements, and we had a flip of the coin, and the brief opening statement first from Mr. Lincoln.
LINCOLN: Thank you very much, Charlie and George, and thanks to all in the audience and who are out there. I appear before you today for the purpose of discussing the leading political topics which now agitate the public mind.
We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased, but has constantly augmented.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m sorry to interrupt, but do you think Mr. Douglas loves America as much you do?
LINCOLN: Sure I do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But who loves America more?
LINCOLN: I’d prefer to get on with my opening statement George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: If your love for America were eight apples, how many apples would Senator Douglas’s love be?
LINCOLN: In my opinion, slavery will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me, did an Elijah H. Johnson attend your church?
LINCOLN: When I was a boy in Illinois forty years ago, yes. I think he was a deacon.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you aware that he regularly called Kentucky “a land of swine and whores”?
LINCOLN: Sounds right -- his ex-wife was from Kentucky.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Why did you remain in the church after hearing those statements?
LINCOLN: I was eight.
DOUGLAS: This is an important question George -- it's an issue that certainly will be raised in the fall.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce him?
LINCOLN: I’d like to get back to the divided house if I may.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce and reject him?
LINCOLN: If it will make you shut up, yes, I denounce and reject him.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you denounce and reject him with sugar on top?
STEPHANOPOULOS: No takesies-backsies?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Whoa, so you would consider a takesie-backsie?
LINCOLN: That’s not what I meant…
DOUGLAS: When I was 11, my grandpappy and I chopped wood and shot bears.
LINCOLN: Ahem, I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect slavery will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you love America this much (extending fingers), this much (extending hands slightly), or thiiiiiis much (extending hands broadly)?
LINCOLN: I think we covered this…
GIBSON: If I may interrupt…
GIBSON: I noticed, Mr. Lincoln, that your American flag pin was upside down…
LINCOLN: Yes, the wind caught it. Now, as I was saying...
GIBSON: We get questions about this all the time over at Powerline and on Hannity’s talk show. Mr. Douglas has said this is a major vulnerability for you in the fall. So I’ll ask again – do you love America?
LINCOLN: (scowling with a forced smile). Yes.
GIBSON: If your love for America were ice cream, what flavor would it be?
LINCOLN: (pausing with disgust and turning back to camera) Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new -- North as well as South.
DOUGLAS: He didn’t answer the question Charlie. This fall, that question is going to be on the minds of the American public. I’ve proudly stated that my love for America is Very Berry Strawberry.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask it another way. If Elijah Johnson were chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, would you eat it? Or would you decline to eat it?
DOUGLAS: Personally, as for me, I would decline to eat it.
LINCOLN (shaking his head): Let any one who doubts, carefully contemplate that now almost complete legal combination -- piece of machinery, so to speak -- compounded of the Nebraska doctrine, and the Dred Scott decision.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We’ll get to Dred Scott in the second hour, time willing, but I want to get back to the ice cream question. And that's what we'll do, after the break.