Lincoln and Douglas will resume the debate

Norwich - Even the most ardent political debate fan might be overwhelmed at some of the most famous debates in American history.

The 1858 Illinois U.S. Senate race pitted incumbent Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, famous already for his stance on states' rights when it came to the spread of slavery, against political newcomer Abraham Lincoln of the fledgling Republican Party. The two faced off seven times, attracting tens of thousands of spectators. Newspapers hired stenographers to record transcripts for publication.

"Each speaker went on for an hour or an hour and a half, and then the next one would get a rebuttal for an hour," Norwich city Historian Dale Plummer said.

On Friday, noted Lincoln re-enactor Lewis Dube and Luke Boyd, an actor and historian from Waterbury, will portray the historical figures in a re-enactment.

The debate - from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Three Rivers Community College - will encapsulate the hot issues and emotional flavor of the original events that vaulted Lincoln to national prominence.

This debate won't feature hourlong speeches followed by rebuttals, Plummer said, but more of the "short bursts" and interaction familiar in today's political confrontations. After a dinner break, Norwich Free Academy students will debate the still-relevant issue of states' rights. Then Dube and Boyd will join the students on stage to field questions from the audience about their studies of the Civil War era and the effect it continues to have on the nation today.

The Norwich Emancipation Proclamation Commemoration Committee and Three Rivers Community College, along with corporate sponsor CorePlus Federal Credit Union, Norwich Rotary Club and the Norwich Historical Society are sponsoring the event.

c.bessette@theday.com

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Re-enactment of the landmark 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debate

WHEN: Friday, 6 to 8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Three Rivers Community College, 574 New London Turnpike, Norwich.

TICKETS: $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors. Price includes pasta and salad dinner. Available at Norwich historian's office, 307 Main St., Norwich, (860) 859-5349, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; or at the Norwich city manager's office, City Hall, 100 Broadway, (860) 823-3750, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

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