Lincoln Legal Briefs

June 1987, Number 2

This month has been a very busy and productive one for the project. On May 11, I visited the Logan County Circuit Court Clerk's Office in Lincoln, Illinois, in order to examine relevant Abraham Lincoln legal records. The Project had already received xerographic copies of case files known to involve Lincoln; Clerk of the Logan County Circuit Court Judith Morrow, and her able assistant Brenda Jones, were very helpful, patient and understanding in our search for other relevant materials. The Historical Library micro-photographer, Kent Weil, set up his microfilm camera in the records vault on May 12 in order to photograph four volumes of Circuit Court Judge David Davis' Docket Book and six volumes of the Circuit Clerk's Records (including those for Chancery, Criminal, and Common Law). These records covered primarily the years 1857-61, although in some instances, such as the Criminal records, the volumes continued through the year 1870. Prior to dismantling the camera on May 15, research associate William Beard and I proofed the film for accuracy and completeness. This was the first of several such trips that we will be making to Illinois county courthouses during the coming months. We hope personnel in other County Circuit Courts are as accommodating as Ms. Morrow and Jones in allowing us to disrupt their normal office routine for this important search.

Even before work was completed in Logan County, I traveled to Chicago where I lodged in grand splendor in an apartment in the Hancock Building as the guest of Ralph and Pat Newman. I there began some preliminary research into the Lincoln Legal holdings of Mr. Newman. One of the most interesting documents I encountered was an 1851 seven-page deposition in what appears to be a patent infringement case, written entirely in Lincoln's hand and signed in full by him on each page. It was tried in New York state, and concerned the invention and sale of an Atmospheric Churn (whatever that is). At least two Springfield residents were involved, William Jones and Thomas Lewis, who were two of several co-owners of the patent for the churn. One of the patent "infringers" was allegedly a printer in the employ of the Illinois State Register, the Democratic newspaper and chief rival to the Springfield Whig newspaper, the Illinois State Journal.

From Chicago I journeyed to Ft. Wayne, Indiana, where I attended a lecture given by Editorial Advisory Board member John Y. Simon concerning the relationship between Abraham Lincoln and his father, Thomas Lincoln. The event was part of the tenth annual McMurtry lecture sponsored by the Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum. The primary reason for the visit, however, was to search the library and museum for more Lincoln legal documents. On display at the library and museum was a Woodford County Circuit Clerk's Record, 1852-56, which contained some 50 or more Lincoln citations. The library's manuscript collection included 15 documents in Lincoln's hand and a number of very informative William H. Herndon letters concerning the law office and practice. Mark Neely, Director of the library and museum, has graciously consented to have the material copied for use by the project. We wish to thank him and the Lincoln National Life Insurance Company for their generosity in this matter.

Thanks are overdue to the Honorable Harlington Wood, Jr., Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, for loaning the project a copy of Henry Asbury's Advice Concerning the Duties of Justice of the Peace... (1850). This is one of several 19th century legal formbooks which the project needs for reference. We also need copies of many of the legal works recommended by Lincoln to aspiring law students. (Please see the list at the end of this newsletter.) Among the books we have a special need for are Chitty on Pleadings, Blackstone's Commentaries, Story's Equity, Story's Equity Pleadings, and Greenleaf on Evidence. If you know where we can obtain copies of any of these works for the duration of the project, either as a loan or as a gift, please let us know at your earliest convenience.

Frank Williams, President of the Abraham Lincoln Association, and I were awarded honorary doctorates by Lincoln College during their commencement on May 9. We were very gratified to have our work on Lincoln the man, the lawyer, and the politician so recognized. Work on the NEH grant proposal, which has taken up a good part of this month, is in its final stage as we come closer to the June 1 mailing deadline. Those of you who have submitted such proposals know the feeling of "so much to do and so little time". We are optimistic that the grant will be approved, but we are still looking for other avenues of funding for the project if it is not.

The mailing address for the Project is Lincoln Legal Papers Project, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, Old State Capitol, Springfield, IL 62701. Our phone number is (217) 785-9130.


Asbury, Henry. Illinois Form-Book; or, Advice Concerning the duties of Justices of the Peace and Constables... (1856)

Cotton, Henry G. A Treatise on the Powers and Duties of Justices of the Peace in the State of Illinois, with Practical Forms... (1845)

Gilman, Charles. The Illinois Conveyancer: Being a Collection of Original and Selected forms for Popular Use... (1846)

Haines, Elijah M. The Probate Manual, Being a Complete Guide for Executors, Administrators and Guardians... (1856)

Hamilton, Alexander, comp. The Illinois Form Book, and Practical Guide; Containing a Summary View of the Statutes... (1835)

Jones, James. Practical Forms of Writs, Processes, &c.;, Selected from the Most Approved Precedents and Adapted to the Laws of the State of Illinois... (1830)

Fisher, A., pub. Practical Forms for Illinois: Embracing Deeds, Mortgages, Agreements, Bonds, Bills of Sale... (1845)

Wells, John C.. Well's Lawyer, and United States Form-Book; Containing the Constitution of the United States, with Notes and Decisions... (1849)

Copyright, Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
Springfield, Illinois